Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Kabbalah and the Names of God

By: Jacob Lumbroso

In the Kabbalistic thought, the divine name of God in Hebrew is written in four Hebrew characters YHVH. This name represents the concept of Midat HaRachamim ( God's Attributes of Mercy). In contrast, the more generic name of God used, Elokim represents, Midat HaDin( the Divine Attribute of Justice).

In the first chapter of the book of Genesis, the name Elokim is exclusively used. The Kabbalists understand this to refer to the manifestation of delineation and definition. For the Kabbalists, the name Elokim in Genesis chapter one relates the operation of the world according to natural laws. Interestingly, these well-ordered natural laws, also serve to conceal God's immanence in the world. Consequently, according to Aryeh Kaplan, as long as they are in effect, God interacts with the world on its terms and not on His.

YHVH, on other hand, relates to us God's transcendence and the impossibility that the natural laws of the physical universe can prevent or confine God's revelation in creation. According to Jewish mystics, the very letters denote this transcendence. Y and H refer to the past and future. V represents temporal existence in the six days of creation and the six directions of space. Thus the name, YHVH, contains the following: Hayah, (He was), Hoveh (he is) and Yihyeh (he will be). This reveals God's being in the past, present and future concurrently.

The distinction between YHVH and Elokim may be further seen in the following: Elokim is used in the account of the creation of man. This use reflects the fact that human beings possess logic, mental processes, and a physical nature derived from the name, Elokim. In a second account of man's creation in Genesis 2:7, the name YHVH is used. " YHVH Elokim formed man out of the dust of the earth, and breathed into his nostrils a soul-breath (neshamah) of life; man thus became a living creature." This passage refers to man's soul. This aspect of man is derived from the name YHVH.

Regarding the burning bush found in the book of Exodus, a transformation between the divine names Elokim and YHVH occurs. Until the time of this revelation, God had only revealed Himself to the children of Israel as Elokim. Their slavery and oppression existed in a world dictated by natural laws and human strengths (i.e. the strong conquer the weak).

At the incidence burning bush, God reveals Himself to Moses as YHVH. At this point He will transcend the space-time divide that has "constrained" Him and promises to reveal Himself in a physical and tangible way that He has not done in the past.

Jacob Lumbroso writes articles on history, foreign cultures, Jewish history, and Judaism for

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