© 2020 by Rabbi Dr Zvi Aviner
Y-H-V-H, the Beautiful Acronym of MERCY
Know your CREATOR, know yourself and know the difference
1: YHVH in the First of the Ten Commandment
We have started our study of IDOLATRY by reading the First of Moses’ Ten Commandments. It obliges us to KNOW the Speaker – G-d – by the very Names and Titles that He has chosen to present Himself, namely –
- I AM
- YHVH your ELKM
- Who took you out of Egypt Land
Line 2 presents YHVH and ELKM – His Attributes of MERCY and JUSTICE respectively. Moses does not elaborate on these Names here, since he assumes that the reader is already familiar with them from Genesis.
So far we’ve learned about ELKM from Genesis Chapter One.
Now we are about to study about YHVH from the end of that Chapter.
2: Could Adam Win and be Very Good?
Last class we summarized ELKM’s demands from Adam. In order for Adam to win and be “Very Good,” Adam needs to –
- Emulate ELKM and rule Earth as a King Who Consults, rather than as a “Tyrant”
- Be Modest, control his inflated Ego
- Accept the CREATOR Kingship over his own kingship
- Withstand the IDOLATRY traps
Could Adam, equipped with Free Will and strong desires and motives – reach these goals and be Very Good in ELKM’s eyes? The stakes are high, since failing his trial would mean that Adam would not see the next Day. Moreover, CREATION would fail, and be terminated by ELKM with wrath.
ELKM therefore has already made a major concession towards Adam, by ‘stepping down’ and speaking in plural, as a KING Who Consults. Under the new Kingship, new Court, any mishap of Adam would be more tolerable, compared to the “old’ Dictatorship of ELKM during the Six Days.
But that concession wasn’t enough. As long as ELKM kept adding features and demands on Adam, like the Trial of IDOLATRY, Adam might certainly fail. The watching Angels for instance worried about that, the rabbis said, since if ELKM would terminate the World, they would be terminated too, having been made on the Second Day.
ELKM, in His Kindness, therefore took another step towards Adam
3: ELKM invited MERCY to Share Adam
Turning to another Attribute of the Infinite, Nameless CREATOR, namely the Attribute of MERCY whose acronym is Y-H-V-H, ELKM asked: “Would you join me in ruling my Universe?”
Indeed, by Joining ELKM in the Heavenly Court, YHVH would offer Adam a chance to REPENT and ask FORGIVENESS. Something that ELKM never does.
The verse shows, as you’ll soon see, that the Attribute of MERCY, YHVH, entered our world from the Sabbath where She Dwells. She entered the Sixth Day as-
A thin Ray of Light, or as
A Shy, Modest Dove, or as
A beautiful Cherub.
Entering our Sixth Day from her Domain, the Sabbath, “She: OBSERVED our World, not unlike a BRIDE who enters Her GROOM’S house for the first time, wondering whether or not She would be comfortable there.
No one was there to record their Consultation, but it must have gone like this:
She said: How can I share the rule of your World, ELKM, where there is no creature capable of comprehending me and performing my work?
Indeed, would the spider, the crocodile or the snake comprehend MERCY, COMPASSION and FORGIVENESS? Even if they have developed an intelligent society in million more years, they would never ever comprehend YHVH’s Values.
And She said: How can I share your world, ELKM, where I have no PLACE to REST MY WINGS or Dwell?
Indeed, in Her Domain, the Eternal Sabbath, YHVH needs NO REST, for there She neither creates nor judges nor works. Her Sabbath is a Day of Endless Joy, Love and Holiness. She seeks to REST only here, in ELKM’S World.
Hearing the BRIDE’S hesitations, ELKM said:
Let us make an Adam in our Form and Our Image
His tone was softer, not unlike a GROOM “begging” His BRIDE to join Him in making a child – Adam (Zohar.) This is why MERCY always overrides JUDGMENT in the Heavenly Court.
And He meant:
Adam will be our child. In our Form and Image
In his heart, you YHVH would dwell…. if he invites you in
In his Sabbath, you could rest…if he observes it
In his heart, he would unite us, abiding by my laws and doing your Mercy, Compassion and Forgiveness
If he accomplishes all that, we would feel Very Good about him, and allow him to enter Your Sabbath, your Kingdom of MERCY.
Think of it in term of a human judge who sits on a case and exercise his judgment according to the absolute justice and the sheer law. After reaching a verdict, that might be harsh, the judge relax and summons his other faculty- his ability to exercise mercy and compassion and forgiveness. Only after combining the two – justice with mercy- the judge would issue his final verdict.
This was the Plan to make Adam in YHVH ELKM Oneness.
Adam would emulate the CREATOR- abide by ELKM’s Laws and perform YHVH’s values of Mercy, Compassion and Forgiveness. This way YHVH would “remain” in our world and Adam would have a chance to win.
4 . Consolidating the World In Oneness
Y-H-V-H agreed, and the two Attributes ‘Flew’ together over CREATION, Consolidating it by their Love and Oneness. As it is said: “On the Day that YHVH ELKM re-created the Earth and the Heavens.” (Genesis 2: 4)
Like two Cherubs in Love, holding Wing against Wing, they Flew over CREATION and consolidated it.
Moses indeed depicted them as two Golden Cherubs hovering over the Holy Ark. They had a face of a boy and a girl looking at each other with Love.
The story is told in a Psalm that the Levite Choir chanted every Friday. It says
“The Psalms song for the Sixth Day
YHVH has reigned….
The World was CONSOLIDATED…
Henceforth it would not falter…” (Psalms)
On the eve of the Sixth Day, it says, the world was consolidated – by YHVH in it, so that “it would not falter.”
5. CREATING ADAM
Then, holding Wing against Wing, the two Attributes ‘formed’ the Adam from the dust of the ground, as it is said
And YHVH ELKM formed the Adam from the dust of the ground
And He blew His Breath into Adam’s nostrils
And Adam became a Living creature
Although the Plan was uttered in plural, but in practice, as it is said, ELKM created Adam in His Image. The idea is repeated, as if to emphasize it.
ELKM, the All Mighty JUDGE, would NOT plant MERCY and COMPASSION and FORGIVENESS in Adam’s heart, as another natural reflex. ELKM, who follows only the Absolute Justice, would not Plant in Adam the feature of YHVH, the Attribute of MERCY.
Indeed, none of ELKM’s creatures of the entire Six Days possesses any notion of MERCY, COMPASSION and FORGIVENESS. Even if they would excel and develop farther, none of them would ever know MERCY, because YHVH NEVER PARTICIPATED IN THEIR MAKEUP.
But ELKM could and did carve out a room in Adam’s heart, capable of accepting YHVH in it and perceiving Her features of MERCY, COMPASSION and FOTGIVENESS.
ELKM would prepare the room, but it would be up to Adam to accept YHVH in his heart where She would Dwell.
“To Dwell” in Hebrew is Li-shkon. The “part” of YHVH that Dwells in our heart is the Shekhinah.
Adam should recognize YHVH while he lives in ELKM’s world, something that no other creature would ever do.
6: The Text: YHVH entering our World
At the End of the Sixth Day it says:
And EloKiM made the animals…cattle…and everything creeping
And EloKiM saw that is was good…
And ELoKim said let us make Adam in our form and our image…
And ELoKiM blessed them saying be fruitful and multiply…
And EloKiM said behold, I have given you all the grass…
And ELoHiM saw everything that He had done and behold, it was
VERY GOOD (Tov Meod) And it was evening, and it was morning,
Y om (Day)
H a Shishi, (Sixth) (Genesis 1:31)
…………………………the Sabbath ………………………….
V aYechulu (and they ended)
H aShamyim (the Heaves)And the Earth, VeHaaretz, and all their hosts,
And ELoHiM finished all the work he had done,
And ELoHiM finished on the Seventh Day His work which He had done,
And He abstained on the Seventh Day from all His work which He had done
And ELKM blessed the Seventh Day…” (Genesis 2: 1-2)
The above is a quotation of Genesis Chapter One showing the transition between the Sixth and the Sabbath Days.
The Sixth Day is colored red- under the rule of GOD (ELKM)
The Sabbath is colored blue- under the rule of the LORD (YHVH)
The dotted line marks the end of the Sixth Day (our world) as it turns into the Eternal Sabbath
YHVH enters, as an Acronym, our Sixth Day from the Sabbath
Half of the Acronym, Y-H, dwells in our Sixth Day
The other half, V-H, still dwells in the Sabbath Day
As YHVH enters, She OBSERVES our Sixth Day.
7: What then should Adm do to win?
With the advent of MERCY in the Heavenly Court, Adam would have more DEFENSE and a better chance to win and see the next Day, the Sabbath.
But alas! There is no free lunch. The Merciful Y-H-V-H came in with Her own expectations from Adam. She does not care about us keeping the Laws of ELKM as She would care about us meeting Her Values of being merciful, compassionate and forgiving like Her. Otherwise She would not Protect us. In fact, we might even make Her angry at us, by being Evildoers, by performingthe opposite of what She likes.
With YHVH in the Court we have new terms, new vocabulary.
Whenever we have transgressed ELKM’s Laws we’ve become sinners
Whenever we have enraged YHVH we’ve become ‘evil’ in Her eyes.
ELKM the JUDGE weights our deeds on His Scale to see whether we are righteous or wicked, sinners
YHVH assesses our heart and thoughts as well as our deeds to see whether or not we’d “find face in Her eyes.” Her reaction to us is “emotional.”
8: How would Adam bring ELKM to Feel Very Good?
Kabbalah (mystic tradition) sees here much deeper aspect of YHVH joining ELKM in the Heavenly Court:
ELKM LONGS to enter the Sabbath, not unlike a GROOM longing to meet His BRIDE.
If Adam helps to Bring the Sabbath, then, ELKM would feel Very Good about the entire CREATION, particularly about Adam.
A hint for that is given in the verse at the End of Chapter One that says :
“EeLKM finished (khalah) all the work that He had done”
Here the Hebrew word for ‘finished,’ khalah, means also a BRIDE, khalah
The BRIDE is, of course, the next Day, the Sabbath.
When ELKM would “meet” the Sabbath, His Bride, He would ‘finish’ His work, and ‘abstained’ from more work. (The word Sabbath means abstained).
If ELKM is like a KING Who Consults, the Sabbath is His Queen.
If you’ve entered any synagogue at Friday evening before the Sabbath, you’d hear the congregation chanting: ““Go My Groom Towards the Sabbath….for She is the Sabbath the Queen”
The very verse also hints for the worst scenario:
If Adam has failed to bring the Sabbath, failed to be Very Good,
Then ELKM would ‘finish” His work WITH WRATH, terminate it or revert it to nothingness, aas He had done to numerous other Universes before.
9: The Ideal Adam
When ELKM said ‘ Let Us Make an Adam in Our Form and Our Image,” to which “Form and Image” was He referring ?
The Infinite CREATOR, of course, has neither “form of image” and no body. IN fact, H eis beond our human conception.
The rabbis explained the verse like that:
When ELKM ’invited’ YHVH to participate in the making of Adam,
He had an “Image and Form” of an IDEAL ADAM on His mind,
into which Adam should grow and evolve.
This ideal Adam should be like the ‘form and image’ of YHVH ELKM in Oneness.
Hence unlike all previous creatures, Adam would not be made ready for his task in life.
Adam would have to grow and learn to be that “ideal Adam” that YHVH ELKM had on His Mind.
This might take time, long time, the whole human history.
Adam therefore is still evolving, through the process of LEARNING.
That is why ELKM planted in us a Wise Mind.
Not only that we would invent I Phones, but rather so that we would accept YHVH into our hearts and unite Her there with ELKM. We need to combine MERCY with JUSTICE.
In that sense, when ELKM said “Let Us Make an Adam” He talked to us, to Adam. We can make and improve ourselves to become – not just good- but Very Good.
1: YHVH is an acronym
Y-H-V-H is an acronym made of the following words:
ha Y a (he was)
H o V eh (he is)
y H yeh (he will be)
In Hebrew it rhymes and sounds beautifully
Some translate Y-H-V-H as Eternal, which is inaccurate, since ELKM too is Eternal.
The acronym expresses the notion that although Y-H-V-H appears ‘late’ in the story of Genesis, only in connection to the creation of Adam, we should know that ‘She’ was before, She is now, and She will be even on the Eternal Sabbath, when ELKM would have ‘ceased’ His work and abstained from doing more work!
2. How should YHVH be pronounced?
As an acronym, Y-H-V-H should be pronounced as an acronym: letter by letter. As you’d pronounce other acronyms such as C-B-S, N-B-C or C-N-N, letter by letter with no VOWELS separating the consonants.
How wrong is to mispronounce YHVH as JeHoVah, Yehowah or Yahwah. This distortion is not only rude but more important: it betrays a total ignorance of the acronym’s meaning.
In Hebrew, Y-H-V-H is pronounced ONLY as the letters Yod-Heh-Vav-Heh. Never with any vowels inserted between the consonants.
We also tend to REPLACE Y-H-V-H by another Name given by Abraham: Aa-Do-Nai, which means ‘My Master,’ ‘My Owner’ wrongly translated as LORD).
In daily speech we refer to YHVH as “The Name,” Ha-SheM.
In Summary, in contrast to Science that sees Adam mostly as Wise Man, Moses sees Adam as a possible Merciful Man, capable of Compassion and Forgiveness, something that is beyond sheer logic.
- The end of Genesis Chapter One can be summarize in the following diagram: (from right to left)
Each Attribute judges Adam from its side. Adam need to be Very Good by both YHVH and ELKM eyes.
Adam is like a child holding the two Attributes together. This structure of the Heavenly Court: YHVH-Adam-ELKM is repeated in the Torah , like before the Flood and in the the Binding of Isaac.
:2. As our world is traveling in history towards the future, it can get ‘lost’ in the “Super Space”. it can wobble with no direction. The presence of YHVH here, the Y-H (pronounced YaH) is likened to an anchor which steady its course towards the Sabbath. YHVH is likened to a lighthouse that shows our Universe the way to the Sabbath’ safe shores .
- If YHVH leaves us and “fly away” back to Her Domain, our Universe would be lost. Without Her, our Universe would be terminated – khalah- by ELKM, to nothingness.
4: YHVH reigns ‘alone’ over the next Day, the Eternal Sabbath
5. ELKM reigned ‘awesomely alone’ over the Six Days, before creating Adam.
6. Adam lives today under YHVH ELKM in Oneness.
5: In Kabbala, ELKM is often referred to as “The One Who fills the World.” His Name appears 32 times ( 32 is Lb and is ‘heart’) in Chapter One
7. YHVH is called “The One Who Surrounds all worlds.” YHVH surrounds everything, including ELKM. .
8 The Eternal Sabbath is not just another Floor over our Six Floor Universe. It is, rather, the next phase of our ENTIRE Universe, into which it travels.
9 When the Eternal Sabbath arrives, ELKM will ABSTAIN from doing more work, ABSTAIN from doing more Judgment, ABSTAIN from paying back measure for measure. The Sabbath is a Day that knows no SORROW and no DEATH, but also no BIRTH. It is a Day of endless LOVE, JOY and HOLINESS.
10 : Our weekly Sabbath is only a ‘taste’ of the true, Eternal Sabbath.
11: If you enter a Synagogue on Friday evening, you’d hear the congregation chanting the “Welcome of the Sabbath” service. They would chant:
Walk My Groom Towards the Bride,
the face of the Sabbath we will welcome.”
It Is a moving, joyful service. The Bride is either (1) The Sabbath (2) Creation (3) YHVH who dwells in the Sabbath (Rabbi Dov Soloveichick Z”TL)
12 Had ELoKiM continued to rule the World Awesomely Alone, He would have terminated it – finished it – with wrath.
13. Had YHVH ruled our world Awesomely Alone, Adam would have failed. For without fearing ELKM, who wouldn’t sin? If every sin is assured to be forgiven by MERCY, who wouldn’t sin?
14. That is why our World must be ruled by YHVH ELoKiM, in Oneness
15. The Torah wants us to focus on our days, rather than on the futuristic Eternal Sabbath. .
16: YHVH ELoKiM’s Oneness is not just a philosophical or theological principle, but rather a way of life. We are COMMANDED to UNITE the Opposing Attributes YHVH and ELKM in our hearts and deeds. We must unite Justice with Mercy, as tough as it might be.
17: In her Domain, the Eternal Sabbath, YHVH does NOT appear as Merciful and Compassionate. After all, in the Sabbath, there is neither sin nor retribution, no suffering and no pains. There is no need for COMPASSION there. The Sabbath is a Day of sheer Holiness.
It is only here, in ELKM’s world, that YHVH’s pure Light “assumes” the value of MERCY, COMPASSION and FORGIVENESS. it is only here that She appears as the opposite of ELKM. .
18: It is only here in ELKM’s world that the BRIDE YHVH ‘accommodates’ Herself to the GROOM’S value of Judgment. Here, She too assesses Man, using Her yardstick.
19: And it is in order to accommodate Her, that the GROOM too has changed His ways, becoming a KING Who Consults. It is as if the GROOM had to become Modest, to approach Her. The BRIDE would NOT agree to Consult ELKM as long He was a Dictator. In other words- Modesty is Her Feature.
20 Remember that the fore part of YHVH that has penetrated our World, the Y-H, is called “The Shekhinah,” “the Dweller.”
The Y-H may be pronounced Yah, like in Jeremiah, Isaiah. But the full Acronym Y-H-V-H is always pronounced LETTER BY LETTER! The V-H has no pronunciation at all, since it lies beyond our Universe. .
21: YHVH actually surrounds everything, including ELKM. Some say that ELKM came first to the story of Genesis only to render YHVH a meaning. .
22: Moses said to Israel:
“Hear O Israel,
YHVH is our ELKM,
YHVH is One”
We live under line 2, under YHVH ELKM,
In the future we will all live under YHVH, the “Kingdom of Mercy.” it!
23: Remember- Moses depicted the Attributes as two Golden Cherubs hovering over the Holy Ark. Their faces of a BRIDE and a GROOM looking at each other with Heavenly Love
The “Shekhinah of YHVH” – YH- spoke to the Prophet of Israel from Under the Wings. On that we’ll learn more in Chapter 2, the story of Eden
END OF TORAH CLASS IDOLATRY14
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