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God/dess of Vengeance

אֵל־נְקָמ֥וֹת יְהוָ֑ה אֵ֖ל נְקָמ֣וֹת הוֹפִֽיַע׃

God of Vengeance, Adonai, God of Vengeance, shine forth!

(Psalms 94:1)

Behind the curtain covering our Holy of Holies stands a hidden face of God, just waiting for us to call out to her so she will come raging into the world.

She is the face of burning fire and electricity ready to hit.

We have before us the personification of Revenge.

Very much like the Erynies, born from blood falling on Gaia, El-Nekamot was born when Hevel's blood touched the Earth and screamed up to the Creator. Go read the story of Cain and Hevel (Abel)[Genesis 4]. This is not the same God who punished Adam and Chava for eating from The Tree. This is a new face of God/dess springing from the ground after it was seeded with Murder.


We find El Nekamot only once in the Psalms: God of Vengeance, Adonai, God of Vengeance, shine forth!(Psalms 94:1).

Many translations of this Psalm use the word “retribution” for "Nekamah". Thankfully, in his translation,  Robert Alter uses the truer word “Vengeance” to call to us the face of God as El-Nekamot [1].

God of Vengeance, Adonai, God of Vengeance, shine forth! Rise up, judge of the earth, bring down on the proud requital. How long the wicked, Adonai, how long will the wicked exult, they utter arrogance, speak it, all the wrongdoers bandy boasts. They crush Your people, Adonai, they afflict Your very own; Widow and sojourner they kill, and orphans they murder. And they say, "Yah will not see, and the God of Jacob does not pay heed.” Take heed, you brutes in the people; And you fools, when will you be wise? [Psalms 94]

El-Nekamot rages onto the scene when blood, physical or metaphoric, is shed and when the weak and marginalized in society are harmed. 

El-Nekamot is out and about nowadays, when racism runs wild, when refugees are thrown from place to place, when animal life is wasted on our excesses.

We don't justify any acts of violence, we only support acts of healing and peace.

But, in order to get to healing and peace we should allow ourselves to acknowledge the angry parts inside us, when we meet acts of deep social injustice. We need a safe space to let out those words and feelings, and then find acts of healing to bring about kindness and justice. 

Our God/dess - El Malei Rachamim (God full of mercy) is the shadow image of El Nekamot (or is it the other way around?). In order for us to truly bring about loving - kindness into our world, we need to first speak out our anger at the place we have arrived at.  Sometimes our liturgy must know how to say "Shed your wrath!" (the Passover Haggadah), or "When the whirlwind of fury comes from the Throne of God..." (William Blake). What would it feel like if we admitted that the a horrors of human behavior towards other humans, towards animal life, towards the Earth, have gone too far. What would it feel like if we relearned how to call on all of God's names, even the ones that scare us?

Not acting out vengeance, that is for God/dess alone

After Cain murdered his brother, he had a little conversation with God and learned this act will not go unpunished. Did God/dess kill Cain and cleanse our world of the sin of murder? No, Cain was branded and let loose to walk the world for the rest of his life. Apparently, death would not have brought about consolation. I am not sure anything can give us comfort after violent death. But God listened to the crying out of the blood, and the mark is a sign of his listening. It is also a sign to all those who ever meet Cain, to hear the story, to know the history, to never forget.

El Nekamot is a force of destruction but is also that which gives voice to those who have no voice. The storm of thunder raised up by this face of God/dess calls us to action in listening carefully to the pain around us. That is the action we are called to do: Listen to the voice of blood hitting the Earth. Raging with it, Mourning with it.

After we have listened carefully through the aspect (panim פנים) of El -Nekamot, we may call forth El Malei Rachamim, to do work of Healing and Creation.

[1] Robert Alter, The Hebrew Bible/ The Writings, W.W. Norton & Company, 2019

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