Y-H-V-H (י-ה-ו-ה)
Judeo-Christian Research


15 Shevat, 5762
January 28, 2002


Exodus 6:2,3 God spoke to Moses and said to him, "I am YHVH. I revealed Myself to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as God Almighty (El Shaddai), and did not allow them to know Me by My name YHVH."
(The Living Torah: A New Translation Based on Traditional Jewish Sources
by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan)
According to the Talmud (Sanhedrin 90a), you lose your portion in the world to come if you "pronounce the Divine Name as it is spelt," therefore, the letters
Y-H-V-H when read aloud are not to be pronounced under any circumstance. The word "Lord" or "Hashem" ("The Name") is usually substituted and this illustrates the reverence with which the Jews hold this particular name of God. Another word you may come across when referencing this name is "Tetragrammaton" which is just another way of saying a word with four letters (tetra=four, gramma=letter).

In Exodus 6:2, 3 we are presented with both Y-H-V-H and God Almighty (El Shaddai) which are two names that represent God; the Patriarchs (the fathers—Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) knew God as El Shaddai and Moses knew him as
Y-H-V-H. Most Jewish commentaries explain that Moses was privileged to relate to God in his highest manifestation which is delineated by the use of the name
Y-H-V-H and this allowed him a more indepth knowledge of the Creator.

What can we learn about the highest manifestation of God from these four letters? The first letter is yod (י) which is the smallest letter but holds the great tenet of the Judeo-Christian faith of the indivisibility of God for it can't be divided. In one smooth stroke it is complete. Even amongst these letters there seems to be a sense of seniority and the letter yod is the first and greatest although it is the smallest and is actually the tenth letter of the aleph-bet. According to E. W. Bullinger in his book "Number in Scripture" the number ten "signifies the perfection of Divine order" and he goes on to illustrate instances throughout the Bible where that number comes into play: ten commandments; ten plagues; antichrist's world power of ten nations; Abraham's faith tested by ten trials, etc. The number ten is complete.

The Talmud itself explains the greatness of this letter along with the letter heh. It states that God created two worlds, the world to come with the letter yod (י) and this world with the letter heh (ה) (Menachoth 29b). From this we can infer that the letter yod represents the Creator with a special emphasis on things to come.

The second letter, heh (ה), is just the exhalation of breath; it's a small puff of wind. Here is another example of humble beginnings that reverberate throughout eternity for when God created Adam he fashioned him from the dust of the earth and then blew the breath of life into him and he became a living being. The difference between a lifeless collection of dust and an animate human being comes down to this—heh. We can see this concept at work even earlier than the formation of Adam: "The earth was without form and empty, with darkness on the face of the depths, but God's spirit moved on the water's surface" (Gen 1:2). The word "spirit" is defined by Webster's as: Latin spiritus, literally breath; akin to Latin spirare to blow, breathe; an animating or vital principle held to give life to physical organisms. Without the heh of creation the world and those in it would be empty.

Heh is both the second and fourth letter. Why is there a repeat of the same letter? I believe it speaks of the dual nature of the Divine Breath/Holy Spirit's work—the holy spark that is needed for both a physical and a spiritual life. When speaking of the physical I will try to narrow down this vast subject and use the concept of the Shekhinah glory and when speaking of the spiritual side, I will use the word Ru'ah ha-Kodesh. I'm going to concentrate on the first instance of the letter heh as having a special emphasis on earthly things and its being seen in the Shekhinah glory.

The word Shekhinah in Jewish writings is usually used when speaking of instances where the Divine Presence was accompanied by something that could actually be seen, for example what the Israelites followed while wandering in the desert was a physical manifestation of God's presence, the cloud that filled the tabernacle and Temple, within the burning bush, etc. This Shekhinah presence is usually described as being in a cloud. The Encyclopaedia Judaica says:

The cloud serves as an envelope which screens the Deity from mortal view. Only Moses, who converses with God face to face, may enter into the cloud (Ex. 24:18). To the Israelites, however, God manifests Himself only when covered by a cloud. Unlike Moses they see only flames flashing forth from the cloud (Ex. 24:17).
Here, again, we see the difference between how Moses and the Israelites interacted with the Creator. There seems to be an aspect of being on a lower par of relationship with God when He is presented as hidden in clouds unlike the face-to-face meetings held with Moses.

Another word that parallels that of Shekhinah is kavod. The Encyclopaedia Judaica states:

Knowledge of the underlying imagery of the concept of kavod, which is embedded in Priestly tradition, is provided by Ezekiel whose ideology and divine imagery is grounded on Priestly doctrine. In Ezekiel 1, the kavod is described as an envelope of fire and brightness conveyed on a chariot. From afar, the apparition is like a blazing fire upon a great cloud swept by a storm wind (1:4). It is this radiance and brightness of the kavod which made Moses' face radiant after he spoke with God (Ex. 34:29–35).
This brings to mind the transfiguration of Jesus:
Matthew 17:1 And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, 2 And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. 3 And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him. 4 Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias. 5 While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.
This Shekhinah cloud formation was also seen at the dedication of both the tabernacle and the Temple:
Exodus 40:34 Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. 35 And Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation, because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. 36 And when the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the children of Israel went onward in all their journeys: 37 But if the cloud were not taken up, then they journeyed not till the day that it was taken up. 38 For the cloud of the LORD was upon the tabernacle by day, and fire was on it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys.

1 Kings 8:10 And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the LORD, 11 So that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of the LORD.

And it will be seen again:
Revelation 15:5 And after that I looked, and, behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened: 6 And the seven angels came out of the temple, having the seven plagues, clothed in pure and white linen, and having their breasts girded with golden girdles. 7 And one of the four beasts gave unto the seven angels seven golden vials full of the wrath of God, who liveth for ever and ever. 8 And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God, and from his power; and no man was able to enter into the temple, till the seven plagues of the seven angels were fulfilled.
Looking back to the time when the Shekhinah dwelt in the Temple, I'd like to present the following "time line" of events and would ask that you take note of the parallels between Christ's movements and those of the Shekhinah.
Eusebius says:
Believers in Christ congregate from all parts of the world, not as of old time because of the glory of Jerusalem, nor that they may worship in the ancient Temple at Jerusalem, but...that they may worship at the Mount of Olives opposite to the city, whither the glory [the Shekinah Glory] of the Lord migrated when it left the former city.

Eusebius states that it was during "the siege of Jerusalem" (AD 66 to 70) that "the passing of the Lord [the Shekinah Glory] to the Mount of Olives" took place (Proof of the Gospel, XVIII sect. 294, as quoted in "Secrets of Golgotha" by Ernest Martin)

Eusebius goes on to say that the Shekhinah's move to the Mount of Olives was foretold in Ezekiel (Eze 11:22,23):
...depart from it [from Jerusalem] to the mount opposite the city called the Mount of Olives. And this, too, the prophet Ezekiel anticipates by the Holy Spirit and foretells. For he says: "And the Cherubim lifted their wings, and wheels beside them, and the glory of the God of Israel was on them [and] above them, and he stood on the mount which was opposite to the city."
The Rabbis also speak of this move from the Temple to the Mount of Olives:
"R. Jonathan said: Three and a half years the Shechinah abode upon the Mount of Olives hoping that Israel would repent, but they did not; while a Bath Kol issued announcing, 'Return, O backsliding children (Jer. III, 14), Return unto Me, and I will return unto you (Mal. III, 7).' When they did not repent, it said, 'I will go and return to My place (Hos. V, 15).' Concerning that time it is said, 'Give glory to the Lord your God, before it grow dark' (Jer. XIII, 16): before it becomes dark to you for lack of words of Torah, before it becomes dark to you for lack of words of prophecy, 'and before your feet stumble upon the mountains of twilight.'" (Midrash Rabbah - Lamentations Prologue XXV)

Through the crime of bloodshed the Temple was destroyed and the Shechinah departed from Israel, as it is written, So ye shall not pollute the land wherein ye are; for blood, it polluteth the land ... And thou shalt not defile the land which ye inhabit, in the midst of which I dwell.-hence, if ye do defile it, ye will not inhabit it and I will not dwell in its midst. (Shabbath 33a in the Talmud)

Here we are told: 1. that the Shekhinah left the Temple (Jesus left his heavenly home and came to earth where he "hath not where to lay his head" [Matt 8:20]); 2. stayed on the Mount of Olives for 3 1/2 years (Jesus' ministry was for about that long and he did most of his teaching in the area of the Mount of Olives); 3. waited for Israel to repent but they did not and were especially accused of the crime of bloodshed (Jesus was crucified instead); 4. returned to its place in heaven (Jesus was resurrected and ascended to his heavenly home). When Jesus returns he promises that he will return to the Mount of Olives (Zech 14:4) and when he does he will be accompanied by clouds (Rev 1:7). Before his return to the earth, though, he will gather his people together in the clouds, to meet him in the air (1 Thess 4:13-18).
Zechariah 14:1 Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee. 2 For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city. 3 Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. 4 And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.

Revelation 1:7 Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.

1 Thessalonians 4:13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. 18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

Moving on to the third letter, vav (ו) we see that it is the sixth letter of the aleph-bet. The number six denotes physical completion and according to Rabbi Munk in "The Wisdom of the Alphabet":

The letter vav is the prefix of conjunction; it unites manifold, even opposing, concepts. It is the link connecting heaven and earth. Its form is that of a hook, as indeed its name ווָ means hook. The vav links words and phrases to form sentences; it joins sentences into paragraphs and chapters; it connects one chapter to another; and even unites books. The vav implies close relationship between events and continuity between generations.
This letter draws our attention again to Jesus: 1. he was the perfect man; 2. he is our link between heaven and earth; 3. he unites the Old and the New Testament—he is the continuation of the Old Testament, the walking, talking, breathing Torah.

Jesus as the vav/hook shows up in the most interesting places as shown by the following (also found in Rabbi Munk's book):

"The courtyard of the Mishkan [Tabernacle] was surrounded by curtains suspended from hooks placed at the top of pillars. Scripture refers to these hooks as vavei ha'amudim (Exo 27:10). The columns in the Torah Scroll are also called amudim, and the term vavei ha'amudim is used to describe a custom adopted by many scribes. Whenever possible, they begin each column in the Torah with the letter ו, thus recalling the vavei ha'amudim in the Mishkan (Yoreh Deah 223)."
Here we see the scribes hanging every column of the Torah on hooks/Jesus. Maybe this concept of Jesus as the vav/hook might also help to add a new dimension to the explanation of the Temple veil being rent from top to bottom?

Jesus holds everything up but he was broken for us.

1 Corinthians 11:24 And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.

Ephesians 2:14 For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us

This is beautifully illustrated when it comes to writing the letter vav in Numbers 25:12. When a Torah scroll is being prepared the letter vav in that particular passage is written as if it were broken.
1. Throughout the halacha it is stressed that letters must be written as a complete guf (body) and if they are faded or partly illegible then the work is invalid.

However there is one exemption were the scribe is mandated to make the letter incomplete. The letter in question is the vav in the word shalom in Numbers 25:12. This must be written with a break in the vertical line according to the Ritva (R. Yom Tov ben Avraham Ishbili Spain c. 1250-1330), though some think it either a small vav or a normal vav but a little shorter "in front."


The text concerns a covenant of peace (brit shalom) that is offered to Pinchas the somewhat over-zealous and fiery priest who skewered Zimri, the leader of the tribe of Shimon and Kozbi a Midianite woman. Pinchas' act stopped both the Israelite's bout of immoral behaviour and the plague they had been suffering because of it, and he was rewarded for it.

However even the Massoretes must have been shocked by the violence of Pinchas' action as they made his blessing only partial through the broken vav which explains that true peace cannot be brought about through violence and that the two concepts are incompatible.

Similarly the Talmud (Kiddushin 66b) notes that the service of a person must be perfect and without blemish, by reading shalom without the vav as shalem - whole, perfect, sound and translate Numbers 25:12 as ‘behold I give to him my covenant of perfection’ - only when he is perfect and not found wanting. (Vav k'ti'ah - The Broken/Severed 'Vav')

2. The broken VAV renders it YUD-like... (Parashat Pinchas)

3. The peace brought about by Pinchas came through killing. Though bloodshed was necessary at that moment for the sake of all Israel, God—Whose very Name is Shalom—regarded it as a crippled peace. Therefore, the word Shalom contains a broken ו (Oznaim LaTorah, quoted in The Wisdom in the Hebrew Alphabet by Rabbi Munk)

Jesus was "wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed" (Isa 53:5). In other places in the KJV the word "wounded" is translated as: profaned; polluted; defiled; broken; eaten; slain, etc. His brokenness lead to reconciliation with the Father. Just as Pinchas took a spear and drove it into the enemy, "one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his [Jesus'] side, and forthwith came there out blood and water" (John 19:34)—the blood that covers everything with the water of Torah (water is often a metaphor for the Torah according to the Sages).

In Jewish writings this blood and water combination is not a new concept, it was introduced in the desert when Moses struck the rock:

Jonathan ben Uzziel, in his Targum on #Nu 20:11 says that

"Moses smote the rock twice, at the first time "blood dropped out": and at the second time abundance of waters flowed out."

The same is affirmed by others* elsewhere in much the same words and order.

*Shemot Rabba, sect. 3. fol. 94. 1. Zohar in Num. fol. 102. 4

(The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible)
The broken vav speaks of Jesus who has come "to guide our feet into the way of peace" (Luke 1:79)—he is the perfect shalom and having been washed by his blood we are now accorded a peaceful reconciliation with the Father.

The broken vav is not the only time this letter is used in an unusual way in the Old Testament. Five times Elijah's name is written without the vav at the end and five times Jacob's name is written with an extra vav. It seems that Elijah had something that Jacob did not and it was transferred to him on five occasions. Five, according to "Number in Scripture" is the number of grace and the letter heh is also the fifth in the Hebrew aleph-bet. Here we see that Elijah understood Divine grace and this was transferred to Jacob who, the rabbis say, took the vav and is keeping it as a "pledge" until the time that Elijah returns to announce the coming of the Messiah. This falls into line with a concept that we see over and over in the Talmud: if there is something that is so mysterious that no one can give a definitive answer regarding it, they state that this is one of the things that Elijah will decide when he returns. It looks as if Elijah will be telling Jacob that he had the answer to all his questions in his own hands all the time.

It is interesting to note that the name Jacob is used above instead of Israel. Some of the Sages state that when Jacob is referred to as Jacob it is usually to refer to physical matters and when they are spiritual matters he is addressed as Israel. This stresses the physicality of the letter vav and also might point to Jacob not being ready to understand loftier spiritual things? Names in the Torah point to the soul of a person and a new name usually represents an enhancement of that soul.

Speaking of the number five and Elijah this makes me think of Passover. During different stages of the meal cups of wine are drunk. There are usually four cups for the four expressions of redemption as stated in Exodus 6:6-7. The rabbis, however, couldn't decide whether there should be five cups with the last cup relating to the end of the Exodus passage where God states he will bring his people to the promised land. Some argued that the last part shouldn't be celebrated because it hadn't happened yet, so as a compromise, they declared that the last cup was to be poured but not drunk. This has trickled down into the prevailing explanation for this last cup which now is believed to be poured so that Elijah can drink from it. But when Elijah returns he will explain the real significance of this last cup of wine; he will declare that they should have been drinking this cup for the past 2,000 years except that they refused the way into the promised land by deciding that God's methods were not to their liking. When Jesus was sent to lead them home, they rejected him. Ever since his death they have been looking at his blood in that last cup and wondering and longing for something they ultimately vehemently reject. When Elijah returns he will tell them to pour that cup and drink it for there was another way that God redeemed his people and that was by sending his son Jesus Christ, the Messiah, as the perfect sin offering on their behalf and that this Jesus has/will restore and fulfill every promise ever made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Let us now look at the fourth letter, heh, which is a repeat of the second. We will concentrate on its use in the creation of the spiritual life of man. The work of the Ru'ah ha-Kodesh is perfectly illustrated by the following story concerning Nicodemus and his need to be born again:

John 3:1 There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: 2 The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. 3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. 4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born? 5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. 8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. 9 Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be? 10 Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? 11 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. 12 If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? 13 And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: 15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. 18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. 21 But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.
Not everyone is born again and taught of the Ru'ah ha-Kodesh, only the righteous (tzaddikim) are given that privilege.
"All that the righteous do, they do with the power of Ru'ah ha-Kodesh" (Tanh. Va-Yehi 13).

This spiritual rebirth is aptly demonstrated in the renaming of Abram. He was given an extra heh in his name—he received elevated status by the insertion of heh and came into closer contact with God. When God made the covenant with Abram to be his God and to give him the promised land he changed his name to Abraham to commemorate that auspicious moment and to seal their new relationship, you could say he was born-again. This is also a concept that shouldn't be foreign to Judaism for most Siddurs (prayer books) contain a prayer for the sick where someone who is either sick or living in perilous circumstances changes their name to somehow thwart the evil decree against them—they are given a new name so that everything attached to the old one cannot follow them and they essentially start over again. One of the four things that "cancel the doom of man" is changing the name (Rosh Hashanah 16b) and according to the Encyclopaedia Judaica:

In the Ashkenazi rite the change of name is effected by pronouncing a special Mi she-Berakh prayer which contains the following passage: "Just as his [her] name has been changed, so may the evil decree passed on him [her] be changed from justice to mercy, from death to life, from illness to a complete cure." (The Sephardi rite has a different formula.)

The new name given to a person is henceforth used in addition to his former name...for all religious purposes (e.g., to be called up to the Torah, in a bill of divorce, on the tombstone, etc.).

When you are spiritually born again you go from death to life, from separation from God to perfect reconciliation through his son Jesus Christ and you receive a new name to reinforce this new life. This is the name your Father has chosen for you before the foundation of the world and everyone that is His will be accounted for in the world to come seeing their doom in the lake of fire has been cancelled through faith in the Messiah. Lift your eyes and behold. Alleluia!

This concept of a new name is addressed again in the book of Revelation. The Pergamos overcomers will be privy to heavenly secrets and like the Olympic games of ancient times, will have a white stone given to them with their name engraved upon it:

Revelation 2:17 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.
Hidden manna is another area that should be familiar for the Sages teach that the righteous will partake of it again when Messiah comes. The book of Revelation states that even the Messiah, too, will go through a sort of evolution that calls for a name change:
Revelation 3:12 Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.
When Jesus the Messiah returns he will finally be seen in all his power and glory, in his rightful place with the complete attributes of who he is clearly defined by this new name. When he returns the whole nation of Israel will receive this new birth and they will all become
י-ה-ו-ה's prophets and able to speak with God face to face. At that time the spiritual birth housed in the last heh of Hashem's name will come to fruition and be manifested particularly in his chosen nation.
Blessed are You, HASEHM, our God, King of the universe, Who selected us from all the peoples and gave us His Torah. Blessed are You, HASHEM, Giver of the Torah. Blessed are You, HASHEM, for not having allowed me to live forever spiritually blind to the Messiah Jesus.

To recap, we have י-ה-ו-ה:

This seems to encompass the universe and everything in it. It also makes me wonder if this same concept can be used to help explain the documentary hypothesis and its talk of who wrote the Pentateuch. Scholars usually split the authoriship of the Torah into four different sources: Jahvist/Yahwist (=yod?); Elohist (=vav?); Priest (=2nd heh?); Deuteronomic = (1st heh?). They believe there are four different sources but I believe they are all one and the same. J, E, P and D each emphasize different things just as different names for God stress different attributes. This is an extremely simplified statement on an extraordinarily complicated issue but sometimes the simplest explanation does turn out to have some merit. Anyway...

This all started with Moses who had a more intimate relationship with the Deity. He was addressed by Y-H-W-H and was given insight into things that the ordinary Israelite was not. Pray that your dealings with Hashem reach the heights that Moses did.


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