God's Four-Letter Name

Rabbi Arthur Waskow

God's Four-Letter Name

On the question of pronouncing the "Yod-Hei-Vav-Hei" Name of God that in transliteration comes out "YHWH":

1) It is unpronounceable in my view not because we are forbidden to pronounce it but because if one tries to do so, pronouncing these four strange letters (semi-vowels, semi-consonants) WITHOUT any vowels, one simply breathes.

You might pause to try this yourself: try to say "YHWH" with no vowels.

The real Name is BEYOND pronunciation, unless you consider breathing pronunciation.

As the Siddur (prayer-book) says, "Nishmat kol chai tivarech et SHIMCHA." ("The breathing of all life praises your Name.") For the Breathing of all life IS Your Name."

2) The notion of YHWH as "the Breath of Life" accords with a deep sense of God as intimate and transcendent at once. If we have no breath in us, we die. If there is no breath beyond us, we die.

3) Moreover, the real Name of the real God would have to be not a Hebrew word, nor Egyptian, nor Latin, nor Greek, nor Arabic, nor Sanskrit, nor English

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