reflection by Rabbi Daniel Raphael Silverstein
“Abraham was now old, advanced in years, and the Eternal One had blessed Abraham in all things (bakol)” (Genesis 24:1). The Ramban (R' Moshe ben Nachman) offers a mystically informed commentary on this verse that may resonate with many of us who have journeyed through different conceptions of, and relationships with, the Divine.
He writes that the Hebrew word bakol, meaning “in all things” alludes to a Divine Attribute which we also meet in the Song of Songs as the kallah (bride), which is composed of the same Hebrew letters in a different order. The Ramban identifies this attribute with Knesset Yisrael, the Community of Israel, (also known as Malchut or Shechinah), meaning that it is essentially the aspect of the Divine which is, in fact, us!
To illustrate his point, he cites a beautiful, and perhaps surprising, midrash on the verse: “O maidens of Zion, go forth And gaze upon King Solomon, wearing the crown that his mother gave him on his wedding day, On his day of bliss” (Song of Songs 3:11).
In Midrash Rabbah, R' Eliezer, son of R' Yossi says: “It is like a king who had an only daughter whom he loved very much, and he would call her 'my daughter.' And he did not relent in his love for her until he called her 'my sister' [which is also used to mean 'my lover' in the Song of Songs]. And he did not relent in his love for her until he called her 'my mother.'” R' Eliezer continues to say that the same is true for the Infinite One's relationship with us, and he cites biblical verses to demonstrate his point.
When we persist with our spiritual practice over time, we inevitably experience the mystery of the Infinite Source of Life in different ways. There is no one formula that would capture all of our experiences. However, the midrash does point towards a certain evolution, which Judaism itself may have gone through, and which some of us may recognize from our own journeys:
At first, the Source of Life is a parent, and we are the child. Then, the Infinite One is a sibling or a lover, our partner in co-creation. And finally, the Divine Mystery is our child, that we our responsible for bringing into the world.