The Sacred Names of Hashem

The Sacred Names of Hashem

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A name defines. It reveals to us a meaning. When we call something by a name, we define it and create a relationship with that thing. Once we define the subject or object, we can interact appropriately. Being lodged in a three-dimensional universe, we need definitions and descriptions to help us navigate. This is all true when it comes to created reality, a thing that came into being. When it comes to the Creator, however, there is no description or definition. Being the Context, no description—which is content—can be just. The Creator, G-d, is Endless, Infinite, Formless and Transcendent.

While this is true, instinctively we seek to foster a relationship, a connection. We reach out and wish to encounter the Divine. Moreover, we affirm that a mitzvah allows for this connection, and more precisely, that prayer enables us to blossom in this relationship—because while the “essence” of the Creator is unmanageable as a content, the formless infinite light becomes manifest in various “forms.” These forms are the sacred names of G-d, with each name representing another aspect of our relationship to the Divine and of its revealtion to us. Clearly there is only ONE, but these represent aspects in our relationship to the One.

The Midrash tells us, “G-d said to Moses: You want to know My name? I am called by My deeds. When I judge My creatures, I am called…When I wage war…I am called…. When I tolerate the inequities of man, I am called…When I have compassion on My world, I am called…”

“Hashem Echad- G-d is One.” There is total unification of all names—all are expressions or deeds of The One—though to us they appear as divergent manifestations, names such as ‘Compassion’ and ‘Judgment.’

The Talmud (Shavuot 35a) mentions that there are certain Divine names that may not be erased. This becomes the source of the “seven names that should not be erased.” Let’s begin by exploring the highest name, the “actual tree itself,” or the higher reaches of the chain, and then move on to the branches and the lower links of the chain.

*The names above are written the way they would be pronounced in everyday conversation, where the letter Hei, as in H, is replaced with the Kuf as in K, for example, Elokim in the place of Elo-Him. However in prayer itself, these names should be pronounced with their proper letters Hei.


Hashem—The Name

This name is referred to as the “shem ha’mefurash- the explicit name” or the “shem ha’etzem-essential name” This name, which in English is called the Tetragrammaton, is not pronounced. The precise pronunciation and articulation of the four letters Yud-Hei-Vav-Hei has been lost over time, though it very well may be that it never had a “verbal” linguistic pronunciation. Since it is not verbalized and pronounced, it is simply called Hashem-The Name.

This is the highest and deepest name. In the image of the early Kabbalists, it is the actual tree with all the other names mere branches. A way to refer to this name is as the name ha’va’ya, which is a permutation of the four letters that comprise this name. Ha’va’ya means haviya-being, the Ultimate Being which is the source of all beingness. Ha’va’ya just Is.

Ultimate Being that does not depend on anything else to be, it is Primordial Being, which gives rise to all beings and brings all “things” into existence ex nihilo, a some-thing from a no-thing. The last three letters of the name Hei-Vav-Hei create the word hoveh, the root of the verb that means [to bring into] being. The first letter Yud serves as a prefix to the verb hoveh, and it modifies the verb to represent that this action—of the creation of all created beings—is ever present and continuous.

These four letters Yud-Hei-Vav-Hei can spell out the word for past- hayah, as in Hei-Yud-Hei, and spell out the word for present- hayve, Hei-Vav-Hei. And when the Vav is exchanged for a Yud, since Vav in its shape is an elongated Yud, can spell out the word for future, yi’hiye, Yud-Hei-Yud-Hei. This name represents the Infinite Transcendence, beyond time, extending from past into future and beyond all definitions of time—absolute unity.

Yet, being the source of all being, these four letters reflect the entire inner structure of creation, the “four worlds” and the entire array of the ten sefirot. The ten sefirot are as follows: Keter-crown, deep desire. The mind sefirot: Chochmah-wisdom & intuition and Binah- reason & comprehension. The six emotional sefirot (the first three interior emotions are Cha’gat): Chesed-kindness & love, Gevurah- strength & restraint, and Tiferet-compassion & beauty. (The next three are outer implementing emotions, Ne’hi): Netzach- victory & ambition, Hod-humility & devotion, and Yesod- foundation & relationship. The receiving sefira: Malchut- kingship & receptiveness.

Viewing the inner image of the “four worlds” of creation in a descending order, the highest level is no-thing-ness, “spirituality.” It’s the world/reality/perspective where the vessel is completely unified with the light so that all that is seen is the Divine Light. This corresponds to the small letter, the small vessel of yud, also reflecting chachmah-divine wisdom.

From this no-thing-ness comes the creation of ex nihilo, a something-ness. The vessel begins to clearly separate from the light, but it is not yet a full “thing”, rather similar to raw substance with no particular formation. This is the world/reality/perspective of beriah-creation. This expansiveness into a some-thing corresponds to the letter Hei, which has both vertical and horizontal value. It also corresponds to binah.

Next emerges the world/reality/perspective of yetzira-formation. It is where “things” begin to form in particular formation. The vessel is becoming more pronounced and less and less of the Light, the Source is revealed. This movement downward, as it were, is reflected in the letter Vav. Being also Vav is the sixth letter in the Aleph Bet, it corresponds to the six emotional sefirot.

The densest level of vessel perspective is asiya-action. It is a world/reality/perspective of physicality and materiality. In asiya, form and substance come together in an orderly fashion. Asiya represents the bottom, the receiver that absorbed all the energy flowing downward; thus, it corresponds to malchus and the final letter of the name, the letter Hei.

Above this entire image is keter-crown, also known as adam kadmon, which is represented by the “kotza shel yud-the spike about the letter Yud”, the point where infinity and the early emergence of finitude merge.

So while inherently this name is connected with all reality, it is more specifically related to the aspect of divine mercy and compassion, related to the Sefira of Tiferet, which is the position of front.

Being the Infinite, it is also the name most associated with the miraculous, more pointedly with miracles which seem to defy the more or less predicable laws of nature.

Today, when this name is vocalized, as it is done throughout the Siddur, it is pronounced as Ado-noi. When pronouncing the name ‘Yud-Hei-Vav-Hei’ as Ado-noi, meditate on the meaning of both names.


The name Ado-noi is a name of its own, it represents the adon h’kol-the Master of all. This is the simple definition as recorded in the code of Jewish Law. Ado-noi is sensed and experienced in the divine majesty and royalty within the universe.

It is the name that is most connected with the Sefira of Malchut, the position of center.

Today Hashem-the Name is pronounced as Ado-noi. So in a way, Ado-noi is the garb, the vessel through which the Name vests itself within creation. This name is Malchut, the receiver, the immanence of the Divine, which allows for the utter Transcendent Infinity to be sensed within creation.

Every time in prayer, when we recite “Amen,” which is a declaration and affirmation, we are confirming and establishing that the Transcendent Source of all blessings is felt in our own life, in real time, that there is absolute unity between Hashem and Ado-noi.

The numerical volume of the word amen is 91. Aleph-1. Mem-40. Nun- 50=91. This corresponds to the two names, Hashem- Yud-10, Hei-5 Vav-6 Hei 5= 26, and Ado-noi,-Aleph-1, Dalet-4. Nun-50. Yud-10= 65. 26+65=91. Amen represents the unity between beyond grasp, infinite, and the immediate finite, between the concealed inner and the revealed outer, between reality in a condition of perfection and reality in a condition of imperfection. The recitation of Amen forges this gap.

To create unity on the “outside” we need to create unity within, and then the cosmic reflects the macrocosmic. Amen, which means G-d, faithful King” (Shabbat 119a) and its acronym is ei-l melech neeman—G-d faithful King, also comes from the word uman-worker, or umnat-trade since it is not simply a magical chant that forges unification on all realms, but rather demands our hard work, the work of unification and reintegration within.

When this name appears on its own as its own name, meditate on the meaning of Ado-noi, and when this name is the vocalization of The Name, meditate on the meaning of both names, Hashem and Ado-noi.


The code of Jewish law defines the name Elokim as the Mighty, The Ruler and Sovereign of the heavens and Earth, the Master of all natural forces, the Force of forces. We get a glimpse of this ruling name as we meditate on the physical laws of nature and the apparent deep symmetrical order of creation. It appears to us as the prose and story line of created reality.

Elokim is connected with the notion of din-strict judgment, the Sefira of Gevurah which sets limitations and apparent constrictions — it is position toward the left.

The creation of the physical—the dimensional and quantifiable—occurs from Elokim. The first words of the Torah are: “In the beginning, Elokim created heaven and earth.” Heaven and earth, up and down, general duality is created through Elokim. That is why the name Elokim itself suggests “duality”—the suffix implies the many, not Eloki-rather Elokim.

Beyond the plural explanation of Elokim as the royal ‘we’, the majestic or excellence, deeper still, the plurality and duality of Elokim is connected with the name itself, which represents the Divine Oneness expressed in the multiplicity of creation.

Creation of duality occurs through a radical tzimtzum-contraction, concealment, withdrawal of the Infinite Light which leaves room for the finite light to emerge, a finite light which eventually Elokim creates. Physical reality, time/space and, essentially, all of nature is reflection of this divine force—so much so that the word for nature in Hebrew, Ha’Teva, has the same numerical value as the word elokim. Both Elokim and Ha’tevah equal 86.

“For (as the) sun and (its) shield are Ha’va’ya (and) Elokim”
(Psalms 84:12).

Sun and shield are as light and her vessel. Elokim is the finite vessel which contains, albeit in a concealed manner, the Infinite light of Ha’va’ya, the Yud-Hei-Vav-Hei. Thus Elokim, which is 86, equals the name Ha’va’ya- 26 with the word kli-vessel- 60; 26+60 = 86.

Being that Elokim is the vessel of Ha’va’ya, it can be divided into two, and it will represent this idea. Elokim can be spilt into two words, elam- muted yud-hei, the shield that mutes and silences the Yud-Hei, that is, the infinite divine energy. Being the source of physicality, this aspect of the Divine shields, as it were, the more transcended energy of Hashem.

Deeper still, Elokim itself embodies both its finite revealed self and its infinite concealed self. Hence, the name Elokim can also be divided into mi-”who” and eile-”these.” The aspects of “who” is the mystery, the hidden, the Infinite Hashem, and yet this hidden has become revealed in the Eile-the “these”—the physical, the multiplicity, the creation.


Shechinah is not a name, per se; rather, it represents the feminine divine presence and indwelling. We get a glimpse of this name when we sense the poetry of creation and the harmonies interwoven of the details of all reality.

There is a Kabbalistic prayer that says; “For the sake of unity between kudsha b’rich hu-The Holy One, Blessed be He, and shechintei- (the shechinah)-the indwelling”

Berich Hu-blessed be He, represents the masculine detached transcendent aspect of divine energy, an encompassing life force that remains unscathed by our finite actions or inaction, whereas the feminine shechinah represents that which is shochen-dwells within, permeating, finite and immediate.

Being physical creations of this world, whatever we do influences, as it were, the level of shechinah—the positive “elevating the shechinah” and the negative causing the shechinah to “fall.” We are the “limbs of the shechinah.” Negatively, every harmful act, not only effects us negatively, but has cosmic influence as we blemish the Divine finite light apportioned to existence, distorting, as well as reducing, the Divine energy immanent within creation. Thus, any time “we are in exile,” the shechina is in exile as well; conversely, when we are redeemed, there is redemption for the shechinah.

This cosmic fall of the shechinah is the disunity between the shechinah and b’rich hu, the “male and female.” To replenish and uplift the shechinah requires reaching for the infinite divine energy that encompass creation. Doing a mitzvah, a positive deed, a transcendent “infinite” noble act, allows us to reach for the infinite and inspire unity between kudsha b’richh hu and Shechinah.

When we recite this prayer, we facilitate an awareness of our actions, and that which is transcended becomes immanent and readily accessible. On a personal level, we perform a yichud when we bring together the way we feel and the way we act, and they are joined in perfect seamless harmony.


The name E-l represents Divine supernal boundless kindness, the Sefira attribute of chesed. The verse in Psalms says, “the chesed of E-l is all the day.” (52:3.) We sense this aspect and expression of the Divine in the kindness within our life and within all the goodness of creation.

E-l represents the Sefira of Chesed and the position toward the right.

In the course of prayers the name E-l comes with an epithet attached to it, as in E-l Elyon-most high E-l, or E-l Gadol-Great E-l.

There are two methods to counting the “thirteen attributes of mercy”: one way, which is the literal interpretation of Rashi and the mystical understanding of the Ari-Zal, is that the first of the thirteen attributes of mercy is the name E-l.

Before there is any movement from a point of Oneness to a creation of (an apparent) duality, from Infinite to Finite, from Divine being within Self to having a relationship with a creation that seems outside of Self, there needs to be a desire to express, to share, to give and offer to an “other.” This initial desire to create a universe is rooted in the aspect of E-l—divine goodness and kindness and the “nature of the good is to do good,” share the goodness with an “other,” a created, apparently separate, existence.

First there arises a desire to connect, to relate, to give, and then, because of this desire, the Infinite contracts and conceals into the level of Elokim, which allows for the creation of the physical. “E-l Elokim Hashem (Yud-Hei-Vav-Hei) diber va’yikra etetz-E-l Elokim Hashem spoke and he called earth.” (Psalms 50:1) The primordial desire to create an otherness comes from E-l divine kindness, a kindness which desires to create an apparently separate existence upon whom He can bestow kindness. Once there is this desire, there then can begin the actual process of creation, which occurs through divine speech.



Eloka represents an aspect of divine kindness, and a kindness that extends and infuses all dimensions of creation. The name is comprised of four letters: the first two are Aleph Lamed, spelling the name E-l; the next two letters are Vav-Hei; and the final two are in the name Yud-Hei-Vav-Hei.

E-l is Chesed. The final two letters in the name Hashem represent the six emotional attributes and the final Sefira of Malchus, the Receiver. The lower dynamic of Vav-Hei is connected with world; thus, these seven Sefiros are embodied in the seven days of the weekly cycle. Eloka is Divine Kindness, which permeates all levels of existence.

Other names connected with E-l are Elokei-the Elokei and Elokienu-our Elokie, where the name is more personal, our G-d.

Elokei is also comprised of four letters, Aleph Lamed for E-l and Hei-Yud the first two letters in the name Yud-Hei-Vav-Hei. The higher dynamic of the Yud-Hei is transcendent and beyond world. Elokei is a chesed that may be too intense to be fully revealed and appreciated in our finite perception of reality.


The name Y-ah is created from the first two letters of the Tetragramoton, the Name of Hashem—the first two letters being the Yud and the upper Hei. Yud, as explained previously, represents chochmah-divine wisdom and intuition, while Hei reflects binah- divine reason and understanding. The reality of this name is sensed in the inner divine wisdom and intelligence which permeates all of creation.

More precisely, Ya-h embodies the Sefira of Chochmah.

Suffering and anxiety in life occurs when a person’s life seems meaningless and without purpose. When all that is observed is the “vessel” and one can not see any “light”, i.e., wisdom, purpose and meaning to the experience, then one suffers. Ya-h is revealed when one senses the wisdom within all creation, even within apparent suffering. One realizes that there is something, some form of wisdom to be gained and learned from every encounter and experience. Nothing is empty of meaning and wisdom.

Yud-Hei are the hidden deeper aspects of the name of Hashem. As the lower dynamic, the Vav-Hei is more revealed. Our world is based primarily on emotion (Vav) and instinct (final Hei). Most people function from an emotional and instinctive place, and mind is less of a controlling factor. Gan Eden-paradise is the world of binah and beyond, where Torah-Mind and Divine reason are revealed.

The perception of suffering, which, in essence, is for the purpose of eventual good—and even “good” within the present—comes from Y-ha- wisdom and meaning.

During the prayers, in particular during the morning Shachrit prayers in the section of “the verses of praise,” we continually offer praise to Y-ah—the word haleluyah (hallelujah) is comprised of two Hebrew words: Halelu-praise and Y-ah. At the end of the “verses of praise,” we conclude with “kaal ha’neshamah tehalel y-ah” (let all living beings, with every breath we take, praise Ya-h). Praise is a revealing agent. Through praise, we reveal and draw down into the world and our consciousness the Ya-h—the divine wisdom, its goodness, purpose and meaning—within all aspects of our life, even into the place which seemed purposeless, meaningless and trivial.


The name Shad-dai conjures up various images and interpretations which, though seemingly unrelated, all express one fundamental idea—the notion of divine protection and nurture, that which shields, borders and secures boundaries.

Shad-dai embodies the Sefira of Yesod-foundation and the position of the back.

Yesod is connection, relationship and foundation. Proper boundaries allow for greater possibilities in relationships and ultimate integration.

The Sefira of Yesod realigns, focuses and adjusts, and thus is connected with the aspects of nurturing and healing, which ultimately is about wholeness and integration.

The word shad-dai can be translated as enough. In the Midrashic image “as the olam-world was being created and expanding endlessly, G-d said to the world, Shad-dai-Enough.” Shad-dai sets limits and creates margins and boundaries.

Placed upon the outside of a mezuza —which when in the plural, mezuzas, can form the words zaz mavet-move aside death—is the letters Shin-Dalet-Yud = Shad-dai. The mezuza is placed on the doorpost, on the boundary of the home or room, as it is a name that sets a limitation, securing what is inside, literally and metaphorically, and making sure that no outside negative influence enters, protecting the home and the one who lives within. Thus, here the letters Shin Dalet Yud can also be viewed as an acronym for Shomer Dalsot Yisrael-Who protects the doors of Israel.

The Divine light of Shad-dai is related to the measured amount of energy regulated within the universe. Shad-dai: “S’Dai B’elokut B’olama- for there is efficient amount of divinity in His world.”

Paradoxically, the word shad-dai can denote both a “destroyer” (shad-dai from the word shoded-to break and destroy), and a “nurturer” (from the word shadayim-that which nourishes a young suckling). The Divine aspect which nurtures and gives life, the name Shad-dai reflects the ebb and flow of creation. Nature is continually being created and self-destroying, building and pulling down in one continuous rhythmical motion. Death breeds life. There is a constant movement which fluctuates back and forth, but in all movements there is the guiding Divine nurturer protecting and allowing for further growth.

The name Shad-dai is mostly related with the miraculous vested within nature. What is referred to as “concealed miracles,” the miraculous that does not shatter nature, but rather works within the confines of the natural nurturing nature and advances it towards a higher point of its evolution.

When the name Shad-dai is joined with the prefix E-l, which is chesed, this represents the divine flow of blessings into creation to the extent where the receiver of the blessings says, “enough.” We are fulfilled.


The literal translation of Tzevakot is “Lord of Hosts.” Though this name does not appear in the Torah, in the five books it is recorded in the book of prophets. This name is connected with the orchestrating element of the creator, the aspects, as it were, of Divine that lords over and cares about the details of all legions. We sense this name in the place where the Infinite collapses upon the space of the finite.

The name Tzevakot is related to the Sefira of Netzach- victory and ambition, and hod-humility and devotion. When the name is written with a prefix of Hashem, as in “Hashem Tzevakot,” it is connected with the right column and expansive Sefira, the Sefira of Netzach, and when it is written as “Elokim Tzevakot,” it relates to the left restrictive column Sefira; the Sefira of Hod; Netzach is the position of above, while Hod is below.

Being that these two sefirot are from the outer implementing emotions, Ne’hi, this name is thus “outside” the body of Torah and is first recorded in the book of Samuel, when Chanah, the mother of the prophet Samuel, used it in prayer. (Samuel 1:11)

Numerically speaking, the name Tzevakot equals 499, and with the word itself is a total of 500. Symbolically, the number 50 (and certainly 500) is a number that relates to the optimum of time and, for that matter, space.

Five hundred is the time and space of the world. Our sages in the Talmud teach; “From earth to heaven is a five hundred-year journey, the thickness of heaven is a five hundred-year journey, and between the first heaven and the next lies a five hundred-year journey, and similarly between each heaven.” (Chagigah 13a)
The name suggests the Divine aspect that orchestrates because it cares about all the multiplicity and diversity of creation. Hashem is the creator of the reality of duality and many, and thus, He is a Creator that is intimately involved in all the “five hundred” details of creation. Though from one perspective, infinite and utterly transcendent, Hashem also chooses to care, listen and heed every individual request.

A Talmudic tale; “Rabbi Eliezer said: From the day the world was created there was no man who called the Holy One, blessed be He, Tzevakos until Chanah. Said Chanah (as a barren women praying for a child) before the Holy One: ‘Sovereign of the Universe, of all the hosts and hosts that You have created in Your world, is it so hard in Your eyes to give me one son?’ A parable: To what is this matter like? To a king who made a feast for his servants, and a poor man came and stood by the door and said to them, Give me a bite, and no one took any notice of him, so he forced his way into the presence of the king and said to him, Your Majesty, out of all the feast which you have made, is it so hard in your eyes to give me one bite? (Berachot 31b)

By evoking the name Tzevakot she was stressing and simultaneously drawing down from the Infinite endless light to a place of her finite space of constriction and pain. Her prayers allowed for a collapse of the Infinite, Expansive, Unified One, with a space of apparent finitude, constriction and sorrow. When there is this merging of the One Unity and apparently many disunities, the latter melds into the former, and life is filled with absolute blessings and divine flux.


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