Does God Have A Gender?

by Chana Boteach

In Judaism, God is comprised of both the masculine and feminine. We too, being created in the divine image have both aspects within. But, God is the only being that can be both in the material world and beyond it at once. God is actively involved in the world and sustaining it, all the while also being transcendent. Though we can’t fully understand God, He makes his presence known and relates us through different angles of Himself, in both male and female forms.

So if God has both masculine and feminine characteristics- then why do we refer to God as “He” and as our “Father”?

This question can be answered in intimate terms, because according to Judaism, we are in a relationship with God, where he is the “man” and we are the “woman.”

In this relationship, God takes the traditional masculine role, pursuing and courting us until we, the feminine, accepted Him and the Torah.

Like any romantic relationship, we have our ups and downs. There are times we feel close to God and feel His love and there are times when we struggle to stay faithful. But despite our obstacles, we continue to lust after each other and are committed.

In Chassidic thought, this concept is further explained with the roles of masculine, known as “mashpia” or influencer and the feminine, known as “mekabel” or receiver. The masculine role may  be seen as more active and the feminine more passive, but influence is nothing if it’s not accepted, the power is in the receiver. So to, though God’s influence is all-encompassing, without us, there is no one to accept his love and commandments. Our marriage to God so to speak is symbiotic with a mutual passion that flows between us, like a husband and wife.

King Solomon described it in Shir Hashirim/Song of Songs, his erotic poem regarded as the most controversial, yet holy book of the Torah. He describes the passionate intimacy between two lovers, which is actually a metaphor, representing our love affair with God.

“Draw me, we will run after you; the king brought me to his chambers,” (1:4) and “A bundle of myrrh is my beloved to me; between my breasts he shall lie.” (1:13)

So to sum up, no- God does not have a gender. Rather, the masculine and feminine are roles that we play in our relationship, put into terms that we can relate to and understand God’s love for us and ours for Him.

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