© 2020 by Rabbi Zvi Aviner


  IDOLATRY-3/Know Your Creator’s Names



Know your CREATOR, know yourself, and k now the difference


1: The First, positive Commandment


Moses’ top Commandment on the Tablets  says

  1. I Am
  2. The Lord your God
  3. Who took you out of Egypt

Seen as an INTRODUCTION, the verse introduced the Speaker- God- with His Names and titles. By this, we’ve said, the Speaker informs us How to address Him in our prayers and Blessings.  There must be a good reason why He chose those particular Titles and Names – for our benefits, as we’ll see.

So what are these Names?  .

2: Lord your God

Line 1 above – “I Am”- introduces the “Essence” or “Self” of the CREATOR.  We’ll discuss that notion later, not before we’ve  discussed Line 2 that  says

2. “LORD your GOD”

In English these titles are impressive, “royal” titles that express awe and reverence.  Nothing wrong with that.  Only that in the original Hebrew the line actually says –

2. “YHVH (translated LORD) EeLoHiM (translated GOD)

What are these Hebrew terms?  Here is a rule.  Throughout the entire Torah- 

LORD stands for Y*H*V*H 

GOD stands for EeLoHiM


Y*H*V*H (read letter by letter)  stands for  the Attribute of MERCY, COMPASSION and FORGIVENESS

EeLoHiM stands the Attribute of JUDGMENT and JUSTICE


Line 1 – I Am- presents the CREATOR’S Essence or Self 

Line 2 – YHVH your EeLoHiM- presents the CREATOR’S Attributes of Mercy and Judgment 


The CREATOR is beyond our human conception.  He is beyond any description. No words can contain Him.

And yet, He appears throughout the Bible (Torah) in terms comprehended by humans – for our benefit.   For He wishes us to know that we stand in a life-long JUDGMENT that requires the input of MERCY and COMPASSION to achieve FORGIVENESS.


Where in the Bible (Torah) we can find the definition of the Attributes? Both YHVH and EeLoHiM appear and are defined in Genesis Chapter One- the story of CREATION.

The rabbis have said that since Man is created in the image and form of the CREATOR, Man too possesses a “self: and “attributes” such as mercy and judgment.  If we know the CREATOR, we would also know ourselves- provided we don;t err to ignore the difference.


3: God’s Kingship


Having discussed lines 1 and 2, let’s move to line 3 that says

Line 3: Who took you out of Egypt Land

After presenting His Self, then His Attributes, the Speaker – God- describes His Deeds .  He is the one who had taken the people out of Egypt Land.  This is how He wishes them to remember Him.

He could have chosen  more impressive sorts of Deeds, like “Who has created the Universe.” But  addressing the people who had just got out of Egypt, there was nothing more impressive than being their Redeemer.

Line 3 is therefore referred to as God’s Kingship, since it describes how He interferes and controls our human history.  The rabbis called that line “The King of the Universe.”

Thus looking at the three lines we have

SELF (I am)

ATTRIBUTES (The Merciful and the Judgmental )

KINGSHIP (Deeds, The One Who Took you Out of Egypt)


Now we can understand why it is important to know God by this structure presented by the Commandment.  it tells us about our TRIAL. Thus –

Man looks upwards and sees God above him.

First he sees God’s KINGSHIP. that controls our lives.

Above the KINGSHIP are God’s Attributes who present the Heavenly Court that assesses us.  The Court is comprised by the Two Attributes- of Judgment and of Mercy.  The Attributes debates our fate – where the JUDGE EeLoHiM acts as our harsh prosecutor, while the MERCIFUL YHVH acts in our defense.

The SELF above the Attributes acts as the final Arbiter.  Once the SELF has issued a decree,it goes down to KINGSHIP for execution in the real world .

The USA government can show an example.  The Congress debate our case, decide and issues a verdict that expresses its  Will.  The decision passes the decision to the Presidency for execution in the real world  .

Now what are the Attributes YHVH and EeLoHiM?