The Wings of the Shechina
Bronze. 520 x 520 x 70 cm
South African Jewish Museum. “Old Shul”
Formerly: the Berea Synagogue, Johannesburg
In Jewish Mysticism the Shechina (the “divine presence”) represents the highest level of spiritual growth towards the mystical awareness of God. It is also the feminine principle of the godhead and is associated with life and light. According to the Second Commandment, no anthropomorphic representation of the Shekhina is permitted. Herman Wald based his image on the biblical artist, Bezalel [Exodus 31:1-6], the chief artisan of the Tabernacle and in charge of building the Ark of the Covenant. It was decreed: “Make two cherubim of gold…” [Exodus 25:18]. Wald distilled from Bezalel’s full figures of the cherubim (angelic beings) only their wings, which according to the biblical story embraced the Holy Ark, the wooden chest in which the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments were held. Today every synagogue contains an Ark in which the Torah scrolls are held which contain the text of the five books of Moses, read in weekly portions.