God’s Names

Petach 22 expands upon the whole idea of the AlephBet and the Hebrew words that result from them by tying them in to God’s various names (as we suggested above), most especially His ineffable four-letter name and its permutations, and by connecting them to the Sephirot.

As Ramchal words it there, the entire range of functions of the Sephirot is governed by the order of the ten Sephirot, which is (itself contained within) the order of the four letters of God’s Name (YudHeh,Vav, and Heh). This is (also) the order that governs the trope, vowels, “crowns” and letters (spoken of above) through the mystical import of those four letters as well as the four names contained in each individual name.

So, what we’ll do here is first cite Ramchal’s ideas about Divine Names exoterically; we’ll then turn back to the above statement and see what Ramchal adds to it in his own comments to Petach 22 where it originates; and we’ll then see what he says about the whole of it exoterically in other works.

He points out in Da’at Tevunot 80 that “the One and only God in all His perfection cannot be named or termed anything, since we can’t grasp His (i.e., Him in His state of) perfection, and it’s impossible to name something you can’t grasp given that a name is the named-object’s definition and one can’t name for something he can’t grasp”. Yet, as we all know, God is called by various names in Tanach and throughout the tradition; how do we explain that? It’s rooted in the fact that the prophets (including and epitomized by Moshe) recognized God as exhibiting certain specific traits in His interactions with the world “such as mercy, sovereignty, power, justice, compassion, anger, strength, and the like”. Based on this we refer to God — despite His unfathomable makeup and our inability to name Him — as “’The Merciful One ’, ‘The Ruler’, ‘The Mighty One’, ‘The Judge’, etc.” And Ramchal goes on by implication to apply those names to the terms for and functions of the Sephirot [1]. There are other names for God, too (including more “name-like” names like the Tetragramaton and the like), that have nothing to do with this phenomenon, though, some of which are actually acronyms of certain phenomenon in the Divine Presence as we’ll see soon. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.


[1] The whole of R’ Gikatilia’s Sha’arei Orah is a treatment of this.

(c) 2011 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

Feel free to contact me at feldman@torah.org


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