domingo, 22 de janeiro de 2012

Judaism: G-d's Name

Why do we find different names for God in the Torah?
Different names reflect different aspects by which God is revealed in the world. The Tetragrammaton, the special name composed of the four letters Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey, corresponds to a level of Divine revelation that was concealed before Moses' time.
"I revealed Myself to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as El Shad-dai [God Almighty]. But with My name Y-H-V-H, I was not known to them." (Ex. 6:3)
What is the significance of these two names of God? Why did only Moses' generation merit the first knowledge of the Tetragrammaton?
In the same prophetic communication to Moses, God contrasted the Patriarchs with their descendants in terms of their ties to the Land of Israel.
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were only travelers and foreigners in the Land:
"I made My covenant with them, giving them the land of Canaan, the land of their wanderings, where they lived as foreigners." (6:4)
Their descendants, on the other hand, are destined to settle permanently in the Land: "I will give it to you as an inheritance"(6:8).
Is there some connection between the different names for God and residence in Eretz Yisrael?
A Higher Level of Providence
Dwelling in the Land of Israel means living with a higher level of Divine providence. It is "a land constantly under the scrutiny of the Eternal, your God; the eyes of the Eternal your God are on it at all times" (Deut. 11:12). God gave Eretz Yisrael to the Jewish people as an eternal inheritance, so that this unparalleled level of Divine providence will always be associated with them.
God's providence will never leave the people of Israel; their history is beyond the laws of nature.
This level of Divine guidance was only possible after they became a nation. Individuals, even the most righteous, may waver and stumble. Therefore, the Avot could only be sojourners in Eretz Yisrael. They could only merit the Land's preternatural providence in a temporary, sporadic fashion.
The name Shad-dai comes from the root shiddud, meaning 'intervention.' It implies occasional intervention in the natural realm. This was the level of Divine providence that the Avot experienced. They lived in a world of natural forces - with occasional miracles. They were but travelers in the Land of Israel.
Thus God was revealed to them as El Shad-dai.
With the formation of the nation of Israel, however, the miraculous providence of the land of Israel became their permanent inheritance.
The generation of Moses merited a higher revelation of God and His providence, as is reflected in the name Y-H-V-H. This Divine name comes from the root "to cause to exist."
Their world was no longer a universe ruled by the forces of nature. They merited a constant, direct connection to the One Who continually creates and gives life to of all existence.
(Adapted from Midbar Shur, pp. 293-297, sent to Arutz Sheva by Rabbi Chanan Morrison of Mitzpeh Yericho, author of "Gold From the Land of Israel". His website,, is dedicated to presenting the Torah commentary of Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook)

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