COVID-19 and the Divine Feminine

COVID-19 and the Divine Feminine

By Zvi Ish-Shalom

In Kabbalah, the primary way that hidden truths are revealed is through disrobing, uncovering, and unpacking the unseen relationships between words, letters, and numbers in the Hebrew language. Since Hebrew (along with its sister language Aramaic) are seen by the kabbalists to be primordial languages and thus linguistic manifestations of the divine, their letters and numbers are believed to be the building blocks of creation, at the same time revealing and concealing all the secrets of the universe.

When I reflect on the Hebrew word כובד, which is the most direct phonetic spelling of the word COVID, I see some interesting connections that may be worthwhile (or at least fun) to explore. The most obvious thing about this word, aside from its literal meaning of “heaviness” (I’ll get to this later), is that it is constituted by the exact same letters as the word כבוד, a common Hebrew word (pronounced “kavod”) that can mean “honor”, “glory”, “respect”, or “beauty”. The difference in spelling between כובד (COVID) and the Hebrew word כבוד is subtle, entailing a reversal of the order of the two middle letters. Thus, the word COVID represents a slight twist in the fabric of this word. So, what do these Hebrew words point to on a deeper level?

In the Jewish mystical tradition (and in the rabbinic tradition more broadly) the word כבוד is a classic reference to the divine feminine, to what is commonly referred to as the “divine presence”. The connection of this word to the feminine principle is found as far back as the Hebrew Bible, such as in the verse in Psalms 45:13: “The glory of the princess is within.”  The word for “glory” here is a feminine form of the word כבוד. Indeed, throughout the rabbinic tradition this term is used to signify God’s glory, the Shekhinah, the divine feminine.

Thus, the word COVID shares the same letters as the word for the divine presence, for the feminine principle of the divine light in its immanent, manifest form. Furthermore, the numerical value (gematria) of both COVID and the word כבוד is 32, the same numerical value as the Hebrew word לב, meaning “heart”. This points to the centrality of the heart in the embodied expression of the divine feminine. There is also an ancient kabbalistic teaching from the Sefer Yetzirah (Book of Creation) that describes 32 paths of wisdom that emanate from the primordial source into the realm of creation, representing this feminine flow of emanation. Interestingly, as I mentioned above, the difference between the Hebrew word COVID (כובד) and the word signifying the divine presence (כבוד) is only a slight twist, a reversal of the two letters at the very heart of the word. 

Now, let’s consider the number 19. The first word in the Hebrew Bible that stands out to me as having the numerical value of 19 is the word חוה (pronounced “Chavah”), which is typically translated into English as “Eve”. Eve is Adam’s consort in the creation story of the book of Genesis, and it is through her that all of humanity is born. She is given the name Chavah by Adam in Genesis verse 3:20, where it states: “And he called his wife Chavah (חוה) for she is the mother of all living”.

However, this verse raises an interesting question: Why, if she is the mother of all life, is she named Chavah? Etymologically this doesn’t really make sense, since the word Chavah does not mean “mother of life”, or anything close to it. The name that would make much more sense etymologically would be חיה (pronounced “Chayah”), which is the feminine form of the word meaning “life” or “living”. Although Chavah and Chayah are almost identical, a difference of the middle letter changes the meaning of the word entirely.

So, let’s look more closely at these middle letters at the very heart of the words. The middle letter in the word חיה (chayah), meaning “mother of life”, is the letter yud, which looks like this: י. In the Kabbalah, this letter represents the unformed primordial substance out of which creation unfolds. In the kabbalistic map of the Tree of Life, it is associated with the formless light of the sefirah of Chochmah, meaning “wisdom”. The middle letter of the word חוה (Chavah) is the letter vav, which looks like this: ו.  This letter represents the totality of the created cosmos, the sefirah of Tiferet, meaning “beauty”.

That the biblical text assigns her the name Chavah instead of the more etymologically appropriate Chayah points to the potential and fulfillment of the mother of life, the celestial principle of the divine feminine. This potential expresses itself in the drawing down of the primordial light into the material realm of creation, represented idiogrammatically by the literal extending down of the letter yud (י) into the letter vav (ו). In the Kedumah teachings, I call this sacred feminine process of actively drawing down the divine light into the material world “waking down”, a play on the kabbalistic principle of itaruta de-litata (literally “awakening of below”).

Thus far, in terms of kabbalistic linguistics and numerology, we see that both the word COVID as well as the number 19 point us to the divine feminine, to the heart, and to the process of “waking down” the primordial light into the embodied realms of creation. More specifically, the word COVID reflects a distortion of the feminine principle in that while the word contains the same letters as the Hebrew word כבוד, they are out of order at the heart of the word, in its center. In this sense, COVID-19 can be understood to be an expression of the ways in which we have distorted the wisdom of the divine feminine, and the wisdom of the heart, in our human collective.

To help us understand this more fully, I want to point out another interesting association that relates to the literal meaning of the Hebrew name Chavah and its relationship to COVID-19 and to the Hebrew word כבוד that represents the feminine divine presence. Remarkably, this point is elucidated in none other than Psalm 19, which further connects the numerological significance of the number 19 in the term COVID-19.

In the first few verses of this Psalm, the text reads: “The heavens declare the glory (כבוד) of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night bespeaks (יחוה) knowledge.” In these two verses the Hebrew word kavod (כבוד), here translated as “glory” but signifying the divine feminine presence, is followed by the verbal form of the name Chavah (יחוה), here translated as “bespeaks”. As you can see, this verbal construct of the name Chavah (חוה) begins with the letter yud (י), which points to the primordial source which is drawn down by the dynamic power of the celestial divine mother into the letter vav (ו) of creation.  

As is evident from my translation of Psalm 19, the word Chavah literally means to “speak” or “express”, which is one of the primary ways that we draw down the divine light into the material realm of creation. This is reflected in the popular magical incantation “abracadabra” (a transliteration of the Aramaic phrase אברא כדברא, meaning “I create as I speak”).

Moreover, aside from representing the power of speech and the feminine principle of waking down, the name Chavah etymologically shares the same root as the Aramaic word Chivyah (חויה), meaning “serpent”. In the kabbalah (as in many other traditions), the serpent is a symbol for the feminine sexual energy, the primal energy of creation that rises from the earth and unites with heaven. At the very heart of the Aramaic spelling of the word chivya (חויה) the letter vav (ו) precedes the letter yud (י), signifying how the deep feminine not only serves to “wake down” the primordial light into the earthly realms but also to recycle that energy, through sacred sexuality, back up to the heavens.

This suggests that there is a dual function to the divine feminine, both birthing creation into form and dissolving creation back into the formless. This dual functionality represents a more complete understanding of the process of Waking Down (or “Awakening of Below”), which calls upon us humans to both draw down the primordial light into creation, as well as raise the light back up to the primordial source of formlessness. All of this points to how the dynamic interplay of life and death is at the heart of feminine sexuality, and at the heart of creation more broadly.

As I mentioned earlier, the literal meaning of the Hebrew word COVID (כובד) is “heaviness”. As a dis-ease, perhaps COVID-19 thus embodies, reflects, and expresses a humanity out of alignment with its sacred source, a humanity suffering the “heaviness” of being out of sync with the feminine wisdom of creation. While it is too soon to know if the virus literally originated in snakes, the symbolic wisdom of the serpent calls us to wake up (and wake down) into our innate human power of transformation through the embodied feminine art of heartfelt interpersonal connection, both through our speech and through our sex.

The power that we have as human beings both to create worlds and to destroy them through our words and through our sexuality is enormous and oftentimes overlooked, ignored, and downplayed by even the most conscious and woke among us. However, when we begin to unpack some of the hidden allusions buried in the source-codes of the term COVID-19, perhaps we will be inspired to focus our attention these days more squarely on these areas of human potential, clarifying and purifying our intention and our expression of speech and sex with more urgency. In this way, we have the potential to put the heart of the word COVID (the same numerical value as the Hebrew word for heart, לב) back into its correct order, reversing the middle letters in the word כובד and transforming the heaviness of this plague into the shining “glory”, the כבוד, of the divine presence.

From my perspective, this does not mean that we adopt some kind of puritanical approach to sex, but rather that we drop into a deeper appreciation for the centrality of the heart as the central organ that expresses itself through both our tongue and our genitals, and step into a fuller embodiment of deep feminine wisdom both in our sexuality and in our speech. Practically speaking, this means speaking and making love more explicitly from our heart-center, with its exquisite vulnerability and sensitivity to self and other, and to the entire living world of creation.

May we all be blessed to experience a complete healing from this dis-ease, and may we witness speedily the revelation of the unconditional love and light of the divine presence on earth.

With much love,

Zvi


This article was first published on kedumah.org