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Who is Hashem?

By Brendan McGuigan
Updated May 17, 2024
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Hashem is a word used to refer to God by many people of the Jewish faith. Literally translated, the name means simply, “the Name.” It is used commonly to replace the name Adonai in casual speech.

The name of God is a serious topic in Judaism, and there are many rules and traditions surrounding its use. It is forbidden to speak the four letter name of God, YHWH, also known as the Tetragrammaton. Only the High Priest may speak this name, and then only in the Temple — which, of course, no longer exists, making it prohibited for anyone to speak the name anywhere.

Since it is necessary to speak the name of God during certain prayers, a way had to be conceived of to refer to Him without committing blasphemy. So it is that when reading prayers which refer to YHWH, most will read the name Adonai, instead. Adonai means simply Lord, and it is not considered blasphemous to speak this name.

There is a principle in Jewish law that seeks to set out further limitations in order to reduce the chance of a serious law being broken. Since the prohibition against blasphemy is so serious, it is important that there exists a further level of protection to avoid using the Tetragrammaton. The name Hashem is therefore used as a substitution for Adonai in situations outside of prayer.

The use of this name, a more generic word, therefore further reduces the chance that one may inadvertently pronounce the forbidden name of God. It also limits frivolous uses of Adonai, keeping that term more sanctified and special. This helps show a respect for the use of God’s name, and is often used for other terms given to God in addition to Adonai, such as Elohim or Shaddai.

Depending on the person, the use of Hashem may be more or less frequent. Some people have no objection to using names such as Adonai or Elohim in everyday speech, and so Hashem becomes simply another name. Others would absolutely never use these names in anything but actual ritual prayer, and so it is a cornerstone of the ability to discuss God in more general contexts. Even in many recordings of prayers, some will replace terms such as Adonai, as a recording will likely be played back many times outside of the proper ritual context.

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Discussion Comments

By anon1005998 — On Jan 07, 2022

It hurts my heart to read Christians and Jewish brothers and sisters bash each other when the topic is over a name that is used to reference G-d. Help us all! I love my Jewish brothers and sisters, as well as my Christian brothers and sisters. This is so, so sad.

I love reading and learning about Jewish customs and Hebrew names of G-d. It has really helped me to appreciate how Western Culture has made the name of G-d something that is just not sacred anymore. It is important for Christians get back to a reverent relationship.

By anon998151 — On Apr 17, 2017

Why would anyone call God by his name anyway? Jesus taught us to call God our "Father." I have never met anybody who calls their father by his name.

By anon989166 — On Feb 22, 2015

Traditions of men make void the Word of God.

By anon959840 — On Jul 07, 2014

@anon65793: The Torah was written by Moses, way before the Old Testament and the New Testament came into existence. It's frustrating to see how much info was twisted to fit new norms of those societies at the time. The Jews have had the Torah thousands of years before the Christianity even came to existence. Yes, Jews preserved the word of G-d for all humanity. Light your inner Menorah!

By anon954480 — On Jun 02, 2014

I can't believe what I am reading on this page. God loves us. God seeks us and loves us. God is God and he knows more than we. He is not judging who says his name. He delights when we earnestly seek him with our hearts in honesty.

Shame on Jews who slander Christians and shame on Christians who slander Jews. God is our God and we should love him and each other. Who are we to judge who knows better? We are called to love each other and to say we need to be in a holy place to call his name is just? None of us will be in a holy place. Only God.

Repent and believe Jesus died for this ridiculous mess and only through him do we become holy, and even then there's a work process to happen inside us between God and us.

By anon348686 — On Sep 19, 2013

Maybe every one needs to be converted as Jesus planned it at Calvary on the cross and accept him as your Lord and Savior and receive the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit will guide you and lead you and teach you in all truths. See the works of the Holy Spirit at John 16:7-15. Jesus said the Holy Spirit would teach us all things.

By anon269944 — On May 20, 2012

God's name is NOT Yahweh, YHWH etc. YHWH= yod he vau he, which is the male-female goddess of Hinduism.

You ignorant "Christians" on this website who are giving the Jesus-hating "jews" carte blanche to use the word YHWH/Yahweh et al "Y" names, need to do some in-depth research on the origins of the word Yahweh. Is is nowhere in scripture. "Yah" appears once in the Bible. Yahweh is the male-female hermaphroditic god-goddess of the pagans.

The KJV says: "If my people who are called by my name..." What is the name of his people? It is Israel.

His name is not "jews", HaShem, Yahweh, HWH-Tetragrammaton-Kabbalah-Chabad or any of the rest of the misleading lies that make it appear that a group called "jews" somehow means the whole house of Israel. Read Revelation 2:9 and 3:9.

By anon224144 — On Oct 22, 2011

As a follower of Christ who also respects the validity of the rich tradition and lessons in the many seasons, festivals and historical accounts of the Torah, I feel it is better to type out G^d or Hashem than the nauseating "OMG" I see all over facebook and texts. Our culture has lowered the Alpha and Omega to a letter in slang and we dare judge those who are cautious?

I call upon the name of the Lord in prayer, but I understand and respect those who protect His Name.

I do not believe that guarding His Name creates a barrier, either. Read the Psalms of King David, who was a man after G^d's own heart. There was a man whose desire for closeness with The Lord could be sensed, even when he cried out asking where He was.

To me, it is similar to a friend of mine who feels convicted to only wear floor length skirts, in the name of modesty. She does not judge me in pants, and I respect that she chooses to honor her body and her marriage in such a way. Her convictions, while not something I have felt called to embrace, do encourage me to be mindful of what I wear.

Whether or not you choose to guard His Name in accordance with Jewish tradition is between you and your Maker, but I think reverence for the creator of the universe is certainly not in over-abundance in this day and age. Every time someone says they want to thank "the man upstairs," I want to vomit.

By anon221882 — On Oct 13, 2011

If Christians want to understand their deity (father, son and the holy ghost) they should remember that Christ (as well as his mother) were of the Jewish faith, and would not use the name of God in public conversation. But Christians believe they can understand the Torah, the old testament, by using their christian based translation.

If you are so interested in what Christ believed then go to Yeshiva and truly understand what is in Torah. I can safely say there is not a christian around that can even understand the first sentence of the Torah. It certainly is not just In the Beginning. There is just so much more.

So have some damn respect for Christ and his belief in Judaism, as well as his mother and father's belief.

I certainly respect what you believe.

By anon169292 — On Apr 20, 2011

And why do you all suppose we were never given our Heavenly Mother's name, even though we have a heavenly mother? Is it because our Heavenly Father does not want us to know her at all? No. It is because like everything else that is sacred, satan would blaspheme her too, and this is protection for her, from that kind of abuse.

Men, you all can relate to this, I know.

By d77 — On Mar 21, 2011

I think the name is relevant in the context in which its used. Saying his name must be used in relevance to his authority. Used out of love and respect to him. FYI: Being a christian used to be a very Jewish thing to do. Most early churches consisted of Hebrews, before it got all paganized by converted Gentiles. After all, Y'shua was Jewish, wasn't he!

By anon138882 — On Jan 03, 2011

Don't understand why goyim are posting here. If they neither tolerate nor fathom the sacredness in using the term, Hashem in place of G_d, then they can certainly find a christian website to voice their indignation.

By anon129596 — On Nov 24, 2010

Moses had to speak the name of God for others to know it, and the prophets Hosea and Isaiah said it. In fact Isaiah said in the same sentence when he said he had unclean lips, and Gods response was to make him holy. God then told him to say to the people a prophesy including his name.

God himself told a non-cohen, non-levite to say it to someone outside the temple. A one off event? A special get out clause? Or an example of the right use of his name?

To me, this seems another example of the time when the people of Israel stood at the foot of a mountain where God was revealing himself, and asked Moses to go ahead. Like Isaiah saying his unworthiness, people do not trust in Gods ability to make them holy. The reverence is one of disconnection, of intermediaries, and intermediaries for intermediaries.

If we have a God who sanctifies people, who dedicates them to be holy and in his service, then to avoid saying the name is a form of reverence, but it is a denial of the possibility of being able to use it validly.

I learned long ago that in avoiding disaster one must never become so constrained as to make success impossible, and in the same way, any additional measure against sin that makes a righteous life impossible is suspect and must be limited, just as the prophets could not follow the laws in this occasion and still bring the word God demanded.

By anon120099 — On Oct 20, 2010

We do not have to go through a priest now to talk to our Heavenly Father. He sent his son to pay the price for our sin that we may come boldly before his throne. He loves us that much.I believe we can talk to him and call him by name.

However, I appreciate the respect many of you show. So many say his name when they are not talking to him or about him. He tells us not to use his name in vain. So for sure if you are not talking to him or about him, don't use his name.

By anon116793 — On Oct 08, 2010

G-d's name is holy, very, very holy. To use it when you are not on a high enough level of holiness and closeness to Him is totally disrespectful.

When the holy high priest stood in the holy of holies in the holy temple on the holiest day of the year, G-d considered him holy enough to say His name which is so pure (and yes, holy) that only in this one point in time and space was one person worthy of saying it.

When you're dealing with holy stuff, you gotta make sure you don't disgrace it by bringing it down to your level (and I'm not saying that we're so bad, what i am saying is that G-d is so great. don't mess.)

By anon114347 — On Sep 28, 2010

In my study I have come to the conclusion that the Jewish people were "chosen" as an example to all of us. No people has experienced the deliverance of God more, yet still they depend on themselves rather than the One that delivers. Whether the One delivers me or not, without Him we would all have only a grave before us.

By anon81938 — On May 04, 2010

Not one time in all of scripture does he not tell us to call on his name. the only thing they point out is not blaspheming it but the definition for blaspheme and vain are the two words listed in the commandments there primary meanings are make it hollow, worthless, of no use.

I think we are already doing that following such an erroneous man's law that's from the Babylonian Talmud, not YHWH himself. His name is simply YAHUWAH such as the papyri that his scribes wrought. AmaniYA

By anon76587 — On Apr 11, 2010

anon52973 is spot on! Further to this everyone and everything has this 'God' essence in it and no 'respect' is needed for any word that describes him at all. Respect implies there is a fear of something greater. This fear is only born out of man's religion.

By anon69695 — On Mar 09, 2010

As a response to all you who decided that G-d doesn't mind us using his name, just ask yourself - Do you call your Dad by name, are do you say "Hey Dad!". Of course you say Dad, out of respect.

That respect sends a message to his son that says - I am important! Son, you must listen to me because I know what I am talking about.

If we were to allow People to use G-d's name as if we were talking to a friend, we would be under valuing G-d's Words.

We must understand that his words are incomparable to anything any person thinks or says.

Therefore we must treat G-d with respect by not saying his name, and instead saying "Your Name" (i.e Hashim), unless G-d said to specifically. That being on "Yom Kippur" by the "Cohen Gadol" (Prime Prist) in the "Hichal" (The room in the Jewish Temple were G-d's ark sits).

By anon68039 — On Feb 28, 2010

That name is the name of our father. There is no more beautiful name! And like any father, our father wants us to love His name, and speak it. What father would want to always be referred to by his children as "lord" or "the name"?

You might as well call your daddy "hey you" or "that guy". Would you want people to intentionally avoid saying your name?

Think of how ostracized you would feel if no one ever said your name. For crying out loud, many groups use the forbidding of the speaking of someone's name as a form of "eternal" punishment! Our father deserves at least the amount of respect we afford ourselves and each other. Be respectful, yes, and say "Yahweh".

By anon66713 — On Feb 21, 2010

Another reason we can't say God's name (YHWH) is because it means "I am that I am." It's an existential statement using the personal pronoun "I."

If you say God's name is "I am that I am," then you are referring to yourself. I guess you could say God's name is "He is that he is," but that's not his name!

By anon65793 — On Feb 16, 2010

Good god! It is really blasphemous for the Jews to claim that only they know the name of god and no one else did. If there really is a super power over us all, it seemed pretty stupid of him to select a "stiff-necked, quarrelsome" tribe like the Hebrews (that's how they described themselves in their own scriptures) as his chosen ones, and then having to kill large large numbers of them for disobedience (read all the gruesome accounts in the old testament).

By anon52973 — On Nov 18, 2009

It is more fitting that we do not pronounce the name of God because if one can say something one feels one can understand it.

We truly cannot even begin to comprehend the essence of God -- it is beyond our capacity to comprehend.

The mystery of God cannot be fathomed by our human comprehension. Therefore it is the awareness that we can't even correctly know how to pronounce His name illustrates this sense of mystery.

It is better that we acknowledge that we can't understand this force rather than pretend that we can.

By anon52565 — On Nov 15, 2009

I think if God didn't want us to use his name then he wouldn't have given it to us. Yahweh, Jehovah, or Yehowah, or any other form really means the same. I do believe that if He had a strong opinion on it and wanted us to all pronounce it correctly, He would have made it much more clear. As it stands, because He did give us YHWH, I'll keep using it interchangeably (and respectfully) with God.

By anon3652 — On Sep 10, 2007

Would not a better response to the name restrictions be not to pray? The answer would depend on your answer to another question. In the strictest sense, is the prayer to God if you are not using his/her/its name? In other words, are you circumventing or undermining God's wishes by using substitute names? Maybe only the High Priest was meant to say those prayers. Just a thought.

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