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The Unspeakable Name of God in Kabbalah

Yakov Leib haKohain

part 2

Dear Chaverim,

The vowelized vocalization of the four-letter, Ineffibale Name of God, the Shem HaMeforash, YHVH, was known only by the High Priest of the Temple in Jerusalem, and uttered by him only once each year, on Yom Kippur, and then, only in the Holy of Holies. So holy, so powerful was this secret name that anyone other than the High Priest who uttered it would die -- and even he could be struck down by God if he mispronounced it for some reason.

As a result, the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies alone on Yom Kippur with a rope tied around one ankle; thus, in the event that he should be struck down by YHVH for mispronouncing the Shem HaMeforash, the secondary priests could pull him out of the room so that he could pass on the vocalization of the Name to one priest before he expired.

With the final destruction of the Temple and the resultant passing of the office of the Kohain Gadol (High Priest), the true vocalization of YHVH, the most-high "Name," was lost. Only the "High-Priest-To-Come," which is to say the Messiah, would know its true pronunciation and be authorized to speak it. Thus, Jesus prays to God, "I have made your Name known to the men you took from the world to give to me" (John 17:6) and uses his priveleged knowledge of the Shem HaMeforash as proof of his Messianic office by declaring to his disciples, "The works I do by my father's Name are my witness [that I am the Messiah]" (John 10:25), and "Whatever you ask for in my name I will do" (John 14:13)

Viewed within this context, Sabbatai Zevi's "strange gesture" of publically uttering the forbidden YHVH can be seen as his proclimation that he was, indeed, the Chosen One of God, the Messiah of Israel and the world. The exact nature of his vocalization of the four vowels has been lost, or kept as a secret by the 300-year old Turkish "Donmeh," descendants of the families who followed Sabbatai into Islam over three centuries ago and continue to covertly worship him as the Messiah, while
overtly practicing Islam. (There are an estimated 10 to 15 thousand such Believers in the world today, mostly in the Levant, who are only recently beginning to surface as a "lost species" of Judaism.)

Nevertheless, there are numberous possibile ways in which the Shem HaMeforash could have been vocalized by AMIRA"H -- and these, by tradition, were transmitted from the last Kohain Gadol to the great Kabbalists of his time, and from them to their successors down through history who preserved them in the ancient Kabbalistic amulets they prepared.

In the second post of this series, I will describe a number of these Secret Names of God preserved in Kabbalistic amulets down through the ages, many of which were used for "magical" purposes by so-called "Practical" Kabbalists -- practioners of the ancient, Left-Hand Path of Esoteric Judaism.

Raising up the Holy Sparks together,

external link Yakov Leib haKohain, Ph.D.

part 2

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page uploaded 20 June 1999