Maggid ben Yoseif / Jerusalem Torah Voice in Exile

1 Nissan 5759  / March 18, 1999

Shem HaMeforash:

One of many reasons

Why Joes Should Respect

the Halachah of Jews

Divine Name Is Said Only in Temple by Priests!

First reason:  It is the most offensive thing you can do in an Orthodox Jewish synagogue and will result in your being asked to leave. It is also like slapping an Orthodox Jew in the face.  If Hashem is wanting to reconcile Joseph and Judah should Josephites be offending Judah in this way?

Second reason:  Historically, the pronunciation of the Shem Hameforash (calling upon Hashem through the letters Yod and Hey and Vov and Heh -- omitting the ands -- or possibly by permuting the letters) was done ONLY in the Temple, ONLY by the priests and ONLY on two occasions:  1) the high priest would use the name by the letters when going into the Most Holy Place and sprinkling the blood on the mercy seat on the Great Day of Atonement.  2) the Cohenim (priests) would say the name by the letters when pronouncing the priestly blessing over the people every morning but again ONLY IN THE TEMPLE PRECINCTS.   This blessing:  Yivarech'cha (Yod and Hey and Vov and Hey)  v'yishem'marecha, Ya'eyr  (Yod and Hey and Vov and Hey) panahv elecha v'chunecha, Yisah (Yod and Hey and Vov and Hey) panahv elecha v'yasem lecha shalom. May Hashem bless you and safeguard you.  May Hashem illuminate His countenance to you and be gracious to you.  May Hashem turn his countenance to you and establish peace for you.

The priesthood today does not exist without the sacrifice of a red heifer needed to purify it.   There is no temple at this time.  These are HOLY, meaning set-apart ways Hashem was honored and revered.  To do them casually or under different circumstances diminishes the sanctity of His name and removes the holiness of these rituals.  It is perfectly acceptable today for those who know they are COHENIM (DNA tests now exist to identify them) to bless using the KERITH (substitution ADONAI, a Hebrew name which means Supreme Master and which is not used to recognize any but the Creator).  But please, the Shem Hameforash was reserved only for the Temple and for the priests.  In Torah Portion Nasso, Numbers 6:22-26, the PRIESTS alone are commanded to place Hashem's name upon the children of Israel and THEN, He would bless them.  In fact even for a priest to utter the Shem Hameforash outside of the Temple was considered taking the Name of Hashem in vain!

In our Torah portion this past Shabbat, (according to the Triennial Cycle in use in First Century Israel), Deuteronomy 10:8 reads, "At that time, HIVDIL HASHEM ET SHEVET HALEVI LASHEYT ET ARON BRIT HASHEM LA'AMOD LIFNEI HASHEM L'SHARTO ULVAREYK BISHMO AD HAYOM HAZEH.

(Hashem SET APART the tribe of Levi to CARRY THE ARK OF THE COVENANT, to STAND before HASHEM to minister to Him and TO BLESS IN HIS NAME UNTIL THIS DAY.)

Levi clearly is the only tribe allowed to carry the ark and the priests among Levi, the only ones allowed inside the Holy Place to stand before His face to minister to Him.  This verse also indicates that only Levi should bless with His HOLY NAME.

Here is a major source to consider: According to Mishna Yoma 6:27, the Kohen Gadol (high priest) was permitted to call to Hashem with the Shem Hameforash while ministering in the Temple on Yom Kippur  (as he cited Leviticus 16:30 during the confession of the Pesha sins of Israel. These are the sins committed willfully and intentionally which unlike the Hateyt and Avown sins, have no atonement otherwise.  They are usually called "transgressions" in the English texts."

True, this is the oral tradition, but consider that among the commandments Moshe surely addressed early on (in addition to HOW to observe the Shabbat, slaughter an animal in a kosher way, lay t'fillin, tie tzitziyot, observe family purity, etc. HAD to be how to avoid taking the name of Hashem in vain and HOW the priests only were commanded to bless in that name.  This is part of the accepted halachah, which was IN COMMON between the houses of Judah and the Northern Kingdom before the removal from covenant, exile and assimilation of only the latter.  Whether descendants of Judah or Israel who are today assimilated are willing to accept ALL of the Mishna is not relevant to the point I am making.  But certainly, the halachah (literally "how to walk" in the Torah, was something our ancestors held in common) and which we have some responsibility to observe today.

The Mishna goes on to say that the Cohenim would use the Shem Hameforash when blessing the masses daily IN THE TEMPLE COURTYARD. When the priests and the people in the great hall would hear him utter the Shem HaMeforash they would prostrate themselves and glorify God saying Baruch Shem Kavod Malcuto L'olam Va'ed. (Blessed is the Name of His Glorious Kingdom Forever).  After the death of Shimon HaTzaddik, successor to Ezra and High Priest of the Second Temple era, certain Divine manifestations were no longer evident in the Temple and the Shem HaMeforash was no longer uttered by the Cohenim in their blessings, according to Mishna Yoma 391, Sotah 33a. OUTSIDE OF THE TEMPLE, pronunciation of the Name was prohibited from the earliest times (Mishnah Berachot 9:5, Sotah 7:6 and Tamid 7:2  In fact in Mishnah Sanhedrin 10:1, among those excluded from a share in the world to come is one who pronounces the name according to its letters outside of holy precincts.

Third reason:  ALL of the attempts to pronounce the Divine Name, especially the J-WORD and the Y-WORDS are simply not verifyable as correct.  First, there is no J sound in the Hebrew aleph-bet.  Second, there is no W sound in most of the recognized Hebrew aleph-bets. The "W" is not heard in Modern Hebrew as well.  And again, the Shem Hameforash was NEVER pronounced as a WORD from four letters.  Rather the letters individually were pronounced.  This is one of the things that made the name HOLY.  No other Hebrew name is so pronounced.  The J-WORD, often heard in popular Christian music is BELIEVED to be derived from the Masoretic pointing of the KERITH -- which means substitution --, (ADONAI). That is the four Hebrew letters with the vowel sounds associated with the KERITH pronunciation.   But in the earliest of Hebrew manuscripts NONE of the Hebrew letters were pointed (had vowels associated with the consonants).  And in most Hebrew manuscripts today, the Divine Name is still left unpointed.  Except in prayer books and printed Torahs and Torah commentaries used in the synagogue and yeshiva, the Orthodox refrain from using the four letters at all and usually substitute two YODs, such is the sanctity of THE NAME, and refer to THE NAME when speaking casually as HASHEM, meaning "THE NAME."

In fact, during the reading of the Torah every Shabbat in the Orthodox synagogues, every time the Divine Name is read (ADONAI), the cantor pauses as the congregation sanctifies the name by saying "Baruch Hu Oo Varuch Sh'mo" (Blessed be He and Blessed be His NAME). It obviously remains a "SET-APART" observance in the synagogues.

If one still persists in wanting to profane the name of Hashem (I use the name profane here in the biblical sense of "making it common by lessening its sanctity"), consider the words of Rashi quoting Midrash Pesachim 50a on Exodus 3:15, where Hashem reveals His name to Moshe. "Zeh sh'mi L'OLAM -- This is My Name forever.  "Since the word L'OLAM (forever) is spelled without the customary vov, IT CAN BE PRONOUNCED "L'ALAM" (note the A sound in the place of the O-sound or the missing vov-holem). L'alam means "to conceal," thus Rashi stated that the Divine Name should not be pronounced Shem Hameforash -- by the letters -- and Moshe himself, according to the Oral Tradition taught the children of Israel to pronounce the name ADONAI.

According to the Stone Torah (page 304), the commentary on Exodus 3:13 states, "This Name also represents the eternity of God, for it is composed of the letters that spell HAYAH HOVEH YIHYEH, (He was, He is, and He will be), meaning that God's being is timeless.  If it is true that the Shem Hameforash is derived from the verb "to be" in the past, present and future, then a CLOSER pronunciation -- assuming it should be pronounced at all, which I personally do not advocate -- could be derived from the sounds in parenthesis in this formula:  HA (YAH HOVEH) YIHYEH, yet none of the Sacred Name advocates so pronounce it.  I only point this out to illustrate that we simply do not know how THE NAME was pronounced except by the Shem Hameforash.  To me it would be disrespectful to call upon the name of Hashem with the wrong name!

Also, many many times in Scripture, when Hashem says He will reveal His name among the nations or make His name glorious, or make His name HOLY, He is referring to the desire to do so through the exemplary behavior, loyalty and obedience of those who are His subjects.  For instance, I have an 8-year-old son.  When he makes me proud, he does honor to the family name.  The same is true with those loyal to Hashem.  We exalt Hashem's name because we -- who are called by His name -- make Him proud of us!

And Y'shua himself showed immense respect for the Shem Hameforash in the prayer he taught his disciples to pray. "Our Father in Heaven, HALLOWED (Holy, Set-apart, Sanctified) is THY NAME.  Again, for something to be HOLY, it means it is NOT to be COMMON.  Moshe at first and later the priests were told to teach the people the difference between the two -- HOLY and PROFANE (COMMON).  Ezekiel's prophecies extend this command to the Zadokite priesthood in the last days. One of the big problems with the New Testament text is the Greek work KURIOS (generic "lord or master or sir" was adopted for the Divine Name as well, so it is interpreted variously and we get the mistaken idea, for instance that Y'shua (Jesus) is Hashem when in reality he is being addressed respectfully.  The Greeks, who were a pantheistic (multi-god) society, had no word for the Supreme Creator in their vocabulary.

There are plenty of ways to call upon the name of HASHEM without "profaning" His HOLY NAME.  In prayer, He is ADONAI (Supreme Master) or ABBA (Father), a name Y'shua said we should call no man, (excepting our earthly father) because there is only one ABBA, your Father who is in Heaven." LORD is the usual substitute for the Divine Name in English texts and a name we frequently use to call upon Hashem.  It is derived from the word ADONI, (note the A missing), which means "my master, my sir or mister" like the Greek KURIOS.   ADONAI is therefore more appropriate in prayer because there is only ONE Supreme Master.  I don' t like to use the name, GOD, myself because of its pagan connotations, but that is a matter of personal conviction that I don't impose on others. The Hebrew equivalent is ELOHIM, which is also pronounced differently by the Orthodox out of respect for its sanctity.  They refer to this name as ELOKIM when used casually.

We must also consider the records of the Central Band of Cherokee.  Mitochondrial DNA (maternal lines) trace Cherokee grandmothers to ancient Northern Israel grandmothers, according to the research of the Equahiyi-Wasi (13-member Abraham-Moses society investigating Hebrew links to all Native tribes).  In his 1775 History of the American Indians, the Scotsman James Adair after living among the Cherokee for 40 years, wrote that the name for Creator used by the Cherokee was "Yohewah."  Later, also writing about the Central Band of Cherokee, the poet John Howard Payne, who lived among the Cherokee for 35 years and wrote a 2,300 page unpublished but copyrighted journal in which he states the name used was "Yehowah."  Both are permutations of the Y and H and W sounds.  The Keetoowah society, (the priests among the Cherokee), sing a simple song with the same permutations of Y H and W.

The Apache, Navajo, 38 Athapascan language group nations and the Lakota all chant permutations of these letters in their ceremonies around the father drum, in inipi (purification lodge) and at Sundance.

At the same time, I believe there is a strong biblical precedent for "meditating" on the name of HASHEM.  The Shabbat Hagadol Haftorah (Sabbath before Passover) quotes Malachi 3:16:  "Then those who fear HASHEM spoke to one another, and HASHEM listened and heard; it was inscribed before Him in a book of remembrance of those who fear HASHEM and MEDITATE UPON HIS NAME."  The Hebrew word MEDITATE here is not the usual HITBONAN. Rather it is the word HOSHVEI.  This is an interesting word indeed, which has connotations of CALCULATING something.  The same word is the root for the modern Hebrew words, HASHAV (accountant), HOSHBEYN (to compute) and M'HASHBEYN (computer).  There is an excellent popular movie promoting this idea, which was produced with the technical advice of many Kabbalist rabbis.  The movie is called PI. I've written on this earlier so those fellow "mystics" interested may query me and I will be happy to send you more information.

But in this movie, there is a very startling pronouncement that the HOLY thing inside of someone can ITSELF lead to the individual's DESTRUCTION unless the individual pursues the path of HOLINESS.  This is illustrated by a secular Cohen pursuing the mathematical secrets of the number PI, being approached by Kabbalist rabbis to unravel the secrets of the Shem Hameforash (which remember has not been pronounced since the death of Shimon Ha-Tzaddik).  This secular Jew, with so much talent, has actually stumbled upon the secret (according to Hollywood).  But he is first encouraged to lay t'fillin and do other holy mitzvot, else the HOLINESS of Hashem's name destroy him.  I won't tell you the ending in case you want to see it.

But the point is that those who are peering into the secrets of the DIVINE NAME need to do so with fear and trembling.  Because the secrets of this name are probably the most sought after JEWEL in all of Orthodoxy, this revelation could well be a gift that Hashem will give to the Orthodox (t'fillin laying, tzitziyot wearing, mikvaot practicing kabbalists) House of Joseph to stand them in good stead with the Orthodox among the House of Judah.   The kabbalists believe the Divine Name is actually a permutation of the Shem Hameforash that is like a bud that opens up into a rose with many petals.  But please note the condition placed by the prophet Malachi on those who HOSHVEI upon His Name …. The FEAR of Hashem.

We are living in a day when the UNHOLY are peering into the holy things.  As one Kabbalist recently said, "this will quicken Hashem's judgments.

Maggid ben Yoseif