Subscribe to a Weekly Series

Posted on January 16, 2015 (5775) By Rabbi Label Lam | Series: | Level:

And G-d spoke to Moshe and said to him; “I am Hashem! I appeared to Avraham to Yitzchok and to Yaakov as El Shaddai, but with My name HASHEM I did not make Myself known to them. (Shemos: 2-3)

What’s this whole business with the names of HASHEM!? Why should G-d have so many different names? This admittedly can be confusing and even misleading to not only the uninitiated but to many veterans as well. Sometimes, like to the Avos HASHEM appeared as Aleph-Lamed and Shin- Dalet-Yud! What do those two names mean? Why are different names used if HASHEM is ONE!?

I have an old friendship with a fellow whose name is Aaron. We were study partners. For years he was a milkman. He was our milkman. The truck would pull up the driveway and he would emerge from the back with fresh milk and reliably park a few cartons on our doorstep. My children looking out the window would declare and so would if I was up so early to catch it, “The milkman is here!” That’s how we related to him. He was the milkman.

Later that morning when his route was finished and he would appear in the study hall and I would declare, “Oh my study partner- my chavrusa is here!” Going to a wedding or entering a store, when I would meet him in a casual pedestrian setting, I would say, “How are you doing my friend Reb Aaron!?” That’s how I know Aaron in all his different roles, as they related to or showed up in my life. Who is Aaron, when he goes home and the door is closed, and he is alone in the heart of his own heart? I have no idea. It is hard enough for me to know who I am! I cannot possibly peer into and have any grasp of who he really is!

The same is true of the The Almighty! Sure HASHEM is One! However, He shows up and is manifest in our lives in differing ways. We don’t see, nor can we see in this world of physicality the truth of Who HASHEM is in any way. It is beyond our ken! It has not been revealed to us! All we can know though is how HASHEM relates to the world. We don’t see HASHEM but we see what He does.

Similarly, no one ever saw electricity, but yet we live daily from the many ways that electricity works in our lives. It is a force that powers manifold good things in our lives yet it is abstract in its essence. It is a reliable and predictable force. The name Aleph Lamed implies force and direction. HASHEM in the garment of that name is the source of the directive power of this world.

That the earth spins regularly at 1000 mph and hurtles on its elliptical orbit around the sun at almost 67,000 miles an hour, at a steady rate is a display of astounding strength that merits a name, a title. That is only a sliver of the might that might be discovered. It’s the Aleph, the “Oneness in multiplicity”- Elochim- with the LAMED giving direction. Lamed as a prefix means “to”. The name of the letter Lamed is “learn”. The shape of the letter is the traced silhouette of a person learning. When a person learns they are gaining direction.

The name Shin- Dalet- Yud is that name that is scribed on the outer part of the parchment of a Mezuzah. Inside is written the deeper secret that HASHEM is ONE! On the outside though, is the “natural” world. The name Shim-Dalet-Yud implies a world that is Dai- enough. Everything is sufficient and perfectly calibrated. Shadaim in Hebrew refer to the place where a child nurses from his mother. Exactly formulated and precisely measured the child gets just what he needs and no more. A minute before he is born there is no milk, and a few moments later the restaurant is open for business. Who could have dreamed of or designed such an efficient system!?

We don’t see the owner of this patent but His signature of kindliness and efficiency are inscribed in every detail of each and every one of His works. HASHEM hid Himself sufficiently, as the Talmud describes in Chagiga that He said at one point during the creation “Dai-Enough!”

The world is just right! It is opaque with physicality enough to cover HASHEM, and it is translucent, tinged with just enough wonder that real truth seekers like Avraham and his children can find Him hiding in the open, daily. DvarTorah, Copyright © 2007 by Rabbi Label Lam and