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A Dwelling Place for the Shekhinah

Diana Lobel
The Jewish Quarterly Review
Vol. 90, No. 1/2 (Jul. - Oct., 1999), pp. 103-125
DOI: 10.2307/1455397
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1455397
Page Count: 23
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A Dwelling Place for the Shekhinah
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Abstract

Naḥmanides, in his commentary to Deut 11:22 "and to cling to Him," suggests that a person can cling to God even while engaged in the affairs of everyday life, and that such a person may become a "dwelling place for the Shekhinah." He attributes this idea to a hint in Halevi's "Kuzari". Scholem cites this passage from Naḥmanides in his classic article on devequt, but fails to identify the source in Halevi; other scholars have sought the hint in "Kuzari" 3.1, 3.11, and 3.20, all parts of the "Ḥaver'"s description of the pious non-ascetic Jew. In fact, Naḥmanides' language is borrowed verbatim from Ibn Tibbon's medieval Hebrew translation of Kuzari 3.65, an entirely different context. Here the "Ḥaver" explains that after the destruction of the first Temple, prophecy was no longer acquired unless a person "of great force" was present, a person of the stature of Abraham, Moses, Elijah, or the Messiah, "for they in themselves are a dwelling place [maḥall] for the Shekhinah." Halevi's Arabic term maḥall and the related term ḥulūl derive from the root ḥ-l-l, whose rich Arabic context in poetry, philosophy, kalām, Ṣūfī, Shīʿite, and Christian literature sheds new light on this passage in the "Kuzari". In each of these spheres, thinkers used the root ḥ-l-l to describe the sense in which a human being may become an abode or resting place for the divine, figured variously as the Shekhinah, the Active Intellect, the will of God, the divine Beloved, or the ʿamr ilāhī. Halevi's Christian uses the term ḥulūl to describe the complete indwelling of God in a human being, and as a broader term for God's presence among the Jewish people. The "Ḥaver" also uses it in many contexts to describe the long history of God's dwelling among the Jews. Halevi's use of the root ḥ-l-l in these contexts may in part be responding to Christian, Sūfī, and Shiʿite conceptions of God's indwelling among humanity.

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