by Alexandra Rutkowski
Yod-hei-vav-hei.. Yod-hei-vav-hei.. Yod-hei-vav-hei.. Yod-hei-vav-hei.
The Hebrew letters YHWH, referred to as the Tetragrammaton, make up the Ancient Hebrew name of God, which we know as Yahweh. To many, it is known as the Unutterable Name or the Ineffable Name. On this subject, I recently became aware of something that completely… blew my mind: in Judaism, never is this name spoken out loud. During scripture readings, the reader will replace the sacred word with terms such as “Lord” or “Almighty.” It is treated with such deep reverence and the utmost respect. Even up to this day, many orthodox Jews still hold to this practice of neither speaking nor writing the name of God. This is why many still choose to write “G-d” instead. Just the thought of erasing or destroying the name is unthinkable to them, and according to Jewish law, it is forbidden to discard any books containing the name. Out of respect for His name, they wouldn’t even think of throwing out a piece of paper with the name written upon it. Instead, they are stored in a genizah, which is a gathering place in a synagogue, and then buried. They are protected. This way, the name is protected and honored. So, even in Jewish business offices, a separate bin is set aside where such documents are discarded, and then are given proper burial in a Jewish cemetery. I mean, wow. I’m not trying to say we’re doing something wrong when we throw out a theology paper with God’s name on it, or when we say or spell God’s name fully. Not at all. I’m just saying, they’ve got one thing right: reverence. They know that the name of God holds power… is power. And they treat it as such. It’s a matter of respect. And that’s something we’ve lost sight of. We’ve long forgotten it’s sacredness. We treat it as a simple ordinary word. In our society’s everyday vocabulary saturated with profanities, we’ve forgotten about it. So much of the time, it’s thrown around as a curse. For the rest of us, we’ve simply forgotten. Which is just as bad. Take a moment to think about it. How much are we… are you… honoring God’s name in our everyday lives? It’s a matter of respect.