Question: What does it mean to be brought “under the wings of the Shechina (the Divine Presence)”?
Answer: In Genesis 12:5. it is written “And Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had acquired, and the souls they had touched in Haran, and they went to go to the land of Canaan, and they came to the land of Canaan.”
Rashi first explains the Midrashic meaning of the underlined phrase:
“and the souls they had touched in Haran”: whom he [Abram/Abraham] had brought under the wings of the Shechinah. Abraham would teach men, and Sarah would teach women. Scripture ascribes to them [a merit] as if they had made them (a new). (Hence, the expression אֲשֶׁר עָשׂוּ, [simply translated as “that they had done”]
Rashi’s explanation of Genesis 12:5
This was before the Torah was given at Mount Sinai, when the Israelites became the Jewish people, so the “teaching” referred to by Rashi means that Abraham and Sarah showed many people in their home city of Haran how to reject falseness, lies and idolatry and to see the truth, accept and connect to the One True G-d. Those people were inspired to became better human beings. Abraham and Sarah did not only taught people how to connect to the One G-d, Creator of Heaven and Earth, but also to observe the Seven Commandments which G-d commanded to Noah. These people became Righteous Human Beings and uplifted their souls. With this faith and connection to G-d, they merited to receive blessings and come under G-d’s Divine Presence (the Shechina). They acquired spiritual reward in this world and in their afterlife. The euphemistic term for this spiritual advancement is to be brought “under the wings of the Shechina”.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe expounded in a talk:*
Speaking of Avraham and Sarah, the Torah refers to “the souls that they made in Haran.” Rashi explains that they are said to have “made” the souls, “for they took them in under the wings of the Divine Presence [the Shechina]. Avraham would ‘teach’ the men, and Sarah would ‘teach’ the women. Scripture considers this as if they made them.”
Rashi does not mean teach them Judaism, for that would be to convert to Judaism. Rather, he emphasizes, “they took them in under the wings of the Divine Presence” meaning to reconnect to the Creator of the World. This also explains why Targum Onkelos [the Aramaic translation] renders the verse as: “those whom they made connected to G-d through the Torah”.
Originally published in Likkutei Sichos,
English translation published by Sichos in English (Vol. 5, pp. 143-144, fn. 16. ),
in To Perfect the World, p. 4.