IDOLATRY-2/Know My Holy Names

Noahide Seven Commandments Torah classes

© 2017 by Rabbi Zvi Aviner

Torah Class IDOLATRY-2/Know Your Creator’s Names

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

1: The First, positive Commandment

We are using Moses’ Ten Commandments as a platform for learning the IDOLATRY Commandment. In principle it pertains, as we’ve seen, to all Mankind. Yet there are some differences in strictness and punishment between the nations and Israel. Israel is treated more harshly.

As we’ve seen, Moses IDOLATRY Commandment comes in two parts:
The First, ‘positive’ Commandment tells us whom we should worship
The Second, ‘negative’ Commandment tells us about the idols, whom we should worship not.

Let’s start our study with the first,’ positive’ part, that says:

1. “I am
2. The Lord (written YHVH) your G-d (written ELoKiM)
3. Who took you out of Egypt Land.”

Line 1 presents the Essence
Line 2 presents the Attributes (Mercy and Judgment)
Line 3 presents His Kingship (His intervention in human history)

G-d spoke them by Himself
Both the positive and the negative Commandments of IDOLATRY are given in the first voice. In the First, (I Am) the Speaker presents himself. In the Second he says: “Thou shall not make another ELKM over MY face…”

The rest of the Ten Commandments are given in the third voice, the speaker speaking about G-d.

Hence the notion that only the first two were spoken to Israel by G-d Himself, while the rest were given to Moses who in turn delivered them to Israel (Rashi.)

This fact sets the first two Commandments apart from the rest. They are paramount; the base of everything else in the Torah.

let’s observe the first line in the First Commandment “I Am”…
The language here is NOT authoritative, carrying no tone of a Command.
Yet the RaMBaM (Maimonides) counts it as a separate Commandment “to believe in the existence of G-d!” (Book of Mitzvot).

On that, another Jewish Spanish philosopher, Karkash (15 century) asks: how can anyone command someone else to believe in his existence? It does not make any sense!

But the RaMBaM himself writes in another book that the first line (I Am) is a commandment not to believe, but rather to “get to know G-d” (Yad Hachazakah). It commands us to start a process of learning, which at the end would lead to recognize G-d and love him. This process of learning, says the RaMBaM, entails studying Nature as well as the Torah.

But there is a problem: learning science may NOT necessarily bring a person to believe in G-d’s existence. Many scientists, like Einstein, came to believe in an ‘intelligent entity’ that prompted everything and set up the rules of Nature, yet they would not necessarily accept this entity as their KING. Nor would they believe that this aloof entity has any interest in our morality and our history.

In the same token, not every Torah scholar comes to believe in the existence of G-d.

This is why other commentaries regard the “I Am” as an introduction to the Ten Commandment, rather than a Commandment by itself.

But going back to the Talmud, we see that the ancient rabbis regarded the “I Am” as a Command and an instruction to KNOW G-D by these Names, and ADDRESS Him in our prayers and blessings by these NAMES and in the same order they appear in the Commandment.

Thus, for example, the rabbis decreed to bless G-d for bread in the fooling manner:

Blessed is
1. You
2. YHVH (HaSheM) our EeLoKiM
3. The King of the Universe, for bringing out bread from the ground.

Here we have followed exactly the three lines of Moses’ First Commandment.

For illustration:
Suppose I present myself to you, in this class, in the following manner:

1. “I am… (my essence)
2. “Rabbi Doctor Zvi Aviner (my titles, attributes)
3. “And I teach Torah on the Noahide Nations’ Virtual Yeshiva” (thing I do, my kingship)

Presenting myself in this way, I’m obviously implying that I expect you to address me in this fashion. I expect you, my students, not to address me by my personal name, Zvi Aviner, which is reserved to my family or close friends.
I expect you, rather, to address me as “Rabbi Dr. Zvi Aviner.”
I’ve selected these titles for good reasons.
I chose the title ‘Rabbi’ first, because it conveys the message that I am learnt enough to qualify as a teacher of Torah; that I am ordained rabbi.
I’ve also added ‘Doctor’ to infer that I’m also versed in modern science and world’s affairs.
Then I’ve added a third line saying that I have been teaching Torah on this Virtual Yeshiva. This is what I have been doing. This is what I’m doing now. It establishes “authority.”

I have elected to present myself to you in a particular order of the titles.
I started with ‘rabbi’ since speaking to you in this class, this title is more important than my other title Doctor. In my clinic, I would reverse the order. I would introduce myself to my patient “hi, I am Doctor so and so….” And I would never mention my rabbinical ordination.

Hence the names and their order are very important. Changing their order may be offensive. Mispronounce them would also be both rude and betraying ignorance.
If you call me roobi instead of rabbi, it would not only destroy my authority, but may reveal your ignorance, that you are unaware of what the title rabbi convey.
If you call me dactoora, instead of doctor, it would be rude. But it may reveal the fact that you do not know what a doctor means.

This holds true for the Names of G-d appearing in the Ten Commandment.
The Speaker who says
I Am
Who took you out of the land of Egypt”

Is expecting us to KNOW the meaning of these Names and to address Him by their order.
Changing the names, replacing them by other names, mispronouncing them or ignoring them would be (1) rude (2) betray ignorance of their meaning.
He wants us to KNOW that He has a Self (I Am)
He wants us to KNOW that He is Merciful (which YHVH means)
He wants us to KNOW that He is also the All Mighty JUDGE ( which ELoHiM means)
>He wants us to KNOW that He reigns over History (which “Who took you out of Egypt’ infers)

Ignoring these titles and Names,
Or replacing them by other Names,
Or distorting them (pronouncing YHVH as Jehovah, Yawah and the like)
Is not only rude, but betraying IGNORANCE.

We do not utter ‘YHVH’ as a Name. It is an ACRONYM that should be pronounced as an acronym, letter by letter, like in CBS, CNN, ABC.
We often REPLACEYHVH by another Name coined by Abraham: AaDoNai (My Lord.)
Or we simply say “HasheM,” The Name.

So what are these Names?
For that we need to go to Genesis Chapter One, where they appear the first time in the Torah.


Select the best answer

(1) The First line in Moses’ Ten Commandments is (a) an introduction only (b) (B) a commandment only (c) both introduction and a commandment (d) neither a Commandment nor an introduction

(2) In the First of the Ten Commandments, G-d wishes us (a) to believe in His existence (b) to know that He exists (c) to Know Him by these very Names (d) To love Him

(3) G-d presents Himself as having (a)an Essence (b) Attributes (c) a KINGSHIP (d) all the above

(4) Mispronouncing YHVH is (a) rude ((b) offensive (c) betraying ignorance (d) all the above

(5) The first of the Ten Commandments tells us (a) who the speaker is (b) whom we should worship (c) that He rules over history (d) all the above

(6) In the First of the Ten Commandments, the Speaker (a) lists the idols (b) threatens us with punishments (c) promises us to return to Eden (d) none of the above

(7) YHVH is (a) the attribute of Mercy (b) the attribute of Judgment (c)the attribute of Kingship (d) an independent deity

(8) ELoHiM is (a) the Essence (b) the Attribute of Mercy(c) The Attribute of Kingship (d) the Attribute of Judgment

(9)Where can we find the meaning of the names YHVH and ELoHiM? (a) in the Book of Exodus (b) in Leviticus (c) In the prophet Amos (d) In Genesis Chapter One

(10)To comply with the IDOLATRY Commandment in full, we need to (a) only avoid worshipping idols (b) only to avoid worshipping anyone (c) to avoid worshiping the ‘other side’ (d) to KNOW G-d by these Titles and names


Read also: “Genesis Vs. Science, Can They Match?” By Zvi Aviner, at