This section of The Mitzvah Project is very important, and please as always keep an open mind. There are many names used when referring to God. Usually the word “Lord” is used in most bibles and prayer books. This can be confusing, as the word “Lord” can be used in many ways, and can refer to humans as well as to God. In actuality God cannot be completely understood by human beings. We give God titles such as “Lord”, “Father”, or “King”. We give human characteristics or traits to God, and refer to God as “Him” as though God is a man. While God is usually known to us as a Father, this in some ways limits our true grasp of His essence. Nevertheless, in order for us to be able to comprehend God we give Him human attributes. This is the best we can do at this time. God and his Divine Presence, known as the Shechinah, is mostly hidden to us at this time. However it is written in Isaiah 6:3: “Holy, Holy, Holy, is HaShem, Master of Legions, the whole world is filled with His glory.” This means that God’s presence is truly everywhere, and it is for us to realize and see it for ourselves.
The personal Four-Letter Name of God is represented by the letters YHVH in Hebrew. The correct pronunciation of the letter Y in Hebrew is “Yode” or “Yud”. The letter H is pronounced “Hey” or “Hay”, and the letter V is pronounced “Vav”. Therefore the letters are correctly pronounced “Yode Hey Vav Hey”. This personal name of God is never really pronounced as it is spelled. There are many reasons why “The Name” is not used very much today. It is supposed to be spoken only by priests (Kohanim) in the Temple Courtyards when they bless the entire congregation during the Priestly Blessing. This blessing is found in the Book of Numbers in Chapter 6 verses 24-26. The priests would bless the people with these verses during the morning services. Today we use the name HaShem, which literally means “The Name”. The Priestly Blessing is also found at the end of this section.
There are a few other times when The Name was used. This was done mostly by the High Priest, also known as the Kohen Gadol, during Yom Kippur services. At this time we are considered to be not holy enough to use this Name during public services. King David, King Solomon, most of the Prophets, and many of the other Kings and Sages would also invoke this four letter name at certain times. Today this name is virtually forgotten, and some people actually believe that we don’t know how to properly pronounce it. This is not true. The Four-Letter Name should be understood carefully, and it is not something to take lightly. The Mitzvah Project does believe it is important for everyone to know and understand the power of The Name.
The third of The Ten Commandments teaches us not to take The Name of God in a vain oath. This is another reason why we must be careful with this Name, and why it is not spoken out loud. However we feel that there are certain very specific times when The Name must be spoken. When a person is learning The Name, of course it has to be spoken. There are certain times during very intense personal prayer that we feel a person can use The Name. This should only be done quietly to yourself when praying in public, or when a person is alone. Of course this is a personal decision, and most Rabbi’s who know The Name will disagree. They feel that The Name should never be pronounced as it is spelled. In any case The Name is pronounced “Yehovah”, similar to the name used in some Bibles as “Jehovah”. During prayer the last syllable is drawn out, and The Name is pronounced as though it were spelled “Yehovaa”. Please be careful with this Name. It is definitely to be used only during study or personal silent prayer.
The main reason that we want you to know The Name for yourselves, is that there are many places in the Bible and the Prayer Book that tell us that God will save us for “His Name’s Sake”. This is because He said He will save us, and if He doesn’t do so it is a desecration of His Name. God is with us in all our suffering, and He suffers with us. He wants us to follow His Laws, and obey His Mitzvot. Of course He could straighten out all the difficult situations in the world in an instant. However this is not what He wants to do. He wants us to do it ourselves, so that His Name is glorified even more. Please see the section regarding The Messianic Age where it explains that, “His ways are not our ways, nor are His thoughts, our thoughts.”
For some reason some Jewish Encyclopedia’s and some Bible’s write the letters of The Name as YHWH or JHWH. This is absolutely incorrect, as there is no W or J in the Hebrew language. Perhaps it is because they don’t want to even spell out The Name. Care must be taken with any name of God, whether it is spoken or written. We are responsible for all the words that come out of our mouths, whether we really mean them or not. This is why slander and gossip (lashon hara) are such terrible sins. There is an explanation that all the sickness and disease in the world are a result of lashon hara.
The written names of God are considered “Shaimes” in Hebrew, or holy. Please be careful with any of the names of God you copy or print out from this or any other source. These names are supposed to be buried in a cemetery just like a human body is buried. The name “Yahweh” is one of the names of God that some people use. This name probably comes from the misspelling YHWH that is found in some books. We accept the fact that many people use this name, and it is a legitimate name. We believe that some people use it because they don’t know the real Name. We want World Peace, not world disagreement. It has been our experience that Jewish People in general do not use this name.
Before we list the other names of God, we want to clarify a few other points about the Four-Letter Name. There is not enough space to completely explain everything about this Name in our web site. It is explained God created the entire Universe by means of His Four-Letter Name, combined with the other 19 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. The Hebrew alphabet or “Aleph Bet” contains 22 sacred letters. These letters also represent numbers. A or Aleph is also the number one, and B (Beis or Beit) is the letter two, and so on. The numerical value of the letters of The Name YHVH equals 26. The numerical value of The Name as it is written out “Yode Hey Vav Hey”, is 45. Most of this information is found in teachings that are known as the Kabbalah. The Hebrew word Kabbalah or Kaballah means “receiving”, or “that which has been received”. These so-called “mystical” teachings can be very involved, and most of them have to do with the numerical values of the names of God and other divine names. We will list some of these names and how they apply to Kabbalistic thinking, however these concepts require some background explanation. This is beyond the scope of this section of our web site. We plan to feature an entire section about the Kabbalah at a later time. Please see our recommended reading list to find books about this.
Now that you know the personal Name of God, we will explain why most Jewish people use the name Adonai when they pray. The Hebrew word Adonai is spelled ADNY or “Aleph Dalet Nun Yode”. It is pronounced Adonoy, and literally means “Lord” or “Master”. The name Adonai refers to God’s Attribute of Mercy, and when we pray we are generally asking for help or for mercy. Because we are human and we make mistakes, we need God’s Attribute of Mercy. The name Elohim, which is pronounced “Eloheem”, is also used quite a bit in the Bible. This is Hebrew for God together with His angels and His Heavenly Court System. The word Elohim is spelled “Aleph Lamed Hey Yode Mem”. This name refers to God’s Attribute of Justice. It also means “Ruler”, “Lawgiver”, and “Judge of the World.” We do not use the name Elohim when we pray very often, although it is found in some Hebrew songs. We do not ask for strict judgement, because we do make mistakes and therefore we should be punished for those mistakes. Justice is how the world should function properly, and God willing it will function that way soon. This is why we usually use the name Adonai, because we need to temper justice with mercy.
The Four-Letter Name is a combination of both Justice and Mercy. Please remember that both of the names Adonai and Elohim are Holy Names, and some people will not directly pronounce these names either. Some people will not even pronounce the letters of The Four-Letter Name together. We ask you to please respect and honor these names. Most of the time the name HaShem or Hashem is used to refer to God. In Hebrew this literally means “The Name”. We use this instead of pronouncing any of the personal and more holy names. Shem is also the name of one of Noah’s three sons, and he was the son that the Children of Israel descended from. Shem was later known as Malchizedek, who was the King of Salem. Malchizedek in Hebrew means “King of the Righteous”. Salem comes from the Hebrew word Shalom which means “Peace”. Shem was made the priest of God in Jerusalem, the City of Peace, long before King David made it his home. El is also used as one of the names of God. El in Hebrew literally means “God”, and is used together with many names. The names Israel, Daniel, Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, Ariel, and many others contain this name within them.
The following is a list of names, please excuse some of the translations. Some of these names can be written in different ways in English, as they are translated from their true Hebrew spelling.
Abir – The Strong One
Adirainu – Our Sovereign
Adon – Lord
Adonai – Lord or Master, also the Attribute of Mercy
Adonai Tzvaos – Lord of Hosts or Master of Legions
Adonoy – The same as Adonai
Adoshem – The Name
Avinu – Our Father
Avinu Sheba Shamayim – Our Father Who Art In Heaven
Boray – Creator
Boreinu – Our Creator
Ehyeh – God, literally “I Shall Be”
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh – God, literally “I Shall Be As I Shall Be”
Ein Sof – The Infinite or Endless One
El – God
El Bris – The God of the Covenant
El Roi – The God Who Sees Me
Eloah – The Singular form of Elohim
Elohay Avraham – The God of Abraham
Elohay Yitzhak – The God of Isaac
Elohay Yaacov – The God of Jacob
Elohay Yisrael – The God of Israel
Eloheinu – Our God
Elohim – God, also the Attribute of Justice or Judgement
El Chai – The Living God
El Elyon – God Most High
El Olam – The Everlasting God or God of the Universe
El Shaddai – God Almighty
Even Yisrael – The Stone of Israel
Goaal Yisrael – The Redeemer of Israel
Goaleinu – Our Redeemer
HaEl – The True God
HaGevurah – The Strength or The Strong One
HaKadosh Baruch Hoo – The Holy One Blessed Be He
HaMakom – The Place
HaMavorach – The Blessed One
HaRachaman – The Compassionate One
HaShem – The Name
Jah or Jah Jah – Rastafarian pronunciation of Yah, God
Jehovah – English pronunciation of The Four-Letter Name
Kadosheinu – Our Holy One
Kedosh Yaacov – The Holy One of Jacob
Kedosh Yisrael – The Holy One of Israel
Magain – Shield
Magain Avraham – The Shield of Abraham
Malkeinu – Our King
Melech – King
OoMagain – Our Shield
OoMoshiach – Our Savior
Ozaer – Our Helper
Rebon Shel Olam – Master or Sovereign of the Universe
Roaynu – Our Shepherd
Roay Yisrael – The Shepherd of Israel
Shalom – Peace (also used to refer to God)
Shem HaMeforash – The Distinguished Name
Shem HaMeyuhad – The Extraordinary Name
Shem ben Arba Otiyot – The Quadrilateral Name
The God of Truth
The King of King of Kings
The Living God of Majesty
The Ruler of Every Power
Yah – God
Yahweh – English version of The Four-Letter Name of God
YH – The Two-Letter Name of God
YHV – The Three-Letter Name of God
YHVH – The Tetragrammaton or Four-Letter Name of God
The Rock of Ages
The Rock of Our Salvation
Tzur – Rock
Tzur Yisrael – The Rock of Israel
The Midrash explains that there are seventy names of God. This mirrors the pattern of the Heavenly Court System which consists of seventy spiritual representatives appointed over the seventy nations. Of course God is above these sarim or angels. The number seventy with a head above them, also corresponds to the seventy Jews who descended to Egypt with Jacob at their head. Similarly the Great Sanhedrin or High Court that existed during the time of the First and Second Temples consisted of seventy judges with a nassi or prince at their head. The original group of Elders also consisted of seventy leaders with Moses as their head. Jerusalem is also known by seventy names.
The Priestly Blessing written in the Book of Numbers in Chapter 6 verses 24-26 is as follows:
May HaShem bless you and safeguard you.
May HaShem illuminate His countenance for you and be gracious to you.
May HaShem turn His countenance to you and establish peace for you.
So may it be His will.
We trust this has been informative and educational for you. Please pitch in and help us to make the world a better place. We have not included an explanation of some of the other names of God at this time. Stay tuned to our news bulletins, and perhaps we will go into this at a later time.
Thank You and Shalom!