The Feet of the Shekhina

There is a curious phrase, “pushing at the feet of the Shekhina.” One of its primary sources is Tractate Hagigah, in which it says:

This is in accordance with R. Yitzhak, who said: “Every one who commits a transgression secretly, it is as though he jarred the feet of the Shekhina, as it is written, “Thus said the Lord, the heaven is my throne and the earth my footstool.” (Isa. 66:1)

The Shekhina is the Divine Presence on earth, that point at which G!d interacts with the material world. “Shekhina” is, significantly, a feminine term, implying that there is a fundamentally feminine characteristic to G!d’s interaction with us.

The phrase “under the wings of the Shekhina” is a more common phrase, indicating the Divine shelter that is provided to us, but also the Shekhina is seen as being in exile with us.

Amongst the few places where the image of pushing away the feet of Shekhina occurs is in Tractate Berachot (43b), in which it expounds on an enumeration of things unbecoming a Torah scholar. The last reads,

And he should not walk with an erect posture, for the master said: He who walks with an erect posture, even [if only for] four amot, pushes, as it were the feet of the Shekhina, for it is written: “The entire world is full of His glory.” (Isa. 6:3)

For the detail-oriented, four amot is understood to mean four cubits, or about six feet. This becomes the proof-text for the Shulkhan Aruch requiring a man to cover his head and not to travel more than four cubits with his head uncovered.

So, in what ways do we anthropomorphize (or is it gynopomorphize?) the Shehkina? What metaphoric meanings do we attach to Her feet? And how would one push them? And why would pushing them be wrong?

Curiosities to chew on – stay tuned!

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