Food for thought:

The divine names YHVH and Adonai (found as a name in its own right and used as a substitute for YHVH) are both often translated "Lord" and seen as masculine. To the Kabbalists, however, the name YHVH invokes masculine and feminine aspects of the Divine: the Yud and Vav are masculine, the two letters Hei are feminine. And the name Adonai specifically refers to the Shekhinah, who is the underlying structure of all reality, like the "adnei hamishkan" {see

Exodus 34:31 etc.}, the sockets that held together the structure of the Sanctuary ["adnei" has identical letters with Adonai].

Many Kabbalistic teachings present the Shekhinah as the feminine presence of God among us, "in exile", who is presently estranged from her masculine counterpart, the transcendent Divine "in heaven". It is our spiritual task to restore the intimate unity of these two aspects of divinity. Therefore, in prayerbooks and Passover Haggadot influenced by Kabbalah, including several editions very commonly used today, various prayers and rituals are preceded by the formula "l’shem yichud Kudsha brikh hu uSh’khinteh" – "for the sake of the union of the Holy One Blessed Be He and His Shekhinah".

Note the similarity of this formula with the ancient one we began with –

"for the sake of the union of the Holy One Blessed Be He and His Shekhinah"

"I bless you in the name of YHVH and His Asherah"

The Zohar in fact teaches that Asherah is a name of the Shekhinah; see Zohar I (Berepooh) 49a.

Fifteenth Century, Germany

In Christian Germany, in the high Middle Ages, pre-Christian beliefs still made themselves felt. Myths about the Germanic goddess Holda (Frau Holle), associated with birth, love, death, the earth, and winter, mingled with memories of the Greco-Roman Venus. The wandering 13th-century minnesinger (troubadour) Tannhäuser was said to have been ensnared by Venus and lived with her inside her mountain in Germany, the Venusberg; this was the subject of a 16th century ballad (and, much later, one of Wagner’s operas.) The power of Venus was felt by Jews as well as Christians, as this love spell, from a manuscript in Hebrew and German/Yiddish, shows:

Take an egg from a hen that is all black and has never laid an egg before. Take the egg she laid on a Thursday. Take the egg on Thursday night after sunset, and bury it at the crossroads. And on Tuesday, take the egg from there after sunset. And buy a mirror for the egg, and bury the mirror at the same crossroads after sunset in Frau Venus’ Namen [in the name of Lady Venus] and say, "allhie begrab ich diesen Spiegel in der Liebe, die Frau Venus zu dem Tannhäuser hat" [here I bury this mirror in the love that Lady Venus has for Tannhäuser]. And let it lie there for three days, and take it out; and whoever looks into it will love you.

From Munich Hebrew manuscript 235, 13a, c. 15th century; text in Josef Perles, "Holda, Venus, Tannhäuserlied, Hollekreisch…" Jubelschrift zum siebzigsten geburstage des Prof. Dr. H. Graetz (Breslau, 1887), p. 25. Thanks to Rabbi Jill Hammer.

In other magical or healing texts, medieval German Jews called on Frau Holda, and on Mother Earth.

German and French Jews have a longstanding folk tradition of baby-naming called Hollekreisch -- probably meaning "Holle’s cry" and related to the ancient belief that babies are with Frau Holda/Holle under the earth before coming into our world. In the Hollekreisch ceremony the baby is lifted up in its cradle, as if out of the earth.

The classic scholarly work on Jewish magic, by Julius Trachtenberg, mentions "that women worshipped Perchta (one of the goddesses identified with Holle) by offering her their hair, and that German braided bread was called perchisbrod. Trachtenberg discards the idea that this is the origin of challah, the Jewish braided bread, which was also called perchisbrod" -- but there would certainly appear to be a connection.

Paraphrased and quoted from a forthcoming article, "Holle’s Cry" by Rabbi Jill Hammer. The information from Trachtenberg is in Jewish Magic and Superstition p. 40-43.

1845, Eastern Europe

From the private journal of the Hasidic Rebbe R’ Isaac Safrin of Komarno

In 1845, on the twenty-first day of the Omer, I was in the town of Dukla. I arrived there late at night, and it was dark and there was no one to take me home, except for a tanner who came and took me into his house. I wanted to pray the evening prayer and count the Omer, but I was unable to do so there [because of the bad smell], so I went to the synagogue alone, and there I prayed until midnight had passed.

And I understood from this situation the plight of the Shekhinah in exile, and her suffering when she is standing in the market of tanners {Zohar III:115b}. And I wept many times before the Master of the world, out of the depth of my heart, for the suffering of the Shekhinah.

To be continued. . .

Rate1