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The Name G-d Gives G-d a Bad Name

November 14, 2012 – 12:22 pm3 Comments

By Kim Gotlieb
As a spritual seeker, I find myself in a range of conversations about the notion of God, or G-d or Hashem…..just to address a few of the Jewish words we use! Some of the most interesting and engaged chats develop with people who identify as atheist. They seem to have studied a range of concepts of God and realised none of them “fit”. Regardless of people’s religious affiliations, I find that when they attest to their disbelief in God, I usually have one response: “The God that you don’t believe in, I also do not believe in.” In fact, it is the name, or perhaps the narrative associated with the name, that gives a bad rap to the transcendent principle being alluded to.

I like to express G-d more in relation to principles of cosmology, quantum physics, and psychology. The principle of an unknowable, mysterious, unified force can assist in ways which make a difference to the ways we view our lives and the way we live them. I believe our notion of God, must inform our religious practise in ways which make us better people – for ourselves and for those we come in contact with. This means that we increase awareness of what is going on internally, so that we are more comfortable in our own skins – as well as developing a model of God which can support us in following Hillel’s precept of getting along with one another.

People glibly speak about outer space being infinite, but no matter how well developed our imagination, there must come a point that is beyond our grasp. Sometimes the ability to name something does us a disservice. Perhaps that is why our name for God, yud hey vav hey, remains a mystery.  Most of us would be familiar with the Jewish prayer Adon Olam which ends the Shabbat service. It includes a glorious line, which describes G-d as “vhu haya vhu hovey vhu yihiye” – The one who was, is and will be – a direct descriptor of the boundless universe.

I hope to develop a conversation around these and other concepts at the session I will be leading at Limmud Fest 2012.

“The Name G-d Gives G-d a Bad Name” will take place at Limmud Fest 2012 on Sunday 25 November at 10.30am.

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  • Great article, Kim. Sad that I’ll be missing LimmudFest this year!

  • Harry says:

    Never thought I’d see a Bon Jovi cover appear on this site!

  • gedalia says:

    one of the things i hate about prayer book translations is the reference to G-d as “Him” or “He”. We know that Hashem has no form, and therefore no gender. There are aspects of male and female built into the various Hebrew names for G-d, but in English our references should be gender neutral.

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