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The Ineffable Name of HaShem...

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  • The Ineffable Name of HaShem...

    There has been some talk lately about the name of G-d. I'd like to post specifically what Judaism says about this topic.

    Hope you enjoy these quotes:

    Our Rabbis taught: In the year in which Simeon the Righteous died, he foretold them that he would die. They said: Whence do you know that? He replied: On every Day of Atonement an old man, dressed in white, wrapped in white, would join me, entering [the Holy of Holies] and leaving [it] with me, but today I was joined by an old man, dressed in black, wrapped in black, who entered, but did not leave, with me. After the festival [of Sukkoth] he was sick for seven days and [then] died. His brethren [that year] the priests forbore to mention the Ineffable Name in pronouncing the [priestly] blessing.4

    (4) Men. 109b. Tosaf Sotah 38a suggests that the Ineffable Name could be pronounced only when there was some indication that the Shechinah rested on the Sanctuary. When Simeon the Righteous died, with many indications that such glory was no more enjoyed, his brethren no more dared utter the Ineffable Name.

    ---Talmud, Yoma 39b

    And as the ideal covenant was formed through forty-two copulations, so the engraven ineffable name is formed of the forty-two letters of the work of creation.'
    ---Zohar, Volume 1, Page 1a

    The importance attributed to the Divine Name was owing to the fact that it was not regarded simply as a designation, but was held to express the essence of the Godhead. The right way of pronouncing the Tetragrammaton was not generally known, being preserved as an esoteric teaching. Cf. Kid., Sonc. ed. p. 361, n. 6. and Sanh., Sonc. ed. p. 407, n. 2.
    ---footnote, Talmud, Pesachim 49b

    In addition to the Tetragrammaton, there were twelve-lettered, forty-two-lettered, and seventy-two-lettered Names. (Kid. 71a; Lev. Rab. XXIII; Gen. Rab. XLIV) R. Aha b. Jacob states that since 'Jose' is used as a substitute, it proves that even if the longer Names are not employed, but merely the Tetragrammaton, the guilt of blasphemy is incurred.
    ---footnote, Talmud, Sanhedrin 60a

    In general it was regarded as sinful to utter this Name (Sanh. 90a; 'A.Z. 17b; Kid. 71a), nor was it widely known, being an object of esoteric knowledge (Kid. Ibid; Yer. Yoma 40)
    ---footnote, Talmud, Sanhedrin 60a

    The Tetragrammaton, the four-lettered Name of God, vuvh, was fully pronounced only by the Priests in the temple when blessing the people. Everywhere else it was pronounced 'Adonai'. For full treatment of the subject, v.J.E. IX, 162 seq.
    ---footnote, Talmud, Avodah Zarah 18a

    Our Rabbis taught: At first [God's] twelve-lettered Name26 used to be entrusted to all people. When unruly men increased,27 it was confided to the pious of the priesthood,28 and these 'swallowed it'29 during the chanting of their brother priests.

    ---Talmud, Kiddushin 71a

    (26) V. n. 6 [This would suggest that they also hesitated to write or pronounce this latter name in full, but wrote or pronounced it merely Ad or Alef dateth. Lauterbach. J.Z. Proceedings of the Americas Academy for Jewish Research 1930-1931. p. 43.]
    (27) And it was not fit that they should pronounce this.
    (28) [To utter it at the priestly benediction, v. Sot. 38a.]
    (29) I.e., pronounced it indistinctly.

    Rab Judah said in Rab's name: The forty-two lettered Name32 is entrusted only to him who is pious,33 meek, middle-aged,34 free from bad temper, sober,35 and not insistent on his rights. And he who knows it, is heedful thereof,36 and observes it in purity, is beloved above and popular below, feared by man,37 and inherits two worlds, this world and the future world.38
    ---Talmud, Kiddushin 71a

    (32) Maim. in 'Moreh' I, 62, conjectures that these multiliteral Names, of which no trace is found, were perhaps composed of several other divine names; also that not only the names were communicated, but their real meanings too. [On these names v. further Blau L. Das altjudische Zauberwesen pp. 137ff and Bacher. JE XI 264.]
    (33) [ gubm denotes simply a modest man careful to carry out his religious obligations, a pious man, and not a member of a particular sect an Essene. v. Buchler Types, pp. 59ff.]
    (34) Lit., 'stands in the middle of his days'.
    (35) Lit., 'he does not get angry, does not get drunk'.
    (36) Not to use it lightly.
    (37) Lit., 'his fear lies upon mankind.'
    (38) In general the name of God was regarded more than a mere designation, but represented His nature or character and His relation to His people. It thus came to partake of His essence, His glory and power. This probably explains the mystic awe with which its pronunciation was surrounded, on the one hand, and the powers attributed to the right manipulation thereof on the other. Cf. Sanh. 91a: 'He who pronounces the Divine Name according to its letters loses his portion in the world to come; also 65b and 67b on the human powers of creation by means of the Sefer Yezirah, which Rashi a.l. explains was effected by combinations of the Divine Name. [On this subject v. Marmorstein The Old Rabbinic Doctrine of God, I, p. 17.]

    ---Talmud, Sanhedrin 90a

    (28) This is not a dogmatic assertion that only Israel has a portion in the world to come, but is closely connected with the preceding chapters, and asserts that even those who were executed by Beth din are not shut out from the future world, as is stated in VI, 2.
    (29) The conception of what is to be understood by the future world is rather vague in the Talmud. In general, it is the opposite of vzv okug, this world. In Ber. I, 5, 'this world' is opposed to the days of the Messiah. Whether the Messianic era is thus identical with the future world, and these again with the period of resurrection, is a moot point (v. infra, 91b). The following quotation from G. Moore, 'Judaism' (Vol. 2, p. 389) is apposite: 'Any attempt to systematize the Jewish notions of the hereafter imposes upon them an order and consistency which does not exist in them.'
    (30) Isa. LX, 22.
    (31) Lit., 'that resurrection is not intimated in the Torah.' The doctrine of resurrection was denied by the Sadducees and the Samaritans. It was to oppose these that the doctrine was emphatically asserted in the second of the Eighteen Benedictions (v. W.O. Oesterley. The Jewish Background of Christian Liturgy, Oxford, 1925, 60ff.). According to the present text, however, the reference is not to one who denies the fact of resurrection, but that it is intimated in the Torah. (On the importance of conceding the Biblical origin of this tenet, v. p. 604, n. 12.) But D.S. omits the phrase as interpolated, and he is supported by the Tosef. XIII, 5.
    (32) In the first place, the word denotes an adherent of the Epicurean philosophy, and then, one who lives a licentious and dissolute life. The word has also been derived from rep (cf. repv) to be unbridled, and it is frequently used as a synonym of min (q.v. p. 604, n. 12), heretic. The Gemara defines it as one who speaks disparagingly of the Bible and its disciples.
    (33) Lit., 'the external books'. Graetz, Gesch. IV, p. 99, regards this as referring to un-Jewish, particularly Gnostic literature. Weiss takes a similar view. The pernicious influence of Gnosticism, particularly as it impaired the pure monotheism of Judaism, made the Rabbis very anxious to stem its spread, and hence R. Akiba's dictum. (Weiss maintains that Elisha b. Abuia's revolt against the Rabbis was in some measure occasioned by the influence of Gnosticism.) On this view, ordinary reading is referred to. There are indications, however, that something more is meant. The J. Tal. a.l. adds: 'E.g.. the books of Ben Sira and Ben La'anah. But the reading of Homer and all subsequent books is as the reading of a letter.' In spite of the fact that the Bab. Tal. forbids the books of Ben Sira, it is evident from the discussion that all its contents were well-known, and Sira's wisdom is frequently quoted by the Talmudists. It is also difficult to see why greater exception should be taken to Sira than to Homer. To obviate these difficulties the theory has been put forward that the prohibition is against reading these uncanonical works publicly, treating them as the Scripture and expounding them to the community. Private reading, however, would on this theory not come within the ban. (V. Krochmal More Nebuche ha-Zeman, XI, 5.)
    (34) Ex. XV, 26.
    (35) Lit., 'according to its letters'.


    Again, I'd like to thank BrookLaw for her fathomless resources. Thanks!

    Baruch atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech Ha'Olam

    "Those who love Torah find great peace, and nothing can make them stumble." Tehillim 119:165

  • #2

    Thank you very much for the info:
    A 4-letter name, a 12-letter name, a 42-lettered name, and a 72-lettered name. No 5-letter name (with a daleth in it)? hmm . . .

    Do you have any information regarding the one train of thought that indicates that YHWH's name is "B'reshit barah elohim . . . l'eyney kol yisrael" --- the entire Torah, from Genesis through Deuteronomy? . . . just curious

    Thanks again,
    Pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the [messiah] out of a pure heart. (II Tim 2:22)



    • #3
      Shalom Hyssop,

      I'm not sure where I've heard the name of G-d is literally the Torah, but I know that there is something in Kabbalah regarding this matter, that the Torah is His essence per se. I'd really like to know where your idea is rooted, it interests me greatly.

      " No 5-letter name (with a daleth in it)? hmm . . "

      nope, never heard of that at all. In fact, since the time I heard it brought up in this discussion forum... I have discussed it with my local Rabbi, a Rabbi that lives an hour north of here, and a good online friend (who has studied extensively at a Yeshiva)... and none of them have heard anything remotely close to that before. I have never encountered such a thing either... but then again, none of us know all, eh?

      But, I can semi-safely say the "5-letter name - with a daleth in it" is most likely the creation of an individual, not Judaism.

      Shalom Hyssop!
      Baruch atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech Ha'Olam

      "Those who love Torah find great peace, and nothing can make them stumble." Tehillim 119:165


      • #4
        From the Web...Pronouncing HaShem's Name as it is Spelled

        "So shall you say to the Children of Israel, 'HaShem the G-d of your forefathers, the G-d of Abraham, the G-d of Isaac, and the G-d of Jacob has dispatched me to you. This is My Name forever, and this is my rememberance from generation to generation." Shemos 3:15.
        As we have seen from the above, the Divine Name is extremely holy. This is particularly true of the peculiar Name of G-d, the four letter Name. Unlike the other names of G-d, like "E-l-o--h-i-m", which may refer to other powers or authorities, Hashem is only used in reference to G-d. It is the most common term for G-d in the T'nakh , appearing on almost every page.

        Since this Name is so Holy, and the Name used to distinguish the true G-d from the false idols, many have thought it appropriate to use this Name when they reference G-d. More particularly, they reason that it is appropriate to address Him with the Name as it is spelled, according to the pronunciation of the four Hebrew letters that makes up this Name.

        After all they reason, it says "This is My Name forever, My remeberance etc." How is it correct to substitute This Name, with "L-rd" as is done by most translations, both Jewish and Christian.

        "An Altar of earth shall you make for Me...wherever I cause My Name to be remembered I shall come to bless you" Shemos 20:21

        This assumption does not consider the majority of evidence however. The Divine Name of HaShem was never meant to be pronounced as it is spelled on a regular basis. Earlier we read that Hashem is a "rememberance", from which some conclude it should be prononced as spelled. However we see above that G-d causes His Name to be remembered in particular places. More specifically these places are associated with the sacrificial altar.

        We see this association between G-d's Name and the Beis HaMikdosh (i.e. where the altar was) continued throughout the T'nakh . When Yisrael entered the Land in began to disperse themselves, Torah allowed them to offer sacrifices (and erect altars) at various locations. This was, however, a temporary institution. One day, when Yisrael was at peace, Hashem would choose a place that were all sacrifices where brought. Private altars would then become forbidden. The Torah calls this the place HaShem "will choose to rest His Name" (Devarim 12:11). Why is this term used? It is the place where HaShem decrees His Name to be pronounced according to it's spelling. Nor is this the only time such an association mentioned. We see many other such terms used. "[Shlomo]shall build a House for My Name.." (2 Shmuel 7:13), "It was in the heart of my father David to build a House for the sake of the Name of Hashem, G-d of Israel...It has been in [David's] heart to build a House for My Name." (M'lachim 1 18:17,18). "I have sanctified this House that you have built, to place My Name there forever" (ibid 9:3). And there are other such examples. Jewish Law and tradition makes this point clear. Hashem's name was never pronounced outside the Beis HaMikdosh . Outside the Beis HaMikdosh the Name was always pronounced A-d-o-n-o-y. In Jewish Law, this pronunciation has the status of G-d's Name in every regard and when halachah speaks of G-d's Name it always means written with the four letters and pronounced as mentioned (except of course halachos dealing with how it is used in the Beis HaMikdosh ). The Mishnah clearly expresses disaproval of pronouncing HaShem as spelled. "And these are the one's who have no share in the World to Come...Abba Saul says,'Also, he who pronounces the Divine name as it is spelled" Mishnah Sanhedrin 10:1. Rambam explains those times when it was appropriate for the Name to be pronounced as spelled. "This Sacred Name, which, as you know, was not pronounced except in the Sanctuary by the appointed priests, when they gave the sacerdotal blessing [Bircas Kohanim], and by the highpriest on the Day of Atonement" Rambam, The Guide for the Perplexed LXI He then explains that it was never known ammong the common population. "It was not known to everyone how the name was to be pronounced, what vowels were to be given to each consonant, an whether some of th letters capable or redublication should recieve a dagesh. Wise men successively transmitted the pronunciation of the name, it occured only once in seven years that the pronunciatino was communicated to a distinguished disciples" Ibid LXII Rashi explains that the prohibition is derived from the verse we discussed above.

        "'In every place where I cause my name to be mentioned' Where I give you permision to mention My Ineffable Name, there 'I will come unto thee and bless thee' (i.e) I will cause My Divine Presence to rest upon thee. Hence you learn that permission was not given to mention the Ineffable Name save where the Divine Presence comes, and that is the Temple there permission was granted to the priests to mention the Ineffabel Name at the 'lifting of the hands' to bless the people' (Sota 38)" Rashi on Ex. 20:21.

        Jewish Tradition on this subject is loud and clear, and thoroughly based on the T'nakh .

        Dispite the clearity with which Jewish tradition speaks on this, there is some confusion among some. Some have the impression that the use of the name was gradually was phased out out of fear of violating the prohibition of taking G-d's Name in vain. This is, as we have discussed, a very important command not to take false oaths and use HaShem's Name to make others believe them. By extention we also learn that we should never use HaShem's Name needlessly, but only during prayer and learning. This all applies to the Name as we actually pronounce it, A-d-o-n-o-y, and not the reason we pronounce it as such. The reason we substitute it is as given above.

        The source, in part, of this confusion is a tradition recorded in the Talmud of the use of the Divine Name (as pronounced) in the Beis HaMikdosh. As we mentioned, the Name was only pronounced as spelled in the Beis HaMikdosh during the Bircas Kohanim and the Yom HaKippurim service. Eventually the Name wasn't used even in the Bircas Kohanim in the Beis HaMikdosh because of heretics copying it. Whether you agree with their intentions or not (I generally assume Chazal had a better grasp of the situation than myself or anyone who would wish to challenge the decission nevertheless) it has no relevance to the use of the Name outside the Beis HaMikdosh.

        One should not assume that the appearance of HaShem indicates that it was pronounced the way it was written. For example much of the Siddur contains the Name Hashem, but it was put their with the understanding that it would be substituted with A-d-o-n-o-y. Similarly based on the evidence found in the Bible and Jewih tradition, the fact that it is spelled one way in the T'nakh doesn't change the fact it was intended to be pronounced as A-d-o-n-o-y. Those who say otherwise are only showing their bias, ignoring the evidence in Torah and tradition and holding a posistion based on assumption rather than evidence.

        For Those Who Do Try to Pronounce the Name HaShem

        Typically for this site the fact something is forbidden by halachah makes it case closed. And most Jews who don't necissarily follow halachah , an ancient tradition of abstaining from pronouncing the Name is reason enough not to. However we see an increasing number of Christians, particularly Messianic Christians, who find the need to try and use HaShem's Name as it is spelled. People such as these don't necissarily put any importance on [Orthodox] Jewish tradition (although the Biblical evidence should cause them some concern).To them, I offer a few reasons that they should reconsider. The fact is that this is not strictly an "Orthodox Jewish Practice" it was the universal Jewish practice. It was practiced by all ancient Jewish sects indicating it dated from a time which preceded the division of those sects. This impies that it dates back to Biblical times and was always the practice as I have suggested.
        One of the most ancient manuscripts of the Bible, namely the Isaiah text found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, has the Hebrew word "lord" written above the Name HaShem indicating that the reader substitute it. This is proof that the custom is a least older than Chrisitanity.

        The Greek Testament, the Christian Bible, never uses the Name HaShem as it is pronounced. When it cites the T'nakh it uses the Greek word "kurios" when translating the Divine Name. It does not transliterate the Name (put it into Greek characters so that one can pronounce it) even though it transliterates other words like "Satan" of "Abba".

        Matthew records an incident where Jesus reads from Isaiah in the Synogogue. The portion included the Name Hashem but, as we mentioned, the word "kurios" is used and there is not recorded uproar caused by Yeshu reading the Name as it is spelled.

        In short, even a Christian should think twice before trying to recite G-d's Holy Name as it is spelled. For most of us, the early Christian practice regarding reciting HaShem's Name is irrelavent. It is relevant to those who are most likely to use it though so I decided to include this final section.

        Likewise the acedemic world should reconsider its use of the term. It makes no sense to use a term to designate the G-d of the Jews when 99% or more of Jews throughout history ever used this Name.

        One last note, Hebrew has no letter "J". Therefore the insistance of some groups on using the English rendetion of the Divine Name "J-e-h-o-v-a-h" is silly as well as misguided. ... Even the best known champions of this "name", the Watchtower Socioty (J. Witnesses), recognizes that this is how this "name" came to be. They argue that what counts is really using a personal name to identify G-d, but rather what matters is treating G-d's Name with the proper respect indicated by the Torah and tradition dating back to Biblical times.


        • #5
          Ah yes, I fully belive that there are several intances where y'shua used the tetragrammatron!

          It can easily be seen if one understands various Jewish idioms of the first century.
          Baruch atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech Ha'Olam

          "Those who love Torah find great peace, and nothing can make them stumble." Tehillim 119:165


          • #6
            Greetings, The Hebrew word that is translated as name, is Shem and can mean: existing, in existence, name, designation, reputation, renown, fame, denomination, nature, title.
            The name is considered ineffable because of the vibrational power/force, that when pronounced it produces. The vibrations of the name are what were used to create the universe and can alter the universe as we know it. It is said that once pronounced the world as we know it will cease to exist.
            Everything in the universe is made of light energy, vibration and certain vibration changes things. It was the knowledge of this name that was the knowledge of good and evil because it can be used for good and evil. In the past carnal man used the name for self gratifying purposes and brought disaster to the world.