The logo of the Melammu Project

The Melammu Project

The Heritage of Mesopotamia and the Ancient Near East

  The Melammu Project
   General description
   Search string
   Browse by topic
   Search keyword
   Submit entry
   Open search
   Thematic search
   Digital Library
   Submit item
   Ancient texts
   Submit link
  Contact us

  The Newsletter
  To Project Information >


Zaddiq and Shekhinah (1)

Printable view
Topics (move over topic to see place in topic list)

01 Religious and ideological doctrines and imagery

03 Religious festivals, cults, rituals and practices

sacred marriage
12th century CE
Jewish philosophers and scholars

In the theosophical Kabbalah the earthly Zaddiq, the practitioner of Kabbalah, was the husband of the Shekhinah, the female aspect of the God. According to the Zohar (1.21b-22a), Jacob became the first husband of the Shekhinah, but the marriage was not consummated while Jacob was still alive because of his relations with his other two wives and two concubines. Only after his death did Jacob couple with the Shekhinah. Moses was the second husband; he separated from his earthly wife, Zipporah, and was thus able to copulate with the Shekhinah while he was still alive. The view of a man being the husband of the Shekhinah is repeatedly expressed in the Zohar. In fact, the Midrash and R. Moses of Burgos had already alluded to this in connection with Moses’ description in the Bible as the “man of God” (the Hebrew ˀîš also means “husband”). According to these texts, Moses is the “man,” the husband of Elohim (God), a symbol for the Shekhinah. While being in exile, the Shekhinah is attracted to the pious men of Israel, especially when they are engaged in either studying the Law or performing good deeds. These men have intercourse with their wives on the shabbat night, but throughout the six days of the week they live in celibacy and devote themselves to holy works. Whenever these men are away from their wives, or when the wives are impure because of menstruation, the Shekhinah couples with these men. Thus they are never deprived of the presence of the Shekhinah, i.e., the male-female unity.

The mythical justification for marital intercourse on the shabbat night - regulated by religious law - was the idea of the marital intercourse of the King and the Shekhinah in the temple once a week. If the wife conceives at the same moment as the Divine couple has their union, the child will receive a soul from Above, one of those pure souls which are created in the divine copulation (Zohar 1.89a-b). When a pious earthly couple performs the act, it causes the heavenly King to fertilize the Shekhinah who thereupon gives birth to human souls and to angels (Zohar 1.12b). Man is supposed to practice imitatio dei by marrying and begetting a son and a daughter, thus reproducing, in flesh and blood, the divine tetrad; by failing to do so, he diminishes the image of God, causing separation between members of the divine tetrad, i.e., a diminution of divine manifestations. Thus, the Kabbalistic sacred union contains the aspect of fertility since the union is intended to produce human offspring, their souls and angelic beings. In addition, sexual union adds to the Godhead and prevents its diminution.

For comparison, in the Sumerian sacred marriage, fertility refers to the whole natural world: the king’s own offspring, other humans, animals as well as plants. This view of the sacred marriage is also found in the Old Testament (Hosea 2:1-25). While performing the sexual act with his wife, the Zaddiq must elevate his thought to its supernal source and have a unio mystica with it, and, as a consequence, his thought is able to draw the supernal light downward. Therefore, the actual intercourse is not the sole purpose; rather, the goal is bringing harmony to the Godhead as well as procreation and making the human being a residence for the Shekhinah, a vessel for the divine influx. During the earthly intercourse, when the Zaddiq is able to unite with the Godhead as the Shekhinah descends on him, she does not play the role of the female. Rather, the Zaddiq stands between two females: the human, his spouse, and the supernal one, the Shekhinah. Nevertheless, the Zaddiq is compensated by the presence of the Shekhinah whenever he is separated from his earthly wife.

Sources (list of abbreviations) (source links will open in a new browser window)
Hosea 2:1-25
Zohar 1.12b
Zohar 1.21b-22a
Zohar 1.89a-b


Lapinkivi 2004, 106-108Lapinkivi, Pirjo. The Sumerian Sacred Marriage in the Light of Comparative Evidence. State Archives of Assyria Studies 15. Helsinki: The Neo-Assyrian Text Coprus Project 2004.

Pirjo Lapinkivi

URL for this entry:

No pictures