There is a stack of etchings in frames leaning against the wall behind the lower row of clothes in my closet.  Shekinah was lying on her side where she had fallen over.  I had almost forgotten where she was.  The color here is not accurate.  Really, it’s a poor representation of the work. If I recall correctly, this is an artist’s print.  Modern artist’s prints are either numbered or have the designation A/P (artist’s print).  I would not have bought an unnumbered print, but I would very much have liked an artist’s print.  I think the artist is from Israel.  He has long since disappeared.  He exhibited his etchings on a beautiful website done in black background and sleek and mysterious colors…long before I ever saw it done on any website.  He exhibited wonderful etchings of prophets and fanciful dreams and other subjects, but Pax struck me for some reason.  He exhibited nothing else like her.  I just felt he had some emotional/spiritual reason for etching this woman.  I bought it.  The information must surely be somewhere among my papers. When I researched Pax Profunda, I found an explanation in Portuguese.  Translated to English, excerpts read:

No one can doubt that the holy grail of peace, Pax deep, is a distant goal for us all.  Written and reviewed by spiritual thinkers through the ages in prose and verse is beautifully described in the following terms, ‘There is a peace that surpasses understanding, it remains in the hearts of those who live in the Eternal’.    

Baruch Spinoza, a Dutch philosopher and thinker of the 17th century, wisely concluded that: “Peace is not the absence of war, is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, confidence and justice.” For many, this analysis may represent a break with conventional thinking.
Moreover, the modern esoteric thought echoes this proposal and suggests that peace can only be achieved when there is a real measure of understanding and sharing. It is not possible for the cart before the horse. In this context, we can assume that benevolence is the progenitor of peace. Without this element, all attempts at peaceful coexistence between individuals and nations will surely fail to one degree or another.
Like Spinoza, we can also assume that when there is a willingness on the part of humanity to express kindness and justice, then we started the long journey to find lasting peace, a forerunner of the sublime deep sleeps that “passes understanding.” Right relationships are the keys that open the door to a world of calm and purposeful coexistence.  

I am asking Shimonz for an explanation of Shekinah.  I have read a little about it, but I fear to desecrate the word in any attempt to describe its ages old significance and meaning.  Shimon is a Hebrew scholar.  I would be very excited to hear his explanation.  And grateful.

Somehow, I knew, without knowing, these things about the etching.  I don’t believe the artist was being blasphemous in his title for it.  I did not feel that even after I discovered the explanations for the words.  A guess told me the essence of  Pax Profunda must surely be profound peace.  I was right.

17 Comments on “SHEKINAH

  1. Your story of this etching is very interesting to me… because I am familiar with the image. Some years back, about twenty or thirty years ago, I was given this picture by a very dear friend who knew my taste well, and I loved it… though I’m not sure where it is at this point, somewhere in my archives of old treasures. But what makes it all the more interesting, was that it was a photograph. The image was the same. The face was a little nicer, but everything about the image was exactly the same. It was in black and white, and the hair was in exactly the same position… everything… except that it didn’t have the writing accompanying it. So I didn’t have to contemplate the meaning of Shekinah, as connected to the picture… or a profound peace. But now it makes me wonder how these two versions came into being, and whether they were made at the same time… I have looked for Maurice Orland on the net, and didn’t find anything relevant. The photo was from somewhere in Europe, but was bought here in Israel by my friend.

    I liked your quote from the Portugese, and liked even more, the quote from Baruch Spinoza. I think his words on peace are very exact.

    The word Shekinah, is an original Hebrew word, and has been used for thousands of years. Hebrew is a very logical language, built on a series of roots, which are mostly three letter words, and more rarely four letter words, and their meaning gives undertones and overtones to all related words that use the original letters of the root word. In the case of Shekinah, the root word is sheken (which in Hebrew is three letters), and that means ‘neighbor’. The word has two extra letters, both of which are used to hint at divinity. They are taken from the most explicit name that we use for god, though we have many names that refer to god, usually indicating the many faces of god’s nature. The meaning of the word Shekinah in Hebrew is the presence of god. It is that presence in a more benevolent nature. God can inspire many different emotions, including ‘fear and trembling’. But Shekinah is always used in a positive context. For instance, there is a saying of our sages, that when people come to visit you in your home, the Shekinah accompanies them.

    Thank you for inviting me to participate in this discussion, George.


    • Shimon, one does not invite you to participate in a discussion. One implores you to participate. That is the way in which I understood the title of the etching even before I knew its meaning. Thank you for the explanation and the confirmation.

      I wonder whether the etching was based on the artist’s familiarity with the photograph or with the source of the photograph. I bought the etching many years ago, but I have forgotten the date. I was buying early twentieth century etchings by well-known printmakers at the time. His was one of the few contemporary pieces that interested me. The tones are wrong here. The actual piece is printed in an aged tone of sepia on an almost pinkish white paper. The etching lines are not complex. They are simple, straight lines used for shading and contour. There are no cross hatching marks. He manages to create rounded shapes with very simple lines. The piece is intriguing from that standpoint too. The piece is not signed in the plate. It has the pencil notation “”P.A.”, the title of the piece, and his signature in pencil.

      I wonder whether this man is still living? I think I am correct in my memory of him as a middle-aged man at the time. I am almost certain the print was shipped from Israel. I never had anything shipped from Europe. I should look for my papers on the transaction to discover where he lives. Perhaps the original address is there.

      It interests me that both you and I should find this image compelling.


  2. Excellent post. When I first saw the image I immediately asked myself “what is George up to now ?”
    If I correctly understand the concept that is being portrayed, it is a manifestation of the divine, in much the same way Christians might use the metaphor of the Holy Ghost. Unlike the the Christian metaphor this one partakes of the feminine aspect of the divine. Perhaps the artist wanted to suggest a fertile mother earth quality..
    The idea that the absence of war does not define peace is accurate, if we consider the following situation. If even the majority of the population had peace of mind then conflict would be dealt with in a none violent manner. Absence of conflict is the consequence of true inner peace. During he 1930’s there was no world war, but there was little peace of mind.


    • The depiction of the feminine aspect of the divine came through to me. There was some reference to Mary Magdalene in the material that I read. The story of this concept was so long and complicated that I couldn’t really put it all together since I know nothing of religious history. I did not know how this concept differed from the concept of the Trinity in Christianity. Actually, I never quite got the significance of the Trinity. The concept of Shekinah makes sense to me.
      You know, I sensed all of this although I never heard of the term before. I wish I had contacted the artist at the time to ask precisely what he intended. Usually, artists are very eager to communicate. I saw a photo of him in his studio. He was a middle aged man surrounded by the most incredible etchings of what appeared to be Old Testament prophets. He sold paintings online for a long time. Then he just disappeared! I cannot find a reference to him anywhere. Perhaps, he died.
      Thanks for the explanation. The concept is much clearer to me now.


  3. George, I am always impressed with the amount of thoughtful comments you receive even from challenging subjects like existential and ethical philosophy. You have such a wonderful range of topics my friend


    • Michael, every person here is a sensitive, thoughtful and complex person. I am here to learn and to enjoy the work and thoughts of others. While we probably don’t speak with one voice, we are all interested in the ideas and the philosophy of each other. That makes this a community of seekers after beauty and universal truth…wherever we find it. I know of no other place where this kind of community exists.

      I may have unwittingly posted a controversial etching. I do not consider the subject to be a mockery of the concept in the title of the piece. To me, Shekinah is everywoman. The embodiment of the spiritual. Mother Earth, if you will. If she had been depicted as a perfect nude study, I would have considered the the piece to be a mockery. No artist can predict what any viewer will take away from his work. I suppose that is the beauty of art. It is the beauty of this community.


  4. As always you did another interesting post dear George. It is so nice to learn something new for me. I would like to read dear Shimon’s thoughts too, you made me wonder because. Art is great… Opening so many windows of the world…. Thank you so much, have a nice day and weekend, with my love, nia


  5. She certainly seems at peace. I’m not sure that the “peace of God” can really be described. I doubt that there are words that can describe it. I think that you would have to experience it to know what it means. I imagine that it goes beyond what we mean when we say “peace and tranquillity” or “inner silence”. It would be all that and more. A “oneness” with everything that exists, knowing your exact place in it, and feeling that you are where you should be. All the time. Every minute of every day. I think that we might occasionally catch a glimpse of it, which is what makes us want to experience more of it, but it must surely be too overwhelming for the humans that we are.


    • I believe you are right about that. We allow ourselves far too little of it, I think. We are determined to block our own vision.


  6. I am looking forward to an explaination of Shekinah.. I have always known it as the dwelling of God. But I am not a Hebrew scholar.
    Your etching evokes a very comfortable feeling of peace.


    • I suppose that’s why I was drawn to this etching even before I had any idea what it represented. I never heard the word in my life before I saw it on the etching. I hope Shimonz will oblige us.


  7. She certainly appears to have achieved, or been touched by, rather (depending on the source, I guess… if it is an outward, divine presence that has descended upon her) deep peace (given the illumination within the image, I suspect an external source). I’ll be eager, too, to read what Shimon has to say about Shekinah.


    • The word is centuries old with a complicated history that I don’t dare to touch in my limited way. I hope he will tell us.


    • I’m glad you enjoyed it, Naomi. When I bought the piece years ago, I had no idea what “Shekinah” actually meant. I kept going back to the website to look at it again. There was just some connection there. I finally bought it. I’m glad I did. Our instincts are generally right.



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