And God spoke to Moses and said to him, I am Yud Heh Vav Heh. And I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob by the name of El Shaddai, but my name Yud Heh Vav Heh, I did not make known to them.
A name is something that we use to call someone. People have different names that tell us different things about them. There is a name by which we are generally known in the world. Then we may have another English or Hebrew name. We may have a nickname that is used by one’s friends and family that reveals an aspect of one’s character not known to all. And then there may be a special name that is used only by our beloved in moments of real intimacy that touches on a private and hidden part of our self.
Similarly, the different Names of God reveal to us different aspects of the Divine nature and indicate different levels of spiritual intimacy. The common names for God such as Adonai – Lord or Rebbono shel Olam – Master of the World express His most revealed and accessible attributes. The name El Shaddai is more personal and draws on His attribute of protection and refuge. This is the name He revealed to the patriarchs. To them, he was the Lord who watched over and protected them in their wanderings, and in their attempts to establish a new home for their descendants. This is why the name Shaddai is written on the outside of a mezuzah; the mezuzah is the symbol that God is protecting our home.
The Tetragrammaton – the name Yud Heh Vav Heh is first revealed to Moses at the Burning Bush. It is a new name that was not revealed to the patriarchs. This name draws on the power of God as a liberator and redeemer. God is adorned with this name when He uses “an outstretched arm and great judgments” to free the Children of Israel from the grasp of Pharaoh and the Egyptians.
When God first reveals this name Yud Heh Vav Heh to Moses at the Burning Bush, he says to him: “This shall be my Name forever.” The Baal Shem taught that this verse has another hidden meaning. To understand its hidden meaning, we have to read the Hebrew word for forever – leOlam – according to its literal meaning, which is: “for the world”. The meaning of this verse then is “that which we call and comprehend by the essential Name of Yud Heh Vav Heh – that is only for (the sake of) the world – meaning, so people can call your Name to bring your providence upon them. But, in truth, God is above all names – even the Name Yud Heh Vav Heh that is called in holy books “the essential Name.”
Yud Heh Vav Heh is the highest name or aspect of God that we on the physical plane can link to and draw on. But it is not God’s final name – there are aspects or Names of God, which reach much farther out in to the infinite. As the Baal Shem says, Yud Heh Vav Heh is the Name for this world, but there may be other names for other higher worlds. And God in the Absolute is beyond all names.
When we say the Name of God in prayer or meditation, we are doing more than just using religious symbolism: God is truly present in His/Her Name.
Just as when someone calls my name, I will turn towards him; so it is with God. And it is the intensity of the yearning, and clarity with which we call a name that will determine the immediacy and vividness of the response.
For example, if a person hears his name called in a strong and urgent cry, he will immediately turn around and run towards the source of the outcry. But if what he hears is only a weak and half-hearted appeal, he will pay it little or no attention at all.
Similarly, if we call on God with all our heart and soul, He will be right there with us. But if we merely mechanically repeat His Name – nothing much of real spiritual livingness is likely to occur.
The use of different names by God makes clear to us that our relationship with Him is not fixed in one mode forever, but is a continually unfolding process. As time goes on, God will reveal Himself to humanity in new ways and on new levels.
First, He revealed Himself through the great forces of nature. Next, He revealed Himself in the aspect of El Shaddai – the protector and refuge of the Patriarchs. Then God revealed Himself as Yud Heh Vav Heh, the liberator, who can reverse the normal processes of nature and overturn great kings and kingdoms. At Sinai, He revealed Himself as the lawgiver guiding humanity forward in its evolution, and as the immanent Lord who dwells with humanity in sacred space.
Today, our relationship with God is taking on yet another dimension. As we learn to work together in harmony and mutual understanding, we are beginning to bridge the gap between those of us in physical incarnation and the souls who are on higher planes. Once this connection becomes a tangible reality, the spiritual body of humanity will be transformed into a worthy vessel for the next stage in the continually unfolding revelation of God upon this Earth. Perhaps, we will then learn one of the higher Names that are at present out of our conscious reach – a new name that reflects our expanded understanding of God as the Lord of the universe and not just the Master of our world: a Name that will liberate us from the slavery of this material consciousness, just as the name Yud Heh Vav Heh liberated us from physical bondage in the land of Egypt.
copyright © 2013, by Yoel Glick