[b-hebrew] ANSWER TO JAMES READ Jewish tradition/meaning of yhwh

Shoshanna Walker rosewalk at concentric.net
Tue Aug 9 12:20:38 EDT 2005

Honest - in all my life and education, I have never come across where 
G-d's names are given meaning, except as I said, that what is 
discussed is the various aspects of G-d that different names refer 
to, and why therefore they are used in different places in different 
contexts, so that we learn which aspect of G-d is operating at that 
time, and that the Kabbalists go further, that they discuss how the 
four letters of the Shem HaMeforash stand for different Sefiroth and 
their interrelations.

Also, here is the source where we learn that the Shem HaMeforash is 
not to be pronounced:

Exodus 3: 15  "This is my Name forever":  Since the word "LeOlam" is 
spelled without the customary "vav", it can be pronounced, "LeAlem", 
to conceal.  This implies that the Divine Name should not be 
pronounced as it is spelled.  G-d continued:  "This is My 
remembrance", meaning that He taught Moses to pronounce the Name as 
Adonoy (Rashi from Misdrash, Pesachim 50a)

Also, re the Shem Hameforash:

"Exodus 3: 13 "Mah-Shmo" - "What is His name?"    Obviously the Jews 
knew the various names of G-d, so that the question cannot be 
understood literally.  G-d has many Names, each of which represents 
the way in which He reveals Himself through His behavior toward the 
world.  When He is merciful, He is called Hashem (YHVH), the Name 
that represents compassion.  This Name also represents the eternity 
of G-d, for it is composed of the letters that spell - Haya, Hovey, 
Yih'yeh - He was, He is, and He will be, meaning that G-d's Being is 
timeless.  When He exercises strict judgement, He is called Elohim. 
When He exercises His mastery over nature and performs hidden 
miracles - as He did for the Patriarchs - He is called Shaddai, and 
so on.  Thus Moses was saying that once the Jews accepted him as 
G-d's emissary, they would want to know which of G-d's attributes He 
would manifest in the course of redeeming them from Egypt (Ramban)"

"However, YHVH is more than a descriptive Name, it is a proper noun, 
for it is the actual Name of G-d, and is known as Shem HaMeforash, or 
the "Ineffable Name." In respect for its great sanctity, it is not 
pronounced as it is written.  Instead, it is pronounced Adonoy during 
prayer or when reading from the Torah; in ordinary speech, the word 
Hashem (the Name) is substituted for it.  That it should not be 
pronounced as it it spelled is derived by the Sages from verse 15"

(quoted from the compilation of commentaries in the Stone Chumash)


I'm a little confused now. Are you saying that there is absolutely no
traditional understanding of the name's meaning?

How odd!

Names in b-hebrew seem to have so much importance e.g. Abram v. Abraham.
Are you sure there is no traditional understanding? Or are you just telling
me the modern ideas?

-----Original Message-----
From: b-hebrew-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org on behalf of Shoshanna Walker
Sent: Mon 8/8/2005 10:38 PM
To: b-hebrew
Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] ANSWER TO JAMES READ Jewish tradition/meaning of yhwh

That would be as I said, that Divine Names refer to different aspects of G-d

It doesn't contradict what I said, that Jewish tradition does not
seek, as this list does, to ascribe MEANINGS to the Name.

OK, like Shoshanna, my name, MEANS something

Not the Shem HaMeforash.

There is no DEFINITION, nor does Jewish tradition seek to find one.


> What does Jewish tradition have to say about the meaning of the divine
> It doesn't.  It doesn't seek a meaning, because it is G-d's Name.
> It, as other names, are used in the Torah, to let us know which
> aspect of G-d is at play.
> Only the Kabbalists analyze this NAME, to derive that each letter
> stands for one of the Sephirot (Chochma, Bina, Tiferet and Malchut,
> if I remember correctly), and that one can learn from this Name how
> they interrelate, ie; when and how Divine energy flows from G-d to us.
> Shoshanna

Not quite true, Shoshanna. Look at the introduction to almost any Sephardic
siddur (prayer book). They usually explain what aspect of the Divine should
be in one's mind (what "kavanah" one sould have), depeding on the dots
attached to the Name: master of the world, forgiving, merciful, all-knowing


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