The Saga of the Shekhinah: Eighteen Stages

In this myth of the Jewish year, the Shekhinah moves through the steps of creation and deepens Her relationship to life and death as She spirals through time. For explanations of the Jewish holidays, see the wheel of the year at

The Seed/World:

1 Tishrei/Rosh haShanah: Changeless, timeless and placeless, the Shekhinah is born within the earth.
10 Tishrei/Yom Kippur: The Shekhinah encounters change. She creates change within us and shows us how to do the work of return.
15 Tishrei/Sukkot: The Shekhinah encounters place. She shelters us in sacred places, in the earth, and in the protection of Her wings.
21-22 Tishrei/Simchat Torah: The Shekhinah encounters time. She binds us together in the circles of the sacred seasons and in the layers of sacred words across history.

The Root/Time:

11 Cheshvan/Rachel’s Yahrtzeit: Eternal, not begetting or begotten, the Shekhinah enters the cycle of life and death. She becomes Rachel, the sacred ancestor, dying yet pregnant with the future. She becomes the past. She teaches us to honor our ancestors and sacrifice for our children.

25 Kislev/Chanukah: The Shekhinah runs the spark of change along the thread of life, allowing the generations to be faithful to one another yet also to know themselves and become different. She creates the possibility of conflict, enmity, and violence, but also of ideals and independence.

The Branch/Soul:

1 Tevet/Chanukah: Dwelling in void, darkness and chaos, the Shekhinah gives birth to light. She kindles the fires: faith in the Divine, the strength of mortals, and the constancy of the world and seasons. She teaches Her creatures how not to fear, how to go forward.

The Sap/Growth:

15 Shevat/Tu B'Shevat

14 Adar/Purim: True, clear, and upright, the Shekhinah forms play, mystery, and multiplicity. She creates paradox in order that opposites exist beside one another, certainty dissolve, and many truths become possible. She brings mirrors and laughter into the world.

The Bud/Birth:

1 Nisan: Homeless, nameless, and wandering, the Shekhinah arises and thrones herself within the tabernacle of the world. She takes power through the actions of those who make a home for Her within themselves. She gives birth to the people by joining Herself to them. She lets her creation become pregnant with Her.

15 Nisan/Passover: The Shekhinah encounters freedom: she brings redemption to those who suffer and takes away the resignation of the powerless. She gives the people a belief that they deserve their place on earth.

21 Nisan/End of Passover: The Shekhinah creates prophecy: she splits the sea, conquers the oppressor, and lets the slaves cross into a new place. She gives them the gifts of changing times, and brings them into the wilderness of possibility.

The Leaf/Life:

18 Iyar/Lag B’Omer: Singular, peerless, unique, the Shekhinah enters the covenant of sacred marriage between heaven and earth. She sends manna and prophecy to connect the timeless with the world of time. She becomes the future.

6 Sivan/Shavuot: The Shekhinah descends the mountain and becomes the bride of the people, engaging them in an eternal sacred conversation. She makes a covenant with them, creating holy relationship and sacred actions.

The Flower/Death:

1 Tammuz: Radiant, all-knowing, shadowless, the Shekhinah gives birth to darkness. She mourns the frailty and tragedy of her spouse, the world. She enters the brokenness and violence of things. She watches humans enter exile. Yet She shines in the shadows too, and blesses humans’ dark and uncertain journeys, for they contain possibility.

17 Tammuz: The Shekhinah enters the darkness. She contends with the possibility that of the many images of her, some are false. She sees chaos enter the world She has made, and break its walls.

9 Av/Tisha b’Av: The Shekhinah is driven into exile by the pain of the world. She is like a widow mourning Her children or a woman mourning Her lover. She enters the underworld of pain and death to find and redeem Her creation.

The Fruit/Hinge of the Year

15 Av/Tu b’Av: Undying, still and serene, the Shekhinah rises from the underworld and immerses in the waters of rebirth. Forty days before the creation of the world, She becomes pregnant with the world and with Herself. She promises that She will return into the earth to begin the cycle once more.

Rabbi Jill Hammer is a senior associate at Ma’yan: The Jewish Women’s Project at the JCC in Manhattan, the author of Sisters at Sinai: New Tales of Biblical Women, and the founder of Tel Shemesh.

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