Reb Zalman sends the following reading for Yom Kippur.  It was written pre-1989, when Aleph: Alliance for Jewish Renewal was known as B’nai Or.  [NOTES by Gabbai Seth Fishman, BLOG Editor.]

This age cries out for the need to create new God-Names and to make peace with the old ones.  We are doing binyan hamalchut, (i.e., “building the Kingdom”, establishing the God-field), not just for Rosh Hashanah, but an entire eon — to help God-Birth.  When people davven from a siddur in a thousand years time, Whom do we want the people to be addressing?  Which God-Name?

This agecf., Reb Zalman’s book, Paradigm Shift and elsewhere: Gaia, Holocaust, Moon Walk, etc., radical changes to the underpinnings of the Judaism rooted in older paradigms from other times.
create new God-Names:  God-names are created out of the idea of the holy and our holy experience, (see below).]

Rudolph Otto, who sought to understand the idea of the holy, found himself led to a traditional Yom Kippur service in a North African synagogue. Seeing the sincere prayer attitude of the worshippers, he was caught up in their fervor.  His book, The Idea of the Holy, was an outcome of his experience. He describes the attraction of the Mysterium Fascinans, something like the Burning Bush beckoning to approach God and the Mysterium Tremendum that overwhelms one, threatens to be fatal and demands that one remove one’s shoes from off one’s feet (Na’alekha – your lock that holds you captive to your regel – foot, – your habits – hergel)

Mysterium Fascinans and Mysterium Tremendum:  Different mysteries, one beckoning, the other frightening:  Aspects of holiness.
Remove shoes from feet:  From Exodus 3:5, שׁל נעליך מעל רגליך  / take your shoes off your feet, can be easily bent to match Reb Zalman’s interpretation of Kol Nidre:  “The sacred moment of Kol Nidre is our opportunity to delete habitual  programs, (מנעולך/ your lock, הרגל/ habit), those patterns and behaviors which we would do well to unleash.”]

Kadosh Kadosh Kadosh / Holy Holy Holy is what the Seraphim proclaim. 

[NOTE:  They proclaim and, we proclaim, too, each day, in minyan, during kedushah.] 

With each Kadosh, they raise one pair of wings of their six wings, until eventually they stand like a Menorah before the Throne.  And the idea of kadosh, “holiness”, touches us in three different ways (kadosh, kadosh, kadosh) so when we want to recite it, we might each time raise our arms higher as follows:

  • The first level is the kadosh of immanence, the sense that the Sefer Torah will be safer and more honored if you store it in the Aron Kodesh.
  • The second level is the kadosh of transcendence (the voice which tells you that the Ark is holy and therefore your prayer will be better heard in front of it)
  • The third level, the dynamics of calling upon the Names of God, reaching out for transcendence and then bringing it all together in your heart, making the transcendent imminent, addressing God on the basis of where you’re at in the moment. It is saying “Adonai Zevaot!” — which means “Lord of Hosts” — and bringing it home to “Lord, I am going to be Your host!” and then opening up the door to God, looking around, and proclaiming: “The whole world is filled with God’s glory!”

Lord of Hosts:  Zevaot / hosts as in myriads.  In english, the word host has a second meaning of one who invites guests.  So in this sweet pun, Reb Zalman takes the awesome image and directs it toward the intent of making a space within for relationship with the divine, “I am going to be Your host.”] 

In other words, the transcendent God becomes immanent, not by the God-Name I call out, but by my intent, how I face that name.


This age cries out for the need to create new God-Names and to make peace with the old ones.  The patriarchal, male image of God is no longer acceptable to us and we need to deal with that and therefore work some androgyny into the God-Naming process.  I, for one, am not going to wait around for a Linguistic Moshiach and so I’ve taken the liberty to juggle the Him/Her into Hi’r.  For example, Hi’r Glory. Knowing that change takes time, needs time, I must be patient with the old names and old terms whenever they pop in uninvited and not let it get to me too much. Another way to say this is I need to be able to see the “more” in the “less”.  And if we all can do this, that’s the way it’ll happen on a broader scale, that’s the only way things will grow into fruition. An acorn will not instantaneously become a tree. So if things bother you, if you seethe, think of it as just part of the Pappa stuff and God-Willing you’ll be “pregnant” with these seething thoughts for a while and then give birth to something new from which all the rest of us will benefit too.

I have a friend who had trouble with the image of “Father” because his own father did some heavy stuff with him.  Because of this, the word “father” was like treif in his mouth and so he couldn’t address God as Father. Then, God helped him with this because he became a father.  Because he felt for his baby, that brought him to the realization that “Father” was, in fact, a perfect name for God after all. But it took the experience of being a father, not just being subject to one, for him to realize that this root metaphor is a good one.

And the root metaphor mother is a good one too. They are accessible to us. We have them in us.

Root metaphors and names of God must undergo seasonal change for us to stay connected and our connection can be a problem if the names are too rigid. In Chassidus the process of seasonal adaptability is called Binyan HaMalchut, “building the Kingdom”, establishing the God-field.  If you were to ask R’ Yitzchak Luria to explain the business of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur — going all the way to Sh’mini Atzeres — he would say it is binyan hamalchut, to build up malchut and in this building up the names of God undergo seasonal change.  The way this goes is as follows:

Every Yom Kippur God scraps last year’s Name.

After all, since the Name is an interface between the infinite and the finite, and since, during the course of the year, God’s Name has been pierced by our sins, (our infidelity created leaks in the Name, in the interface and they interfere with the harmonious flow of divine energies and their focus), so after a while, the Name of God needs mending.

The whole thing of the High Priest going into the Kodshei Kodshim on Yom Kippur is a process of bringing down a new Name of God. So the old Name of God dies and a new Name comes down.

Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Ladi (l8th century) taught that there is great significance to our usage of the root metaphor “King” during the period of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur because it is a time when we are making God a king. During the service we are falling to the ground and saying, “We share with You, God,” because You cannot be a king over animals. A king needs to be a king over other peers, as it were, and at the same time the king cannot be a king in his own family. A pappa is a pappa and a king is a king. So what we’re trying to find out on Rosh Hashanah is, are we going to do pappa- or king- stuff with You?” Avinu Malkeinu is this kind of rap.

[NOTE:  Addressing God in both ways as pappa, Avinu / our father, and king, Malkeinu / our king.]

On Yom Kippur God becomes manifest in the 26 hours of that day. Twenty-six is the numerical value of the Sacred Name: Yud Hey Vav Hey, so God becomes that day, becomes incarnate into Time on that very day. God now enters into the world to atone for us. As the Midrash puts it: “For in that day (Yom Kippur) will there be atonement for you” (Leviticus, 15:30) — And how do we know that there would be atonement even without the sacrifices, without the scapegoat? Therefore does the Torah state, “For by that day will there be atonement” — the day itself atones (Sifra on Lev., 15:30).

For it is a day of atonement, to make atonement for you before the Lord” (Leviticus, 23:28) — I would have assumed that there is atonement on that day only through sanctifying the day, fasting, and abstaining from work. But how do I know that there is atonement even if the day is not sanctified and one did not fast nor abstain from work? Thus the Torah teaches: “For it is a day of atonement“. And how do I know there is atonement even without the scapegoat and without the sacrifices? Thus the Torah teaches: “For it is a day of atonement” (Sifra on Lev., 23:28).

The God-Name for Yom Kippur, Yud Hey Vav Hey, is very important. It is non-judgmental. It connotes compassion. It connotes immanence, incarnation. On the other hand, God as Elohim, judge, is not as accessible to negotiation. Elohim does not accept bribes, does not go for appeasement. Elohim means “judge” and judges can’t be bought. The Zohar says: If you offer a korbon to the Name Elohim, it’s like a bribe. So all the sacrifices that need to be offered up on Yom Kippur are offered to Yud Hey Vav Hey. Offer them to Elohim and you’ll only find yourself in more trouble, (Zove’ach l’elokim yochrom / He who slaughters [a sacrifice] to Elokim shall be destroyed ]

In those times you had the attributes of the two respective Names acted out for you in your own “front yard”, in the desert of Sinai. If you went to Moses and said, “I sinned”, he would say to you, “Okay your punishment is such and such”, but if you went to Aaron, he would say, “Don’t worry, I can fix you up. Bring me a sheep and I’ll make a sacrifice,” because he was moving in the circle of Rachamim, Compassion, the Name of Yud Hey Vav Hey.

After the Yom Kippur business there are four days that take us to Sukkot. The Hassidim call them “the four days of God’s name”. In other words, the first day is when the letter Yud comes down, the second day the letter Hey, then the Vav, and then the other Hey. It’s like the letting down of the Divine Name, bringing down the Name one day at a time. Finally, Sukkot arrives and we can start to dance. Now that the Name is back down on earth again we can celebrate and so we do Simchat Torah.

Every year needs a new Name of God. The Chinese have the Year of the Dog, or the Year of the Pig; they have a sense that time has texture and there are curves in history that manifest themselves in economics, politics, all that stuff.  There is an empirical truth that is behind Yovel and Sh’mittah and so on:

In human relations, for instance, a relationship is given naturally seven years without having to do much. If you want to do the relationship longer than seven years there’s a lot of homework to be done during the bridging time.

And so the Torah says that obligations, liens that people have on you cannot last longer than seven years.

How wonderful this is, and there are amazing parallels elsewhere:  For example, not a single molecule, even in bone structure, remains the same after seven years. So if I say I am identical to who I was seven years ago it is only in form but not in the substance. The substance is no longer the same.

But a new God-Name comes down every year.

When the Death Of God discussion came out in 1960, I asked myself what it meant to me, and it became clear that the old Name of God had died, not God.

[NOTE:  cf., Death of God theology.  This was a significant factor in the weltanschauung for that time.]

What we call God, therefore, is but the Name of God. (“In that day shall God be one and Hir Name shall be one” [Zechariah, 14:9].) A lot of Kabbalah deals with this, with the use of divine names and all that stuff.

If I want to relate to the Infinite, I need to examine my personal partzuf, i.e., images I project onto the Infinite, because images are important for making a connection real. The partzuf which you show to me, (i.e. the face you will show me at a certain time, e.g., love, kindness, anger, sadness, etc.), is a close reflection of the partzuf which I show to you (i.e., I am affected by what you are putting out and I respond to that). If I’m smiling at you, then you will start smiling at me. The face you make to me is a response to the face I make to you.  The same kind of thing applies in dealing with the Infinite.

Way back when I was a yeshivah boy there was an instance I recall when my mashpiya (supervisor, or guidance rabbi) approached me while I was davvening and observed with concern the way I davvened so strenuously kvetching out my supplications with an “Oyoyoy!” — my face contorted with concentration and so on. Suddenly, he moved in on me and jabbed me in the ribs, startling me out of my intense dialogue with God. So he said to me: “Did you already try it with a smile and it didn’t work?”

When you observe the facial expressions of people while they are praying, you can get a picture of the expression on God’s Face in response to their prayers. How do you think the Baal Shemtov looked at God, or Rebbe Shneur Zalman? So it has to do with faces, with partzufim.

The Name of God for the last paradigm died around 1960.

What does it mean when we’re told to do something “for God’s sake”, or “in God’s name”? It doesn’t work anymore. The idea has lost its original meanings. It no longer bears any social powers. At one time, “for Christ’s sake” was a sacred declaration rather than a cuss word. A beggar would proclaim, “Alms, for Christ’s sake”, or, “Alms, in the name of Allah!” Before retiring for the night, Jewish kids would say, “In the Name of the God of Israel, to my right is Michael, to my left is Gabriel…” and so on. But it didn’t work anymore when the old Name had died.

The science of God-Naming requires that we first learn about the old Names:

Of the most ancient, there was Eyl Elyon, “Eyl the Most High” (Genesis, 14:18-20). What did Eyl look like? According to some sources Eyl looked like a fiery bull. He was called shoreyli and some people asserted that the sin of the Golden Calf was that they reverted back to a God interface that was already an attavism at that time. So by going back to an earlier stage and saying that this a God, the God of my fathers — this got us into trouble.

In those days it was the age of Taurus, of El the Bull. El was the poppa, the head of the pantheon. At his side was Asherah, the mistress of the womb, and begotten by him, among all kinds of other gods and godlets, was Baal, the husband, the yesodtiferet-being involved in a sister-bride relationship with Anat. Anat was the Kali like goddess who wore a garland of skulls. She has to do with the womb, and with life and death. She is Mechayah Meitim, “reviver of the dead”. She helped Baal to set up house, and so he becomes Ba’al Zefon, Ba’al Zevul, and so on. This was the Holy Family — El, Ashera, Baal, and Anat, who is also sometimes known as Ashtoret, which in Hebrew sometimes means “womb”.

There was also Demeter, Cybele, Adonis with a lot of heavy family stuff going on with the mother goddess and the son that has to die and has to go through this whole thing.

I’ve always had trouble with graven images, having been overdosed on men tor nisht (“thou shalt not”) in my yeshivah days, and therefore not allowing myself to be fully present with a sculpture. But I remember that when I lived in Manitoba I was once standing in front of the huge sculpture of the bisons at the parliament building and I could feel this power, I could imagine how a person would want to do obeisance in the age of Taurus because the interface with the gods back then was so fantastically morphic. Interfaces, gods, looked like animals. And they ate, too. They ate human beings for breakfast. Minotaur got a virgin each time.

Once, when I was in Frankfurt, a friend of mine took me to a church where there was a life-size pieta and it moved me deeply. I see a Yiddishe mommele in brownstone holding the broken body of her son and tears just poured out of me. It was only stone, but what I saw was the fantastic power which embodied by this iconography which brings us imagery of this sort and how it gets us to this place of feeling along. Sometimes I feel really robbed of being able to see God in a baby. A confession: When I was a kid I went to public school in the morning and to cheder in the afternoon. Once a week there was “religion hour” at public school and all the Christian kids would go to have class with this priest. And I would envy them. They had coloring books with pictures of this beautiful old pappa god, and at his side sat this son and so on. I envied all that. Most of all, I envied what I saw in later years in Khrishna and other traditions where a baby is born, coming out of the womb, where God was being incarnated once again.

So you see how there was some real strong stuff back then, in both the mother and the son teachings. Then the paradigm shift occurred and we get Yud Hey Vav Hey, a whole new Name, as the text itself attests: “And I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob with the Name Eyl Shaddai, but My Name Yud Hey Vav Hey I did not make known to them” (Exodus, 6:2).

My sense is that a new God-Name is about to be born, but it is the education of that new God-Name which concerns me. The moment you are aware of something happening you have taken on the responsibility to do it consciously and this is what Mordechai Kaplan said very clearly, that we cannot go on reinterpreting history unconsciously but it has to be conscious interpretation and here we are not merely dealing with reinterpretation of history but reinterpretation of God’s Name. What kind of a God-Name do we want to bring down? We are doing binyan hamalchut, (i.e., “building the Kingdom”, establishing the God-field), not just for Rosh Hashanah, but an entire eon — to help God-Birth.  When people davven from a siddur in a thousand years time, Whom do we want the people to be addressing?  Which God-Name?

We must design a “divine interface”, a “software” by which the infinite will communicate with the finite.

[NOTE:   Using a computer analogy to describe what is to happen inside of us when the design is right.]

We need to write out our side of the Brit, of the Covenant and determine which God-Name we wish to serve, with whom we wish to covenant. With what kind of interface do we wish to connect?

In the Middle Ages we used to call God names like Hakodosh Baruch Hu, “the Holy One Blessed Be He”, or Melech Malchei HaM’lachim, “King Who Is King Of Kings”. Then we shifted from names to attributes. and God became Rachum, “Merciful One”, Chanun, “Gracious One”, Erech Apayim, “Tolerant One”, HaMakom, “The Place”, Gevurah, “Strength” — names of attributes. The Sufis operate with 99 beautiful names of Alah, 99 interfaces for bringing something down. If you need healing and you are a Sufi you would have a particular name to use. If you needed forgiveness, another name, and so on. You would call upon that particular attribute of God and that is how you connect.

If we are given the task to design the Shemot, the divine names, the interfaces of the new paradigm, we have to do it with wisdom. We have to integrate it without losing in the long run, gaining a new understanding without losing the old one. Otherwise we’ll have the same bugs in our spiritual progression as we do in our material, scientific progression. For example, we have yet to find a way of investing as much energy and sophistication into the technology of peace as we have invested into the technology of war.

So we have to know how to make a God system, a kind of “DOS system” for the operation of this universe. How will we design it? Will we run CPM? How about developing a Divine Operating System for DOS?

There is a midrash about Abraham discovering God when he was only three. Reb Nachman takes it a step further and read “Av yadoakha mino’ar” as, “Abraham knew God when God was just starting out in the god business”.

[NOTE: Instead of the usual way of translating these words from the Neilah-service piyyut i.e., that Abraham knew God from the time when Abraham was only a lad.]

Abraham was a God educator, Moses was a God educator, and Isaiah finally gets God to graduate, to become universal.

In the siddur of the future, (and I’m still talking like I mean books, but I don’t mean books), I would like to see the following things:

I would like to have one set of names for God that are for the part of the siddur which deals with the world of assiyah.
I would like to have a different set of names for God when in the worlds of yetzirah, p’sukei d’zimrah, where I go into the song part. So I would want to say “creator”, “fabricator”, “maker”, “supporter”, “instrument-izer”, “energizer”, all those things that I am doing at that moment. So I would say, “Blessed are You, O Energizer, who makes me stand up,” etc. But I would want to say, “O lover, O friend, I want to sing you a song,” and then do the p’sukei d’zimrah.
In Briyah, O divine minds, I greet you with the shma Israel.
In Atzilut, O essence that I am, is that is I, I know you.
O Lord Open my lips and my mouth shall tell thy praise.

Let the identity which I have at the moment address the corresponding name in God. So each prayer would have a corresponding name of God to go with it. Each layer of the davening would have its own root metaphor that would engage us in the most effective attunement possible to all aspects of God.

If we can do that I would like to have the following exercise. Jung has this typology of four sensations corresponding to the four seasons: Winter=intuition, Spring=sensation Summer=reason, Fall=feeling.

I would like to have the people take the task in groups of four representing the year so that here are the people born in the winter with the Yud, here are the people born in spring with the bottom Hey, assiyah, here will be the people born in summer with the upper hey, Briah and here the people born in fall, vav — the chodesh hashvivyi — into the feeling place, so you have yud hey vav hey, you have the typology. If you feel absolutely that your typology and your birthday don’t fit together, I would say go by your insight into your typology. Make then groups of four. I can’t swear to the accuracy of this but this is our working model for today. I would like to have one woman and two men come up here to join me. Let us now stand back to back and chant together:

It is perfect
You are loved
All is clear and
I am holy.

Have you ever seen images of the three faces of the hindu gods, they seem to be coming out of one center? Sometimes you have the triangle for Trinity. And what we were doing was a quaternary. A quaternary is static. It keeps on turning and sometimes you see one aspect then you see another aspect.

This is like what I would want to see in the siddur of the future, different aspects of identifying with God during different phases of the davvening by addressing God by different names depending upon the place that I am, as I am turning my center and exuding various aspects of myself and my experience.

Now I wish for each group of four to sit down and talk. Each person representing a different World, but not to deny what the other is saying. So if you are coming from the world of briah, don’t say “Yetzirah, you’re crazy.”  You’re one of those feeling shmattehs because that’s precisely why you’re on the committee.

If I had a senate of advisors to the president of the United States, I’d want to have them each represent a different sign of the Zodiac and the chairman should be the one, like right now the cancer should be the chairman, whatever the month be.

So what I’m saying, the divine name we call upon God, we sometimes call on only one name. I’d say shma koleynu, adonai.  I’d rather say shma koleynu yah eloheynu, sort of an opening. Even the sound of the name would be appropriate.

Like parents looking to name their baby, what name would we want to give it. Would we want CH sounds to be in his name do we want J sounds, and so on because we want to find out what would evoke the best qualities in that child. What name do we give means how do we engage that neshamah in the world. When I call you by name I call you out. How are we going to call God, how do we want to call God. So right now it’s like they’re saying “find yourself a pin number, a personal identification number” and we are getting names we can call at God, our code number, our password. If you want to get into the infinite storehouse of compassion, power, truth, how do we tap into that? So they’re saying choose your code words.

Each of you will be doing a different note but you will be trying to harmonize it; not homogenize it. Each of you can bring a special gift to the God name, be it sculptive, music, words, body movement, whatever your process, your talent is. We are making new tzirufim, (i.e. permutations of the letters), this is practical kabbalah. When we resume we will put on the board all the assiyah names, the briyah names and so on. And they don’t have to be words either. It could be a sound, for example.

Sing with me the chant of the Four Worlds:

Lord I want to do for you
Lord I want to feel for you
Lord I want to know for you
Lord I want to be for you
Yah I want to do for you
Yah, I want to feel for you
Yah I want to know for you
Yah I want to be for you.
You are action
You are feeling
You are knowledge
You are being
You are action
You are feeling
You are knowledge,
You just are.
You are asiyah,
You are briyah,
You are yetzirah,
You are atzilus.
You are action,
You are feeling
You are knowledge
You just are.

Now we will have a market. Leave everything on your seat, start collecting your team in whichever way you want to do this.

“Behold I give unto you today the blessing and the curse.” There is sort of a leftover from the last session that is tickling my mind and it goes something like this: Every situation in the world has in itself that possibility, of being polarized, good and evil. Part of the education of something is to dedicate it, as if to say, from the beginning I want it to be for a brachah. Whatever it is that I’m about to do, I want it to be a brachah. The consciousness, it goes: I’m obligated to make a brachah or else super-ego is going to come and hit me in the kishkehs. It is different than saying that I am a partner with the universe and my response now with the energy exchange which is about to take place is to make a brachah. To dedicate this thing to brachah. I’m saying, I’d like to take making a brachah into a functioning state and not just do halachically what is called for, that if I say one brachah I don’t have to say anymore, I am yotze.

At times I go and say mizmor l’todah. I drive on the highway. Baruch Hashem the cop doesn’t stop me when he should have. I want to thank the universe. How do I do that? I say mizmor l’todah, etc. In other words, if I wanted to bring the korbon Today in the first paradigm I’d have brought a sheep, if I wanted to bring a korbon in the second paradigm, I bring a shtikeleh Torah. He who studies the korbon it is as if he brought a korban, so I bring an interaction of these two things. I feel like making a brachah now so what do I do?  You know, if someone would tell me if the world to come is a yeshivah and that will be paradise — I don’t know. But if they told me it was going to be a kallah, it gets more credible. You know, what are they studying in the mystical academy, what are they doing, we are God designers. I want to give a brachah. How do you feel in the space of your body? How do you feel brachahdik?

“In briyah we looked at computer energy and arrived with conceptualizer, as the name in briyah. I am going in the reverse sequence. In asiyah we looked at mechanical energy and received the name, transmitter. In atzilut we are looking at electrical energy and came with the name transformer. In yetzirah we are looking at biological energy and came up with the womb-er.”

It’s almost as if one could say that the sefiros of chesed and hod have reported. “We came up with kind of a 3-dimensional cross world puzzle. Interconnections of names, an image of a 3-dimensional cross world puzzle, sort of a DNA spiral. Then we took our circle and divided it into the quadrinity and had each interact with each, the fall in summer, the fall in spring.”

I now want you all to stand up and say an AMEN. Here’s a headline in the daily cosmos. The Kallah in Bnai Or submitted today the first entries to the contest of the new four-letter word of the next Yah. AMEN!

2 Responses to “God-Naming”

  1. Susan P. Minors Says:

    I am reminded of all the mystery, wonder, power that comes from the physical sciences: biology, physics, quantum and otherwise, the cosmology of the universe, and each setting inspires a variation of a God-name. Are not God-names as infinite in variety and purpose as those conceptions which our finite minds can grasp?

  2. eric Says:

    The chapter Dream Assembly from the book, here in Spanish.


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