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“Jehovah’s Witnesses”

 

By: Rabbi Ari Enkin

In my review of Israel Rubin’s “The How & Why of Jewish Prayer” (link) I made mention of his view that the word “Jehovah” cannot possibly be a translation of the “Y-H-V-H” and hence there would be nothing halachically problematic with referring to the religious group “Jehovah’s Witnesses” when appropriate.

This excerpt made Rabbi Shalom Spira (Montreal, Canada) very uncomfortable, to put it lightly. He wrote to me voicing his opposition to this view citing Rabbi Moshe Tendler as one of his sources. As this issue is both recurring and serious in nature, I wanted to take this opportunity to present Israel Rubin’s view in greater detail. [Please see footnote].[1]

Rubin notes that the correct pronunciation of the Y-H-V-H- was lost during the Talmudic period. The name was used as part of the Temple Service during the First Temple period. During the Second Temple period the name was not used as it was feared that the name would be misused or articulated unlawfully. As a result of this disuse of the Y-H-V-H the correct pronunciation of The Name was lost.

In Koren publications the Y-H-V-H appears without any vowelization which reflects the reality that there is no one who authoritatively knows how to pronounce it. The vowelization that frequently accompanies the Y-H-V-H is simply an ancient printer’s insertion to remind the reader to pronounce Y-H-V-H as “Adon-ai”. Indeed, the vowelization there clearly “belongs” to the word Adona-ai and not any possible transliteration of the Y-H-V-H.

Rubin claims that the word “Jehovah” cannot possibly be a transliteration of Y-H-V-H based on two errors:

The first [error] is the attempt to read the Y-H-V-H with the vowels that appear with it in the printed Tanach text. While the vowels are actually the vowels of the word Adon-oi, the Chataf Patach under the Alef of Adon-oi changes to a Shevah under the Yud of Y-H-V-H. The second mistake is that the English readers took the German transliteration of the mistaken reading –Jehovah- and pronounced the letter J as a J. In German the letter J is pronounced as a Y. Thus, the German really reads Yehovah. Nevertheless, whether you pronounce it as the Germans did or as the Americans do, the word Jehovah/Yehovah is total gibberish and has no sanctity whatsoever according to the halacha. Modern scholars introduced an equally erroneous pronunciation, again based on the German, of Yahweh. This word is also gibberish and has no meaning or legal standing. (The How & Why of Jewish Prayer p.531)

I feel that Rubin’s arguments are convincing. It is also worth citing William Robertson Smith in his In A Dictionary of the Bible (1863) who concludes that “whatever, therefore, be the true pronunciation of the word, there can be little doubt that it is not Jehovah“.

If those in the era of the Second Temple and post Second Temple period did not know how to pronounce or articulate the Y-H-V-H how can anyone suggest that our era knows better?

What do you think?


[1] I will also note Rabbi Spira’s opposition of even writing “Jehovah” in English, again citing Rabbi Tendler as one of his sources. However, considering that a) there is no clear consensus that “Jehovah” in English is indeed the transliteration God’s name, b) even if it is indeed God’s name, the Shach (YD 179:11) seems to say that God’s name written in a foreign language has no sanctity, c) that electronic matter generally has no halachic value (see for example: Yabia Omer 4:20; Igrot Moshe, YD 1:173), and d) that Rabbi Avishai David gave his haskama to Rubin’s book as-is, I have decided to use “Jehovah” without reservation. Neverthless, I have no criticism for those who choose to be machmir in this regard.

 
 
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71 Responses

  1. Nachum says:

    A few points:

    1. It wasn’t just “used as part of the Temple Service during the First Temple period.” It was part of everyday speech, likely into the Second Temple period as well. Every time someone in Tanach says YHWH- Boaz uses it in greeting his workers!- he or she is pronouncing it as such.

    2. That said, already in the Septuagint it’s written as “Kyrios,” meaning “Lord,” so by the beginning of the Second Bayit, it was probably already being pronounced “Adonai.” That marks the shift at about 300 BCE.

    3. Perhaps relevant, the Dead Sea Scrolls, even when writing the rest of the text in Ktav Ashuri, write YHWH in Ktav Ivri. It seems they felt the latter was more “authentic.” (You can argue the opposite, but not convincingly.)

    4. How is “Yahweh” “gibberish” based on German? It’s a scientific reconstruction of the name, based on the fact that lots of names end in “-yah” and the rest of the word is probably derived from the word “howeh” (the correct pronunciation of a vav is “w”) meaning “is” or “causes to be”, i.e. “He Who Is” (as Hashem said to Moshe) or “He Who creates”, and is probably the best guess.

  2. Ari Enkin says:

    Nachum-

    Thanks for that input! I didnt know 1-3.

    Re: #4 – I will ask Israel Rubin to contribute.

    Ari Enkin

  3. micha says:

    i- Mequbalim would argue that the name has holiness and meaning even with alternate vowelizations.

    ii- The problem with Koren’s choice is that the Mesoretes meant something by omitting a vowel — that something was q’ri and not kesiv. What other siddurim do is the normal mesoretic way — vowelizing according to the kesiv. OTOH, they drift from standard Hebrew orthography in other ways — having distinct symbols disambiguoating sheva na vs sheva nach, qamatz gadol vs qatan, and mahpach vs yesiv. And like those other changes, some might find this useful. I don’t see why one special case is superior to the other, it’s a sight-word either way. So I personally don’t think this drift from Mesoretic is warranted.

    iii- Nachum, couldn’t #4 argue for Yi-ha-vuh (hif’il for “hoveh”)?

  4. Mike S. says:

    The Septuagint is not at the beginning of the Second Temple period but in the middle. And the choice to translate rather than transliterate God’s name may or may not say anyrthing about how it was being pronounced; one might equally speculate that the translator(s) did not want a bunch of Greek Gentiles (or even Hellenist Jews) pronouncing it, or they might have been concerned that it couldn’t be translitterated in a way that gave the proper pronunciation. And the Qumran practice of puting the Holy Name in ktav ivri is in some but not all of the texts. As no one has a clear understanding of the variations in both text and scribal practice at Qumran, any claim as to the motive or significance is pure speculation.

    As physicist I must again protest the use of the phrase “scientific” for academic study of biblical (or any other) text. It has nothing to do with the scientific method.

  5. Re: Nachum #1 I believe you are referencing the Mishna, last perennial of Berachos. The name used there is Sholom and not the Shem itself. Check out Rashi: the Eis la’asos was to greet people with a name of Hashem. This is a problem for those whose belief is to toss out halacha based on this Mishna. It apparently only changes a long-standing Minhag

  6. I believe you are referencing the Mishna, last perennial of Berachos. The name used there is Sholom and not the Shem itself. Check out Rashi: the Eis la’asos was to greet eople with a name of Hashem. This is a problem for those whose belief is to toss out halacha based on this Mishna. It apparently only changes a long-standing Minhag

  7. aiwac says:

    Wait a minute – you mean to tell me that the whole stoning scene in “Life of Brian” is based on a misreading?!

  8. Yaakov Fuchsman says:

    Hi, it’s not an “ancient printer’s insertion.”

    First of all, because there is no such thing as an “ancient printer.”

    But second and more importantly, because the origin of the custom is in the manuscript age, before printing. Though many of the oldest Tiberian manuscripts usually omit the holam vowel, they sometimes do mark it too.

  9. Nachum says:

    aiwac: “Making it worse for myself? How much worse could it get??”

    micha: Of course- it could be any number of things. I think they just want to keep “yah” because that’s how so many names end. Of course, many end “-yahu”, so unless that’s literal (e.g., Yeshayahu= “Yah, He is salvation”), you could make it, say, “Yehuweh” or something. Who knows.

    Which leads me to Mike: I was merely using “scientific” to imply that it’s not random, nor a mistake. It’s an attempt to reconstruct something using tried methods and new information that’s come to light, man. :-)

    I think the Septuagint (Torah part) is dated from somewhere between 300 and 200 BCE. That’s about mid-Second Bayit- over 200 years after it was built and over 200 years before it was destroyed. Regardless, it implies that, for whatever reason, the word “adonai” was being used for YHWH by then. Unless you mean to imply that it *started* there and then moved to the Hebrew usage? I somehow doubt that.

    Similarly, we know that Second Bayit (and later) types saw Ktav Ivri as being more authentic. See coins of the two revolts, for example. (There was even a revival of this post-1948.) It makes sense that this is what motivated (some of) the DSS scribes, i.e., “Nebach that we don’t use it anymore, but let’s at least write the Shem that way.” (The alternative is to say that they davka chose Ivri because it was more secular, but that’s hard to justify unless you say Ashuri is older, which is very doubtful.)

    Gedalia, I wasn’t thinking of the Mishna, nor of Rashi’s explanation, although that may be why I thought of Boaz as an example. The fact is that there’s no evidence that anyone from, say, the time of Shoftim (leaving aside the question of when Ruth was written) used anything other than the actual pronunciation of Hashem’s name. And yet Tanach *abounds* in people doing just that, sometimes for the most mundane of reasons.

  10. Hirhurim says:

    COMMENT OF THE DAY:

    Mike S.: As physicist I must again protest the use of the phrase “scientific” for academic study of biblical (or any other) text. It has nothing to do with the scientific method.

  11. S. says:

    “In Koren publications the Y-H-V-H appears without any vowelization which reflects the reality that there is no one who authoritatively knows how to pronounce it. The vowelization that frequently accompanies the Y-H-V-H is simply an ancient printer’s insertion to remind the reader to pronounce Y-H-V-H as “Adon-ai”. Indeed, the vowelization there clearly “belongs” to the word Adona-ai and not any possible transliteration of the Y-H-V-H.”

    There is an ancient Masoretic vowelization. Sheva under aleph and qametz under nun. The voweling you refer to in the post (same as I just said, with the addition of a cholem over the heh) precedes printing and is also found in later Masoretic manuscripts.

    Some may find my post here interesting, at least as a curiosity

    http://onthemainline.blogspot.com/2011/06/shadal-series-1-how-was-tetragrammaton.html

  12. S. says:

    It should also be noted for what it’s worth that the Samaritans may have preserved a pronunciation.

    http://onthemainline.blogspot.com/2006/04/how-do-samaritans-pronounce.html

  13. J. says:

    Gil – Really? Do you honestly believe that the scientific method can tell us nothing at all about a text? The scientific method isn’t just about the natural sciences – it’s about drawing rational conclusions from the evidence in a text. For example, if I read a text which speaks of ‘the attacks on the twin towers in New York on 9/11′ it would make sense that this text was not written in ancient Rome or medieval Athens. Call this method what you will (scientific, inductive or whatever) but to be honest it seems pretty rational to me. Now if you choose to say that this text which mentions 9/11 was actually written in ancient Rome by a prophet who God had informed about these events two millennia in advance, well there’s not much I can do to dissuade you, but that doesn’t mean that your claim is as ‘scientific’ as mine.

  14. yitznewton says:

    J:

    WRT your 9/11 example, exactly: history is not science. It may be rational. “Call this method what you will..” The point is that “the scientific method” is clearly enough defined to exclude what you describe.

    IIUC scientific methodology is about forming hypotheses and predictions, and testing them through experimentation or observation. Seems to me that predictive textual analysis would be more akin to this. Still, the human factors (if we assume human factors) that go into creating a text are not the same as the natural factors under observation in natural science experiments.

  15. Skeptic says:

    Mike S. — The “scientific method” is just what they teach middle school children that scientists do. There really is no such thing, as many practicing scientists will admit. Your claim “as a physicist” means nothing. Scientists do not argue from authority. We argue using reason. Now if you have a reasoned argument to distinguish between some “scientific method” in one realm of human thought and another, then make that argument. But forgive us if we don’t take your word for it — especially those of us who are also scientists and know better.

  16. aiwac says:

    Perhaps this (ideal) definition is better:

    History is a rigorous discipline with rules and paradigms, which sometimes uses hard scientific methods (such as carbon-dating and chemical tests). It is certainly not all guessing, but it does not rise to the level of, say, physics.

  17. Yirmeyahu says:

    “1. It wasn’t just “used as part of the Temple Service during the First Temple period.” It was part of everyday speech, likely into the Second Temple period as well. Every time someone in Tanach says YHWH- Boaz uses it in greeting his workers!- he or she is pronouncing it as such.”

    Do you have a source for this assertion?

    “‘In every place where I cause my name to be mentioned’ Where I give you permission to mention My Ineffable Name, there ‘I will come unto thee and bless thee’ (i.e.) I will cause My Divine Presence to rest upon thee. Hence you learn that permission was not given to mention the Ineffable Name save where the Divine Presence comes, and that is the Temple there permission was granted to the priests to mention the Ineffable Name at the ‘lifting of the hands’ to bless the people’ (Sota 38)” Rashi on Ex. 20:21.

    “This Sacred Name, which, as you know, was not pronounced except in the Sanctuary by the appointed priests, when they gave the sacerdotal blessing [Bircas Kohanim], and by the highpriest on the Day of Atonement” Rambam, The Guide for the Perplexed LXI (Translation by Friedlander)

  18. S. says:

    “Do you have a source for this assertion?”

    Every time you say “Hashem” you are really saying YHVH? How did the author of Ruth know to write YHVH and not “Elohim” or some other such term, if Boaz actually said something besides YHVH? For that matter, if Boaz said something else then why doesn’t the pasuk say what he said? If he did not follow the Gemara in Sota’s interpretation of Ex. 20:21 it is a good kashya, but not on Boaz.

  19. Simon S says:

    Is there really anyone who doesn’t see the qualitative difference between the scientific methods in “natural sciences” and “social sciences”"? Social sciences don’t even meet some of the basic definitions of the word “science”. “Academic disciplines” is a much better term for this fields of research. Just sayin…

  20. aiwac says:

    Nachum,

    OK. SO how do you refer to the above-mentioned religious sect, having accepted this pronunciation as authoritative?

  21. Simon S says:

    S.

    “If he did not follow the Gemara in Sota’s interpretation of Ex. 20:21 it is a good kashya, but not on Boaz.”

    But the claim is that he (Boaz) would follow the gemara in Sota, where it not for the “eis laasos” (Brachos 63a). Boaz is not a good example.

  22. S. says:

    It’s not a question of differences so much as the attempt to downgrade other disciplines with a pat on the head. The seriousness and accomplishments of those fields are very great, and there are exacting and critical methods. The so-called hard sciences also can produce mistakes, even in working models (Hi, Newton).

  23. Simon S says:

    *were it not…

  24. aiwac says:

    S.,

    This is true. But I don’t think that even the most devout historian will deign to call it a science. Rigorous discipline with exacting methods? Yes. Science? No.

  25. S. says:

    “But the claim is that he (Boaz) would follow the gemara in Sota, where it not for the “eis laasos” (Brachos 63a). Boaz is not a good example.”

    The Gemara is just being consistent with itself. I’m not so sure that we have to conclude that Boaz made the halachic analysis that the Gemara did regarding his actions. If es laasos permits teaching girls Torah, do we have to say that Sara Schenirer said es laasos because the Chofetz Chaim subsequently said it?

    In any case, the main point is whether he pronounced the name or said some substitute. It’s hard to see how he said a substitution if the text gives the shem.

  26. S. says:

    “This is true. But I don’t think that even the most devout historian will deign to call it a science. Rigorous discipline with exacting methods? Yes. Science? No.”

    It’s just semantics. The word “science” used to encompass things which we do not call “science” today. In fact, the very existence of the term “social science” indicates that. I would argue that if it’s true that bible scholars want their discipline as scientific for self-serving reasons, physicists want the opposite also for self-serving reasons.

    Regarding history, it’s not about any one discipline. Maybe writing a history of Lower East Side synagogues isn’t science, but what’s not scientific about paleography?

  27. Simon S says:

    “In any case, the main point is whether he pronounced the name or said some substitute. It’s hard to see how he said a substitution if the text gives the shem.”

    I’m just saying the Gemara is aware of this problem and gives an halachic explanation (i.e. there is a rule and Boaz is an exception to this rule).

    Also, I don’t think we can compare a cute wort about Beis Yaakov with something that the Chazal was discussing as an issur d’oraisa.

    It can be said that the plain reading of Tanach does not agree with the view of Chazal. But is this really the only time?

  28. aiwac says:

    S.,

    I already mentioned that history sometimes has recourse to scientific methods when possible, paleography and carbon-dating being one of these cases. So you’re breaking through an open door here.

    I don’t understand why you’re sensitive on this – I have nothing but respect for history. But the methodology, evidence and prediction requirements of history and social sciences are, through no fault of the scholars, generally less rigorous than hard science.

    That does not, repeat, does NOT, mean that history cannot be exacting or accurate. Science, it is not.

  29. aiwac says:

    BTW, history/social sciences are not the only fields that have problems rising to the level of hard science. Even areas like forensic evidence have difficulty here:

    http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/health/forensics/4325774

  30. S. says:

    “It can be said that the plain reading of Tanach does not agree with the view of Chazal. But is this really the only time?”

    No. I think we’ve all been politely saying that we can discuss passages in Tanach according to pshat without the interpretation of Chazal. True, in this case it would seem to touch upon halacha, but only indirectly since no one is planning on saying YHVH today.

  31. Leor Blumenthal says:

    Rav Enkin,

    It may be best, at least in order to minimize any makhloket between those who feel that the mispronunciation should not be written and/or spoken and those who feel there is no issur in doing so, to refer to the religious sect in question as “Witnesses”.

    Leor Blumenthal

  32. S. says:

    “I don’t understand why you’re sensitive on this – I have nothing but respect for history.”

    I’m not sensitive. I myself cringe whenever I read the term “Jewish Science” a direct translation of “Juedische Wissenschaft” that doesn’t take into account that while “wissenschaft” includes “science,” it isn’t a 1:1 corresponding term in English.

    However, I am sensitive to attempts to downgrade serious disciplines as basically a pack of BS, which is the undercurrent in this thread, if not in the original comment, then in Gil’s recognition of it as the “COMMENT OF THE DAY.”

  33. Mike S. says:

    Nachum:
    Use of ktav ivri on coins may stem from the fact that ktav ashuri is most easily produced with quill or brush, as opposed to the ktav ivri which can be engraved , scratched or made into molds more easily. I.e. its use in coinage and monuments may reflect technology rather than how it was viewed. That may also explain the talmudic term “ktav libona’a”. Of course, it may also be cultural like the use of Roman numerals on cornerstones; we don’t know.

    There are a great many perfectly respectable academic and intellectual activities that aren’t scientific. Indeed, some such activities occur in physics departments–like string theory which is not yet close to physics, but is more mathematics since its practitioners ignore or explain away the fact that its one unambiguous prediction (the number of dimensions) disagrees with what is observed. But your example shows neither a comparison with any data, nor a suggestion about how to gather data to validate it. That is not to suggest that there is anything inferior about other disciplines; just that they are different disciplines with their own goals, and standards of argument, proof and evidence.

    As to what the Septuagint implies about the usage in Hebrew, that too is unclear. It could be that it was pronounced “Adonai”–it could be that the usage originated with the Sept., it could be that it was traditional to replace the Tetragrammaton with something else in scrolls not written for ritual use (if the Sept. started out that way). It could be lots of things. Likewise the Qumran usage, which is far from uniform. It could be because it was considered more authentic; it could be a cue to the reader not to pronounce it as written, it could be lots of things. As we don’t understand the variations in text and scribal practice at Qumran we can suggest a number of plausible possibilities, but we don’t really know.

    Skeptic: I mentioned my profession only to explain why it bugs me, not to give my argument more weight. And see my response to Nachum above.

  34. Nachum says:

    I’ve been “politely” trying to say what S. just said as well. But more below…

    aiwac, not sure why you’re asking me. But I call them “Jehovah’s Witnesses,” unless I think my audience will be shocked, in which case it’s “J’s Witnesses.” I don’t think there’s any issue in saying Jehovah, not that I toss it around casually. (I try not to toss “God” around casually either, although my father recalls an incident where the Rav wrote it on the blackboard and erased it to prove a point. But that’s Brisker halakha.)

    Then again, as was once explained to me, there’s no real issue with saying “Yahweh” either, provided you’re doing it for a good reason- as in this discussion. The issur (d’oryata, at least- maybe even d’rabbanan?) is saying Hashem’s Name *in vain*, remember. Again, I don’t toss it around, and in this case try my best to avoid it, but if you have to, you have to, at least for educational reasons.

    And that ties in to Boaz and Tanach- Boaz, at least, was not saying the Name in vain. Others in Tanach may have been; of course, the halakha may not have been finalized as we know it by then.

    Apropos, there’s a hilarious scene at the end of the third Indiana Jones movie where he spells “Jehovah” with a “J” before realizing it was “I” in Latin. Of course:

    1. There should have been no “J” for him to choose.

    2. It wasn’t “Jehovah” back then.

  35. Nachum says:

    Mike: I hear you on all points. Interesting point about K’tav Ivri, although it’s unlikely- we have inscriptions in K’tav Ashuri. It’s almost certain that the coins are an anachronistic nationalistic throwback. Remember, at that time, no one had used the alphabet in centuries. It’s almost certain that it was chosen by the DSS scribes and by the revolutionaries (First Revolt *and* Bar Kochba, remember) to make a point.

  36. S. says:

    “It may be best, at least in order to minimize any makhloket between those who feel that the mispronunciation should not be written and/or spoken and those who feel there is no issur in doing so, to refer to the religious sect in question as “Witnesses”.”

    Isn’t that just another way of saying “we should in practice follow the stricter opinion?” Maybe the stricter should follow the more lenient opinion in order to minimize machloket?

  37. S. says:

    “Remember, at that time, no one had used the alphabet in centuries. ”

    Who says? They used to say the same thing about Hebrew, until people noticed that the Mishnah is written in “real” Hebrew, the stuff about the maids in Rabbi’s household who apparently spoke Hebrew, etc.

    What I agree with Mike about is that these things are way too speculative. I do not agree that anything is “almost certain” here, because we literally have no hint about the usage of the alphabet, unlike in the Middle Ages where we can see for example that it was used in amulets.

    Here’s a theory I made up on the spot though, to support the nationalistic idea. Ktav Ivri is basically identical with Punic. It is my understanding that the Carthaginians were not exactly beloved by the Romans. Maybe Ktav Ivri was an anti-Roman statement for more than one reason.

  38. S. says:

    “Here’s a theory I made up on the spot though, to support the nationalistic idea. Ktav Ivri is basically identical with Punic. It is my understanding that the Carthaginians were not exactly beloved by the Romans. Maybe Ktav Ivri was an anti-Roman statement for more than one reason.”

    Of course that doesn’t work because it’s on Hasmonean coins too.

    Here’s another theory: Persian period coins were also stamped with Ktav Ivri (YHD). Maybe this wasn’t archaizing, this wasn’t nationalistic. It was just the way they always minted coins going back to when the script was still widely used.

  39. Simon S says:

    “It was just the way they always minted coins going back to when the script was still widely used.”

    The gap between the YHD coin and Hasmonean coins is too long. The coins used before the Hasmonean revolt had Greek inscriptions.

  40. Mike S. says:

    S., I didn’t mean to suggest that other disciplines are “basically a pack of BS”, just that different disciplines have different goals and methods, and the distinctions are important. “Science” is not a very good translation of “Wissenschaft”, as the German is applicable to a broader range of scholarly pursuits. For example of a field that is definitately neither BS nor science consider mathematics.

    Let us consider a simple example. It is a fairly common thing for a math undergraduate studying Galois theory to prove that one cannot trisect an angle by straightedge and compass. (or at least it was 40 years ago). A physicist might begin addressing the question by wondering why it would be an interesting since one can just use a protractor; he might even suggest devising a more accurate measuring instrument. Even after getting beyond that point, he might argue that one can, with some effort, certainly come as close to trisecting an angle as one can measure (say, the width of the pencil point). That would be of very little interest to the mathematician who is not concerned with measurement accuracy at all. That is, the two perfectly respectable disciplines approach the problems from very different perspectives and applying different methods to achieve different ends.

  41. S. says:

    I agree, but why so proprietary about the word “science?” You can also make many distinctions within fields which are undoubtedly scientific.

  42. Mike S. says:

    You can call it a personal quirk if you like. It is mostly that the word “science” to me conjures up a set of methods and standards of evidence that are wholly inapplicable to the field, and gets me thinking about it in the wrong way.

  43. S. says:

    “I agree, but why so proprietary about the word “science?” You can also make many distinctions within fields which are undoubtedly scientific.”

    Let me explain. I can understand why you are proprietary in the sense that you believe X is science and Y isn’t. But my question is, who defined science so narrowly? The historical definition of science wasn’t so narrow. I realize that definitions change, but when did it change and who ordained it?

  44. S. says:

    Got it. I posted before I read your reply.

  45. DBashIdeas says:

    This question also relates to an issue that has vexed Jewish hip-hop enthusiasts for years. As well known, the self-proclaimed god of rap is currently Jay-Z who, in tribute to his self-proclaimed status,refers to himself as JayHova (or Hova for short). See his famous song Izzo (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Izzo_(H.O.V.A.). Would it be permissible to refer to him as JayHova? What about Hova for short? Surely, somewhere, a Halachik guide to hip-hop must already be in the works…

  46. Anonymous says:

    The prohibition of “Ha-Hogeh Es Ha-Sheim BeOsiyosav” is not limited to the “correct” pronunciation of the Sheim HaMeforash. Even merely pronouncing the letters by their names (Yud, etc.) is forbidden, as well as pronouncing the letters with any vowelization. [For instance, in siddurim written according to Kabbalistic kavanos, one will notice different vowels under these letters; all are forbidden to be pronounced.]

  47. Þanbo says:

    Let me put it so: science (as told to kids in elementary school, and pretty much agreed to by philosophers of science) involves repeatable experiments to determine the truth or falsity of an idea.

    From the OED: “a method of procedure that has characterized natural science since the 17th century, consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses.”

    From the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, on Karl Popper: Popper, then, repudiates induction, and rejects the view that it is the characteristic method of scientific investigation and inference, and substitutes falsifiability in its place. It is easy, he argues, to obtain evidence in favour of virtually any theory, and he consequently holds that such ‘corroboration’, as he terms it, should count scientifically only if it is the positive result of a genuinely ‘risky’ prediction, which might conceivably have been false. For Popper, a theory is scientific only if it is refutable by a conceivable event. Every genuine test of a scientific theory, then, is logically an attempt to refute or to falsify it, and one genuine counter-instance falsifies the whole theory.

    Historical texts are not amenable to such experiments without a time machine.

    J’s definition of science:

    >Do you honestly believe that the scientific method
    >can tell us nothing at all about a text? The scientific method
    >isn’t just about the natural sciences – it’s about drawing
    >rational conclusions from the evidence in a text.

    Bzzt. Sorry, thanks for playing. What you’re describing is Aristotelianism. That is, you have some data, and you look at it and draw rational inferences from it. Without experiment to verify your inferences. E.g., I look at the day-cycle, and infer that the Sun goes around the Earth. Perfectly reasonable, if you don’t think about it too hard, and passed for science 2500 years ago. But we’ve come a long way since then.

    S:

    However, I am sensitive to attempts to downgrade serious
    >disciplines as basically a pack of BS, which is the undercurrent
    >in this thread, if not in the original comment, then in Gil’s
    >recognition of it as the “COMMENT OF THE DAY.”

    I don’t see it that way. In fact, I see it as exactly the opposite: subjective academic disciplines (literary analysis) tries to pretend to an objectivity it does not have, by calling itself “scientific”. I’m not saying it’s a “pack of BS”, but that it has different standards of rigor than the sciences.

    Social science has a large subjective component as well. Sociology at least tries to use empirical data to analyse trends, but there’s still a subjective interpretive component. Philosophy is all about post-facto reasoning, where great minds disagree about fundamental concepts. And Political Science is more about history and subjective interpersonal relationships than about the behavior of the masses.

    I tend to think that, in general, fields that have to call themselves XX Science, and I include my own field of computer science, which is more amenable to experiment than most X_Sciences, really aren’t. They may use scientific or mathematical tools (statistics, linear algebra, etc.), but aren’t really fundamental sciences. For my own field, the fundamental science of CS is mathematics. And physics, in developing the components that make up computers. CS is more of an art (per D. Knuth) that a science.

  48. S. says:

    I’m not saying there are no distinctions to be made between different sciences, but who gave ownership to the word “science” to biology, physics, etc.?

  49. Shlomo says:

    Isn’t that just another way of saying “we should in practice follow the stricter opinion?” Maybe the stricter should follow the more lenient opinion in order to minimize machloket?

    Which side has to suffer more by following the other side’s opinion? Refraining from saying a particular word is a minimal inconvenience. Violating what you think is an issur deoraita is a major inconvenience.

  50. S. says:

    “Which side has to suffer more by following the other side’s opinion? Refraining from saying a particular word is a minimal inconvenience. Violating what you think is an issur deoraita is a major inconvenience.”

    This is a prescription for going lechumra to “avoid machlokes” in all situations. This is untenable.

  51. Elon says:

    I think the vowelization witnesses took is actually that of the word L’Olam, from the pasuk זה שמי לעלם.

  52. Elon says:

    And it’s not science, because it is not testable. I could come up with whatever scholarly hypothesis I want as to how the name is pronounced, or what the text should be. But I can’t design an experiment to tell if my Y-H-V-H is correct.

  53. Simon S says:

    S.

    “This is a prescription for going lechumra to “avoid machlokes” in all situations. This is untenable.”

    Choosing the lowest common denominator is done mainly to preserve compatibility. It can be found more in connection with mitzvos that somehow involve a larger community (gittin, mikvaos etc.) or whenever a larger client base is desired (kashrus, sofrus etc.).

    At the end of the day it is up to the author to know and care whether his audience will have a problem with… you know, the name.

    “No-one is to stone anyone until I blow this whistle. Do you understand? Even, and I want to make this absolutely clear; even if they do say Jehovah.”

  54. Yirmeyahu says:

    “Every time you say “Hashem” you are really saying YHVH? How did the author of Ruth know to write YHVH and not “Elohim” or some other such term, if Boaz actually said something besides YHVH? For that matter, if Boaz said something else then why doesn’t the pasuk say what he said? If he did not follow the Gemara in Sota’s interpretation of Ex. 20:21 it is a good kashya, but not on Boaz.”

    Boaz said “Y-H-V-H”,the way it was to be pronounced outside the Beis HaMikdash. Your proof from Boaz only holds if we reject the Mesorah a priori. It is no different than claiming that Orthodox Jews pronounce it as it is spelled because that is how it appears in the Siddur.

  55. Nachum says:

    Yirmeyahu, do you have any evidence that there were two ways of saying it?

    By the way, it’s called a “keri perpetuum”- words in Tanach rarely, or never, pronounced how they’re spelled. Other examples are Yisachar, Yerushalayim, Hee (the word for “she”), etc. etc.

  56. Madel says:

    Why address Vayikra 24:16 with what may or may not be permissible. Sadly, that’s our approach to observance among every Jewish denomination, from Orthodox to Reform, and ALL we have to show for it is HESTER PANIM. Better to focus on what will return the blessings of YHVH to the Jews and nullify the last tw0 millennia’s TOCHAICHA. A start would be for every Jew to read the brilliant, new novel HAAZINU (LISTEN UP) by Yerachmiel ben-Yishye from Gefen Publishing House (Jerusalem), wherein the state of Judaism today is discussed in a most thought-provoking storyline.

  57. WBK says:

    I once heard Rabbi Jeremy Weider make the same point as Rabbi Rubin. As you point out, when YHVH is to be pronounced as Adona-ai the nekutot under the YHVH are identical to those under Adona-ai. Similarly, when the YHVH is to be pronounced as Elo-him, the nekutot are identical to those under Elo-him.

  58. Shlomo says:

    This is a prescription for going lechumra to “avoid machlokes” in all situations. This is untenable.

    Your objection would be valid if there were millions of cases where Jews had to interact with each other according to uniform standards. In fact there are relatively few such cases.

  59. S. says:

    “Your objection would be valid if there were millions of cases where Jews had to interact with each other according to uniform standards. In fact there are relatively few such cases.”

    Then why suggest that people who are of the opinion that one may say Jehova should refrain so as to lessen machlokes?

  60. Nachum says:

    “Similarly, when the YHVH is to be pronounced as Elo-him, the nekutot are identical to those under Elo-him.”

    Of course, originally they were all pronounced the same. It’s pronounced as Elokim only when it’s next to the word adonai, so as to avoid confusion.

  61. Elliot Feinerman says:

    “The first [error] is the attempt to read the Y-H-V-H with the vowels that appear with it in the printed Tanach text. While the vowels are actually the vowels of the word Adon-oi, the Chataf Patach under the Alef of Adon-oi changes to a Shevah under the Yud of Y-H-V-H.”

    WHY?

  62. SHimon S says:

    Elon,

    I find the “L’Olam” theory very fascinating. Are there any sources for this?

  63. Elaine G says:

    the Chataf Patach under the Alef of Adon-oi changes to a Shevah under the Yud of Y-H-V-H because the Alef can only have the Chataf vowels – the half vowels — because it is considered a gutteral letter and can’t have a sheva. The yud can have a sheva.
    EG

  64. [...] this week, R. Ari Enkin offered his thoughts on why we are allowed to say the word Jehovah (link). I wish here to further analyze the topic, offering reasons to be strict although refraining from [...]

  65. Yirmeyahu says:

    “Yirmeyahu, do you have any evidence that there were two ways of saying it?”

    It depends on what you consider evidence. Our Mesorah is pretty clear “R. Abina opposed [two verses]: It is written: ‘this is my mame’; but it is also written: ‘and this is my memorial’? The Holy One, blessed be He, said: I am not called as I am written: I am written with yod he, but I am read, alef daleth.” (Kedushin 71a, Soncino,Halakhah.com)

    This is not, of course, a contemporaneous witness to what was done in the First Temple Period but it is our Messorah. I have already cited Rashi on the passuk which specifically ties mentioning G-d’s name to the altar:

    ‘In every place where I cause my name to be mentioned’ Where I give you permission to mention My Ineffable Name, there ‘I will come unto thee and bless thee’ (i.e.) I will cause My Divine Presence to rest upon thee. Hence you learn that permission was not given to mention the Ineffable Name save where the Divine Presence comes, and that is the Temple there permission was granted to the priests to mention the Ineffable Name at the ‘lifting of the hands’ to bless the people’ (Sota 38)” Rashi on Ex. 20:21)

    So far it has been stated, as fact, that the traditional view is incorrect and the only evidence used to support it only holds if you presume the traditional view is incorrect.

  66. David Graniewitz says:

    Thanks. You have just ruined “The Life of Brian” for all of us. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MIaORknS1Dk

  67. Y. Aharon says:

    “Rubin notes that the correct pronunciation of the Y-H-V-H- was lost during the Talmudic period. The name was used as part of the Temple Service during the First Temple period. During the Second Temple period the name was not used as it was feared that the name would be misused or articulated unlawfully. As a result of this disuse of the Y-H-V-H the correct pronunciation of The Name was lost.” RAE

    I find it difficult to believe that the tetragrammaton was not pronounced during services in the 2nd temple. After all, we will soon be hearing and reciting a narration of the Yom Kippur service in the 2nd temple which includes the repeated phrase, “When the kohanim and the people who stood in the (temple) courtyard heard the glorious and awesome Name clearly expressed by the kohen gadol with holiness and purity..”. On other temple occasions, as I recollect, the sages instituted that the Name be pronounced quietly. In any case, there must have been a tradition among the temple functionaries as how to pronounce the tetragrammaton. The reluctance of the sages who supplanted the temple priesthood as the primary religious functionaries, to have the GOD’s proper name pronounced led to its disappearance from Jewish tradition. I consider that to be a tragic loss since the loss of the name carries with it a loss of close connection. The fact that GOD is largely hidden from us is both a token and a result of that distancing, which is due, in some part, to the inability to properly address GOD. Out of curiosity, is there any indication in Josephus, who was raised in the temple priesthood tradtions, as to the pronounciation of the tetragrammaton?

  68. JK says:

    the Chataf Patach under the Alef of Adon-oi changes to a Shevah under the Yud of Y-H-V-H because the Alef can only have the Chataf vowels – the half vowels — because it is considered a gutteral letter and can’t have a sheva. The yud can have a sheva.
    EG

    …and yet the chataf segol under the alef of Elokim does NOT change to sheva when Y-H-V-H is to be pronounced Elokim. It remains a chataf segol. Why?

  69. Israel Rubin says:

    Hello Rabbi Enkin,

    I read with interest your support of my position re the term Jeh/ovha (note that I now insert a “/” at the request of a rabbinic friend who does not wish to enter the discussion). You have stated it perfectly. Nor do I have anything meaningful to add to Y. Aharon’s comments (on September 18, 2011).

    I have learned that there comes a time when it is best to drop a subject, even one as serious as this, rather to continue to hypothesize, speculate or conjecture. There are many more fundamental concerns that cry out for our attention.

    Israel Rubin
    Beit Shemesh
    Author: The How & Why of Jewish Prayer

  70. Anonymous says:

    There is a potentially very serious problem with this post–see Margaliot ha-Yam Sanhedrin 101b, no. 3 and 4 in the name of the Meiri and in the name of the Arizal re: definition of הוגה את השם באותיותיו.
    ומצוה לתקן

  71. Anonymous says:

    See also חתם סופר חלק ה’ השמטות סי’ קצב, end of teshuvah:
    ואין אתנו יודע אופן קריאתו כמ”ש לעיל כי נעלמו ממנו נקודתו ואם נשנה בקריאתו נהי חוטאים בנפשותינו

 
 

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