I have explored  one of the oldest biblical Names as really a way of seeing the world. by the Forward

Letter | God’s name is a breath

Image by Getty Images

Dear Editor,

Abigail Pogrebin’s exploration of a group of rabbis’ conceptions of God is intriguing. Yet it leaves out some of the more transformative approaches, especially those deeply influenced by Eco-Judaism.

In my new book, Dancing in God’s Earthquake: The Coming Transformation of Religion (Orbis, October 2020), I have explored one of the oldest biblical Names as really a way of seeing the world.

Letter | God’s name is a breath

Moses heard that Name, “YHWH,” at the Burning Bush. In biblical writing it is not replaced by “Adonai” — Lord, and rarely connected with “Melekh” — King. Those were substitutions made by Rabbinic Judaism.

The Name never had vowels, and so was not “Yahweh,” nor ”Yahovah.” If one tries to pronounce it, what comes is simply a Breath. Its brilliance as a Name of God is that It alone, Breathing alone, is “spoken” in every human tongue. All the myriad names of God have breath as their root and nurture. And not only human languages but also every grass and tree, every frog and leopard. The interbreathing of oxygen and CO2 between animals and vegetation is what keeps all Earthly life alive.

As the Siddur teaches, “Nishmat kol chai tivarekh et-shimcha, YHWH elohenu” — The Breath of all life praises your Name, Yahhhh our God,” because the Name is the Breath of all life. In that phrase, “our God” does not mean the Jews’ God, nor the humans’ God, but the God of all living, breathing beings.

Letter | God’s name is a breath

And in our era, when the entire web of life on Earth is threatened by the insistence of some human Carbon Pharaohs on choking us with more CO2 than all the trees and grasses can transmute to oxygen, what we call the “climate crisis” is a crisis in the very Name of God.

Naming God as “the Interbreathing Spirit of the word, Ruach Ha’Olam” is to see each being as unique, all interwoven into Echad, the One. No “Melekh,” no ruler, no subjugator.

Shalom, shanah tovah, shinui tov —

Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Ph. D.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.

Letter | God’s name is a breath

Author

Arthur Waskow

Arthur Waskow

Rabbi Dr. Arthur Waskow founded and directs The Shalom Center, a prophetic voice in the Jewish, multi-religious and American worlds for justice, peace, and healing of the Earth.

Your Comments

The Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. All readers can browse the comments, and all Forward subscribers can add to the conversation. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Forward requires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not and will be deleted. Egregious commenters or repeat offenders will be banned from commenting. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and the Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Recommend this article

Letter | God’s name is a breath

Thank you!

This article has been sent!

Close