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  • Writer's pictureEve Was Right

Kabbalah is One Big Sexist Fever Dream

Updated: Apr 8

Angels & female divinity & and sexism, Oh my! 


The word “Kabbalah” refers to a surprising number of belief systems and concepts: 


  • The red-string-wearing, feel-good substitute for New Age ideology à la Hollywood elites;

  • Cabalah - the Christian version of mysticism that uses Kabbalah’s texts as a foundation;

  • Qabalah as one half of Hermetic Qabalah, the belief system underpinning modern Western occult practices;

  • And the original Kabbalah, a hyper-detailed mystical belief system serving as the esoteric counterpart to Judaism.


Each of the monotheistic religions is split into exoteric and esoteric components. Exoteric focuses on everything external - including dogma, the rules governing outer life, and the faith of the physical world. Esoteric is the mystical and universalist aspect governing the inner spiritual life. 


Christianity has Rosicrucianism, Islam has Sufism, and Kabbalah is Judaism’s answer. In Judaism, Kabbalah is not seen as a hidden branch of the religion. It’s more akin to the highest form of religious study. Kabbalah practitioners are not seen as less than or separate from the students of exoteric Judaism, but rather as more enlightened: blessed with the ability to study higher planes of existence. 


Kabbalah gives us a front-row seat into disordered male psychology. One way this psychology manifests is in the desperate need for women, and the even greater need to control women, especially powerful women. 


Raphael Patai wrote an excellent exposition of the history and philosophy of Kabbalah entitled The Hebrew Goddess¹


Shuffling through history, Patai draws the fascinating conclusion of humanity’s innate need to worship female deities. His historical analysis shows compelling evidence of female deity worship in the vast majority of our religions; if a specific religion didn’t offer a ready-made female godhead, it would probably end up making one¹. 


If a specific religion didn’t offer a ready-made female godhead, it would probably end up making one.

Mother Mary serves this purpose in Christianity. One of Kabbalah’s primary contributions to Judaism, and one of the reasons it had such staying power, is that it supplied female divinity for Judaism.  


Since Judaism is strictly monotheistic, inventing female divinity took a bit of creative thinking. Obviously, there couldn’t be two Gods, so instead… right! God has a feminine aspect. The feminine aspect is known as the Shechina, and She manifests in the moon and Shabbat. 


Charlie Day conspiracy meme. Top says Jews: We want a female deity too. Charlie with his conspiracy board is captioned "Kabbalah rabbis"

Because the Shechina is God (but of course, She’s an aspect of the male God, so all is kosher on the monotheism front), worshiping Her is A-OK. One could argue the entire raison d’etre of Kabbalah was to create a female-deity-sized loophole in Jewish worship practices. 


One could argue the entire raison d’etre of Kabbalah was to create a female-deity-sized loophole in Jewish worship practices.

Speaking of human psychology, here’s where the absolutely bonkers part comes in. It provides the single most illuminating snapshot of disordered male psychology I’ve ever seen. 


In Kabbalah, the male aspect of God is married to God’s female aspect (but remember, they’re still the same person, because monotheism - don’t think about it too hard.) Kabbalistically, Jews believe humans have a great deal of influence over both the physical world and God’s spiritual realm. According to Kabbalah, if Jews don’t observe Shabbat (Shabbat being a manifestation of the Shechina), the Shechina and God are both weakened¹. 


What happens when Jews impair the Shechina and God by breaking Shabbat? Well, Satan rapes the Shechina¹. 


…WHAT THE FUCK?! 


Every time I think about this, it makes me angry.  There’s so much to unpack here.


This plot device tells us way more about the (male) rabbis who invented Kabbalah than it tells us about God. They craved the ability to worship femininity, but they just couldn’t handle the idea of a powerful woman. They required an exception, and of course, it had to be one of sexual violence. 


They craved the ability to worship femininity, but they just couldn’t handle the idea of a powerful woman.

So desperate were they to be able to dominate the personification of female power that they also ended up subjugating their ultimate, all-powerful God. Apparently, the God of Kabbalah is omnipotent, except for the tiny thing where He is powerless to prevent His wife’s rape when Jews don’t pray correctly. 


Oh, and we can’t forget the long period in Kabbalah’s mythology where Satan kidnaps the Shechina as his hostage¹. 


This reveals the frailties of humans, not God. These men possess an overwhelming two-part need: to worship women and to dominate them. 


These men possess an overwhelming two-part need: to worship women and to dominate them.

As an enduring feature of patriarchy, the compulsion to both worship and dominate women shows up in our society in myriad ways. Women encounter it daily to varying degrees in their interactions with men. While some men rise above the urge entirely, many do not. Its influence is pervasive and oftentimes subtle; sometimes, the only way to identify it is through a sticky feeling in your gut.


In addition to providing a window into the psychology of sexism, Kabbalah also offers a study of the human need for control. It wasn’t enough for Kabbalah’s creators to have free will and control over their environment; they also wanted to control God. They created a system in which their prayers held the power to determine whether God could save His wife. 


But why? Why seek such an extreme level of control? They’re throwing the baby out with the bathwater - they get their control, but they’ve disempowered God in the process.


They get their control, but they’ve disempowered God in the process.

This tendency also manifests in Judaism’s and Christianity’s theories on angels. For some reason, both religions believe angels are lesser beings compared to humans. Angels are immortal and formidable, but they don’t have free will. Or, even if they do, their levels of spiritual complexity are static; they can’t grow and mature, so therefore God prioritizes them less. 


Why would this be the case? If a race of powerful, immortal, celestial beings exists, why wouldn’t they enjoy the same rich inner life and opportunities for spiritual growth as we do? The idea of such beings could be either scary or wonderful. Perhaps the universe is filled with wildly different beings, all with unique strengths and weaknesses, free will, and paths for character development.  


Perhaps the universe is filled with wildly different beings, all with unique strengths and weaknesses, free will, and paths for character development.

Our desire to control our immediate environment is both natural and healthy, but sometimes it reaches unhealthy levels; anxiety rears its head in those moments. Fortunately, most of us are satisfied with attaining individual agency. Psychology becomes disordered once we feel the need to control others. Taken to the extreme, we get things like the dark side of Kabbalah. 


Citation

  1. Patai, R. (1990). The Hebrew Goddess. Wayne State University Press.

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