Proclaim His Name

Lois Autterson is an expert at finding/remembering different names to call God. I love seeing and reading them in her Devotions: “Abba Father, “Ground of all being, Mother of life, Father of the universe, ....” This reminds me of something the chapter of my life living with Observant Jews showed me.

Jews seem to make a point of not mentioning His name. Instead, they vaguely refer to Him as “the Almighty,” “the One Above,” or most-often, as Hashem,” which is Hebrew for “the name.” In contradiction, we read several passages where the Lord is instructing the people to “proclaim His name” (Isaiah 12:4, Psalms 105:1) and “chant praises to His Name” (Psalms 68:5), speaks highly of one who “knows My name” (Psalms 91:14), and there are countless other references to His name.

Some Jews are obsessed with avoiding saying God’s name and are careful not to pronounce God’s names except when reading the Torah or prayers. Caution is founded on an understanding of the Third of the Ten Commandments, “You shall not take His name in vain.” Although this verse is interpreted as referring to a senseless or disgrace in using God’s name, the avoidance of saying God’s name extends to all expressions – except prayer and Torah study.

Considering the awe with which we are meant to approach God and His names, the verses in the Prophets which speak of making God’s name know are not referring to His actual name. Rather, the prophet is saying that the Jewish people should let the world know about God’s existence, how He is Creator of the world and constantly supervising and recreating every living thing. Similarly, when the Psalmist regularly refers to praising God’s name, he refers to praising God’s wondrous deed.

Along similar lines, Jews do not write out “G O D”. Writing “G-d” instead of God or “L-rd” instead of Lord is a fairly-recent custom in America. Many believe this to be a sign of respect, and the custom comes from an interpretation of the commandment in Deuteronomy 12: 3-4 regarding the destruction of pagan altars. According to the medieval commentator, Rashi, we should not erase or destroy God’s name and, therefore, should avoid writing it – especially on something that could be discarded or damaged.

How Interesting! What do you think about all this? -- interpretation, rules, customs, deep thought, and consideration.

Heavenly Father, thank you for showing us how different and humble, we, humans can be. Guide us to You in the way that suits You. Guide us Often! Amen. 

Jill Maclay

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