Uncovering the Misconception Behind Attempts to Utter the Sacred Name of the Almighty (29 April, 2013, Iyar 19, 5773)
Duration 36 minutes
The Sacred Name of God cannot be pronounced. No-one knows how to pronounce it nor can they know. This was prophesied and commanded in the Hebrew Bible according to the Hebrew text. Claims to know how the Sacred Name was pronounced are either hoaxes or misunderstandings.
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Introduction. Revealing the Secret.
The Sanctity of the Name.
Historical Misuse of the Name by Pagans and Others.
The Foreseen Prophesied Solution: Hiding the Name.
How was the Name Hidden?
Introduction. Revealing the Secret.
In the Hebrew Bible the name of God has four letters roughly equal to YHVH or IHWH or something similar. This name is not pronounced though in the past it was. Where this name occurs in the Hebrew Bible the English Translations usually render it as LORD, or God, or the Almighty, or something similar. In the past this name was rendered in English as Jehovah. In Modern works it is sometimes given as Yahwah. In effect it should not be pronounced and attempts should not be made to pronounce it as explained below.
Someone sent us a YouTube Clip about the Holy Name of the Almighty. They said the Rabbis (who are also Pharisees!) had been keeping this a secret for centuries!
It was claimed that the Sacred Name was pronounced in a way that in reality it was not.
The hero (or villain, as the case may be) of this incident was misleading his audience.
He does not know how to say the Holy Name! No-body does. What is more it is against the explicit words of the Bible to try and say this name in our time.
Anyway, this is not the first time that the issue concerning the Holy Name of the Almighty and how it should be sounded comes up.
We in Brit-Am try to avoid religious disputations. Nevertheless we continuously receive missives from both supporters and enemies with a religious message.
Occasionally these messages bear content that is critical of Orthodox Judaism.
The subject apparently occupies the attention of some people who both bear and propagate serious misconceptions.
It seems only fair that we be allowed to put out one or two articles clarifying the situation.
We give information concerning the present day whereabouts of the Lost Tribes. Groups who claim they also believe in the same way and should be glad of the information we have sometimes ignore it or even seem against it.
The irrational Opposition to Brit-Am from Ephraimites and others appears to emanate from anti-Jewish anti-Rabbinic prejudice.
If it were not for the Rabbis there would be no Bible and we would not be able to even read the Bible.
A later article will (God willing) explain this point in more detail.
Anyone who is against the Rabbis is also against the Bible. Perhaps they did not realize it. Maybe it is subconscious. It is there.
The Sanctity of the Name
Concerning the correct pronunciation of the Holy Name we agree that for some reason a great conspiracy of silence has managed to cloud the issue.
Due to my noble nature and altruistic instincts I am about to unveil the mystery.
This is a public service for the sake of humanity.
Whoever reads this will, for the first time in centuries, be enabled to know the truth.
You lucky people!
Here is the secret
There is NO KNOWN CORRECT PRONUNCIATION OF THE HOLY NAME!!!
I shall explain below.
In Biblical Times the ancient Hebrews did use the name of God but very warily.
Consider the following incident.
10 Now the son of an Israelite woman, whose father was an Egyptian, went out among the children of Israel; and this Israelite woman's son and a man of Israel fought each other in the camp.
11 And the Israelite woman's son blasphemed the name of the LORD and cursed; and so they brought him to Moses. (His mother's name was Shelomith the daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan.)
12 Then they put him in custody, that the mind of the LORD might be shown to them.
13 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,
14 'Take outside the camp him who has cursed; then let all who heard him lay their hands on his head, and let all the congregation stone him.
15 'Then you shall speak to the children of Israel, saying: 'Whoever curses his God shall bear his sin. 16 And whoever blasphemes the name of the LORD shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall certainly stone him, the stranger as well as him who is born in the land. When he blasphemes the name of the LORD, he shall be put to death.....
23 Then Moses spoke to the children of Israel; and they took outside the camp him who had cursed, and stoned him with stones. So the children of Israel did as the LORD commanded Moses.
We see from the above passage that whoever cursed another person using the Name of God could be put to death by stoning.
If you cursed someone without using the name nothing would happen. Maybe you would have to pay a fine or something (as you would today) but nothing more than that.
Using or rather misusing the name made all the difference.
Nowadays we do not have the death penalty for religious offences but the liability remains.
It is said that someone who has incurred one of the death penalties (stoning, decapitation, burning) may be punished by Heaven through a parallel occurrence. Someone who has offended by an offence for which stoning is the penalty may be in danger of a car accident, or falling off a cliff, or something like that. These matters apply mainly to Jews who are bound by Law but nevertheless they are effective. In some cases they may also apply to non-Jews. Taking the name in vain is forbidden to non-Jews as well as to Jews. Descendants of the Ten Tribes are technically non-Jews as far as the Law is concerned but they should be extra careful in our generation since the times are achanging.
We do not want people incurring liabilities when there is no need for it. We have an obligations towards other people.
17 'You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him. 18 You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.
We do not want people incurring penalties they cannot handle.
Historical Misuse of the Name by Pagans and Others
Archaeological evidence shows that in Ancient Times not only Jews but also Greek and Egyptian pagans and all kinds of quasi-religions were trying to take the name of God as they thought it should be pronounced and bounce it around freely. They were using it for magical reasons or combining it with pagan doctrines or whatever not.
This is both forbidden and dangerous. The chief god of the Romans was named Jove (probably pronounced "Yova") and this name was apparently inspired by the Hebrew Holy Name of the Deity. A leading element amongst the Romans was from Edom and the Edomites had been influenced by the Hebrews.
Wikipedia articles give some background information about the name of God amongst the Ancient Hebrews.
The Foreseen Prophesied Solution: Hiding the Name
The situation whereby pagans and paganized groups were liable to misuse the Holy Name was forbidden. The Jews were a subjected minority and like everyone else were easily influenced by their neighbors.
You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that takes his name in vain.
The Bible had made allowance for this. From the very beginning it had been foreseen that the use of the Name was liable to get out of hand and would have to be hidden.
The Bible tells us that the Almighty revealed HIS name to Moses.
13 Then Moses said to God, 'Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they say to me, 'What is His name?' what shall I say to them?'
14 And God said to Moses, 'I AM WHO I AM.' And He said, 'Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.''
15 Moreover God said to Moses, 'Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: 'The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is My name forever, and this is My memorial to all generations.'
We are told the Sacred Name had not been known to the forefathers.
2 And God spoke to Moses and said to him: I am the LORD. 3 I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name LORD I was not known to them.
In Exodus 3:15 we see the Holy Name revealed to Moses for the first time BUT what does the verse really say?
Exodus 3: 15 Moreover God said to Moses, 'Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: 'The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is My name forever, and this is My memorial to all generations.'
Note the expression, "This is My name forever" (Exodus 3:15).
It says "forever" or does it? really?
In the Hebrew text the word translated here as "forever" is written as "Le-elam". This means "to be Hidden". If we were reading the verse AS IT IS WRITTEN we would read it, "This is My name TO BE HIDDEN" i.e. at some time in the future it would need to be hidden.
That is what it says when read LITERALLY!!!
Why then do we translate it as "forever" instead of "to be hidden"?
In Hebrew the word "forever" is "Le-Olam". It is very similar to "le-elam" meaning to be hidden. The only difference is the insertion of a consonant that doubles as a vowel. How the Torah was to be read had been passed down from the time of Moses. It depended on tradition. The Rabbis decided what the correct tradition was and how it was to be interpreted. The Rabbis therefore decided how the Bible is to be read. We would not know how to read the Bible if it was not for the Rabbis. The Rabbis (Sages) decided that when reading the text in this case, concerning this word, in this sentence, an extra vowel was to be inserted in the word to make it sound as "Le-olam i.e. forever. Nevertheless they explained that both meanings were valid.
The expression could therefore be understood as saying: This is the name of God forever and this name would need in the future to be hidden.
If you accept what the Rabbis say then you will have to agree that the name would need to be hidden (Kiddushin 71a).
If you do not accept what the Rabbis say then you should read the text as saying expressly that the name is to be hidden!
You can not read it as "forever" since that depends on what the Rabbis say and not how the text is written.
Either way the name would have to be hidden.
Rabbi Yaakov Zvi Mecklenburg ("Ha-Ketav ve-HaKabalah", 1839) notes the combinations in Exodus 3:15 This is My name forever [OR This is my name to be hidden], and this is My memorial to all generations. The words translated as "to all generations" in Hebrew ("le-dor dor") actually may be understood as saying "according to each generation". In other words, This is my name forever BUT it is to be hidden in certain generations. This is what the Hebrew says. This is not commentary. How we read the English Translation is Commentary. The name was meant to be hidden in times when hiding it was needed. This is what the Scripture says.
How was the Name Hidden?
Without going into details here it is enough to say that the name is nowhere given with its original vowel points. The letters of the name are Y(I)HV(W)H.
We do not know whether or not the name contains e, a, ay, oo, u, i, y anywhere or everywhere before, after, and in between its four letters.
We also do not know where the Vav letter sound was sounded as ve, oo, or w. The other letters also show similar problems.
There are about 10 or more different ways of pronouncing each letter sign in the Holy four-lettered name. In a name of four letters with, for example, ten different ways of pronouncing each letter we have a total of 10 to the 4th power (10 @ 10 @ 10 @ 10) ways of pronouncing the whole word, i.e. 10,000 different ways. We also need to get it right because it might be disrespectful to pronounce it wrongly or a wrong pronunciation might mean something negative. We have to be careful.
Why then do some people claim they know how the name was sounded?
In the Torah Scroll there are no vowel sounds. We have however Rabbinical traditions as to where the vowels should be. These were written down in the period 600 to 900 CE. Before then we have no written texts telling us where the vowel signs were. We depend on tradition to read the Bible i.e. we depend on the Rabbis. All printed versions of the Hebrew Original (on which English Translations are based) derive from manuscripts whose authentication comes from the Rabbis. This is how God wants it!
When reading the Torah Scroll in the Synagogue whenever the Tetragrammaton (four-lettered name) occurs another one of two names (one meaning God, the other connoting Lord; sometimes one and sometimes the other, depending on the context) was substituted.
In manuscripts that give the vowel signs for Biblical Passages wherever the four-lettered name of God appears the Rabbis inserted vowel sounds appropriate to whatever the substitute word was. When they came to the Sacred name they put in vowel sounds taken from how the other words were sounded and NOT the original name itself. Those who are not aware of this take the vowel sounds (inserted by the Rabbis) and make their own attempts at pronunciation. These could not have been the original ones!!!
For example let us take two of the last words we wrote above.
The sentence was: These could not have been the original ones!!!
Let us take two words from the end of the sentence"been" and "ones".
Been has two consonants B, N and a vowel sound "ee". Together we get "B-EE-N" i.e. been.
The word "Ones" (pronounced "wons") has three consonants W, N, S and one vowel "o".
Let us remove the vowel ("o") from ones (wons). This leaves us with WNS. Let us now put in the place of the vowel we took out, the vowel ("ee") from "been". We get W-EE-NS. WEENS instead of ones.
Get the point.
We cannot know how the Name of God was pronounced because we do not know for sure how all the consonants were pronounced. In addition to that we have no idea what the vowels were. In the future we shall know. At the present we do not. This is how Divine Providence wants it. This is what was indicated would happen by the Bible. One should not try to pronounce the Holy Name because the Biblical Injunction is against it. Do not go against the Bible.
Do not be mislead.
Whatever we said above can be checked. Check it.
The Name of the Almighty is not to be pronounced and nobody today can pronounce it. Attempts to do so should not be made. They are dangerous and God does not want it.
We should concentrate on doing what we can. Perhaps simpler matters, like the Return of the Ten Tribes, should occupy us more?
If you like this article and think it serves a public purpose show your appreciation in a real way by sending us a contribution.
Reply to Disagreement with our Understanding of the Hebrew Bible.
Fredrick Murphy commented on Hebrew Nations Facebook status.
Fredrick wrote: "The scholarly Hebrew teacher I checked with has explained the usage of "forever" verses "hidden" and though anybody can have an opinion...he points out two inconsistencies in great detail. I'll summarize: One is that "hidden" is more of a play on words, than a literal interpretation (when including the preposition & verbal stem & comparing elsewhere in the Tenakh). Two is that when somebody takes a desired applied meaning to a word....that they would need to be consistent and apply the meaning to the same form of the word in other places in the Tenakh, but it doesn't work here."
The explanation of le-elam as meaning "to hide" is derived from the Talmud Yerushalmi (Yoma 3:7) in one context and the Talmud Babli (Kedushin 71a, Pesachim 50a) in another. Both agree that the interpretation of le-elam as "to be hidden" is applicable. These are ancient sources. It is also pointed out that in Hebrew the expression,
"This is My name forever, and this is My memorial to all generations" may be read from the Hebrew as implying, My name and my memorial shall be different from each other. The name is not the same as the memorial.
Anyway I looked it up. ELEM as a root (meaning "hide") lending itself to regular grammatical conjugation is found in the Bible. Wikitext gives three examples. I found another 7 after a minute or so. A more thorough search would probably have shown more. "The preposition & verbal stem" of "Le-elem" as meaning "to be hidden" is acceptable.
Not only that but also the word "olam" translated as "forever" (actually meaning the future) is also derived from the same root "elem" meaning hidden. The future is the hidden as explained by S.R. Hirsch.
If you take "le-elam" and insert a consonant and vowel you can make it sound like "le-Olam" meaning forever. You can also insert a vowel without a consonant and get the same result BUT it then becomes an Exception to Biblical Practice. This is what has been done in our case (Exodus 3:15). Le-Olam meaning forever in the Hebrew Concordance is listed ca. 180 times. In 20 of these 180 occurrences the "vav" consonant is lacking as it is in Exodus 3:15. In our case we therefore have an exception.
In Biblical Exegesis the same letters do not have to have the same meaning at every point. In this case it is being said that a double meaning is implied.
We are not saying it does not mean "forever" but that the reading of its meaning as "forever" has required the making of an exception and that it may also mean to hide or to be hidden. Or that it may be read "to be hidden" as a first choice. The simple text bears this out. So does the context. In other words the explanation we have given may be optional but it is feasible and it corresponds with Biblical diction.
What is more than this is that the explanation we have given relates back to the same authorities (i.e. the Sages) who decided what books would be included in the Bible and what, in case of doubt, each word would mean.
This is a point that people tend to forget.
The authorities who made these decisions shared the same Houses of Counsel as did the Prophets. They overlapped with them. The Bible gave them authority to make such decisions. Very often, as they pointed out, the decisions had been foreshadowed, or already hinted at, in Scripture. Even if we did not accept the Scriptural Explanation we would still be bound, according to Scripture, to obey their authority.