This is a continuation of my review of the 613 commandments in the Jewish Bible, Tanach. The introduction can be read in my writings “The 613 Mitzvot (Commandments).” This time, we speak about HaShem! Later on I will continue with other aspects of Jewish belief.
The first group is about G-D. What is the Jewish belief?
Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, even called Maimonides (one of the greatest medieval Jewish scholars), compiled a list of 13 Principles of Faith. He sums very well up the Jewish belief. Those principles are as follows:
• G-d exists
• G-d is one and unique
• G-d is incorporeal
• G-d is eternal
• Prayer is to be directed to G-d alone and to no other
• The words of the prophets are true
• Moses’ prophecies are true, and Moses was the greatest of the prophets
• The Written Torah (first 5 books of the Bible) and Oral Torah (teachings now contained in the Talmud and other writings) were given to Moses
• There will be no other Torah
• G-d knows the thoughts and deeds of men
• G-d will reward the good and punish the wicked
• The Messiah will come
• The dead will be resurrected
Even if Judaism have concepts on the eternal questions of where we come from, why we live here on Earth and what will happen in the afterlife, and other abstract questions, Judaism is concentrating on this life, here and now. We can say that Judaism concentrates on this life, how we can live a life in holyness and goodness doing good deeds. It is about more than only our belief. So, the emphazise is on our relationship with G-d, fellow human beings, the Jewish people and our care for and respect for all creation. Speaking of G-d, we will automatically think of His name. The most important of G-d’s names is the four-letter name represented by the Hebrew letters Yod-Hei-Vav-Hei (YHVH). It is often referred to as the the unutterable name or the distinctive name. Linguistically it is related to the Hebrew root Hei-Yod-Hei (to be), and reflects the fact that G-d is eternal. The first name used for G-d in scripture is Elohim, this name is used to refer to princes, judges, other gods, and other powerful beings and even when speaking about G-d’s might.
Next name for G-d is El Shaddai, meaning “G-d Almighty.” The name Shaddai is written on the mezuzah scroll that Jews put on the door frame inside of their house or apartment. Shaddai can also be an acronym of Shomer Daltot Yisrael, “Guardian of the Doors of Israel.” Yet another name is YHVH Tzva’ot (Tzebaot), translated as “Lord of Hosts.” The word “tzva’ot” means “hosts” as a military grouping or an organized array. This name tells us about G-d’s leadership and sovereignty. This name is not used much in scripture. It never appears in the first five books of Moses. But we find this name in Isaiah, Jeremiah, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi and also in the Psalms.
In general, Judaism does not use any name of G-d. This practice does not come from the commandment not to take G-d’s name in vain (“for falsehood”). Here it refers to oath-taking, and is a prohibition against swearing by G-d’s name in a wrong way. But we are not forbidden to write the name of G-d, the prohibition is to erasing the name of G-d, but there is a tradition not to write it down, so we use a short form, as I do, sometimes I use “HaShem,” that is in my prayer in a more sensitive way of expression.
Examples from Tanach
• G-d Exists:
I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.
(Exodus 20:2, Hebr/Eng Bible, JPS 1917)
• There are no other gods:
You shall not make unto you a graven image, nor any manner of likeness, of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth;
(Ex. 20:3, Hebr/Eng Bible, JPS 1917)
• Do not blaspheme:
You shall not revile God, nor curse a ruler of thy people.
(Exodus 22:27, Hebr/Eng Bible, JPS 1917)
• Sanctify His name:
And you shall not profane My holy name; but I will be hallowed among the children of Israel:
I am the LORD who hallow you
(Leviticus 22:32, Hebr/Eng Bible, JPS 1917)
• G-d is One, a complete Unity:
Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one.
(Deuteronomy 6:4, Hebr/Eng Bible, JPS 1917)
• Love Him:
And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. (Deut. 6:5, Hebr/Eng Bible, JPS 1917)
• Fear Him:
You shall fear the LORD your God; and Him shall you serve, and by His name shall you swear.
(Deut. 6:13, Hebr/Eng Bible, JPS 1917, see also 10:20)
• Not to put G-d to the test:
You shall not try the LORD your God, as you tried Him in Massah.
(Deut. 6:16, Hebr/Eng Bible, JPS 1917)
• Keep His commandments:
The LORD will establish you for a holy people unto Himself, as He has sworn unto you; if you shall keep the commandments of the LORD your God, and walk in His ways.
(Deut. 28:9, Hebr/Eng Bible, JPS 1917)
© 2012 Jonathan Axelsson
אתר הבית של יונתן