A History of the Name of YHWH  - PART II

Twelve Tribe Torah Institute


Now we can return to the history of the Second Temple in Jerusalem.  While the Four Letter Name of YHWH was only pronounced in the Temple itself by the Levitical Priests who led the liturgy in the Temple, the people got used to only using the Name of Adonai. After the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, there was a real danger of losing the knowledge of the HOLY NAME of YEHOWAH, so there were two methods of helping Jews to remember the NAME.  One was conflation of Adonai with Yehowah which by this time was near complete.  This reached into the writing of the Torah so that the vowels of Adonai (semi-vowel a, aw, a) were seen as similar to Yehowah (semi-vowel, aw, a).  This was the way in which Protestants reconstructed the Holy Name and Jehovah's Witnesses and others used the name Jehovah to designate YHWH. 


The other is recorded in the Talmud and teachers would, once every set number of years, whisper the proper pronunciation of Yehowah in the ears of students.  Unfortunately, when the Talmudic academies of Babylon were closed, the certainty and familiarity of the pronunciation of the Holy Name was lost.   Some things are clear from the Talmud.  There was a tradition of one name being pronounced and one being occluded.  However, a clear reading of the text in Exodus leaves little doubt that EHYEH is the name to be occluded as EHYEH is God's own name, but we were given the Holy Name YHWH and informed that "this is MY NAME forever, my remembrance for all generations." 


Now with a curious linguistic twist the rabbis recalled the occlusion by vowelating "l'olam" forever as "l'alem" to hide.  First of the all the Levites already comprehended the danger of such a reading and made sure to restate this Exodus sentence in Psalms as "l'Owlam" i.e. forever, no question remaining.  Second of all, there is no such word in the entire Tanach, i.e. "l'alem" to hide does not appear in the KAL infinitive verbal format anywhere in the Hebrew Bible.  The Hebrew prefers to use the HIF'IL in most forms including the infinitive, so it would have to be "l'ha-'alim" for a correct verb "to hide."  Thirdly it is a total amazement to see ADONAI as being written anywhere or hinted anywhere in the Exodus passage.  Yes, Moshe Rabeinu used Adonai, Lord, as a appellative Divine Name many times, but only to augment the Holy Name of Yahweh, not to substitute for it.  That is not a Mosaic tradition but comes from more eastern sources where LORD was the major name for God. 


TALMUD PASSAGE from Babylonian Talmud Kiddushin 71a: "Rabah bar Bar Hana said in the name of Rabbi Yochanah that the Name consisting of Four Letters, the sages would transmit (the pronunciation thereof) to their students once every seven (year period).  Some would say that this happened twice every seven years. 


Rav Nahman bar Yitzhak said that once every seven years sounds more logical because the Torah says in Exodus 3:15 that "this is My Name forever" (le Olam = forever) really means "this is My Name to hide" (le Alem = to hide).  (The logic here is that forever le Olam is written defectively, i.e. without the Vav letter allowing a possible reading of le Alem meaning to hide.  I will prove later that this forced reading is grammatically incorrect, is contradicted by the Levites in the Book of Psalms.  Also in ancient Hebrew le Olam is most always written defectively which robs this instance of its Midrashic imperative or "Dirshuni").


Rava intended to teach (about the Name) in a public study session but a certain Saba (perhaps an elder or an Essene) reminded him about "le Alem" that it needs to be kept hidden.


Rabbi Avina points out the apparent contradiction of "this is My Name to hide" and "this is My Remembrance for all generations."  And he comments that his is what the Holy One Blessed be He proclaimed thereby: "I am written down (for your memory) as YHWH, but I am pronounced as ADNY (i.e. Adonai, the Lord)."  (My comment here is that indeed there was a strong oral tradition regarding the hiding of the Name, one probably created by the Priests in the Second Temple.  If one reads Exodus 3:12-15 literally however, it is clear that indeed there is a Name to hide, namely EHYEH!)


The early Rabbis taught:  Originally, the Twelve Letter Name (of God) was imparted to all people.  When society degenerated and scoffers abounded, they handed over this Holy Name only to the most modest among the Priests.  These modest Priests would swallow this Name while their brother Priests recited the Four Letter Name during the Birkat Cohanim or Priestly Blessing.  (Note: by swallowing is meant a certain singing technique where the name is recited in a special technique that is not audible to others).


Rabbi Tarfon (a Priest who became a Rabbi) reminisced:  once I arose and stood with my mother's brother to the public recitation of the Priestly Blessing, and I strained my ears towards the High Priest who indeed swallowed the (Twelve Letter Name) during the pleasant recitation of his brother Priests.


Rabbi Yehudah said in the name of Rab:  Regarding the Forty Two Letter Name (of God), we don't transmit it except to one who is modest, and has no hubris, and is past his mid-life year, and who doesn't get angry, and who doesn't imbibe any liquor, and is never insistent on his rights.  And the one who knows (this form of the Name) and is careful therewith, and who protects (the Name) with purity, is loved Above and is considered appealing Below, and his awe is placed among (God's) creatures, and he inherits both worlds, this world and the world to come."  


So, we have covered much about the Four Letter Name of YHWH (in Greek called the Tetragrammaton).  The Two Letter Name of YHWH is simple in one way.  YAH is a knickname, so to speak, for YAHWEH or for YEHOWAH.  The Talmud explicitly states that it is permitted to cite this Name every day and that in fact it is a harbinger of Messianic times.  What is not simple is that the name YAH may have preceeded the use of the Name of YHWH!  And the name of YAH is a special name referring to the Holy Presence that is manifest even in the Underworld, in Purgatory, in places of extreme difficulty, in pre-redemption or pre-salvationary stages.  See the article on the Two Letter Name of YHWH for more information. 


The Two Letter Name ("YaH in Hebrew is two letters, a Yod and a Hey as the "a" vowel does not count as a letter in Hebrew)


Psalm 150:6 May each soul praise Yah!  Hallelu-Yah!


The visionary Pharisaic tradition teaches in the Babylonian Talmud Eruvin page 18b:

"Rabbi Jeremiah ben Elazar taught: 'from the day the Temple was destroyed, it is totally

sufficient for the world to use (the Holy Name consisting of) two letters, for it is written

"May each soul praise Yah! Hallelu-Yah!"'


The spiritual Pharisaic tradition teaches in the Genesis Midrash Rabah (14:11) that

"Rabbi Levi in the name of Rabbi Hanina taught: 'with each and every breath a human

being needs to adore the Creator.' What is the proof text? "May every soul with breath

praise Yah! Hallelu-Yah!"


One point of this Midrash Rabah teaching is a guidance to humankind to include those

religious practices that assist us and indeed encourage us to go face the darkness, the

abusive, the deceptive, the denial, and the self-delusional, and to still sing praises at all

times to Yah! May you find great blessing in knowing the Two-letter Name of YHWH!

Hallelu-Yah!  Know that even though it is a Mitzvah to know and to teach and to privately use the Samaritan tradition of Yahweh's Name, all the while reserving the Yehowah's Name for the Priests in Jerusalem, the Two Letter Name Yah is the most accessible, most holy name for our time.   Many appreciations go to the teachers and musicians and sages of Jewish Renewal who intuited the holiness of this Name in our time!!


The Twelve Tribe Torah Institute is honored to present a teaching regarding the TWELVE LETTER NAME OF YHWH.  This is not a claim to knowing the very name alluded to in the Talmud Kiddushin and now lost to us.  This is a teaching for modernity and amounts to an amazing combination of the "Major Minor Names of God": in Hebrew.   In other words, YHWH and Elohim are both Major Names of the Divine Creator in the Hebrew Bible.  God is a noun.  But Yahweh is a verb.  Elohim, although a noun as well, alludes to a greater holistic unity by dint of the fact that it is a plural noun that nevertheless takes only singular adjectival and verb forms in the Tanach.  Elohim is therefore One.  Not One of Many.  But the One that includes All.


Now to explain that there are four major minor names that are most used in the Hebrew Bible.  "EL ShaDaI ADONaI YaH."   These together add up to twelve distinct letters if we use the version of ADONaI that is written in the story of Manoah (see Judges).  Moreover, this confirms the amazing theory of the author of Zohar (around 1280 CE) that YHWH implies Father, Mother, Son, Daughter.  We can now assuredly put out that EL is Father.  ShaDaI is Mother.  ADONaI is Son.  YaH is Daughter.  This is a holistic, complete healthy family which has avoided the error of child abuse.  This is totally a Mosaic understanding of YHWH and his teaching of truth to release us from the propensity of self-enslavement.   See the article on 'AWON, the hidden sin of child abuse.  Even the very next teaching in the Zohar has to do with sexual improprieties.


Listen to the third and fourth TTTorah CDs to get the full impact of this illuminating teaching from the Zohar, page 27b.   The Zohar most probably deducted this teaching from the fact that the letter Yud is a male indicator, the letter Hey is a female indictor, and the letter Waw is a male indicator.  Yud indicates maleness when used in verbal future forms like Yishmor, he will guard.  Hey is a female indicator when used in noun forms such as ToraH, SaraH, LeaH and so on.  Waw is a male indicator when it is used in possessive noun forms such as DodO, his uncle, TsonO, his flock, and so on. 


However, with our access to modern scholarship, this teaching is conclusively correct. Ancient Hebrew culture grew in response to and in coordination with Canaanite values and perspectives.  The Hebrews did not so much conquer the Canaanites militarily (the accounts in the Book of Joshua cannot be substantiated by any modern archeological data) but by theology.  YHWH was Father, Mother, Son, Daughter, simultaneously.  This is be holistic conquest of fragmented gods and goddesses who instilled great reverence.  EL was the Father in Ugaritic Canaanite religious texts.  ASHERAH was Mother in the Ugaritic Canaanite religious texts.  BAAL was Son in the Ugaritic Canaanite religious texts.  And ANATH was Daugher Ugaritic Canaanite religious texts. 


This is the complete Divine Family showing us how to conduct our human families in love, harmony, respect, balance, empathy, and awareness of the flow and change of each family, into death and resurrection.  Now there is a new understanding of YAHWEH is ONE.   There is no question any longer that EL in Ugarit = EL in Hebrew, that ASHERAH = SHADDAI, that ANATH = YAH, and that BAAL = ADONAI.  You can to a number of websites or basic books on Ugaritic religious texts to see the original stories of the gods and goddesses.  


Moshe Rabenu taught that Yahweh is inclusive of all these aspects of the Divine Countenance.  It is not a mere intellectual conquest, but it needs to become the glorious revelation that it was for Moshe at the Burning Bush and at Mount Sinai.  Just like the year is comprised of Four Seasons and just like the plane of vision is comprised of Four Directions where the Wind of God blows, and just like the family is comprised of mother, father, son, and daughter, so are these realities of our earthly domain empowered by the ever interactive spirit of YHWH, the Holy One of Israel, the Twelve Tribes.


Yahweh Shalom  --  Yahweh is this Wholeness  --  this Kata Holos.


Copyright information:

Translations of the above Tanach verses and Talmud and Midrash citations are all by Rabbi Monty Eliasov.  A History of the Name of YHWH  --  Updated October 30, 2008

  The Twelve Tribe Torah Institute, Inc.   Version 1.06   --  PART II

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