(also spelled Shekhina, Shechina, or
pronounced to "rhyme" with "China" )
"Shekhinah" is a Hebrew word meaning "dwelling" or "presence". The word itself is not found in the Torah (The Law, the original Hebrew writings that Christians refer to as the Old Testament). Rather, it was used by the rabbis who wrote postbiblical works such as the Targums, the Talmud, and the Midrash, to describe a phenomenon recorded in several Old Testament stories. The "Shekhinah" was an ineffable cloud of divine light and power which was seen to surround Yahweh on those few occasions in the Old Testament when He chose to visually manifest Himself to the people of Israel, or more typically, to their leaders. This is the literal "glory of God" that Moses, like an ember, exuded after he had been in the presence of God on Mount Sinai, to the extent that the people begged him to cover his face. They could not stand to look at him. These various Old Testament accounts evoke the memory of God's statement to Moses: "You cannot see my face; for there shall no man see me, and live." (Exodus 33:20)
It is statements and stories such as these that should cause us to truly meditate on the absolute transcendence of God, on the truth that He is farther above us creatures than we could ever comprehend. I believe that the cosmos stands as a testimony to this: when I look at the night sky, and think about the incredible size and unbelievable wonders in the universe, I cannot help but wonder at the unknowable power and glory of the One who made it. And this is to say nothing of the physically smaller wonders of biology. The heavens truly do declare the glory of God (Psalm 19:1).
The Jews believed that the "Shekhinah glory" of God (as many preachers refer to it) was present in the Holy of Holies, the innermost chamber of the Temple, into which only the High Priest could enter with the blood of the Passover lamb. It was the veil separating this Most Holy Place from the rest of the temple that was "rent in twain" when Jesus Christ, the crucified Messiah, "gave up the ghost" (Matthew 27:50, 51).
My painting, Shekhinah, is a symbolic image of mankind's confrontation with the divine. In summary, all that we should have in our hearts when confronted by a righteous and omnipotent God is humility, reverence, gratitude, and repentance (Psalm 51:17).