“… and I’ll be there.” - James Taylor
Knowing the True Name of someone is believed to confer some power by the user of the name upon the entity being named. In some cultures, a person’s true or secret name is a closely guarded treasure that is only shared with ones most intimate circle. The True Name of God was likewise rarely disclosed even during Temple times, and today we have no public knowledge of it. However, in Judaism, God has many names and appellations that we still use to this day and which still may retain some power.
One of the Ten Commandments (the third one, to be precise) is not to take God’s name in vain. God doesn’t want us to use His name lightly. There is a matter of respect, of distance, of awe that must be maintained.
But God also wants to have a relationship with us. He is a loving, caring, involved God and He wants us to talk to Him, to pray to Him, to call on Him – but that’s hard to do if you don’t use His name. (note: curious that the vernacular term for God in Hebrew is “The Name”)
The solution is of course, to use His name properly. To use it in prayer. To use it in giving Him thanks. To use it in celebration and in mourning. However, there is one unusual circumstance where we can also use His name: in combating evil. (Can’t you see it now, some superhero, in his cape and tights, yelling: “By God, you villain! I will strike you down in the name of the Almighty!”)
The Ohr Hachayim (on Deuteronomy 1:10) quotes the Kabalistic tome, the Zohar (3:112) and states that whenever God’s name is mentioned (properly) no evil can befall. Wow! (see this week’s fiction chapter for dramatic use of this idea).
May we learn to use God’s name correctly and be spared from all evil.
To the memory of Maurice Shashoua.