In this week’s Parsha as well as in the previous one we read a lot about the Divine Names. In the previous Parsha Hashem revealed to Moshe His names Alef-Hei-Yud-Hei and the Main Name Yud-Hei with Vav-Hei (which we usually call Hashem – “the name”). This week’s Parsha, starts with another mysterious statement regarding Hashem’s Names. Hashem says that He showed Himself to the forefathers by His Name Shin-Dalet-Yud, but not through the Main Name “Hashem”. What is the significance of all these Names? Moreover, why are there many Names of Hashem in general?




We should first mention that the general subject of the Divine Names is deeply rooted in the most mystical parts of Kabala. The Names have to do with Hanhagah – the Divine Rule over the physical and spiritual worlds. In fact the Midrash (Shemos Raba 3:6) says that when Moshe asked Hashem: “What is Your Name?” he was told: “I have many Names, and I am called according to My actions”.


There are altogether seven inerasable Names[1] that form 10 main combinations corresponding to the ten Sefiros and forming the following arrangement[2] (please note that it’s forbidden to pronounce any of these names except during prayer and Torah study, and the Main Name is not pronounced at all):


Divine Name









Yud-Hei with Vav-Hei with vowels of E-lohim









Yud-Hei with Vav-Hei (Hashem)



(Hashem) Tzeva-ot



(E-lohim) Tzeva-ot











The reasons for these arrangements are discussed in the books of Kabala. Besides these Names there are also many mystical Names[3], for example, the 12-letter Name, the 22-letter Name, the 42-letter Name, the 72 three-letter Names, etc[4]. A detailed discussion of the meaning of these names is far beyond the scope of our commentary[5]. However we will mention some general points.


The study of Kabala today is generally theoretical. The Zohar and other holy books can discuss various Sefiros and the ways of Divine Hanhagah. On the other hand, the prophets were actually able to see[6] through the Sefiros and this is where the levels of prophets differed from each other. Even the forefathers – Avraham, Yitzchak and Yakov turned to Hashem either through His other Names or through the Main Name together with a different Name[7]. There visions thus were passing through various worlds and are considered to be through unclear lenses[8]. Moshe’s prophesy was from the highest level attainable during lifetime of a human being[9]. We thus don’t find the expression: “Vayidaber Hashem El” (and Hashem spoke to) except with regards to Moshe[10]. The Torah (Devarim 34:10) thus predicts that there will never be any prophet like Moshe. The Rambam[11] thus tells us that even Moshiach will not reach the prophetic level of Moshe, though he will be greater than all other prophets. Our sages promise[12] that Moshe will come back after coming of Moshiach and we will continue to wait for them every day!



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[1] Talmud, Shvuos 35a; Rambam, Yesodey Hatorah 6:2, Shulchan Aruch, Yore Deah 276:9.


[2] Zohar 3:11b, see also Pardes Rimonim 1:10. See our words in parshas Bereishis and in the article 10centuriesenglish.htm in Appendix A.


[3] These names are generally not pronounced but can be used in meditation. Indeed, many of these Names are hinted in our prayers. Sometimes Arizal tells us to concentrate in various particular parts of prayer on some of these names that come out from first letters of words or through permutations and gematrias. Besides this, some of these names have particular “segula” (special qualities). For instance, one of the 72 names Yud-Lamed-Yud is used to heal the sick. This is why the Talmud (Brochos 5b) when discussing the Rabbis that took a sick person out of his disease, uses this expression “Yehav Lei Yadey” (he gave him his hand) forming this Name with the first three letters.


[4] See the GR”A to Tikuney Zohar, end of the fourth Tikun. The 12-letter Name has to do with Yud-Hei with Vav-Hei written with three types of vowels pointing to “Haya, VeHove VeYiyeh” – (He Was, Is and Will Be). The 22-letter Name has to do with the three verses of the blessing of Kohanim. The 42 letter Name has to do with the creation of the world and one of it’s projections is hinted in the first letters of words of our prayer “Ana Bekoach …” The seventy two three-letter Names come out of the three 72-letter verses (Shemos 14:19-21).


[5] See the GR”A to Shulchan Aruch, siman 5, that the secretes regarding the meaning of Divine Names are Halacha Lemoshe Misinai (given to Moses at Sinai), but when we pray we must have just the simple meaning in mind. The Name A-donoi means “Master of everything” and the Name “E-lohim” means Almighty, the Strength behind all powers.


[6] See for instance Tania, Igeres Hakodesh, 19.


[7] See Bereishis 15:2, 15:8, 18:3.


[8] See Bemidbar 12:8; Talmud, Yevamos 49b, Ramban (6:2); Zohar 2:22b.


[9] Regarding the exact perception reached by Moshe, see GR”A to the Zohar 2:248a; GR”A, likutim printed in the end of Sifra Detzniusa.


[10] There is an exclusion to this rule in the book of Yehoshuah (20:1). The reason is that it discusses there a mitzvah that was commanded to Moshe and finished by Yehoshuah.


[11] In his letter to Yemenite Jews.


[12] See Tamud, Yom 5b, Nida 70b.