Saturday, June 2, 2012

THE NAME - the prohibition to utter His Name in vain

Hebrew letter VAV acts both as a consonant, W, or as a vowel, 'oo.' It can act as a part of a word or as a prefix that means 'and.' In this sense, VAV is like a connecting tissue, like a mirror where things reflect and meet. Kabbalistically, its form denotes Divine light streamlined downwards into the Creation.
Grammatically, the morphology of the Tetragrammaton, God's Name made of four letters, י-ה-ו-ה, reflects fusion of different forms of the Hebrew verb 'to be.' It is a very elusive word, because grammatically it is neither one of the forms we know. It denotes future continuous tense, meaning that it is an ever evolving Existence that brings everything into being. This name is so elusive, and thus reflects so perfectly the prohibition to utter His Name in vain, that we even don't know how it should be pronounced correctly. All the attempts in English literature to spell it as it is written, are incorrect as they defy the grammar and the phonetics of Hebrew language. Only priests in the Temple knew to pronounce this Name correctly. Therefore in Jewish tradition we do not even attempt to read this Name, lest we misspell it, but replace it instead with the name Ado-nai, which means literally My Lords. It is plural because it reflects the idea that this name does not refer to God Himself (only the Tetragrammaton Name does), but to His manifold manifestations in the worlds.

"On a frequent basis we attach a meaning of a word from the Bible based on our own language and culture to a word that is not the meaning of the Hebrew word behind the translation. From Meditation 8.30.11 "ezekials beating heart" – Matisyahu


Blaspheme: The Mishnah (Sanh. 7:5), rules that the death sentence by stoning should be applied only in the case where the blasphemer had uttered the *Tetragrammaton and two witnesses had warned him prior to the transgression. In the Talmud, however, R. Meir extends this punishment to cases where the blasphemer had used one of the *attributes, i.e., substitute names of God (Sanh. 56a). The accepted halakhah is that only the one who has uttered the Tetragrammaton be sentenced to death by stoning; the offender who pronounced the substitute names is only flogged (Maim., Yad, Avodat Kokhavim, 2:7). In the court procedure (Sanh. 5:7 and Sanh. 60a) the witnesses for the prosecution testified to the words of the blasphemer by substituting the expressions "Yose shall strike Yose" (yakkeh Yose et Yose). Toward the end of the hearing, however, after the audience had been dismissed, the senior witness was asked to repeat the exact words uttered by the blasphemer. Upon their pronouncement (i.e., of the Tetragrammaton), the judges stood up and rent their garments. The act expressed their profound mourning at hearing the name of God profaned. The custom of tearing one's clothes on hearing blasphemy is attested to in II Kings 18:37, where it is told that Eliakim and his associates tore their garments upon hearing the blasphemous words of the Assyrian warlord *Rab-Shakeh (Sanh. 60a). It is codified in Shulḥan Arukh (YD 340:37) that whoever bears a blasphemy whether with the Tetragrammaton or with attributes, in any language and from a Jew, even from the mouth of a witness, must rend his garment. The second and any successive witnesses only testified: "I have heard the same words" (Sanh. 7:5); according to the opinion of *Abba Saul, whoever utters the Tetragrammaton in public is excluded from the world to come (Av. Zar. 18a). Besides the sacrilege of God, vituperation against the king, God's anointed servant, was also considered blasphemy (cf. Ex. 22:27 and I Kings 21:10). Gentiles, too, are obliged to refrain from blasphemy since this is one of the Seven *Noachide Laws (Sanh. 56a, 60a). Maimonides also classified as blasphemy the erasure of God's name written on paper or engraved on stone, etc., which was to be punished by flogging (Yad, Yesodei ha-Torah 6:1–6). After Jewish courts were deprived of jurisdiction in those cases where capital punishment was applied, excommunication (see *ḥerem) was the usual sanction against a blasphemer (J. Mueller (ed.), Teshuvot Ge'onei Mizraḥ u-Ma'arav (1898), 27a, responsum no. 103 by Amram Gaon). 

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