A Tale of Two Names: Elokim and YHVH
A Tale of Two Names: Elokim and YHVH
Rabbi David Fohrman
Founder and Lead Scholar
The Bible uses many names to refer to God, the two most well-known being Elokim and YHVH (an unpronounceable name composed of the Hebrew letters yud-hey-vav-hey). What do these names mean, and why do they appear when they do? This is one of the Bible's greatest mysteries. Perhaps even more mysterious is that we find the highly uncommon "YHVH Elokim" — a combination of these two names — in the Bible's opening pages: in the story of God's creation of the world. Join Rabbi Fohrman for an exploration of what these names mean on their own, what they mean in combination, and how understanding God's names can, perhaps, help us to lead more godly lives.
An earlier version of some of these ideas can be found in the course What is the Meaning of Life?
For more on A Tale of Two Names, be sure to listen to the following lecture series: A Tale of Two Names: Why Were There Days of Creation? and A Tale of Two Names: From The Garden To The Flood.
Okay. I invite you to take some seats and I just want to introduce what's going on here. I just want to say hi to two audiences.
Now, I know, those of you here in this room think that you're special and you're the only audience and those of you online think you're special and you're the only audience, but you guys are all sharing today. This is kind of, one of the first of its kind, we're trying a blended group. What that means is that I'm speaking here to a live group of people in Lawrence, New York, at the main group and we're also speaking to people around the world as part of our premium members in Aleph Beta and those people are tuning in via Facebook Live, a spectral group there.
Also, for those of you who would like to catch this and are taking notes or would like to review it, or missed the live broadcast and aren't here, this is also going to be available on Aleph Beta, when it is recorded. So you'll be able to click on there and you'll be able to get this talk and hopefully, eventually, its transcript.
There's a couple of ways -- just again, by way of introduction. There's a couple of ways that you can interact here. If you're here, in person, you can kind of just raise your hand and ask questions. What I'll do, since we have another audience here is, if you are not speaking very loud, I may try to repeat your question, just so that everybody, including those on the online group, will be able to hear it.
If you're online and you want to speak up and say something, you can do that too. We have two wonderful Aleph Beta employees in the room. I'll just introduce them. We have Shoshana over here. Shoshana, you want to say hi?
Shoshana: Hi, everybody.
Rabbi Fohrman: Hi, everybody, this is Shoshana. We have Raquel. Raquel, you want to say hi?
Rabbi Fohrman: We have Raquel. One or both of them will monitor comments on Facebook, so if you guys are saying something on Facebook and you haven't gotten my attention, Shoshana will look out for that and do her best to hail that and we can talk about that here too.
So, that's pretty much how this will work. This is a series of talks which'll go over time. Eventually it might be a book. This is material which I had been working on over the course of the years and I've done -- in the past, I've done a version of this, both live with this group and I've done a version of this online, for actually, Aleph Beta Premium members, but my thoughts have continued to evolve on this. So what I'm going to with you today, is kind of my current state of thinking on this. With no further ado, let me kind of see if I can dive in.
The title for this series is A Tale of Two Names, Elokim and Yud-Kei-Vav-Kei. These, of course, are the two names of God that we principally hear throughout the Torah. Elokim, spelled Aleph-Lamed-Hei-Yud-Mem. We pronounce it with a Kuf, Elokim instead of Elo-him.
Then another name that we don't really know how to pronounce, but the name for God, Yud-Hei and Vav and Hei, or in English, sometimes we use the acronym, YHVH for it. These two names of God appear throughout the Torah, as well as in the very beginning stories.
Generally speaking, if you kind of learned Bible in school, if you've studied in Beis Yaakov or whatever other school you're in, we don't tend to pay that much attention to the names of God as they appear. They just seem to be synonyms and whatever name we happen to be seeing is the name we happen to be seeing.
I want to suggest the possibility that the Torah actually does want us to pay attention to the names of God and if you miss the names of God and aren't sort of focusing on which name of God is being used, in which time, you're sort of missing part of the story.
The goal of this series is to try to show how that's true and to try to sort of articulate a vision of what the names Yud-Kei-Vav- Kei and Elokim mean and how those names so tos peak might be in conversation with each other throughout the Torah, or at least throughout Sefer Bereishit, the Book of Genesis and going into the Book of Exodus.
One background point that I think is important for this, is to realize that one of the things that could make traditionalists nervous, when you think about the Torah, is about 150 years ago a movement started, known as higher Biblical criticism, led by a German scholar, by the name of Julius Wellhausen. Higher Biblical criticism eventually came to the conclusion that the Bible was not written by a single author; it was written by a number of authors.
The very beginning of Biblical criticism came from Wellhausen's observation that two different names for God are being used in the Creation story. In the first chapter of the Creation story, the word Elokim is used exclusively to refer to God, whereas once you get to Chapter 2, Verse 4, there seems to be another Creation story, a second Creation story, where the story of Creation is told again, but it's told differently and Wellhausen noticed that in the second Creation story, the name of God had changed. It was no longer Elokim, but it was Elokim and Yud-Hei and Vav and Hei; it was Yud-Kei-Vav-Kei.
Wellhausen, sort of, deduced from that, or inferred from that -- we should plug in this computer before it dies. Is there --
Rabbi Fohrman: So Wellhausen inferred from this and said, well, the only reasonable explanation is that there were two different authors here, and hence the idea that the Bible contained different authors was born. He named it -- there's a J author, which he named it for the Yud-Hei and Vav-Hei author, there's an E author, Elokim author -- the beginning of the theory that the Bible has more than one author.
Now, when you are threatened by a theory and, you know, a theory such as Biblical criticism is somewhat threatening to traditional Judaism or traditional ways of seeing the Bible. Sometimes you can just ignore it altogether, which I think would be a mistake.
I want to argue that the Bible critics were right. They were right about the question. They were wrong about -- I think they were wrong about the conclusion. But the question is a very important question. The question is, why are there these two different Creation stories and why in one Creation story is God appearing as Elokim and in the other Creation story, God is appearing as Yud-Hei and Vav-Hei?
That's a really important question. That's a question that the Torah wants you to ask. When I say that the Torah wants you to as -- the Torah, like most great books, is begging for you to immerse yourself in it and struggle with it and through that struggle, to attain an understanding of its deeper layers.
The deeper layers of the Torah will only unfurl themselves for you, if you're willing to struggle with the text and you're willing to try to understand what it is that it means. In principle, in the first act of that struggle, there's a willingness to ask questions; a willingness to notice oddities. If you're not willing to ask questions in the first place, you're never going to get very far.
So we make a mistake, I think, in sort of closing our minds to the questions that have been asked by the Biblical critics, right? It actually is a very good question; perhaps the greatest question that you could ask on the Creation story. Why are there two stories and why is God appearing differently in both of those stories?
I think, the answer that there are two authors, is an answer that frankly, lacks imagination. In essence, it cuts off the question, before you can even begin to begin to see some of the implications of the fact that the names of God -- that this might be an intentional device employed by a single author that is telling you something powerful what you need to keep in mind, going forward. Something powerful about the human concept of God. You need something powerful about one of the most fundamental things we know about God and man. It might be communicated in these two different names.
Our Sages, Chazal, were not blind to the fact that there were two different names of God used. The way they interpreted it, was they said, well there are two middot (characteristics) of God being discussed, right, and this is something which you may have learned in school. When we come across Yud-Hei and Vav-Hei, we look at God one way and when we come across Elokim, we look at God another way.
Famously, we all know that Elokim is associated with what middah, what characteristic of God?
Female Speaker 1: With din.
Rabbi Fohrman: With din, with justice. And when we come across Yud-Hei and Vav-Hei, we see God as the God of rachamim, or a God of compassion.
So why I want to begin launching this investigation into the two names of God with you, is this statement by the Sages, this foundational theory of the Sages and I want to ask you, where did they get that from? How did the Sages know that Elokim is associated with justice as it were and Yud-Hei and Vav-Hei is associated with compassion?
I want to suggest that they didn't just make it up. It wasn't just a tradition that was handed down, although it may have also been a tradition that's handed down, but it's also something which can be inferred from a close reading of the text, which we actually see in the beginning of the Torah, as you're beginning to see Genesis.
So I want to begin by just focusing on that. And then, from there, from beginning to ask, well how did the Sages understand this about God, from the way the names of God are being used in the story, what else emerged from that? Can we fill out the picture? Who is this God who is Elokim? Who is this God who is Yud-Kei-Vav-Kei? And then, of course, there's this mystery which is that at the end of the day, there's only one God.
Right? There's a monotheistic concept of God and God somehow is both and yet, human beings, when we think of God, somehow, divide our concept of God in our mind and we think of God as one or the other. Which I think, and I just want to say parenthetically, is an interesting thing.
One of the things that I've been trying to research and I think is true, but I can't promise is true, is that throughout the Torah, God is either referred to as Elokim or referred to as Yud-Hei and Vav and Hei, but never referred to as both, except in the story of the Garden of Eden. Okay? To me, that's striking, if that's true. Now, that doesn't mean -- right?
When we said something like Hashem -- Hashem, by the way, is just what we use when we talk about the name of Yud-Hei and Vav-Hei. So, if I say Hashem, I mean Yud- Hei and Vav-Hei.
So, when we say Hashem Elokeinu that doesn't count, because Elokeinu, actually, can sort of have two meanings. One meaning, it could be a descriptive, it could say, "our God" is what it means here. Elokim can also be a name, in other words, it could be used as a name for God.
So, for example, in Chapter 2, in Genesis, what's striking about Hashem Elokim is that God's name is Hashem Elokim. "Vayomer Hashem Elokim," and Hashem Elokim said. Right? You'll never find that, I think, outside the Garden of Eden.
Audience Member: I think maybe in Yechezkel (Ezekiel) -- not that I'm so brilliant, I'm learning Ezekiel now so -
Rabbi Fohrman: Okay. No problem. Let me put it to you this way. (Interposing).
Audience Member: In the 10th chapter, when it's really total destruction in Jerusalem, then it literally says Hashem Elokim and it's really commented on. And even though it's going to be destruction, there's a compassion in that. He's going be destroying the city and the place and not I mean he decimated the Jews, but there's some kindness in there.
Rabbi Fohrman: Okay, so Mrs. Smith says that in Ezekiel, in Yechezkel, you have a lot of Hashem Elokims, so let me narrow my statement for a moment. In the Five Book of Moses, in the Chumash, right, I think the only time we have Hashem Elokim, and I'm interested if you can show that this isn't the case, but I think that the only Hashem Elokims you have is in the Garden of Eden. What do we make of that?
I'll tell you what I make of it, possibly, but this is completely just conjecture, but it might just be that it's only in the Garden that you pursue God as both. The Garden is some sort of paradisiacal experience that we've lost connection to. It's God's very special place on earth, right, where we have this intimate relationship with God that can't be recreated -- really recreated elsewhere.
In paradise, as it were, you can have this unitary concept of God, Hashem Elokim. But I think human beings, being human beings, living in the world we do, it's very hard to hold on to both concepts of God at the same time. As God as Elokim, as God as the Judge and as God as Compassionate. In your mind, those two are intentional with each other. They're an oxymoron. They're mutually exclusive. It's a zero-sum game. Right?
When you think judge, you don't think someone who's compassionate, do you? Right? What do you say to your spouse? Don't judge me, right? It's mutually exclusive with the idea of judgment. Judgment doesn't happen in the context of love. If I'm being judged, I'm nervous, it's a whole different thing.
The notion of compassion is -- what? The notion of compassion, similarly, is exclusive to justice, right? If someone has compassion to me, they're nurturing to me, they want to take care of me, they're not sort of judging.
To somehow bring these two concepts of God together is difficult. It's something that occurs in the Garden of Eden, but maybe one of the reasons, and this is just a possible theory, one of the reasons why God has two names -- and generally speaking, it's either-or, it's a concession to humanity. It's a concession to the way we think of God, but it is almost impossible for us to hold these two concepts in our mind simultaneously and hence, we tend to think of God in a binary way, as one or the other, but neither of those things is really the truth because, God is One.
You think back to the Shema, the great declaration of Jewish faith in Shema. Interestingly enough, is Shema Yisrael, hear, oh, Israel; Hashem, Yud-Hei and Vav-Hei, Hu; Elokeinu, is Elo-him or is our God; Hashem, this Yud-Hei and Vav-Hei, is Echad, is One. There's a oneness between these two things. That oneness may be true and it may be mystically true, but it's hard for us to wrap our heads around it.
What I want to suggest to you is almost as a possibility that the Torah employs a radical literary device, throughout the entire Torah, really. The device is that there are these two concepts of God that human beings have, described as Elokim and Yud-Kei-Vav-Kei, and the Torah will sort of have this conversation between them, or have this interaction between these two ways of thinking about God, right -- how that sort of tension between these names plays out.
So let's talk about where it was that the Sages got this notion from. How do they know that Elokim was a God of Justice? How did they know that Yud-Hei and Vav-Hei was a God of compassion? Yes, Shoshana?
Shoshana: One of our Facebook users just has a point where Hashem Elokim is actually used in Exodus, Chapter 9, Verse 30, "v'atah va'avdecha yadati ki terem tir'un mipnei Hashem Elokim."
Rabbi Fohrman: Ah, okay. Well, there you go. So I stand myself, corrected. One of our premium users has found an example of Hashem Elokim being used in Exodus. It does seem to be an example of God being described with the name Hashem Elokim. I'll just pull it up for you. What was the address for that?
Shoshana: Exodus 9, 30.
Rabbi Fohrman: So, the nice thing about Sefaria is that you could these things very quickly. There it is on the screen. Right? This is God in barad (hail).
Fran: It's interesting that hail is the thing that had two things that really didn't meet together.
Rabbi Fohrman: Yeah, I was just thinking about that.
Audience Members: Yeah, right.
Rabbi Fohrman: Yeah, yeah. I was just thinking about that. So Fran is taking you back to a point that I made in Exodus, we almost passed over. That there was something special about the seventh plague, hail. Right? What's interesting about the plague is that the plague is the moment when Pharaoh seems to come to his clearest understanding of who God is.
It's at this moment -- remember -- Pharaoh is always, interestingly, is constantly beaten down by the plagues, but he's never contrite. He's never apologetic, really, except after hail, right, except after the seventh plague. It's almost as if Pharaoh is seeing himself locked in a power struggle, because remember Pharaoh sees himself as divine, as a god and sees himself locked in a power struggle with another power. In that way, Pharaoh is making a mistake about God, because God isn't just another power, even a greater power than Pharaoh. He's a fundamentally different kind of being.
If God were just a power, right, He would just be Elokim. Right? The Powerful Judge, who can exert power and can, you know, make a difference in the world. What Pharaoh has to come to realize is that God is fundamentally different. He's Someone worthy of worship.
One of the difficulties, by the way, when we think about it is that even the notion of worship -- what does to worship really mean -- changes depending upon your concept of Elokim and Yud-Kei-Vav-Kei. If God were only Elokim, if He were only a Judge -- that's all you knew about God, what would worship mean to you? What would worship be? It would be thinner than it is now. Right? The only emotion that you could really muster, would be what?
Audience Members: Fear.
Rabbi Fohrman: Would be fear. Maybe awe, right? You sit in awe of a judge. Fear of a judge. So if God were only powerful, so you'd be scared of Him, you would be in awe of His might, but that's about it. At some level, you could be forgiven for not wanting to worship a god whose only manifestation is power or justice. At some point you might want to rebel against that kind of god.
Pharaoh indeed, has his issues with this God of power that he's struggling with. In hail, somehow, he seems to come to this understanding that God is more than that. That this powerful God has another side to Him, has a mysterious Yud-Hei and Vav-Hei side to Him, which changes His character and makes Him worthy of worship in a whole other way. All of a sudden, morality seems to enter into Pharaoh's lexicon, because this is what he says.
If you keep on reading this moment of hail, where is it, here? Here. Right before this, "vayishlach Paraoh," two verses before this. This is Chapter 27 -- sorry, Exodus 9, Verse 27. "Vayishlach Paraoh, vayikra l'Moshe u'l'Aharon," Pharaoh calls. He calls Moses and Aaron and he says to them, "chatati hapa'am," I have sinned this time. Notice "Hashem -- Yud-Hei and Vav-Hei hatzaddik," is the righteous One, "v'ani v'ami haresha'im," and me and my people are the wicked ones.
This is an entirely new thing for Pharaoh. Never, ever in the plagues has he ever said such a thing. He's been beaten by a plague, but when a general's beaten in a war, it doesn't necessarily mean that the general is contrite. I don't think that my cause was unjust, that my cause was wrong, just because you've beaten me.
For the first time, Pharaoh sees things differently. He says, no, I was wrong. Right? You are right. You were correct. You were morally virtuous, which only makes sense if you're talking to a God who's not just Elokim, but is also Yud-Kei-Vav-Kei.
So it's kind of interesting, that one of the few times -- let me just say that, that Yud-Hei-Vav-Hei, Elo-him appears outside of the Garden of Eden is at the moment that Pharaoh gets this truth about God, which is hard for human beings to wrap their minds around, but that this God of power is also a God of love. For more on this, you can read The Exodus You Almost Passed Over.
Liz Schwartz: I just want to make a point. I think it's very interesting that in the Garden of Eden you have Adam and Eve and the nachash (snake); those are the three characters. To my mind -- opens up that Pharaoh, who's he really? You know, in the other world, he's the snake, so it's very interesting that to have that experience with Hashem, both, and now in Exodus. On the other side -- on the flip side, this is really the only other time that we'd be using Yud-Kei-Vav-Kei and Elokim. It's really kind of interesting.
Rabbi Fohrman: Yeah, that's a good point. Just tell me your name for a second?
Liz Schwartz: Liz Schwartz.
Rabbi Fohrman: What's that? Liz. Yeah, so what Liz just said that it's kind of interesting that in the Garden there's sort of an anti-hero character also, which some equate, sort of, with Pharaoh. Indeed, the great symbol of Egypt was the snake, right? There's this snake-like being. There's this snake in the Garden and are Adam and Eve encountering their version of Pharaoh, all the way back in the Garden?
This will take us a bit afield for me to get into that in detail, but we'll get to it later. One thing to keep in mind later is that the snake appears in which chapter? The snake appears in Chapter 3. Now, in Chapter 3, Chapter 3 is Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. So how is God referred to in the Garden of Eden? Hashem Elokim. That's what He's always called. We see 19 times in the Garden of Eden, God is called Hashem Elokim.
There's only one time in the Garden of Eden, that God is not called Hashem Elokim, but called Elokim only. It's when the snake begins to speak. When the snake speaks and says, "af ki amar Elokim lo tochlu mikol eitz hagan." Is it really true that Elokim said, don't eat from the trees of the Garden?
Now, isn't that fascinating, but that suggests what I want to argue later, once we get to the sin of Adam and Eve is that perhaps the greatest and most subtle deception of the snake was that God is not who you think He is. If you think that God is Hashem Elokim, you're wrong; God, in fact, is only Elokim. Once you believe that lie about God, everything else the snake says makes perfect sense. The temptation to eat from the Tree of Knowledge makes perfect sense.
I think without quite understanding why all these things are true, you can begin to see that the interplay and the power of the interplay between Hashem and Elokim is important. You really have to understand these names and what they connote and what they denote. Really in order to understand the story.
So, let's kind of jump in and try to understand the names, by looking at what I'm going to call, sort of the story of Elokim and the story of Yud-Hei and Vav-Hei.
What I want to suggest to you, is that the Torah gives me two different creation stories because it's speaking to people who are no longer in the Garden of Eden. When we're no longer in the Garden of Eden and it's very hard to hold onto these two concepts of God unitarily, at once and our minds divide conceptually.
What it means to relate to God as Judge and what it means to relate to God as a compassionate Being. Or what we might say, what it means to relate to God as Avinu and what it means to relate to God as Malkeinu, right, our Father and our King. Those are two separate things. Because the Torah's talking to us, regular human beings who aren't in Eden, what the Torah does in essence, it tells us about creation twice. Well, it tells us about creation twice.
It first says here's what creation would look like, if the only thing you knew about God was that He was Elokim. That might be the easiest way for you to think about God, but then I'm going to tell you the story again and I'm going to tell you from the perspective of a different kind of God who's not Elokim, but a truer concept of God who's both together. A kind of concept of God that you can't really wrap your head around that way. If you were in the garden you could wrap your head around that kind of God. But here's what creation looks like, right, from the perspective of Hashem Elokim.
The first Creation story will make more sense to us than the second one will. I think, one of the reasons for that is, we're not living in the Garden anymore. Right, so to think of God in that bifurcated way makes perfect sense to us and the story that comes from a much simpler kind of God is a much simpler kind of story.
The second story is a mystical story. I could tell you what happens in it, but as you go through that, there's a part of your mind that's going to be thinking, this is tricky, this feels like I'm in Asia, in some ashram. Right? It's inherently mystical and hard to wrap your head around. But the Torah gives you both stories; almost as if to say here's the story that you can understand, you human beings in this world; here's the story that's closer to the truth, right, even if it's more difficult to understand.
So what are these two stories? Let's take the easy one first. The story of Elokim. How did the Sages come up with this notion that God is Elokim? Well, it starts at the very beginning. Let's go back to Genesis 1. "Bereshit bara Elokim et hashamayim v'et ha'aretz," in the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth -- about the very beginning.
So, we know in the beginning one very powerful word. That powerful word is a verb and it means bara, create. In a word, who is Elokim? Elokim is the Creator. The Creator. What does creation imply? Creation implies, right, what do you do when you create?
Think about what you want to create and you make it, you make something from nothing. Now, if I say to you oKei, tell me your emotions when you think about a creator, someone who has the ability to create something out of nothing. Right, to literally bring everything into existence. I say tell me what you think of such a being? What do you think of such a being?
Audience Member: Omnipotent.
Rabbi Fohrman: Omnipotent. Meaning, the first thing comes to mind is power. Such a being is powerful hence such a being is an El, or an Elo-him. Turns out that in Hebrew, the meaning of the word el, el actually besides connoting God, Elo-him, means two other things. One of the things it means is judges. Judges, later on in the Torah are called elohim. The other thing that el means is power, such as Laban when Laban says, "yesh l'el yadi la'asot imachem ra," I have it within my power to do harm to you. So give me just one second.
So, just at the top of the back, if all you've read is the first two words of Genesis 1, you already have a flavor of who this Being is. There is a Being who is intensely powerful. He's powerful by his ability to create.
Now, let's just flesh out the power of God, as it expresses itself in creation, through this story. If you think about how God creates in this story, He does a number of things. Right? What does he do? He creates things out of nothing. That's not the only way He creates things; later on He will create things out of something, but even when He creates things out of something, there's power expressed here.
Look, for example, at Verse 11. You have it right here up on the screen. "Vayomer Elokim," God says, this is the arrival of vegetation. Look at how vegetation comes into the world. "Vayomer Elokim, tad'shei ha'aretz desheh." So how do you translate that? It's often translated and here the JPS 1917 Translation, translated it as "let the earth sprout vegetation." That's not really a great translation. Tadshei, in its grammatical form, is what grammatical form of the verb?
Audience Member: Confusion.
Rabbi Fohrman: It's the term of C, but it's imperative. (Pause in recording) -- mean let. Let is a very nice word. Let this happen. It doesn't mean let. It's a command. Its saying, Earth, I'm asking something from you. Right, don't come back until you've got vegetation. I want to see vegetation out of you. "Tadshei ha'aretz desheh," the land has to bring forth vegetation.
Now, again, what kind of Being am I talking about? How would you describe a Being that sits and screams at the earth and says I want some vegetation out of you? The earth says I don't know how to make vegetation, what do You want from me? I'm just earth. God says, well go figure it out. Right and so before you know it, the land has to come up with -- the land is an inanimate object, it's got to come up with vegetation.
Similarly with water, you've got the same thing happening a little bit later. Look, Verse 20. "Vayomer Elokim," God says, "yish'ritzu hamayim, sheretz nefesh cHeiah." Again, the mistranslation perhaps. "Let the waters bring forth swarms." It doesn't mean let the waters, it's a command to the waters, "yish'ritzu hamayim sheretz," the waters have to swarm and come up with all this fish.
Later on, with the inland animals, it's going to be the same thing. Let's see a little bit further here, "Vayomer Elokim", Verse 24, "totzei ha'aretz nefesh cHeiah l'minah." It doesn't mean, let the earth bring forth, it's a command to the earth. Earth, you have to bring forth animals. I don't want to see you, I don't want to hear from you until I have animals out of you. The earth goes, I don't know how to make animals. You go figure it out.
By the way, if you've adopted an evolutionary perspective on the Torah, this might be the Torah's way of talking about evolution. I talk to the earth and I say Earth, I don't want to see you again, until I get animals out of you. The earth says, I don't know how to make animals. God says well, go figure it out.
So then there's this process of single cell creatures and there's mutations and then there's, you know, survival of the fittest. The earth comes back three-and-a-half billion laters and says I've got a hippopotamus for you and God says, good, it took you long enough.
So it's a command to the earth to make things happen. Right? So this is another expression of God's power. So God expresses power, A, in creating things out of nothing and B, in issuing commands and as God's commands are so powerful that even inanimate things like earth follow his commands and make things happen.
The third way in which God expresses power in Creation; there's one other big thing that God does in creation, which is that He divides things. He divides things that want to stay together, right? Give me an example of God dividing things in the world.
Audience Member: The heavens. The waters.
Rabbi Fohrman: The waters, right, that's true. So really there are three great divisions and the first great division is waters, right. In the beginning -- Chapter 1, Verse 2. Chapter 1, Verse 2 gives you a vision of the primordial world. What was the primordial world? It was a world which was tohu Vavohu; A, it was chaotic. B, there was darkness upon the face of the deep, it was dark. So, A, it was chaotic, B, it was dark and C, there was water all over the place.
"V'ru'ach Elokim merachefet al p'nei hamayim," there was a wind of God, or a spirit of God, that was hovering over all these waters. So there's water, water everywhere and its dark and it's chaotic. It's almost flood like. It's like the vision is almost like a great flood.
Now, that vision of chaos and water everywhere, is something that's very hard to work with, so one of the things that God does in creation, is not only does He use His power to create things, but as a predicate for creating things, God divides things and when God divides things, God prepares the ground, as it were, for Creation.
So, for example, let's say you're building. Let's say you have a building project and you are deciding to build a nice beautiful house in Lawrence or in Texas or wherever it is that you live. The only problem is you've got a swamp, right. You can't build on a swamp, so what's the first thing you've got to do. You got to do what they did in Woodmere, in 1940, which is? Right, they drained the swamp and they tried to fill it in and make landfill. Then they build on that. It usually doesn't work very well, which is why when Hurricane Sandy comes along, the swamp comes back, but the bottom line is that that's what you do. Water is your enemy when you build.
The first thing God does is God's got to create a place for the water and a place without water and then build on the place without water. So the first thing He does is He divides these waters. Actually, it's not the first thing He does, it's the second thing He does. Before that He also divided between light and darkness, right?
Then finally there is a third great division, which was another division between light and darkness, on Day Four when God creates the sun and the moon and the stars, again dividing between light and darkness. So there are these divisions that create order in the world.
So, if we would sort of develop what we might call the personality of Elokim, as hard as it's strange. God doesn't have personality, but if you would think about what kind of Being are we discussing? So what does God prize? God wants order. Order, which comes through the world through divisions. I divide things up and then I make things or I command the Earth to make things. I command the waters to make things. But first I've got to make things very orderly, right and then I've got to draw things forth.
There are two more things I'd want to say about Elokim, before I turn away to examine Yud-Kei-Vav-Kei. What other things (pause in recording) -- of Elokim, is that in service of order, right, you would say that well, if there is a God Who believes in order, Who wants to build this world. You say you're a builder and you're creative, so what's the most impressive thing that you can build.
The answer is a system that will work without you. If you think about it, a system that you always have to keep on mutchering (being busy with) with isn't such a big deal.
You're six-year-old comes to you, with this, what do they call them? Those Rube Goldberg contraptions. Right, one of these fancy machines. He says, Mom, let me show you how the marble works, but every time he's got to like, you know, put his hand in over here, and then wow, marble comes, put my hand over. Let me try that again. The kid needs to be involved, you're not as impressed as if the kid put together a system which Mom, watch, I put the marble in and the system just works.
God wants the system to work. So, what does God do to make sure the system works? So, there's a couple strategies. Strategy number one is God's very interested in making self-replicating machines. Right? It's not just enough to make a machine, I've got to make a machine that self-replicates.
So when God makes vegetation, what does God say about the vegetation? Let's see what God says about the vegetation. Let's go back to verse, what was it? Seventeen or so. Right, where we have vegetation. Was it 17, or it wasn't 17? It was earlier than that.
So listen to the description, "tadshei ha'aretz desheh, eisev mazri'a zera." You see that. What kind of vegetation do I want? I want grasses that will bring forth other grasses. Grasses with the ability to reproduce. "Eitz p'ri oseh p'ri," I want fruit with the ability to reproduce. Because that's really amazing. I don't have to sit there and make trees for the next 3,500 years. I make trees and then the trees are going to make themselves. That's how I want it to work.
That's the same thing throughout Creation. So, for example, that's why the very first blessing to man and animals is going to be "p'ru u'r'vu," you guys go and create yourselves. Right? "Yishr'tzu hamayim sheretz nefesh cHeiah."
Now, when things reproduce, God who's also interested in order, right, has one more thing that He's insistent upon. Which is, "eitz p'ri oseh p'ri l'mino," everything has to be according to its kind. The preservation of order. I can't have grapefruit trees producing apples one day. Right. If you're a grapefruit tree, you have to produce grapefruit trees. If you are a sea bass, you have to produce sea bass. If you're a human (pause in recording) -- according to its kind, according to its kind over and over again. Very, very important.
So one of the things God does is it exists on self-replicating machines that replicate l'mino, according to their kind.
Another thing God does in building up this world of His, is God insists on middle management. If you think of God, God this powerful Being, is the greatest CEO in the history of the world. He's the big CEO in charge of the universe. Well, any CEO is going to have middle management.
So who's middle management in God's world? Can you give me an example of middle management?
Audience Member: Na'aseh Adam.
Rabbi Fohrman: That's one example, mankind. We'll get to that in a moment. Any other example come to mind?
Audience Member: Water has to create -- water has to create animals.
Rabbi Fohrman: Well, even the waters, isn't it interesting that in the waters, generally speaking within Creation, you never have the naming in Genesis 1 of any species. It's just, there's going to be animals. We don't hear about particular species of animals. You don't hear about particular species of fish. You don't hear about particular species of trees. With one exception. There's only one species that you actually hear about. Does anyone know what it is?
Audience Member: Eitz Hada'at.
Rabbi Fohrman: No, the Tree of Knowledge isn't a species. Man perhaps is. Aside from man, any other species? I'll show you what it is. Anybody on Face book, Shoshana?
Shoshana: Nobody yet.
Rabbi Fohrman: Nobody yet.
Sima Hertzberg: Taninim (sea monsters).
Rabbi Fohrman: That's correct. Who was that?
Shoshana: It's Sima Hertzberg.
Rabbi Fohrman: Sima Hertzberg is correct. Give that lady a free coke. Sima, you win the coke. Yes, it's the sea monsters. What verse is that? It is right over here. When God causes all the fish to come, "vayivra Elokim et hataninim hagedolim," God causes these taninim, these great sea monsters to emerge. How come we hear about the sea monsters? It's the only thing that we hear about?
Well, what I would suggest is the sea monsters are middle management. Right? Who are they? They are the fish who are in charge of -- they are the king of the sea. It's not Starkist who's the king of the sea. Right? It's the sea monsters are the king of the sea. Which is that every domain is going to have its king. The sea monsters are the kings of the sea.
So you say, what do you mean the kings of the sea? What do the kings do? Was that your question, Mrs. Shalev?
Mrs. Shalev: No, it could be I know that, without enough. God has a problem with the sea monsters, they keep on coming back to Him.
Rabbi Fohrman: Well, that's true. Then, every CEO does, when middle management rebels it's a problem. Right, so that's true, you give people a little bit of power. You know, you give the mouse a cookie and then they want a glass of milk. What are the sea monsters supposed to do?
So if you think about the (pause in recording)
Take a look at Day Four. Where's middle management on Day Four? "Vaya'as Elokim et sh'nei ham'orot hagedolim," God makes these two great lights, in the heavens. "Et hama'or hagadol l'memshelet Heiom v'et hama'or hakatan l'memshelet halaylah." They're in charge, they rule over the day and the night. "Limshol bayom u'valaylah," to rule over the day and night. Who are they? They're the kings of day and night. That's what they are. They're the kings in the heavens.
So you say, one second and you say, but one second, the other thing they do is "l'havdil bein ha'or u'vein hachoshech," they divide between day and night, but you should have a question about that, which is?
Audience Member: He separated.
Rabbi Fohrman: He did it already. Day One, what does God do on Day One. He creates light and He divides between light and darkness. So when you come to Day Four, you should come to me and say, ooh! What's going on? How come I need to divide between light and darkness if He did that already? Right, what's going on in day four that the sun and the moon and the stars have to divide between light and darkness? What's the answer?
The answer is time. Or to put it another way, this would be my answer. God is establishing middle management for the division of light and darkness. The initial division between light and darkness, the first light and darkness there ever was, God creates a division. Then God says I don't want to keep on doing this. I don't want to be in charge of dividing between light and darkness for the next 3,500 years. I want a system. I want a self-replicating system. I want something that takes care of itself. I need light and darkness to take care of itself.
What am I going to do? Oh, I got a plan. I'll set up a planetary system. Let's have solar systems, let's have stars, right, let's have rotation of planets and it's going to work by itself. There's going to be light and darkness and light and darkness based upon the rotation of the planets and these are going to be my kings, this is going to be middle management which enforces the havdalot (division) that I start! They're going to be in charge of doing what I started.
Similarly, by the way, think about the sea monsters that are enforcing a different kind of division. If the heavens, if the heavenly bodies enforce the division between day and night and make it happen all the time, what do the sea monsters do?
Now this is somewhat speculative, but allow me to speculate for a moment. Think about the sea monsters. What would you say the king of the sea is? Where in the food chain does the king of the sea appear? Top of the food chain, right? Okay. How does top of the food chain enforce division, proper division between -- in the animals?
Remember, the God of order said, that how does reproduction occur? Only l'mino, according -- (pause in recording) because biologically, what's the definition of a species? The definition of a species is a min (kind), which means to say, that there is no such thing as reproduction cross species. Right, if you've got a sea bass and a tuna together, they're not going to have kids. They're two different species. So, if you have a rhinoceros and you have a hippopotamus, right, if you have two different species and a giraffe you're not going to have kids.
Now, a sea monster, what's the interest of the sea monster? If you're at the top of the food chain, your interest is in everyone below you adhering to the rule of no cross species intimacy. Right, because it's a waste of reproductive power, because you're not going to get any kids. Because, think about it, the sea monster, who does the sea monster eat in the food chain? If you're the top of the food chain, what's your food?
Audience Member: The next biggest thing.
Rabbi Fohrman: The next biggest thing. What do I need in order for the next biggest thing, there will be enough of the next biggest thing for me to eat? There has to be enough of the next biggest thing under that. Which means there has to be enough of the next biggest thing under that. Which means, what am I in charge of? Everybody. I'm in charge in enforcing the divisions of according to its kind, of everybody so that there's enough fish for everybody to eat, because I eat last. Because I only eat if there's enough sharks in the ocean to eat, right? So I eat last.
So the sea monster really is middle management. The sun and the moon and the stars are middle management. What's the greatest middle management of all? The executive vice president of the universe. Man.
In world one, in the Elokim vision of the universe, man is important because he makes it all happen, right. He is the great ruler over all, the human ruler over all. You see this in the description of man. Look at how man is described in -- by the way, just so you know timewise, we're going to try to get this so that we're going to try to be a little more punctilious about time, in terms of starting times and ending times, so I am going to end at about 11:00. Right, so it'll be about an hour-and-a-quarter, okay.
So if we go to our description of man over here, listen to what we hear about him. "Na'aseh adam b'tzalmeinu," let us make man like us, a creator like us, a ruler like us, "kidmuteinu v'yirdu bidgat Heiam u'v'of hashamayim," and let him rule over the fish, let him rule over the foul, let him rule over all of the animals, right. "Vayivra Elokim et ha'adam b'tzalmo b'tzelem Elokim bara oto zachar u'nekeivah bara otam," so man is a creator, he has that incredible power to create. How does he create? The only difference between man and God is that God can create unilaterally and man creates bilaterally. Right, man can only create male (Pause in recording) -- God, he can rule like God.
"Vayivarech Elokim leimor (sic)," and God says, "p'ru u'r'vu u'mil'u et ha'aretz," be fruitful and multiply -- give me a second Bobby -- fill the land, "v'kivshuhah," and conquer it. Who is man? Man is powerful, man is a conqueror, man is a ruler. Man really is like God, like Elokim, like this powerful God we call Elokim. He really is made in Elokim's image, he has that ability to rule. Now, as ruler, he's able to eat, right, he eats all these things, he eats vegetation, but notice that there are some restrictions upon man. He has to be a benevolent ruler. For example, he's only allowed to eat vegetation, but he's not allowed to eat animals at this point.
Not only that, he has to share the vegetation with who? Because who else eats vegetation? Look at Verse 30. "U'l'chol cHeiat ha'aretz," you know who else I give vegetation to? To all of the animals, the implicit argument is and therefore, share some with them, don't pig out. You can't just have all of the vegetation in the world. So you really are, you have to be a responsible middle manager. You're in charge, but don't think you're just there to conquer, right. You have to use your head, you have to make sure that you administrate properly. Man is the ultimate administrator of the world.
So what's interesting about this is that why is it so important when we think about the names of Elokim, and we haven't yet talked about the name of Yud-Kei-Vav-Kei, when we think about these names, these names are important not only -- for two reasons. One is they give us our most primary ways of thinking about God, but the second reason they're important is they give us our most primary ways of thinking about ourselves. Because if God is our creator, and we're created in His image, then who we are, are terrestrial versions of who God is. So depending on how we think of God will depend upon how we think of human nature itself. This is one of the ways of thinking about human nature.
One of the ways of thinking about human nature is to think that really our whole purpose, our goal in life, our meaning in life, our meaning and existence is to be Elokim, on earth. Is to rule, to administrate the earth properly. Or even more, just as God created a universe and made a home for people, for the ones that He loved, so our job is to domesticate the universe and make it into a better home for ourselves, for our own children. Maybe even our own particular children, maybe even our meaning in life is to grow up and to have kids and to make a home for them, just like God had kids, right, had children, made children and made a home for them. So we are being God-like in an Elokim kind of way when we do those things. Yes?
Audience Member: (Pause in recording).
Rabbi Fohrman: Ah, okay. Thank you. So a little gematri'a (numerical value) to keep this about Chaf-Vav being the numerical equivalent of Yud-Hei and Vav-Hei. Yes?
Audience member: I'm not sure why you would say that Hashem has to run management. You know, a lot of managers think that they leave it to run, but we believe Hashem's involved in every single thing we do, I don't understand why we have to say this?
Rabbi Fohrman: Okay. So we're going to get in. So let's leave that question, God's involvement in a world in which there's middle management, what's the nature of that involvement for an examination of World Two. Because, I think, if you look at the Jewish sources that talk about God's consistent involvement in the world, you'll see that in a World Two vision of the world.
Just to articulate the point, in an Elokim view of the world, the most important thing is for God to create a world that runs by itself, because that's the greatest invention you can have. The most powerful thing I can do is to create something that runs by itself. But that's only true if God is Elokim. If God is not Elokim, if God is Yud-Hei and Vav-Hei, if God is compassionate, God is loving, so when you're loving, what do you try to do with your children? Stay involved. So you see the tension, right? A Yud-Hei-Vav-Hei God would not see it that way, right, a Yud-Hei and Vav-Hei God would want to be intimately involved.
In fact, if you look at the Rambam, which we'll get to in future weeks, in the very first Maimonides, in the beginning of his Yad Hachazakah, where he talks about the meaning of the name Yud-Hei and Vav-Hei, talks about a God who's intimately involved in the world, right, in a way that's very, very different than what's described in Genesis, Chapter 1. A kind of God who's more in line with Genesis, Chapter 2.
Again, the truth of it somehow is this blend, this mysterious blend between these two things. These two visions of God are human visions of God. God is neither really Elokim, nor Yud-Kei-Vav-Kei. What God really is, is Hashem Elokim. One thing, Hashem Echad. Yud-Kei-Vav-Kei and Elokim in a way that we can't understand how these things come together. The best we can do is approximate it by breaking apart these visions of God and talking about them.
Just let me finish the point, because I'm just about done with World One and then I'll take questions for our last couple of minutes.
The last thing I want to say about the vision of Elokim here, is coming back to the question that I began with, which is oKei, so where did the Sages get this notion from that Elokim is involved in justice, right, that God is a judge, that God is just? I understand the notion, Fohrman, that God is powerful, that Elokim is powerful. I get God as powerful, I just don't get God as just. Where is the notion of God as the big judge involved in here? I see God as the sea (Pause in recording) -- judge, where would you say God appears as judge in this world? Yes?
Audience Member: "Vayar Elokim ki tov."
Rabbi David Forhman: "Vayar Elokim ki tov" right, that's judgement. After God creates everything, without fail, God will always look at what He's created and judge it. He will then say oKei, how good was it? If I judge how good you are, right, did you get an 80, did you get a 90? That's judging you. "Vayar Elokim ki tov" whenever God says and God saw that it was good, something is implied by that, which is it's good and therefore I'll keep it around. In other words, there is another possibility. If God wouldn't see that it was good, if God would theoretically see something was bad, what would He do? He'd destroy it, He'd get rid of it.
So, the idea is, is that after -- the creative process actually implies a final stage, a stage of judgment, which is what happens in the flood. So in the flood you finally have this moment where there is a "vayar Elokim ki ra," and God saw that it was evil, and that is the verse, "vayar Elokim ki," God saw that, "rabah ra'at ha'adam ba'aretz v'chol yetzar machshivot libo," there was a great evil in the world, in man's heart, and He became sad because He knew He needed to destroy the world. Really the two great grades that God gives to creation is either tov (good) or ra (evil). Right? Which, of course, is going to set up our famous tree, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.
Now we might understand what that tree is. It's a Tree of Judgment, it's a Tree of Elokim. The Tree of Elokim, as the God who judges everything shows up in the second world. In Gan Eden, there's a tree that represents this vision of God, as Elokim, seemingly.
We'll wait really until we get to the story of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil to understand the implications of that, but it seems like that's what's happening. So God really is a judge, because, think about it, God's a judge not because He's mean, God is a judge because that's kind of what's implied by being a creator. In other words, if I create something, I don't want to create bad stuff in the world, so there has to be this evaluative process.
The creator process really has three parts of it and the three parts of are intimately tied to three parts of time. There's a future part, there's a present part and there's a past part. The future part we call planning and that occurs in creation when God says, "you know what, let there be acts." "Yehi raki'a b'toch hamayim," I think it would be a good idea if there was sky in the midst of the waters. That's the planning phase. Then there's an execution phase, in the present. (Pause in recording) -- He makes the raki'a (sky) that He thought it would be good to have around. After that God's going to go and evaluate what He does to decide whether He should keep it, "vayar Elokim ki tov". He's going to see it, He's going to see it's good and He's going to keep it. This is the way a creator is going to go about things. He's going to plan, He's going to execute and He's going to evaluate.
The truth is, and I'll stop talking in a second and I'll just take your questions in the last five minutes, but the truth is, when you think about this concept of God, this is a very easy to understand concept of God. It's not hard, right, it makes sense. It's orderly, everything fits, God is majestic, but simple to understand. Who is God? He's a king, He's very powerful, He's interested in order, He's interested in creating, He's interested in making the best stuff there is, stuff that's self-replicating. He wants it to be orderly, He wants there to be responsible middle management and this is the God. What He's done, God Himself is a responsible creator because what's the last thing He does? He stops.
At some point, you've got to know when to stop, you've got to know when to hold them, you've got to know when to fold them, you've to know when to stop because if you never stop then you have chaos. You've got to be able to pull back and the final act of creativity is knowing when to just let the thing be and be independent, and so God celebrates the day that He stops. That is Shabbos, in World One, the great celebration of stopping, the last great creative act in the world.
So why do I need anything more? I have a wonderful concept of God, why don't I just stick with it? The answer is, if this is all God was, for all of God's power, for all of God's might, for all of God's justice, I don't know if we would really worship Him. Because, again, if you think about what worship would mean, coming back to one of the first things I said to you, if you think about what worship would mean in this world, at most what emotions do you feel towards God?
Audience Member: Awe.
Rabbi Fohrman: Awe, fear. I feel there must be something more. Where does love come from, this notion of love of God, where does that come from? It must come from a different concept of God. From, not God as creator. So you say, well God is creator, what other concept do I have to have of God to get me to a God of compassion rather than a God of justice?
So I want to leave you with this thought. Creator is a very tricky word. It's not the word you would use for your kids. Do you say I created my kids? (Pause in recording) -- oh, sure, Julie, her creator date is January 19th, what's your kids' creator date? You don't say that about your kids. What do we call their birthdate? Birth is not the same thing as creator. Do you say you made your kids? Oh, you know when I made you. You don't make your kids, what do you make? You make a toaster, you know what I mean? You don't make a kid, a kid comes from you, you give birth to a kid, but you don't make a child. Making implies that there's a thing-like quality to that which you make, you make a thing.
At some level everything that God makes in World One really is a thing. It sort of has utility and a system, it's this big, grand creative thing, this universe. Everything fits, and if you even think about man's role within it, it's just utility, it's just there to serve a function. We're there to be middle management, to rule over everything, to make sure it all works, right. We're too just a big glorified thing within the system. A thing might get scared of the big thing, but there's got to be something more than just being a thing.
Therefore, this whole other notion of who God is that has nothing to do with really being a creator, in which the creativity of God is not talked about as thing-like creativity. It's talking about birth, it's talking about something that emerges from. The notion of God not as king, but God as parent, Avinu Malkeinu, right, is going to emerge in that world, where love is going to emerge. It's going to be this balance between these two concepts of God which is going to be the thing that we're going to have to keep foremost in our mind as we go forward. So World Two is going to introduce us to a radically different side of God, the God of Yud-Hei and Vav-Hei, in addition to just being Elokim and we'll explore that when we come back next week.
We've got a couple minutes, so I'll just open it up to any questions on Facebook, or questions from here. Bobby.
Bobby: Why plural for Elokim?
Rabbi Fohrman: Very good question. Why plural for Elokim?
Bobby: The whole idea of na'aseh has to be discussed also because --
Rabbi Fohrman: Yes, correct.
Bobby: -- it's part of the Biblical Criticism that --
Rabbi Fohrman: Yes. Okay, so let me maybe end by addressing Bobby's question. I don't have an answer to why Elokim is plural, but I do have an answer to why na'aseh is plural.
You will find in the creation story -- really you will find within Genesis -- three very troubling and difficult moments where God (Pause in recording) -- once in the story of the Tower of Babel and twice in the story of Creation. I intend with you, in getting to all three of those things as we go through the story of Elokim and Yud-Kei and Vav-Kei.
The first time it appears is in the creation of man. All of the commentators struggle with trying to understand the meaning of that plural. What could it possibly mean when Elokim says, "vayomer Elokim, na'aseh adam b'tzalmeinu kidmuteinu," let us create man in our image. What could that possibly mean?
Bobby: It could mean both sides, Elokim and --
Rabbi Fohrman: There you go. That's what I want to suggest. There's all of these theories, maybe God's talking of the angels, maybe God's talking to Himself, maybe He's using the royal we. I think the latter might be the case, but I think we've now laid the groundwork, for a radical new theory of what God might have been doing.
Who was Elokim talking to when Elokim said, let us make man?
Rabbi Fohrman: He was talking to Yud-Kei-Vav-Kei. He was talking to the other side of Himself. In other words, when the Midrash says that it's the royal we, right, the royal we isn't just -- in other words, to understand the royal we; what is the royal we? The royal we is that kings will sometimes use a plural when talking about themselves.
Where does the royal we come from? I don't know, but I would venture a guess, it comes from Genesis. It comes from the fact that the most powerful being in the universe when He first created man, in His most powerful bold stroke, referred to Himself as we. Hence, all religious kings who knew that, would get the idea that somebody who's really majestic refers to himself in the plural, hence the royal we is born.
However, what was the original meaning of the royal we, right? So, Our Sages say it's the royal we. But what did the royal we mean?
The royal we meant that in the literary device that the Torah uses, breaking the concept of God into two, Elokim was talking to the as yet unrevealed Yud-Kei-Vav-Kei. Remember, Yud-Kei-Vav-Kei is like imagine a play. Yud-Kei-Vav-Kei is waiting behind the curtain, he hasn't come out on stage yet. This is just Elokim's show. The only thing is, is that -- so what does it mean, Elokim says na'aseh?
Here's what it means in a very deep way. What it means is, everything else that I just told you is at least comprehensible in World One terms. It is comprehensible to understand how Elokim alone could create a universe and set man up and do all of this. The one thing that's incomprehensible, even in a World One universe, which you can't make sense of, is the creation of man.
It's not possible to think of the creation of man as even in World One terms, as something that was done solely by Elokim. (Pause in recording) -- of God, so the best I can do to you now, is say that God was talking to someone offstage. Right, who was offstage? Yud-Kei-Vav-Kei's offstage. He hasn't been introduced yet. He was saying to this as yet unrevealed being, you and me together na'aseh adam.
Now, why is it incomprehensible even in a World One world to create man? This gets to one of the most salient features of the story of Elokim and Yud-Kei-Vav-Kei and with this I'll end. Because think of the danger of creating man, if the only being who creates man is Elokim. How does man know who he is? By looking to his Creator. If the only being that I can look to is Elokim, how am I going to see myself? What values am I going to adhere to? What am I going to think the prime value in the universe is? Power. What happens if man thinks that the ultimate prime value is the acquisition of power?
Rabbi Fohrman: Competition, war, destruction, Migdal Bavel, the Tower of Babel, ultimate destruction. The ultimate evil in the universe is when the prime value you think is the acquisition of power. What's the great line that all the comic book villains or in all the comic book movies say? It's mine, it's mine, oh mine. Right, the power of the king that wants it all for himself. If that's who you are, if the only thing you can understand is God as power, is God as majestic, then man is doomed.
Man, even in World One, even if he cannot yet understand Yud-Kei-Vav-Kei, because that hasn't been revealed because you're living in this world, you need to understand there's another side to the story. Someone else created you too. There's another part of God who you can't understand who you're a child of too. We are not just tzelem Elokim, made in the image of Elokim, we are tzelem Yud-Kei-Vav-Kei Elokim.
That's what it means "na'aseh adam b'tzalmeinu kidmuteinu," let us make man in our image. We evince qualities of both sides of God together and have to figure out how we manage that. But no matter where we came from, we always have to understand that, even in World One, we need to understand there's more to the picture. Where's the rest of the picture? That's described in World Two.
Bobby: That may be why Elokim is plural, because it is encompassing that other one that we're not seeing.
Rabbi Fohrman: Possibly. I don't know.
Audience Member: In the same way, we're talking about like making in Kabbalah is using Shem Hameforash, Hashem sort of used (Pause in recording).
Rabbi Fohrman: I don't know. I will leave that for the mystics. Yes.
Mrs. Shalev: Elokim --
Rabbi Fohrman: Just a little louder, so people online can hear you.
Mrs. Shalev: -- Elokim is plural, so isn't it like tzedek to have a saneigor, a kateigor and then comes a verdict, so this is then encompassing --
Rabbi Fohrman: You're saying, could Elokim be a way of alluding to the idea, that there's more to the El than just him? Possibly. I don't know. I hear you. It's an interesting theory. Yes.
So this is a very interesting idea, let me -- Liz, right -- let me start to articulate what you are saying. I haven't made up my mind about this, but the theory is very suggestive, right? Which is, if there's these two sides of God, are they masculine and feminine sides of God? It's a very, in other words, anthropomorphically, would we identify Elokim -- if you would, you would have identified Elokim as the masculine side of God. You would identify Yud-Hei and Vav-Hei as the feminine side of God. It may well be. It's certainly possible, it's something to keep in mind.
As we go through World Two and you think about World Two, the qualities of World Two are very feminine in many kinds of ways. Right, the qualities of God -- by the way, what's interesting is, you go back to the Sages, only one of these names of God expresses God as he truly is. That actually is Yud-Hei and Vav-Hei. God as El is generic. You could view God as powerful because any deity would have to be powerful, but the ultimate name of God really is -- God with a capital G -- is Yud-Hei and Vav-Hei.
So, if you're right, then what it really means is that probably it would be better, right -- when we told God, He, you probably would be better off calling God, She, if you had to call one or the other and Yud-Hei-Vav-Hei, because there is something very feminine really about Yud-Hei and Vav-Hei. As we go through World Two, you'll see it over and over again. It's a very feminine vision of what God could be. Yeah.
Audience Member: If I'm not mistaken, one of the definitions of the term Aleph-Lamed used in name of Hashem is asking as if Hakadosh Baruch Hu... El is used in Elokim, more than one, it's including both aspects.
Rabbi Fohrman: Okay. So that's again, that's that notion from the audience here that the plural part of Elo-him might be including both. So, it's possible, I'm still going to remain agnostic about that.
Bobby: Also, the masculine and feminine part is making it into anthropomorphic.
Rabbi Fohrman: Well, it's all anthropomorphic.
Bobby: The power of masculine and the power of feminine which are aspects within each of us, of all of us within existence, therefore it's not really --
Rabbi Fohrman: That's true. To some extent again, as a word of caution, everything that I've said here is anthropomorphic. You have to understand, there's God as He truly is and then God as human beings try to understand Him.
If you think about the Torah, the Torah is in a little bit of a pickle, because if you're the Torah, how do you talk about God? Do you talk about God as He truly is, or you're talking to human beings, so you try to talk to human beings as they understand Him. So the Torah is trying to balance this line.
What I want to suggest is, even the names Yud-Kei-Vav-Kei and Elokim as separate visions of God is itself a compromise to humanity. It's not really that way, as Shema says, "Hashem Elokeinu, Hashem Echad," God is only One. It's all an illusion, right. It's just for human ears, we break apart these two concepts of God and see them differently. The truth is Hashem Elokim as one, the truth is, this kind of mystical version of God which we'll get to next week.
So, I'll see you next week and we'll see you then.
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