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Alexandr Loginov ©, 2017

Let us come back to the phrase Shem ha-Mephorash, which, as we have ascertained, meant the sacred name of Yahweh, The Living in Fire. Now there appeared a chance to learn important information about the use of the name-epithet in temple rituals. “Shem ha-Mephorash means literally the name clearly articulated, i.e. that name of the God which the high priest articulated distinctly on the Day of Atonement reading Lev. 16, 30, at the time of confession of sins (Yoma, IV, 2)”./Brockhaus and Efron Jewish Encyclopedia, Yom Kippur is the main holiday of Judaism, and the most suitable moment to articulate the sacred name Yahweh. “I beseech thee, [Name],1 I have committed iniquities, transgressed, and sinned before Thee, I and my house, and the sons of Aaron, Thy holy people: I beseech Thee, [Name], forgive the iniquities, transgressions, and sins which I have committed, transgressed, and sinned, I and my house, and the sons of Aaron, Thy holy people, as it is written in the Torah of Moses Thy servant: 'For on that day shall he make atonement for you, to cleanse you from all your sins, that ye may be pure before Jehovah.” (Talmud, Yoma, IV, 2; tr. by M. L. Rodkinson) / /

The sacred name of Yahweh sounded in The Temple by the high priest only once a year, at the time of Yom Kippur. In that case, the attendees did not repeat it aloud, but in response to the prayer of the chief cohen, they said: “Blessed the glorious, kingly name of him for all eternity”. Consequently, the sacred name was called during the prayer on Yom Kippur, and it was widely known by not only The Temple priests, but also by all Yahweh worshipers, thereby, it remained tabooed for free articulation2 and spelling

1 An English translator substituted here the unique name Shem ha-Mephorash by the artificial “name” Jehovah. But in Russian translation by N. Pereferkovich (Н. Переферкович) it is said that during the holiday of Yom Kippur the high priest would utter a special sacred name. See:Талмуд, критич. пер. Н. Переферковича. М, 2004 – 2005, Т. 2 (Кн. 3 и 4) : Мишна и Тосефта. - Репр.: СПб., 1903 г., С. 334.


2 There is one more reference to articulation of “the Name in detail”. “In interpretation of Numbers 6, 27 Sifre, ad locum, instead of the Biblical word “My name” uses the term Shem ha-Mephorash”. / The Sifre is halakhic midrash to  Deuteronomy and Numbers, and what is involves is the line: “So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.” (Num. 6:27). Obviously, here they understand the sacral service on the holiday of Yom Kippur, but there could be some other special rituals when Yahweh was called by his true name – The Living in Fire.


in religious texts. The only legal way to mention The Living in Fire was his metaphoric descriptions found repeatedly in the Bible.


Also it is necessary to accept that the popular variant of “the name in detail” - Shem ha-Mephorash - is not exactly correct. Firstly, the word Shem – “name” – needs to take the definite article ha - ה, and then the word is understood as “that very name”, or “the Name with the capital letter”, i.e. the name-epithet of the flamy deity which is not called. Probable, the tradition of Shem ha-Mephorash with no article came to stay on purpose, in order not to call the God’s name in “vein”. Secondly, that was possibly the same reason to contort the pronunciation of the last syllable, instead of “-ash” there must have been “-esh”.

That exactly – Ha-Shem ha-Mephoresh, the form of the sacred name in numerous sources, both medieval and contemporary. The text of anathema (herem) of heretics drawn up by a Judaic community in Venice in XVI century contained the name of “mystic Shem ha-Mephoresh”. Such variant of vocalization is used in modern literature dedicated to Judaic mysticism and, in particular, to Kabala, for example: “Those four Letters are ‘Yud Heh Vav Heh,’ and we refer to it as Shem ha-Meforesh, meaning ‘the name distinction and excellence’”. In its turn, with the variant of vocalization of the last vowel by the letter “e” Ha-Shem ha-Mephoresh rhymes with the sacred name Ehye asher Ehye ba-esh. So there is a distich composed on the single rhythm, where the first line is logically followed by the second one:


הַשֵם הַמְפוֹרָש

אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה בָּאֵשׁ


Ha-Shem ha-Mephoresh –

Ehyeh asher ehyeh ba-esh


It was only the high priest who articulated Ha-Shem ha-Mephoresh on the holiday of Yom Kippur, addressing to Yahweh with pleas for the nation forgiveness. This distich is the first lines of the prayer and, at the same time, the formula of the short “article of faith” of Yahweh adepts. It can be expected that in such a prayer there was personal claim to Yahweh, for the sacred and tabooed name was only articulated  during a special appeal of the high priest to the deity, that is why the variant articulated on Yom Kippur, must take personal claim:   

Your revealed name –

The Living in Fire!


There is one more important detail: this prayer claim has a noticeable similarity with the beginning of Lord's Prayer, the main Christian prayer.


Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be Your name...


It is extremely improbable that similarity of the sacred claims to Yahweh, which we found, and the first lines of Lord's Prayer is accidental. In addition, it was quite long ago, when the Biblical scholars noticed similarity of the prayer Lord's prayer with the ancient variant of the prayer Kaddish (קַדִּישׁ), which was read in Aramaic in synagogues as far as I century A.D.:


May His great name be exalted and sanctified

in the world which He created according to His will!

May He establish His kingdom

and may His salvation blossom and His anointed be near

during your lifetime and during your days

and during the lifetimes of all the House of Israel,

speedily and very soon!

May His great name be blessed

for ever, and to all eternity!


As we see, the prayers are similar in the form, but there is no direct appeal to the God in Kaddish; there no “His great name”; the prayer seems beheaded. Who is “He” the believers appeal? In Kaddishthere is neither Yahweh nor any other deities’ names. This is a very weird peculiarity of the prayer, but is is easily explained, though – Kaddish used “the great name” which was tabooed for commonplace, “profane” articulation. As we know from Talmud, the direct appeal to the deity with his sacred name was permitted only to the high priest, and it happened in the Temple during the holiday of Yom Kippur. In this case, Kaddish, being quite short, is actually devoted to glorifying of “the great name”, which can only be understood as Ha-Shem ha-Mephoresh. Also the benison that believers said in the Temple during Yom Kippur in response to the sacred name articulated (see Yoma, IV, 2), was the same as in the last line of Kaddish! Then, there is the only conclusion that the beginning of the prayerKaddish was articulated some special way by the high priest himself, and it was made as the sacred formula of glorifying Yahweh: “the revealed name – “Living in Flame”!


This sacred formula lets unravel the mystery of “the great name of three simple letters”, which is mentioned in the famous cabalistic treatise Sefer Yetzirah – Book of Formation (neo hebraic ספר יצירה). This text dated back earlier than IV century A.D., tells about creation of the material and another worlds, and it happened with the letters of Hebrew alphabet. The God, according to Sefer Yetzirah, combined letters in various sequence and, and thus, created the Universe. “He chose three simple letters and fixed them in His great Name. And He sealed with them the six edges [of the world]… Three mother letters: א מ ש (alef, mem, shin) – a great mystery, hidden and ineffable, and sealed with six seals. And from it goes out fire, and water and air, and it is divided into male and female... Three mother letters: א מ ש (alef, mem, shin). And from them were born three fathers from whom everything was created”.

The “great Name” can only be understood as the deity’s sacred name; it means, the author of Sefer Yetzirah thought it had three letters - Alef, Mem, Shin. Then, it seems that the hypothesis about The Living in Flame” (אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה בָּאֵשׁ) as “the great Name” turns out deadly contradicting to cabalistic conceptualization.

But if to attempt to reconstruct this brief three-letter “name” through sorting combinations of ש; א ;מ, the results received do not correspond the sacred name. Could the letters act as abstract symbols, and did not need to make words from? However, in my opinion, the ancient cabalistic mystery can be unraveled after all.

Here is the first prompt, from the characteristic of Sefer Yetzirah in On-line Jewish Encyclopedia:  “The lexicon (especially in the first chapter) reminds the dictionary of mystic works of so-called sifrut ha-merkava (the literature of the chariot)”. Merkava is the fiery whirlwinds of The Living in Flame Yahweh: “His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze.” (Dan. 7:9), and the same image of the deity is given in the works of mystic cabalists of I Thd. A.D. In particular, there is a description how a religious visionist addresses to Yahweh with a request “not to be lured into fire and flame, whirlwind and storm that rage around You, o You, Frightful and High”. (Fragment from the work by Merkava Rabbah  from Merkava Shlema work collection; cit. ex: Шолем Гершом - Основные течения в еврейской мистике. М., 2004, С. 87). Actually, cabalists also considered the God to be The Living in Flame, and in the secret name with three letters we need to seek the word “fire” (esh,  אֵש). It is tolled about in в Sefer Yetzirah: “He made the letter Shin king over Fire. He tied a crown to it and combined it with the other letters. With them He formed heaven in Space, winter in Time and the head in Soul…” (Chapter 3. Mishna 9).

The second prompt: “According to Sefer Yetzirah, all real substances in three layers of genesis – in the world, in time and in a human body (“world”, “year”, “soul”) appeared due to the combination of 22 letters and especially due to the combination of the letters in pairs…” You cannot make a pair with three letters, but it is possible to combine two pairs if to use one of the letters twice.

The next steps are simple. The first pair of the sacred letters in the full “flamy” name is the word “fire” אֵש. To determine the second pair from “Three mother letters”, one needs to find the “half” for letter Mem. It is either Mem + Alef, or Mem + Shin in various sequence. But it is not necessary - Shem ha-Meforesh 

begins with Shin+Mem and forms the word “name”. That is all, the words, which were used to create the Universe, according to Sefer Yetzirah, are found.


Name – Fire

 שֵׁם  –אֵשׁ

Shem – esh


We see that the name formed from “Three mother letters”, corresponds in sense to the sacred formula of Yahwism: The revealed name is The Living in Flame. But the most striking is that, “the Name in detail” begins and ends with the words forming the short great name (which must be called Ha-Shem, “this Name”), and repeating the sacred description of Yahweh. The short great name of Yahweh appeared symmetrical, two words with two syllables, one of them starts, and another “closes” with letter Shin. Such surprising balance could definitely be considered by Judaic mystics as an attribute of supernatural origin of the sacred formula.

הַשֵם הַמְפוֹרָש

אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה בָּאֵשׁ



Now it becomes clear why cabalists understood “three simple letters” as a symbol of the celestial judgment: “Three mother letters: א מ ש (alef, mem, shin). Their basis is the scale of acquittal and the scale of guilt, and the tongue of law holds the balance between them.” “The tongue of the scale of law” is letter Shin ש: if it bends to Mem, it forms the word “Name”, which can only mean the God’s blessing; if it bends to Alef, it makes the word “fire” with the meaning of punishing flame of Yahweh.


It is fair to assume that the brief “Name – Fire”,3 but not the wordy “Name in detail”, could be inscribed on the corona of the diadem of the high priest. The gold slab on the forehead with the fire of Yahweh on it was rather small in size, and it could have enough place and be noticeable for believers only four letters of the true sacred the Tetragrammaton: אֵש – שֵׁם.



3 “See, the Name of the Lord comes from afar, with burning anger and dense clouds of smoke; his lips are full of wrath, and his tongue is a consuming fire.” (Ex. 30:27). The metaphor Isaiah seems a little weird – how can a name come? But if “name” meant continuation – “fire”, the Yahweh reader immediately understood the author’s idea: it is referred to a stream of fire, or more exactly, to “the tongue” of  а glowing avalanche which was considered the supernatural manifestation of Yahweh.  


 Author Alexandr Loginov


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