A Kabbalistic Metaphor
How is God like a nursing mother? Isaac of Akko, a 13th century Kabbalist, writes:
Taste and see that YHVH is good (Psalms 34:9). The soul will cleave to the Divine Mind, and it will cleave to her. For more than the calf wants to suck, the cow wants to suckle. She and the Mind become one thing—like pouring a jug of water into a gushing spring, for all becomes one. (Otzar Hayyim, trans. Daniel Matt)
And how should we interpret this? With the help of a nursing mother, of course.
A Nursing Mother’s Experience
Twenty-five years ago, I was a nursing mother. Of course it wasn’t easy. I hated feeling tired and hungry all the time. But I loved holding my babies close. So, I remember it as a lovely time, full of intimacy.
Sometimes there was discomfort. For example, when I was away from my infant for too many hours, my breasts would get uncomfortably full. Sometimes, milk would let down. And then, milk would leak out through my bra, onto my shirt.
But I didn’t mind an overflow of milk. For me, this was a sign that nursing was going well. When my infants nursed, my milk flowed. And when the milk flowed, they nursed. The cycle continued in the background, even when we were physically apart.
Decoding the Metaphor
God, says Isaac of Akko, is like a nursing mother. Human souls are like infants. Cosmic consciousness is like milk.
What is cosmic consciousness? Visceral knowledge of God’s presence. Experience of ecstatic peace. Sense of the unity of all being. And more.
God wants to fill us with cosmic consciousness. Divine energy lets down all the time. If we open our souls, it flows in. The more we open, the more it flows.
God’s flow is like a gushing stream. And we are like pitchers. We can only hold a few drops of awareness at a time. We dip in, we fill, we empty, we refill.
And oh, how we want to refill! Because when we taste cosmic consciousness, we want more.
As Isaac of Akko begins:
Taste and see that YHVH is good (Psalms 34:9).
Want to learn more? Here are some resources. (1) About Isaac of Akko, the book As Light Before Dawn: The Inner World of a Medieval Kabbalist by Eitan Fishbane. (2) About devekut, attaching to God, a Neshamah Project podcast episode where I discuss with Rabbi Ben Newman a set of texts selected by Dr. Daniel Matt. (3) About God as cosmic mother, my own book Shechinah, Bring Me Home: Kabbalah and the Omer in Real Life.