fiver: thoughtful kitten! (thinking)
[personal profile] fiver posting in [community profile] nameseeking
Let me tell you a story about Adonai, the One God, the God of Becoming, whose name is Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh, I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE. Let me tell you about the time Adonai split His name in two.

Now there are many tales about the sacred four-letter name of God and the multitudes of God's singular self contained within it. This one is really simple. It so happened that from high up on the throne of heaven, Adonai could not experience the world He had created. But He also could not leave the throne empty and go join the material world like a late arrival at a party. So He made an executive decision to cut His sacred name into two parts, which we know as Yud and Vav.

Vav, the second half of the Name of God, stayed in heaven. Yud, the first half of the Name of God, went down to Earth to experience what God's creation had to offer.

Safe in the rarefied air around his throne, Vav remained a god of lovingkindness; he adored the humans he had made and he was happy. But Yud began to change from the moment he hit the ground. The world of human beings was a harsh place, and he was dismissed, pushed around, and abused from the start. He saw the same thing happening to the people around him. Every instance of cruelty and suffering he saw diminished, scarred, and warped him. He began to hate the god of lovingkindness he had once been; he began to curse himself for his own failures in the world.

When at last it was time for Yud to return to heaven and reunite with Vav as the full Name once more, he stopped in front of his other self and looked him in the eye, and he said, "I cannot accept you ever again."

Vav, for his part, could barely even recognize Yud as his other half any longer; the changes were that huge. Still, he knew this was the other half of the Name and they needed to be rejoined. So he said, "It looks like we're going to have to fight, then."

So they fought for days across the heavens. Yud should have been able to easily crush Vav, as the first part of the Name, but something held his power back. Finally, as the sun set on the sixth day, an extraordinary thing happened.

From below on Earth, even as Yud and Vav fought, came the voices of the people raised in song and prayer on the night of Shabbat. Hearing them still praising Adonai despite everything, Yud hesitated--and he realized why he had not already struck down his other self. Even on Earth, where he had suffered and become twisted, he had always seen the lights of Shabbat and heard the prayers of love and hope from the people.

And in that moment, Yud lay down his weapons and embraced Vav, and the two became One once more, as They had always been. But that wasn't all. Adonai's experiences as Yud had made Him wiser and kinder for it, as He in His wisdom had known they would.

The end, amen, but what does it mean?

As I said, it's a simple story. Yud is all of us, imbued with God's image and yet pushed through experiences in life that warp and distort us. Vav is our true self, the image of God, with which we find ourselves fighting. The joy of Shabbat that ends the fight is the love we receive from the people around us which allows us to ultimately accept our true self.

But as simple as it is, this is one of the central mysteries of Judaism.

And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob's hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, "Let me go, for the day has broken." But Jacob said, "I will not let you go unless you bless me." And he said to him, "What is your name?" And he said, "Jacob." Then he said, "Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed." Then Jacob asked him, "Please tell me your name." But he said, "Why is it that you ask my name?" And there he blessed him.


Jacob's struggle with the angel is one of the most important passages of the Torah, for it's where we get the name Israel--which is usually translated as "one who contends with God." Conventional interpretation relates to this our Exile in the Diaspora, but it runs deeper than that.

It is our nature and our duty and our responsibility as God's people to struggle with Him. We improve both ourselves and Him in the process--we teach God the things we've learned about the world He created, and God helps us learn to accept ourselves and aspire to ever greater things.

This is because the division between any human being and God is an illusion. "Why is it that you ask my name?" says the being with whom Jacob wrestled. The fact is, Jacob already knows who he fights. Most interpretations call it an angel of God; others claim it's his brother, Esau. In either case, alone across the river, Jacob fights his own image, and so the image of God, throughout the night, and it ends with a blessing.

Ehyeh asher ehyeh, I am that I am--or I will be what I will be. God's Name and God's nature are of not just existing but of becoming, of self-transformation. Through the night of contending we reach the dawn of our true selves, and we are blessed.

Date: 2016-04-03 04:41 am (UTC)
finch: (Default)
From: [personal profile] finch
I especially like the way in which the distance between them is resolved - kind of like the time when men are closest to god is when Yud could be close enough for them to rejoin. Lovely.

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Seeking the Name

April 2016

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