What a surprise the first time it happened! I remember standing in front of a large congregation at Chochmat HaLev, giving a sermon and, intending to invoke the “Universe” as an alternate way of referring to The Unity of All, when I heard myself saying “uterus” instead. The laughter was robust and mutual – I had to pause to breathe and re-center. For, as an Ob-Gyn doctor way before I was ordained as a rabbi, my universe was indeed filled with uteri!
And, of course, as we are taught, even if the etymologic comparison may, according to some academics be suspect, the word for uterus in Hebrew is rehem – from the root reish-heyt-mem/ ר-ח-מ – which is also the root for the word compassion, rahamim /רחמים, one of the core traits of the Divine in Torah. Compassion is compared etymologically to the love and protection of a mother for her children, the nurturing presence of the expanding uterus (universe). [Although, as a physician, and as a woman and as a rabbi and as a healer, we know that the uterus is not always a nurturing place, and the mother is not always an unconditionally compassionate presence…]
Despite my awareness of this “error”, it continues to happen when I am speaking publicly – the word “uterus” just pops out of my mouth when I intend to say “universe”.
Ah, the lessons of the unconscious…. I suppose my spirit is not yet complete with this metaphor.