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God’s Names

DaAti Gods NamesIn the Torah (Bible) God is called by different names - 10 in particular as explained by the Sages. Let’s review a few. In the first chapter of Genesis, God first appears as Creator of the heavens and earth, “In the beginning God created the heavens and earth” (Genesis 1:1). In that verse, God (in Hebrew) appears as, ELOKIM, “Master of all powers,” as explained by the Sages. Later, in the second chapter of Genesis, we learn of another Divine name - the “ineffable name” - HASHEM, “These are the generations of Heaven and Earth when they were created, on the day that Lord (HASHEM) God (ELOKIM) made the earth and heavens“ (Genesis 2:4). Here, God’s name, HASHEM, is understood to mean, “Active and continuous Governor,” as explained by the Sages. If we fast forward 2,248 years from Creation, we learn of yet another name, EHYH, “God said to Moses, I AM WHO I AM (EHYH). Go tell the children of Israel, I AM (EHYH) sent me to you” (Exodus 3:14). This is the name, explain the Sages, that relates to redemption.

Question: Why so many names? If God is indeed, One, “Hear oh Israel the Lord is God the Lord is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4), why confuse us by using so many splendid titles? Just choose one, (to bolster the idea of God’s absolute unity) and let the narrative flow! Why specifically 10?

Explains the great Kabbalist Rabbi Yoseph Giktalia, the number 10 is a “magic number!” Why? Because the two smaller numbers that form it (1 and 0) reduce to 1, i.e. 1 + 0 (the two numbers that make up 10) = 1. Meaning, by writing specifically “10” names for God in the Torah (10 that reduces to 1), the Creator hinted that, in truth, everything is one! But this leads us back to the original question: Why 10 at all? I understand that 10 reduces to 1 (thus hinting at God’s ultimate unity), but why not just bypass all the fancy legwork and declare it outright - write one name for God and leave it at that?

Kabbalah explains that God’s names are descriptions of His will (each of the 10 names appears as a different aspect of the Creator’s will, e.g. ELOKIM describes His will to create, YHVH describes His will to govern, and EHYH describes His will to redeem, etc.) By telling us that all his “names” (manifestations of will) are in truth, one, the Bible teaches us that no matter what version of reality (Divine “Will” of the moment) we are facing, it is all (in truth) one - bound to His essential oneness.

And what’s the lesson?

We are never ever alone! To walk the Divine path correctly (to be successful on our spiritual mission), we must all remember that no matter the “climate”, the consciousness of the moment, God’s Providence is there - He is shaping, choreographing, and moving it all. In the language of the Talmud, “A bird does not dive into the sea (to snatch a fish) unless Divinely directed to do so!” This wonderful teaching incentivizes us to to never give up, but rather, to face life’s challenges with conviction and determination, remembering that this too is Him - a manifestation of His will. By remaining true to our mission and connecting to the Creator no matter the “name” (Will of the moment), we declare in body and soul, “God is one!”

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