Was the Shekinah really a cloud? I know it shaded the people, but did it produce rain? Is it thought of as a cloud because that was the only word to describe what the people saw?

The two passages that raise questions in my mind are:

  • Num 9:15-23 where the tabernacle was a cloud by day and appeared fiery by night, centered on the tabernacle
  • Exo 13:21 where the cloud appeared in a pillar form to lead the people

Alternating cloud and fire seem to be common attributes of the shekinah glory. And it appears like the cloud is amorphous - it can exist inside the tent of meeting or be large and cover the camp. I also heard a story told that the cloud appeared differently to the Egyptian army than to the people, it appeared black like a void to the Egyptians - but I cannot find anywhere that this is written.

I am querying for additional documented details, if anything, beyond what I have described above.

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    Welcome to Mi Yodeya. Could you please edit in the Hebrew verses referring to the shechina that prompted this question? – Scimonster Mar 23 '15 at 21:38
  • The cloud was evidence if the presence of the shechinah, it wasn't the shechinah itself, which is described as resting between the cherubim of the ark when the clouds rested on the TENT as a whole. – Isaac Kotlicky Mar 24 '15 at 0:05
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    The verses explicitly state that the "glory appeared IN the cloud," and not that it was the cloud itself. There are also times when it appears as fire, or darkness, or nothing but sound. The point that gets explicitly made is that there is NO CORPOREALITY to the shechinah – Isaac Kotlicky Mar 24 '15 at 0:10
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    @loewian I have an interesting thought: Shochen means neighbor (oy larasha oy lesh'cheyno). Vishachanti doesn't just mean physical closeness, it means spiritual proximity and relationship (because you are influenced by your neighbor and what they do). The shechina would then be a symbol demonstrating that Hashem is "directly spiritually adjacent/in a relationship with" Am Yisroel. – Isaac Kotlicky Mar 25 '15 at 12:36
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    I believe it would be a machlokes between jewish philosophers and Kabbalists. Philosophers would say there was a physical cloud that proved that Hashem exists is involved... Because the cloud acted in ways a regular cloud should not. Kabbalists would say there was a physical cloud but also that the cloud was such an existence that when you looked at it, it was like looking at hashems expression. Pretty impossible for a human to do but Hashem could do whatever he wants. I'm not a Kabbalist so I may be off on that. – mroll May 1 '15 at 18:56

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