From the dawn of time, humans have sought to find purpose and meaning in the world. As humanity evolved and religions formed, ideas about the nature of the divine also began to taking shape.
In many cultures, the creator was viewed as having both masculine and feminine elements. According to Rabbi Rachael Bregman, those developments can still be found in religions around the world. While both sides of the creator’s identity are important, it’s the feminine aspect that she has found herself examining recently.
“God is multifaceted. There are masculine and feminine sides of the divine in religions around the world. The sacred feminine is within all of those — whether it is an Indian goddess (Shakti or Devi), the Virgin Mary, or Shechinah for us in Judaism, there are many different names for it,” Bregman said.
“But there has always been this understanding of the feminine aspect of the divine. So while it might seem ‘out there,’ it really isn’t crazy or out of the mainstream. It is within the religious literature ... but it’s been pushed to the edge of the mainstream.”
Bregman wants to bring it back into focus. To do that, she is hosting a series of workshops that explore biblical texts including Psalms and Proverbs to rediscover the sacred feminine. The classes will be held from 6-7:30 p.m. weekly Tuesday through Nov. 20 at Temple Beth Tefilloh, 1326 Egmont St., Brunswick.
“We will be looking at the liturgical writings and other texts within the sacred canon. We will discuss them and collectively to try to tease out what might be the voice of the divine feminine that runs through all of these pieces woven into different texts,” she said.
The six-week course will include themed classes with topics such as “Can God be female?,” “The Divine Feminine in Wisdom Literature,” and “Where is the Divine Feminine found?” It is open to all. There is a suggested donation of $20 per session, but Bregman hopes that will not stand in the way of attendance.
“I wouldn’t want people to not come because of the money,” she said. “It’s a suggested donation.”
The idea to host the course was born as Bregman was substitute teaching a women’s Bible study course at First United Methodist Church in Brunswick.
“We were looking at Psalms and afterward I was thinking ‘we really should learn more about Proverbs and Psalms.’ And ‘What do I have to say about Proverbs and Psalms?’” she said.
Through her internal examinations, she developed the themes for the program. Bregman feels that the course could not come at a better time, considering the divisiveness around women’s issues today.
“I think it is really timely and relative considering the last few months. It will be looking at ‘What does femininity look like? ‘What does it mean to be a woman in the world today? What does religion have to say about it?,” she said. “So we will be exploring that material. Hopefully, we will have a new appreciation for the feminine side of God’s presence and the way it affects us.”
Bregman is hoping to cast a wide net in terms of attendance. She hopes that both men and women will come to the sessions to generate useful dialogue surrounding these topics.
“I hope it will be co-ed. I think the national conversations, politically and socially, have really raised some questions about the relationships between men and women,” she said.
“Some things have been taken, assumed and accepted as the norm are being called into question. I hope men and women will explore and have a conversation with each other that fosters growth and learning around a topic that has caused a lot of pain.”
The sessions can be taken all together or attended individually. Bregman is also hoping to make the discussions available online as well. But her goal remains the same — to start conversations that might move the community forward in a positive way.
“There is a good cross section of people who walk into these meetings. These courses are really a great opportunity to come together and meet people who wouldn’t otherwise meet as well,” she said.