Inquiring minds: What is “shekhinah"?

Each week the staff at the Roseville Library answers more than 2,500 questions on every subject under the sun. Here are some of the most interesting ones they’ve gotten lately.

Q. What is “shekhinah"? I remember that it has something to do with the light on the face of Moses when he brought the Ten Commandments down from Mount Sinai.

A.  Shekhinah (which is also sometimes spelled “shekinah”) is a Hebrew word that is used to refer to the indwelling presence of God. The root of the word is the Hebrew verb for “dwell.” According to the Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, the word “shekhinah” itself doesn’t appear in Scripture, but “it is rooted” in the Biblical concepts of God’s presence on Earth and the belief that “God came to dwell in the flesh of Jesus Christ.”
There is also an interesting sidelight to this. The word you might be looking for is “keren” (sometimes spelled “qaran”) which refers to the “shining” of Moses’ face in the Book of Exodus. Most modern scholars now accept this translation of “keren,” but Early Church Fathers translated the word as “horn.” For centuries, art representations of Moses took that translation literally. Which is why, among other things, the famous Michelangelo sculpture of the seated Moses shows the Lawgiver with two small but definite horns projecting out of his forehead.

Do you have a question for the staff at the Roseville Library? You can call them at 628-6803 or ask your question in person at the Information Desk, Roseville Library, 2180 Hamline Ave. Library hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday; and 1 to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

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