My Name is great among the nations  Malachi 1:11

The Holy Names of God

Also see "Who and Where is God" in FAQs (Concerning some benefits of meditating on the Name)

If the Bible's Book of Job has a central message, it's that God is great beyond imagining, and always near. God is immanent (real and here and now) and transcendant (beyond normal existence).

He sustains every particle and atom in the universe. He is immediately, intimately somehow "with" each of us, and concerned with every human being, in ways that confound even the proudest philosophies.

And the Lord [HaShem] passed by before him, and proclaimed, "HaShem, HaShem, God [El] , merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth"   Exodus 34:6

"The Lord" ("HaShem," above) - the Tetragrammaton, or four-letter holy Name, Y, H, V, and H. The High Priest of Israel used to whisperingly pronounce it just once a year, on Yom Kippur [the Day of Atonement, Leviticus 16:34], in Jerusalem's Holy Temple. This is the Name that Israel, in casual or ordinary speech, usually renders as HaShem - literally, "the Name" - or, in sacred, worshipful speech, as Adon-oi ("My God").

Divine holy names include:

El, particularly evocative of God's overwhelming power, and also His Nature as God of truth and justice

Elyon ("the Most High")

El ha-Gibbor ("God the Strong One")

Yah (one of God's Names, related to the Tetragrammaton - see below)

Shaddai ("The Almighty")

El Shaddai ("God" - i.e., El - "The Almighty")

Adon-oi Zev-a-ot ("My Lord of Hosts" - "hosts," as in "the Heavenly Hosts," the holy beings in the Divine Court of Heaven, or "God of the Hosts [or "Armies"] of Israel.")

Kedosh Yisroel ("the Holy One of Israel")

HaKedosh Baruch Hu ("the Holy One Blessed be He")

Attik Yomin ("Ancient of Days")

Ha-Makom ("the Place")

Ha-Shechinah ("the Divine Presence")

Adon-oi ("My Lord." This is the Name or holy tag by which Israel normally refers to HaShem, the One God, the God of Israel)

Ha-Rachaman ("the Merciful," or "the Compassionate One")

Abbir Yaakov ("Champion of Jacob")

E'in Sof ("the Infinite")

Avinu Malkeinu ("Our Father, Our King")

Tzur Yisroel ("Rock of Israel")

Magen Avraham ("Shield of Abraham")

Ribbono shel Olam ("Master of the Universe")

El-o-h-i-m (usually spelled "Elokim" in these pages, this is a very holy name, usually translated as "God" in the Bible; literally "the Powers"; or in some cases refers to a body of human leaders or judges, as in b'nai Elokim, "sons of the leaders/judges." Especially evocative of God's Nature as God of Justice (rather than His Nature as God of forgiveness or mercy, say).

When the People of Israel spoke of the God of Israel to non-Hebrews, in Biblical times, they normally referred to Him by this Name, Elokim, which was well-known to their Semitic neighbors. It was like a generic word or name for God - as opposed to the Name, the Tetragrammaton (Y/H/V/H), by which He had particularly revealed Himself to Israel.

This Name - Y,H, V, and H - is particularly evocative of God's mercy and forgiveness. It's related to the Shem Ha-Mephorash, the ineffable, basically unknowable Divine Name of 216 letters (including 72 groups of three-letter Names of God). The Names involving El or combinations thereof, like Elokim, better-connote God's infinitely powerful and justice-loving (rather than His forgiving, mercy-loving) Character.

People sometimes try to pronounce the Name as "Jehovah" - a linguistic impossiblity in Hebrew (but at least we can all be certain that it's wrong).

Observant Israel, on the other hand, does not try to vocalize the Name: to do so would be ridiculously presumptuous - no one knows its true pronunciation; and anyway, who is man to audibly slap some false name on the Eternal, Infinite Creator, trying to approximate His holiest, most cherished Name?

In fact, there is some reason to think that this Name - a form of the Hebrew verb "to be," connoting "He Was, He Is, He Shall Be - is an acrostic which isn't currently meant to be pronounced; that it carries a wealth of meaning beyond our current capacity for understanding; and that it cannot be pronounced until God Himself eventually somehow gives us the wisdom and holiness necessary to understand and pronounce it correctly.


More About God's "Name"

God existed before He created the Universe and He shall always exist. If there's such a thing as beyond the end of time, God will still be there. He is complete. He is perfect. However, while this may sound like heresy, His Name is not complete, His Name is not yet perfect. [For more on this, go to "Soul of Fire" in Articles.]

To perfect and complete His Name God needs us - human beings. In the words of kaddish, the ancient but mysterious "mourner's prayer" that punctuates every Hebrew prayer service: "magnified and sanctified be God's great Name." Kaddish speaks to the future. The Amidah, Israel's "standing prayer" (worshippers pray standing), the Jews' principal prayer, does too. God's great Name will be magnified and sanctified but it is presently incomplete. "May He give reign to His kingship in your time." Only when all mankind begins to turn to Him, when His kingdom comes into being, God will "magnify and sanctify Himself." (Ezekiel 38:23) "On that day the Lord will be one and his Name will be one." (Zechariah 14:9)

We understand that God's Name is not Him. He is perfect and complete even though His Name isn't yet. His Name is only connected to Him. But that's a crucial connection. In another context Scripture says, "as is his name, so is he." (Samuel 25:25)

Using words of command, God clearly tells us in the Scripture: honor His Name, do not take His Name in vain, for any low purpose, and - a fundamental First Covenant principle - do not curse or blaspheme His Name.

This is a true principle of higher consciousness, or God-consciousness: Since God gives us free will, we have this choice, right here on earth, either to honor His Name or dishonor it. We can help complete and perfect His Name or we can diminish it through our own thoughts and actions.

How will His Name finally become perfect? God works through history. Aleynu, the spiritual highpoint of Israel's morning and evening worship services, provides an outline of the future in the second, final paragraph. Israel prays to see God's mighty splendor, for:

1) The removal of detestable idolatry (in other words, not just any idolatry but particularly offensive, noxious idolatry; in Hebrew, gilulim) from the earth. Then,

2) He will utterly cut off all false gods.

Then, the final stage, 3) He will perfect the universe through His holy sovereignty.

All humanity will begin calling upon His Name - we will all (or practically all, nearly everyone) recognize His sovereignty; we will all realize that to God and only God every knee should bow.

Give unto the Lord the glory due unto His Name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness  Psalm 29:2


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