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|Explanation of God Language (from the Keneset HaLev Erev Shabbat Siddur)|
What is G-d's Name?
I first related to the Jewish god when I was a Taoist in the mid-1970's. I read in the Tao Te Ching (the Bible of Taoism, an insightful Chinese spiritual philosophy), that the "Tao (Way) that can be named is not the eternal Tao." Similarly, I learned, in Jewish tradition, each name we use for "G-d" is not the actual, sole or eternal name. There are a number of them and they all connect us to different aspects of the One.
There is a personal name of G-d, comprising the Hebrew letters "Yud-Hei-Vav-Hei." But according to centuries of Jewish understanding, we lost the vowels so we do not know how to pronounce the letters. Also, it was only to be pronounced by the Cohein Gadol (High Priest) and was considered very powerful (if the Cohein did it incorrectly, he could get zapped!) By the time of the Talmudic rabbis, the convention developed to pronounce the name "Adonai" (our Lord), each time we came across the four letters in the siddur (prayerbook).
In recent years, many have desired to balance the decidedly masculine quality in the name Adonai with the name "Shechina" (Indwelling Presence) which is grammatically and symbolically feminine. Jewish mystics, both ancient and contemporary, popularized the use of Shechina as one way to reflect our deep feeling of oneness with G-d. Returning to the four letter name, there is a portion of it that is pronounced by itself and as a part of some words. This is the name "Ya," which comprises the Yud and Hei (i.e., "Haleluya" - praise Ya). Proponents of the contemporary Jewish Renewal Movement use it as a gender-free name for G-d.
One last comment on G-d names: You will notice that in this siddur, the English name is written with a dash between the "G" and the "d." This is to remind us that even when referring to it in English, the real, eternal name cannot be named. One other idea: when you know someone's actual name, you have a little power over them. They walk down the street and you yell their name and they stop. You stopped them. Not so with the Creator of the universe! We can connect to, communicate with, petition, meditate with, pray to and hang out with the Holy One but cannot control G-d. Perhaps the truest pronunciation of G-d's name may come from the silent devotional place within each of our hearts.
So as we infuse whatever name we use with our heartfelt expression, we can speak out directly to the One. Below you will find these and some other traditional names of G-d, all of which can be used in your davvening (Jewish prayer practice). Enjoy experimenting with this selection; all are welcome in the Keneset HaLev prayer service.
In the English and transliteration throughout the prayerbook, we use as a placeholder. Please substitute whatever G-d name feels right to you. Below is a partial list of G-d names.
Twenty G-d Names
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