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1. I believe with perfect emunah
that the Creator, blessed be His Name,
is One, that there is no Oneness like His in any way;
and that He alone is our God who was, is, and ever will be.
In our Tradition we typically refer to the Creator, the G-d of Israel, as HaShem. When doing so we acknowledge that no title or name, including this one, does complete justice to the Creator's identity. The Holy One, blessed be He, transcends all titles, all names, all conceptions.
When we reference the Holy One as HaShem we are actually saying that He is "The Name." There is no distinction. We combine Ha (the) and Shem (Name). What Name is HaShem indicating? It is the 'Sacred Name of Four Letters'. It is Shem Hamephorash. This latter term is translated into English as the "Explicit Name" or the "Uncontested Name." Of course there are innumerable titles for the Blessed One, but HaShem (and Adonai/"L-rd") specifically references the Four Letter Divine Name and hence the Named One.
A similar popular Greek term is "Tetragrammaton." This is the neutral form of tetragrammatos, meaning 'having four letters,' (from tetra, 'four' and gramma, 'letter'. The Holy One of Israel is Shem Hamephorash, the Four Letter Name. As we discuss later on, being echad or Absolute One, Shem Hamephorash is not only a name as generally conceived, it is the Named One. There is no unity like the Unity of the Holy One. Referencing this truth we call upon "HaShem."
Judaism has little sacrosanct dogma as discussed before. We challenge and question everything! Unlike the myriad Gentile religions, Jews are Jews from the moment of their initial conceptions and their embrace of the Torah at mount Sinai, even arguably before. Through our teacher Moshe Rabbeinu to our people uniquely and exclusively the Creator of everything said:"You shall be to Me a kingdom of princes and a holy nation.' These are the words that you shall speak to the children of Israel."Then:Moses came and summoned the elders of Israel and placed before them all these words that the Lord had commanded him.The elders repeated this charge to all the people of Israel and:And all the people replied in unison and said, "All that Sacred Name has spoken we shall do!" and Moses took the words of the people back to HaShem. And the Lord said to Moses, "Behold, I am coming to you in the thickness of the cloud, in order that the people hear when I speak to you, and they will also believe in you forever." And Moses relayed the words of the people to the Lord.This is recorded in Shemot (Exodus) chapter 19. Every person who entered into this Covenant accepted it for all time. HaShem likewise accepted His role in the Covenant for all time and beyond time as He alone is truly timeless. Although we often fail to maintain our role in the Covenant, the Covenant lives on because:"God is not a man that He should lie, nor is He a mortal that He should relent. Would He say and not do, speak and not fulfill?" - Bamidbar (Numbers) 23:19.Upon first hearing the Torah and its conditions at Mount Sinai every Jewish neshama or soul, every Jew throughout our many generations, bound themselves and their descendants with the words: "na'aseh v'nishma" –- "We will do and [then] we will hear/understand." Note the order! Every Jew has promised first to observe the Laws and conditions of the Torah, and afterward to study to understand these Laws and obligations so that each of us might be part of what Ramchal refers to as the "Perfected Community," the Kingdom of Priests. In traditional Jewish culture, this statement has come to epitomize the Jewish commitment to the Torah. It is said "Torah is Life."
"For I, the Lord, have not changed; and you, the sons of Jacob, have not reached the end" - Malachi 3:6."Great is Torah, for it gives life to its doers in this world and in the next world, as it is written: 'For they [the teachings of the Torah] give life to those who find them and healing to all flesh' (Proverbs 4:22). It also says: 'Healing will it be for your flesh and marrow for your bones' (ibid., 3:8). It also says: 'It is a tree of life to those who take hold of it, and those who support it are fortunate' (3:18). And it says: 'They are a graceful garland for your head and necklaces for your throat' (1:9). And it says: 'It will give your head a graceful garland; it will provide you a crown of glory' (4:9). And it says: 'For in me [the Torah] will you lengthen days, and years of life will be added to you' (9:11). And it says: 'Length of days in its right hand; in its left are wealth and honor' (3:16). And it is written: 'For length of days, years of life, and peace will they [the Torah’s teachings] increase for you (3:2)" - Pirkei Avot 6, Mishna 7b: Torah and the Tree of Life.We know HaShem first and foremost through His Torah. Every Jew, past, present, and future, including all true "converts," were inducted into the Sinai Covenant at Mount Sinai by HaShem through the hands of Moses when we collectively accepted the Torah from the hands of Moshe Rabbeinu, our teacher Moses. "Na'aseh v'nishma"
If a person does not believe in Jesus, Muhammad, the ten founding Sikh gurus and so forth it is agreed by those religions that the person is not a Christian, a Muslim, a Sikh, or so on. Conversely a Jew who says he does not believe in HaShem and His Torah, who rejects Moshe Rabbeinu or even the Covenant itself, may HaShem product us all from such lack of emunah, is still a Jew. Such a person is not a "religious Jew" but he/she is most assuredly a Jew. While Judaism is a Way of action rather than dogma, Jews are Jews ONLY because of the unbreakable Covenant between us and HaShem, not because of anything we do (Numbers 23:19, Malachi 3:6 etc).
Judaism is not a religion. Those aspects our our derech (way) generally considered religious are merely the dictates of our Law and Covenant. HaShem established the terms of the Sinai Covenant. He abides by that contract as discussed, even when we do not. However Torah observance brings great blessings and its violations are not left unnoticed by our King.
You and I have names, some of us have many names, but our sages explain that the Holy One is His Name, Shem Hamephorash. For this reason Shemot 20:7 can be translated into English as "You are not to carelessly use the Name of Adonai your G-d, because Adonai [or "the Lord," also used for the Sacred Name of Four Letters], will not leave unpunished someone who uses His Name lightly."
The word translated as "carelessly" and "lightly" here is shav in Hebrew. As used here in the third of the Ten Commandments, shav refers to the sense of desolating a thing through evil intention (and in broad terms as falsely or carelessly). It prohibits using the Name through moral impurity. Figuratively shav implies and includes the prohibition of idolatry. The prohibition also implies uselessness, which in this case includes using the Sacred Name as something common or cheap, as if it were the name of some finite mortal being. Shav is also interpreted as prohibitive with regards to using the Name "in vain," which is to say, uttering or writing the Name pointlessly or without sufficient intent and cause. This includes using the Name in common speech, posting it on Website banners, using it for gambling purposes, and so on. It is also prohibited to use the Name falsely, such as swearing by the Name to establish some truth in a matter. Who are we to swear by the Sacred Name of the Holy One! Do we ever know the entire truth of anything? The Hebrew word shav is very broad in its meaning and so is the Third Commandment. We are strictly forbidden to use the Sacred Name in any unworthy or disrespectful way.
Each day in accordance with Torah and Tradition observant Jews recite the Shema, the fundamental declaration of our emunah in HaShem:
Sh'ma Y'israel Adonai Elohaynu Adonai Echad
Listen, Israel, HaShem is our God, HaShem is One - Deuteronomy 6:4.
As will be discussed in the next lesson, the Holy One is utterly echad or "One." There is no oneness like His oneness. HaShem has no division, no parts, no avatars or incarnations. In truth all of existence is contained within the Unity of the Holy One. HaShem is His Name and His Name is HaShem undivided.
The Most Sacred Name is: יהוה
To our teacher Moses it was revealed:"I appeared to Avraham, Yitchak, and Ya'akov as El-Shaddai ['God Almighty'] but I did not reveal Myself to them as Shem Hamephorash" Exodus 6:3.
The Hebrew Sacred Name transliterates as the letters: Yod, Hay, Vav, and Hay or YHVH -- blessed be He for all eternity. It is permissible to write the Tetragrammaton for educational purposes, when transcribing the Tanach and so on, but never for common usage when the various alternatives suffice (such as HaShem, G-d, the Holy One, and so on). Despite the claims of some people the proper pronunciation of Shem Hamephorash is uncertain. We do not know which vowel sounds were used to fill out the Sacred Name. EVERY attempt is but a guess, some are more educated than others but none are certain. The correct pronunciation was lost with the destruction of the Second Temple (or Beit HaMikdash ) in 70 CE. Volumes have been written by both Jews and non-Jews seeking to support diverse theories on the proper pronunciation. When HaMashiach ben David arrives he will reveal the correct pronunciation. Until then the debates will continue (although debating something so sacred seems disrespectful to the Name as well in my opinion).
Even if we knew for certain how to pronounce the Sacred Name the rabbinic ban against doing so would still be in place. There would be little practical benefit to such knowledge being made public and much potential danger from its likely misuse. For more information about the Sacred Name see my study here.
As religious Jews we recognize that HaShem and HaShem alone is the Creator, Maintainer, and Destroyer of all things. Without Him nothing would exist and this loss would in no way impact His existence, uniqueness etc. were such an impossibility conceivable. His absolute Unity and Uniqueness is unlike that of any other. This is the topic of our next lesson.
Points to Consider:
- What does the title "HaShem" mean?
- What do we learn from the Shema about HaShem?
- What does "Shem Hamephorash" mean?
- What does the Greek term "Tetragrammaton" mean?
- What does "Na'aseh v'nishma" mean and in what context was it used?
- Can a person be Jewish and Atheist? Jewish and Christian? Muslim? etc.?
- Is Judaism a religion? Why or why not.
- What does the Hebrew word "shav" reveal about the Sacred Name?
- Do Jews need to be "saved" as believed by other religion? Why or why not?
- Is it proper to post the Holy Name on website banners, graphics, etc.?
- What is the correct pronunciation of the Sacred Name?
Go to Lesson Three Got Questions or Comments?
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