Notes on God and His name

By Gilla Nissan

One of the amazing things that seem to appear as we engage ourselves in higher matters is this peculiar place or dance between God and His name, “Ha-shem”- literally the name.

We know that God’s name is holy and unutterable and changing; therefore, we say “Hashem, the no name name” which is a substitute title for this endless, unknowable entity. A name is something that contains our potentiality including the unknown future. Often the future is supposed to remain a mystery, so the title “the name” represents a mysterious entity as well.

Yet, it seems that there could be other reasons and insights for this separation between God and His name that contributes to understanding the meaning of our existence on earth and, perhaps, where we stand in the evolution of our perception on Truth, Divinity and relationships.

We will illustrate through the prominent and often uttered prayers as well as the Kaddish, the Shema and some Kabbalistic insights.

Each time we recite these prayers, we are actually blessing and empowering not “God” but “the name of God.”

Today, perhaps more than ever, we are being called to be aware of this premise. In all the different versions of the Kaddish we say:

יתגדל ויתברך שמה רבא

May the name of God be magnified and sanctified …

We say:

יהא שמה רבה מבורך לעולם ולעלמי עלמיא

May the name of God be blessed forever and all eternity….

We say:

יתברך וישתבח ויתפאר ויתרומם ויתנשא ויתהדר ויתעלה ויתהלל שמה דקודשא

May the name of The Holy One be blessed, praised, glorified, exalted, uplifted, honored, elevated and extolled”… a total of eight distinct verbs plus two which appeared in the opening statement of the Kaddish, the grand total of which may correspond to the ten sefirot/ways which Keter/ God descends emanation/ sheffa, to earth to Malchut.

In many places we also say:

You are One and Your Name is One”

אתה אחד ושמך אחד

יהוה אחד ושמו אחד

YHWH is one and His name is one”

We always reply to “Blessed are You Adonai”, with “Blessed be He and blessed be His name”.

ברוך אתה אדוני

ברוך הוא וברוך שמו

This idea of two distinct, separate entities — that God’s name is not God himself — repeatedly appears in the Kaddish and other places in the prayer book.

Why this separation? Why not just God?

We see that not only are we addressing a separate entity referred to as “His name”, but that, God and His “name” are being called to eventually unite to a wholeness. We ask that it will happen as soon as possible, in our time.

The prayer Aleinu concludes the line that: “On that day God and God’s name shall be One”, — an ideal vision for a time to come.

ביום ההוא יהיה אדוני אחד

ושמו אחד

Clearly, this separation between The Divine and His name implies two entities that are both distinct and related.

What is “His name”?

Before we look at “His name” specially, let us remember the tremendous significance and meaning we have in this tradition when it comes to a name, receiving or changing a name. Adam’s first task in creation is to name everything. A name is what gives the named object its seal /goshpanka in creation. In receiving a name, we receive a specific divine stamp in the world of action (asiyah). We are here by the power of our name. Our name is our mission on earth. It includes both the present status and future potential. We exist because we have a name. Without a name, we do not have a full validation in all the worlds.

As part of organic life on earth, we are literally connected to The Creator by the inherent power of our name. Each of us, as a direct descendant of Adam, b’nei Adam, wishes to fulfill the potential of our name, to be one with it.

When we say the Kaddish, or when we say in the Aleinu “… on that day God will be One and His name One…” we are actually empowering the named creatures to realize their actual function and mission and to re-aligned with it. We empower them To Be. To be remembered. To reach for their highest possibilities. To achieve their full potential and purpose. To come to its fullness. It is the self-realization, by both mind and feelings, of itself, its name, and its identity. It is the realization of where we come from, and the purpose of our existence here on earth.

Why empower creation and not God?

It is we, God’s creation, that need the empowerment to awake and raise ourselves in unification with our Creator. It is we who need to be blessed so we can develop, play our role in creation and to know the Truth– The Truth about our place in relation to Him. God, the source of all blessings, does not need to be blessed, rather, He needs to be recognized, realized, honored, thanked and loved but not exactly blessed.

It is reasonable to conclude that creation itself is “the name” of God. The entire Kaddish becomes a powerful “device” through its offering of ten elevating verbs, each one raising us closer to a level where we are able to continue to perform our mission on earth. Through the power of the Kaddish one may connect to the appropriate help and guidance which one needs at the time.

So when we say the Kaddish, we really are requesting, as a beloved towards her lover: May God’s creation, “the name”, becomes strong, holy, capable to become one with the Divine in the fashion which the Divine intends for us to be.

The Kaddish of the mourner, one of the most used variations of this powerful prayer, is said when we lose loved ones, parents, teachers etc. The Kaddish was chosen to be recited at this most distressing of times to re-affirm our position in the world, as if we have been- ”left behind”- to continue to live and handle our challenges. By saying the Kaddish out loud at this time, we set its intention in motion through the power of speech. We literally rededicate ourselves to remain here. We are being empowered by Ribono shel Olam, Master of the Universe, to have the strength to stay and continue our life tasks here on earth.

Furthermore, we are being directed to recite it together with others to increase its power. It is the people, here in the creation, the mourners, who are in need, distress, agony, confusion, not knowing how to go on etc. They are the ones who need this empowerment. It is certainly not the time to praise God or wish Him to be more exalted and glorious or holy. The Kaddish fulfills and directs our needs in the most powerful and effective way.

The Kaddish, in its own special way, unites these two divine forces; God and His name, by actually focusing on empowering the creation / His name to reach God, the source of all help.

Setting the intention / kavanah

For generations across Chassidic and Kabbalistic circles, it has been widely understood that God wishes to be known by His creation as was detailed in the Torah and especially “Song of Songs”. Perceiving God both as a “whole” who seeks to be united with His creation was established in Zoharic and other Kabbalistic literature and sacred poetry, such as ”Lecha Dodi” / “Let Us Go, My Beloved”. Before reading certain holy texts, we set up an intention/ or kavanah to unite Creator and creation by envisioning it.

We unite YH with WH of the four Letters name of God. We say this kavanah in Aramaic:

לשם יחוד קודשא בריך הוא ושכינתיה, בדחילו ורחימו ורחימו

ודחילו, ליחדא יוד קי בואו קי ביחודא שלים (יהוה)

For the sake of the unification of the HOLY ONE, BLESSED BE HE AND THE SHECHINNAH, with the help of forces of compassion and mercy and mercy and compassion to perform a unification of Yud Kai (the masculine part of the Divine), with Vav Kei (the feminine part of the Divine.)”

It is only once the kavanah is set, that we proceed to read the text, recite prayers or perform Jewish ritual acts. This kavanah, if understood correctly, anchors our essential purpose or existence on earth by uniting God and His name.

It is also God’s work to unite with us His creation, just as we are trying to unite with Him. God is described in the Zohar, after creating the world, as in his free time making unifications מזווג זיווגים

This understanding can shine its light also on the shemah. We say the first phrase of it, “Shema Israel,Adonai Eluhenu Adonai Echad” and then lower our voices for the second phrase:”

Barouch Shem K’vod malchoto L’olam Vaaed.”

ברוך שם כבוד מלכותו לעולם ועד

When we say, “Blessed is, the name of the glory, of His kingdom for ever and ever”. Who and what are we blessing? Who is the kingdom? Could it be this creation here and now?

In the Tree of Life, Kingdom / Malchut is the world we live in. In the second phrase of the Shemmah, we are affirming and blessing God’s name, His kingdom, His creation. The Shema then says, Listen, who ever wishes to align himself or struggle with God, God is in relation with us, the Divine is ours. He is not indifferent and oblivious and He is the One, the unity and wholeness of all. Then we add, in a much lower voice, the affirmation that His creation, the glory and honor of the Creator, who needs the blessing desperately, be alive and in existence for ever and ever. The blessing is to her, His creation/Malchut/kingdom, His other missing half.

When we say::

Do it for the sake of your name

עשה למען שמך

We literally mean ”Do it for the sake of Your name, Your creation, Your partner, Your other half, what You call your image and your reflection. Elevate her, raise her so she can be what she needs to be, what you mean for her to be. It is not a call for God to justify His ability to be great but to use his greatness to lower Himself a bit more, to touch us, influence us and make us return to Him. “Lecha Dodi”, ”Let’s go my Beloved”, begins with arousing the cheshek/desire of God to meet His beloved. It is also a call for us, the partner, to awaken, not to fall into despair, to cheer up, to sing and dance, for the Beloved is revealing His kavod/glory.

God and His name
Ein Sof / Endlessness and the Light of Ein Sof. God and His name
Ein Sof / Endlessness and the Light of Ein Sof.

As of 11-14-2011
The two forces of The Creator and the creation are known in Kabbalistic terms as the Ein Sof (Endlessness or  
אדוני בכבודו ובעצמו  – The No-End Himself with all of His Glory) and the Ohr Ein Sof (Light of the Ein Sof). Creation as we can see, is considered the name of God, the reflection, God’s reputation and the place where the Divine shines His Light.

When we say Light (Orh), it is important to understand that it means in our world, a wide range of qualities and capacities: from the flow goodness, protection from attracting negativity, harmony, beauty, creativity, clarity, strength and patience, to the ability to see a bigger picture, finding peaceful solutions and implementing them in the world, and the very ability to stay connected, aligned and in an ongoing relation with the source of all blessings.
The Creator / Sheffa/ Light; this entity of supreme intelligent, is
who we want to attract to ourselves.

When this Light descends to our world, the powers of negativity descend as well. We call it powers of negation or, in Aramaic, the sitra achrah, the powers of “the other side”. Since God is the Creator of both good and bad, light and darkness, these powers too have tasks to fulfill in our world; they are the forces of denial which play important roles in the maintenance of this level /world in which we conduct our very lives on a day-to-day basis. It is what resists and denies the impulse to do whatever we feel like doing at any time we want to. In the Tree of Life, this is the attribute called Gevoura /laws and judgment.  It is that which stops the flow of unconditional love, contains it and put borders around it. These forces of denials by setting limits, strengthen and refine our character thus assuring our return to the Divine, to the Source, the original Divine plan.   Now, these forces — of denial, negation, forgetfulness, indifference, destruction and other varieties of negativity — need to stay within boundaries. They need to serve the Divine plan, not to get out of control and spread like cancer.

In every moment of our life we contribute our energies, our power, and our attention to positive or negative forces – to powers that serve something. There is no break or “time out” or chance of not belonging to one side or the other. We are always somewhere. When we behave “against” the Teaching’s principles / Torah, we make a hole in the Light which comes from above. The Hebrew name for this hole is חילול  /chilul /chalal meaning a defilement, distortion which depletes and limits the power of this Light in our world. We cause an energetic change when we damage this Light.

And because this situation is unavoidable, something happens to start us new and fresh. During every Yom Kippur we receive a new name of God – meaning we receive a new Light, a corrected Light, a complete Light to start a new year. Between Yom Kippur and the harvest festival of Succot, there are four days called “Shem Adonai”, the “Name of God”. Each day one of the four Letters of the name of God descends in her pure and complete form.
The First day Yud descends.
The Second day Hey descends.
The Third day Vav descends.
The Fourth day Hey descends.

Thus, the prayers for God’s mercy, which often ends with the call: “Do it for the sake of Your name”
עשה למען שמך
Grant us an additional opportunity: a new name, a new Light which creation will try again to work with and not defile. In all that we do and say, may we not create holes in the Light, may energy will not flow in the wrong direction to increase and empower negativity in the world we live in.

ברוך אתה אדוני אלוהינו מלך העולם

Blessed are You Adonai, our God, King of the World

This is the most common opening of hundreds of blessings. God is being addressed in four ways: You, Lord – Adonai, our God-our Elohim and King of the World. The last three clearly address God directly, but the first word Attah (you) interestingly, was seen by kabbalists as hinting at God’s creation. How so? Attah is in English, you;

however, in Hebrew, it also means from aleph to tav –את all the twenty –two Hebrew Letters moving towards the third Letter of the word attah, the Letter Hey (ה), which stands for Havaya, present moment, the here and now and even all that will be. This common blessing,- suggests that what we bless first are the twenty- two Letters and all that we know and do not know yet about them. By doing so, we draw their power down to our life in the present moment.

Only then, after we say Baruch Attah, do we say Adonai-Lord, our God, King of the World. Bareuch Attah occurs like this in dozens of blessings over foods, rituals, different life events and different phenomena. By saying Bareuch Attah, we set in motion, using the power of speech, an intention– recognized or not– to bless creation in the here and now first!even before God Himself. Perhaps this is because God is the source of all blessings, and through the twenty- two Letters God empowers us first so we can say the blessings and perform our rituals with the right amount of intention / kavanah in our thoughts and feelings. The more kavanah we put in our words, the more life we charge them with and the more response will come back to us. The relationships are reciprocal. This partnership is a mutual feeding. The Lover feeds the beloved and in return she does the same. This is the fulfillment of the covenant made with Abraham our Father.

Each time we recite Baruch Attah, we empower the named creation. We reinforce and enliven our life here on earth. The power of speech and intention manifesting through the various Letters we utter is the new perception we are called to experience today. What was practiced by Kabbalists for generations is brought into our understanding and consciousness. We respond to what is needed now and join the effort which was established by our fathers. We consider it a gift to empower creation because creation is in need. It’s our assignment in a time that is called by many a time of a paradigm shift.