Halachic Thoughts On The Name of God

My brother guest posts by-proxy today, as he sends from the deserts of Israel his thoughts and his interpretations and traditions (halacha), on using the name of God.

"You shall not take the name of YHVH Eloheicha in vain, for YHVH will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain."

-Shemot 20:7=D'varim 5:11

In a world where some use The Name regularly, in regular speech at any given time, and others who strictly forbid the utterance of the Name - where is the truth? What is the right halacha for this issue? Should one use The Name? If so, when?

Take a closer look at the mitzvah here, to read and understand the Hebrew and sense that is given in the text.

It reads in Hebrew: '"Lo tisa et-Shem-YHVH Eloheicha lashav'..."

Literally: "No raise~you et-Name-YHVH your El for/to-desolation/uselessness/(figuratively:)idolatry..."

So we should not raise/use the Name for/to desolation and/or idolatry. Anyone who breaks this mitzvah will not go guiltless from it, it is a very serious thing. So, here are most of the possible ways this verse could be taken to mean:

  • Do not misuse the Name.
  • Do not use The Name uselessly or without reason.
  • Do not bring the Name to desolation/destruction.
  • Do not bring the Name to non-existence.
  • Do not swear falsely by the Name.
  • Do not loosely use the Name.
  • Do not use the Name for idolatry.

There are a few ways to read this, a few valid ways. Therefore, every one of them should be taken with caution. Many Rabbis have banned the use of the Name entirely. This is good and bad, and so is the choice to use the Name commonly.

There are pros and cons to each side.

First, what is done by censoring the Name entirely? (Except some Orthodox and especially Chasidim who study Kabbalah utter the Name).

  • The Name is protected from misuse, from the common knowledge of the goyim [gentiles] who might blaspheme it regularly.
  • The Name is kept very set apart, not made common in the least way.
  • The pronunciation of the Name may be lost.
  • The authority and power of this Most High Name is not used.

Second, what is done by using the Name freely?

  • The Name is prone to being misused.
  • The Name is made common when used in every-day speech.
  • The Name may not be pronounced correctly, although the pronunciation with vowels can vary with the same Power invoked because of the consonants are the same.
  • The authority and power of the Most High Name is utilized - hopefully for the good.

Here, one should see a problem with each. On one hand, the counterparts to us Netzarim, our modern Pharisaic brothers' restricting of the Name is not of the Tanakh, since it is used throughout in the speech of many individuals. Also, the restricting of the Name for the use of the Hebrew/Israelite people is fairly plainly not the desired outcome for the Name.

On the other hand, using the Name freely gives way to the possibility of sinning against YHVH. It gives way to making common the Name, which does not maintain its sanctity. One who freely uses to Name to and fro does not recognize its power and the extreme caution one must take when uttering it.

What is the right way to utilize the Name? What should the halacha be? The list above of most/all possibilities to interpret the verse should all be included in the safeguards around this mitzvah - this includes the Yehudim Netzarim to not censor the Name and to not use it in a common, every-day manner. So here is the halacha:

  • One can use the Name in caution during personal prayer, pronouncing it to the best of his ability, taking in mind that the Hebrew letter combination Y-H-V-H, despite what vowels may be included under each consonant, is a powerful Name not to be said lightly or said at any given time for any given reason. One should know under what context he is using the Name and make sure he is not using it wrongly, for any wrong purpose.
  • In the Netzari synagogue, the Name should be utilized at the ending parts of the prayers, when the service figuratively enters the Most Holy Place, as if the prayer service leads from the outer courts to deep inside (as exists in the modern Pharisaic siddurim, as with P'sukei D'Zimrah, the Psalms of praise that are recited before one recites the Shema and then the Amidah).
  • The Name should be discouraged to be taken place in common speech, when one flippantly utters the Name - especially when it is not appropriate or especially necessary to do so.
  • In the event that one does use the Name, in any circumstance, inside or outside prayer, he/she must be very careful in what context he/she is speaking it in. And must be careful that it is not for a vain cause, reason, for any false or evil motive.


Titles for Elohim


Throughout the Tanakh, titles are used for the One True El, YHVH. Their use is not restricted, their use is not condemned anywhere in the Torah. There are some in the "sacred-Name" movement who are hostile toward the use of titles.

This kind of restriction and prohibition is wrong. All titles used in the Tanakh for YHVH are free to be utilized, and have different meanings based on certain emanations/spirits of Elohim which are revealed to the user. For example, we see the Patriarchs sometimes use "El Shaddai" which basically means El of Breasts, or Many Breasted El. 

[Judah's insertion: some interpret Shaddai to mean "almighty", but an alternative theory is that name is connected to shadayim which means "breasts" in Hebrew. It may thus be connected to the notion of God’s fertility and blessings of the human race. In several instances it is connected with fruitfulness: "May God Almighty [El Shaddai] bless you and make you fruitful and increase your numbers…" (Gen. 28:3). "I am God Almighty [El Shaddai]: be fruitful and increase in number" (Gen. 35:11). "By the Almighty [El Shaddai] who will bless you with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lies beneath, blessings of the breasts [shadayim] and of the womb [racham]" (Gen. 49:25). ^

No, it doesn't mean YHVH is a female fertility goddess (although he is neither solely masculine or solely feminine), it means he is a provider as a mother provides life-building milk for her child. And it was a form of praise for these Patriarchs to call YHVH by this title, and it was for very good reasons - because he had provided for them.
Here are some of the Names and Titles used in the Tanakh:

  • Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh
  • El/Eloah
  • El Shaddai
  • El Gibbor
  • El Elyon
  • El Chai
  • Elohim
  • Eloah
  • Elohei Yisrael
  • Adonai
  • Boreh
  • "    " Tz'vaot

These are just among some of the most common titles used for the One True El used in the Tanakh. Most of these have varying significance and are reflective of different personalities, manifestations, Emanations, and/or Spirits of YHVH.
It should be established for all Yehudim Netzarim that these titles should be utilized, and used appropriately in the right context. We see use of different Names/Titles for HaShem used by some in the Tanakh for reasons - they usually do not just use a certain title for no reason. Although, in different time periods, certain Names are used for basic mention of the Most High.

In Kabbalah [mystical Judaism], different Names/Titles for YHVH are assigned to each of the Sephirot (Emanations) of the Etz Chayim (i.e. the different Spirits of Elohim). The list, accordingly, from upper Sephirot to lower Sephirot:

  • Keter/Da'at (Crown/Divine Knowledge): Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh
  • Chochmah (Divine Wisdom): YHVH
  • Binah (Divine Understanding): Elohim
  • Chesed (Mercy): El or El Chai
  • Gevurah (Judgment): Yah
  • Tipheret (Harmony/Beauty): Adonai
  • Netzach (Victorious Eternity): YHVH Tz'vaot
  • Hod (Majestic Splendor): Elohim Tz'vaot
  • Yesod (Foundation): El Shaddai
  • Malkhut (Kingdom): Adonai

In Kabbalah, it would be beneficial to the pray-er that whenever he prays for something in particular, or prays and needs to be endowed with a certain Spirit of Elohim (such as Wisdom, or Understanding), then ideally, calling on one of the assigned Names has an impact.

The Kabbalist Rabbis have assigned the Name Y-H-V-H to each of these Sephirot, with a different vowel structure (attached to the same consonants Y-H-V-H) for each one. Unfortunately, I don't have the knowledge for all these, but for Chesed/Mercy, if I am not mistaken, they pronounce the Name as "Yih'vih", assigning a chirik ("ee" vowel in Hebrew) to Y-H-V-H.

In summation, the halacha should be to use these Names and Titles when appropriate.


  1. Aaron...Judah....

    While I agree that the rabbinical prohibition against pronouncing G-d's name is debatable, one question sticks out in my mind:

    How do those (mostly "Greeks", if you know what I mean) who today insist on using The Divine Name (and mix it with their own language) explain its strange and glaring absence from the pages of Brit Hadasha (the New Testament)?

    It would seem that not using the Divine name in everyday speech, correspondence (i.e. Apostles' letters) or in situations where it had a chance to be "taken in vain" was a well established tradition in Yeshua's day - a tradition that neither Yeshua, nor Shaul, not any of the Yeshua's own talmidim sought to violate or insist on others to do the same. Even, as some insist without convincing supporting evidence, some of the original Gospels were written in Hebrew, the Divine Name pronunciation was still not transliterated for the mostly Gentile audience when the Gospels were translated into Greek.

    While not being dogmatic about it (although I do follow it in my own life), I do very much appreciate the intent behind this tradition of my forefathers. At the same time I disdain the abnormal obsession surrounding the Divine Name by so called "Sacred Namers" groups and their other related kinds.

    My two shekels...

  2. Gene,

    You're asking, "If the sacred name is so important, why isn't it used in the New Testament?"

    I agree with you, I think the tradition was in place in Yeshua's day. However, there is some evidence to suggest the name was spoken where appropriate. If I recall right, some of the Hebrew manuscripts of Matthew records the divine name being used, albeit abbreviated or mutated in some way by the Hebrew translator. (Removal of 1 letter, for example).

    With all that said, we're left with the Scripture that tells us to speak His name, call on His name, praise His name.

  3. Oh, and for the record, I agree that titles were used for everyday speech or in places where it may be used "in vain".

    I find nothing wrong with using titles like Lord or Master or God.

    Using those titles exclusively seems to be missing the point of the commandment.

  4. The discussion on the Divine Name commonly tends to overlook the Semitic--and even Hellenistic--contexts of the terms shem and onoma. They both more largely relate to the character or substance of a person, or the thing it represents, than the actual letters and/or pronunciation. To call upon the name of the Lord is to call upon the substance of who He is, entreating His righteous vindication--not that one need speak the Divine Name, as there is no evidence in the Apostolic Scritpures that the Disciples actually did this.

  5. In agreement with J.K. McKee.

    All the names of G-d are descriptive as to His nature.

  6. To call upon the name of the Lord is to call upon the substance of who He is, entreating His righteous vindication--not that one need speak the Divine Name

    Maybe. But are we suggesting folks should not use God's name?

    there is no evidence in the Apostolic Scritpures that the Disciples actually did this.

    That's not true, right? I mean, we have Hebrew manuscripts of at least one of the gospels, and some of those manuscripts do indeed contain the divine name in selected verses.

    I realize that's not definitive evidence, especially considering we're not even certain the Hebrew manuscripts are from the original Hebrew, rather than manuscripts of Greek, but it is evidence nonetheless that suggests selective use of the divine name was practiced by the disciples and Messiah himself.

  7. You probably believe that Matthew was written in Hebrew, and thus that the Divine Name must have appeared in that text. One part of this discussion that gets left out is what Papias actually meant when he said "Matthew composed his history [logia] in the Hebrew dialect, and everyone translated it as he was able” (Ecclesiastical History 3.39.16).

    There are multiple interpretations of this one statement that have been made available. It by no means requires Matthew to have written a complete gospel in Hebrew, but could speak of second-hand notes ("Q") or be akin to "in a Jewish style." Unfortunately, knowing that these alternative views are available, or engaging with a wider array of Matthean scholarship, has conveniently alluded many people in today's Messianic movement.


    No, I do not believe that Yeshua spoke the Divine Name, and neither did the Apostles. If they did, there would be charges of blasphemy issued against them for doing so, per the Second Temple halachah prohibiting its usage except on Yom Kippur by the high priest (m.Yoma 6:2).

  8. Judah, you said: "I realize that's not definitive evidence, especially considering we're not even certain the Hebrew manuscripts are from the original Hebrew, rather than manuscripts of Greek, but it is evidence nonetheless that suggests selective use of the divine name was practiced by the disciples and Messiah himself."

    No, that's no evidence - no more evidence than some modern translations, as the Jehovah Witnesses' Bibles for example, which use "Jehovah" in their version of NT. This only suggests that the latter day re-translators (with whatever personal agenda) from Greek to Hebrew added the divine name where one to the Matthew Gospel were one was not used previously.

  9. J.K.

    "It by no means requires Matthew to have written a complete gospel in Hebrew, but could speak of second-hand notes ("Q") or be akin to "in a Jewish style."

    Now that is some literary acrobatics!

    Look, there is debate among scholars whether Matthew was written in Hebrew.

    There is some evidence like the above quote from an early church father, that suggests it was.

    There is also evidence from Shem Tov's manuscript that reveal Hebraism and Hebrew word plays that make little sense in Greek, suggesting further Matthew may have been written in Hebrew.

    All that said, I'm not committed to the cause of promoting a Hebrew Matthew! I only called you guys out on the "no evidence of Hebrew Matthew" thing.

  10. Gene,

    No, that's no evidence - no more evidence than some modern translations, as the Jehovah Witnesses' Bibles for example, which use "Jehovah" in their version of NT.

    Whoa! Equating a Jewish translation of the New Testament with that of a Jehova's Witness translation - I didn't expect that from you, Gene!

    Let's put your theory to the test. If Shem Tov's Hebrew Matthew was written with an agenda to insert the divine name, where does that agenda arise from? Shem Tov was an observant Jew, wasn't he?

  11. With respect, claiming that Papias' logia means "oracles" or "sayings" NOT equaling a complete Gospel of Matthew in Hebrew is not "literary acrobatics"; it is engaging with contemporary Matthean scholarship and the options that have been proposed for centuries.

    Have you ever looked at a variety of entries for the Gospel of Matthew in a theological dictionary, technical commentary, or NT introduction? If you have, then you have doubtlessly seen the options that I have listed. If you have not, then knowing about these views has come as a surprise to you.

  12. J.K. my friend, I only wanted to say there is debate whether Matthew was originally written in Hebrew.

    You guys said "no evidence" to suggest the disciples used the divine name, something that isn't true.

    If Matthew was originally Hebrew (scholars on both sides of this), and if one of the medieval Hebrew manuscripts of Matthew are based on an original Hebrew document, then there is evidence to suggest the disciples selectively used the divine name.

    Anyways. Interesting debate. I usually only debate things I'm really passionate about. Hebrew Matthew isn't exactly that! :-)

  13. Well, the examples I provided regarding Matthew are but a single snapshot of the tension that is coming to our faith community in the next decade, as our engagement with the issues has got to improve. Many are not going to like the season up ahead.

  14. Yeah. I think we've got to keep things in perspective. I mean, how big of a theological issue is it whether the disciples used the sacred name? (My answer: a 2 on a scale of 1-10.)

    Sometimes we get caught up in theological minutia and end up created mini-religions over it. I hope many of these issues can be resolved without causing huge divisions in the body of Messiah.

  15. Has anyone looked at John chapter 17?

    In Yeshua's prayer He mentions three time that He had made the Father's name known to them and had kept them safe by the power of His name.

    Especially verse 26: "I made your name known to them, and I will continue to make it known; so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I myself may be united with them."

    Verse 6 as well, He plainly states that He made known His Father's name to His disciples.

    Something to consider.



  16. I just wanted to say that I appreciate the debate and commentary that goes on here, because it is teaching me a lot about the range of Messianic beliefs. The "comments" section is like a crash course in Messianic theology! :)

  17. The earlier context as specified by John 5:43 tells us what Yeshua is really talking about: "I have come in My Father's name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, you will receive him" (NASU).

    Here, "name" (shem/onoma) is clearly a reference to the Father's character/repute/substance/authority, and not the Tetragrammaton. When Yeshua said He manifested His Father's "name" to the Disciples, it need not mean that He spoke the Divine Name.

  18. Dear JK,

    I had anticipated that type of answer from you. So I considered what my response should be and came up with this:

    A person can apply an allegorical meaning to most of the words spoken by Yeshua. At times it may seem appropriate due to the context of the conversation, other times it is employed to avoid the clear meaning of the text. I think you have done the latter.

    If I were preaching a Christian sermon on a Sunday morning about a certain subject, and I chose a text I thought would lay the groundwork for the point I was going to make, I would probably do what you did and simply take what I thought were the attributes hidden in the text that aligned with my beliefs and worldview and present them as the true meaning. Sweet grain.

    But does it make sense that Yeshua would, in His prayer to His Father, use allegorical sentences that only hinted at what the real meaning could be? Why would He do that?

    Yeshua, at that time, was near the end of the process He had started with His disciples. He was restoring them to fellowship with His Father in heaven. In His prayer He referred to His restoring of His Father's name to His disciples three times. It was so that they could walk in the power and the fellowship of that name. The name which had been taken from them by those who refused to allow anyone to speak it in public.

    He and His disciples were in trouble more than once in scripture as the P'rushim and others heard them speak the name in public.

    If time allows we can look at several examples. But if you intend to use the original languages, use the ones spoken, not written. It would be closer to what was happening on the ground.

    And I can't imagine why it would be hard to understand that the name of Yeshua's Father would not appear in the letters. In the culture that the apostles came from you would not write the name in a letter to a congregation where it would be read aloud in public in front of who knows who.

    That name was reserved for scripture only. They did not consider their letters to be scripture. And please don't quote Kefa's letter, that can easily be read two ways.

    Beside, our relationship with our Father in heaven had changed from one of rigid, fearful formality to one of family and friends.

    And so our hearts say "Abba", dear Father.

    There is authority in the name of our Father, and we should know how when to use it. But I do not advocate using His name in public just for the sake of saying it. I really don't think anyone knows how to pronounce it correctly anyway.

    Unless, of course, someone does. In which case, please do tell.



  19. My views of the name of the Lord being more than just the letters YHWH are well within Hebraic norms and Jewish theology. Please do a good study on the Semitic term shem before making such strident claims (not Strong's).

  20. "Beside, our relationship with our Father in heaven had changed from one of rigid, fearful formality to one of family and friends."

    ...Ehem....that would be the standard Christian interpretation of Old vs New Covenant, Law vs Grace, Angry G-d of Old Testament vs the Kind G-d of the New.

    I wonder how much of your theology, Efrayim, is still underpinned by that.

    It's worth reminding that G-d considered himself a Husband to Israel even before Yeshua came(Isaiah 54:5) - not sure how much more "family" one can be. He also considers himself a FATHER to Israel (Malachi 1). And of course, G-d called Abraham His friend on multiple occasions.

    Why believers are indeed "friends and family" of G-d, He is still the fear-inspiring and awesome G-d, He's still our Master and L-rd.

  21. "I wonder how much of your theology, Efrayim, is still underpinned by that."

    Well, wonder no more Gene. The answer is none.

    The average Iraelite, or anyone else for that matter, could not just waltz up to the tent of meeting in the wilderness and go into the set-apart place and start talking to YHVH. They wouldn't make it to the door.

    There were specific and definite rules governing the behavior of His children at that time. No exceptions.

    If you would prefer the term ritualistic instead of rigid, that's fine. But the formality word stays.

    It has nothing to do with "good God" vs "bad God", "old testament" vs "new testament".

    Man, I thought everybody knew that.


    So you think a word study in the proper sources would help me out?

    OK, let me ask you a question then:

    What language did Noach speak and why did he name one of his sons "Shem"?

    And when men began to call on the "name" of YHVH, what did they say. Hebrew was not a language yet. (They did not use YHVH).

    In fact, prior to Moshe, He did not reveal His personal name to mankind. See Sh'mot 6:3. While His attributes are many, His name is one.

    I have studied His name over many years and from many sources. Which is why my conclusion to the previous post was what it was. If I, or anyone else, were to call upon the name of YHVH, they would be limited to the knowledge they have at the time.

    I have come across few, if any, "messianics" that did not first call upon the name of Jesus when He saved them. I'm sure that most of them know better now. It seems that He is gracious from beginning to end. And He hears His children where ever they may be and what ever they may know.

    My comments were not "strident" (see free online dictionary), they were meant only to present another view, another understanding of what might have taken place at the time of Yeshua being on the earth.

    Argue with my logic, my scripture references, my point of view. Don't just dismiss me as someone who doesn't know enough to even bring anything worthwhile to the table. You don't know what or how much I know. Or where I've been and what I've seen and heard. There is a chance you may miss something important, something worthwhile.

    Besides, I can't write a book here in Judah's blog. So there is some work for the reader to do with the brief comments offered.

    Questions are usually the best way to get answers, don't you agree?



  22. There is a huge debate over how to reconcile Genesis 4:26 and Exodus 6:3. I personally do not believe that those who lived prior to the burning bush knew or used the name YHWH. I believe that the name YHWH was anachronistically placed into the text so readers can know that it is the same God.

    Do understand that I have heard the arguments you have been making for the past 10 years. I am not dismissing them, but I have seen them repeated over and over again with very little engagement with other opinions, especially those from the Synagogue. The Sacred Name sector of the independent Messianic movement has not helped its wider credibility, and the divisions that have occurred with Messianic Judaism are absolutely unacceptable, in my opinion.

  23. Post by Todd

    I won’t post on the use of the Name. However, I would like to post on something that has come up in the comments – the possibility of Hebrew/Aramaic original source documents behind the Gospels and/or original Hebrew Gospels. On a previous post, I had recommended three books addressing this issue. In this post, I will give a little more flavor of the shortest of those books. Please note that I have no axe to grind – my faith isn’t shattered by the currently scholarly consensus – I’m okay if those are the facts. But this book, which I stumbled on, made me realize that there was a respectable scholarly view that was different than the current consensus. And it is not the case that I am drawn to gadfly scholars or quacky scholars as a general matter. The book is entitled “The Birth of the Synoptics. The scholar is no gadfly or quack. His name is Jean Carmignac and he is a French scholar who translated the Dead Sea Scrolls into French. He also was a scholar who worked on a critical edition of the Books of Chronicles. So he knew Biblical Hebrew and the Hebrew of Qumran and the 2nd Temple period. After finishing his translation of the Dead Sea Scrolls, he had decided to write a book discussing the Gospels and the Dead Sea Scrolls. At this point I will quote from his first chapter and let him speak for himself:

    “It was merely by chance that I happened to become involved with the question of the formation of the Gospels. But once started, I allowed myself to be guided by the logic of the work….In order to facilitate the comparison between our Greek Gospels and the Hebrew texts of Qumran, I tried, for my own personal use, to see what Mark would yield if translated back into the Hebrew of Qumran. I had imagined that this translation would be difficult because of the considerable differences between Semitic thought and Greek thought, but I was absolutely dumbfounded to discover that this translation was, on the contrary, extremely easy. Around the middle of April 1963, after only one day of work, I was convinced that the Greek text of Mark could not have been redacted directly in Greek and that it was in reality only the Greek translation of an original Hebrew. The enormous difficulties which I had envisioned for myself had all been resolved by the Hebrew-Greek translator , who had transposed word for word and who had even preserved in Greek the order of the words preferred by Hebrew grammar…”

    He then challenges his own first intuition noted above with a variety of arguments but finds them wanting. He then sets out specific linguistic evidence that he has noted and that, in his subsequent discovery, others through last 100 plus years have noted. Finally, he confronts what consequences his provisional conclusions might have on the dating of the gospels and the synoptic problem. He wrote this little book for the public in anticipation of a larger multi-volume work to be presented to the scholarly world. He died before he could complete that larger work. But I highly recommend this little book for all who would give a fair hearing to this point of view.


  24. JK,

    I do appreciate your response. Again, anticipated, as I do not see you as a newcomer.

    Although my arguments may seem tired, it is the result of over 14 years of trying to see beyond the common understanding that has done little more than divide His children into different camps.

    As I know that people tend to look for something "new" to excite and bring purpose, I find that there are often overlooked bits of truth which, at first glance, appear to be too obvious to be real. Happens often.

    I certainly do not expect any support from the synagogues, and, unfortunately, from the messianic Jews either.

    Not to worry. There will be further revelation in the near future as our being united in love is of the utmost priority.


    You have my curiosity aroused. Do you study along these lines often? Thank you for the reference. I will look into that publication and see what might be there. I did come across a French linguist some years ago who had written a book about the sacred name. I read his work and then emailed him with some questions. To my surprise he answered rather quickly, clearing up a few items of paleo-Hebrew thought.
    Very interesting.

    Shalom everyone,

    carry on...


  25. Efrayim- I study things along this line if I think they seem well founded. I make the best judgement I can. I think you will like this book very much. It's only 100 pages- so it is not a burden to read.