Yesterday, a rabbi published an excellent piece about how the word “God” has become a loaded term. (See Rabbi Says, “Time to Give Up On God.”) As the rabbi astutely points out, people intend to convey vastly different feelings, meanings, and intentions when using the word “God.”
It seems to me, as a Karaite, that the ambiguity around “God” would be minimized if people actually referred to God by God’s personal name (יהוה).
Don’t worry; I’m not about to swat the hornet’s nest by advocating for a particular pronunciation of God’s name.
In truth, I don’t have the conviction or courage for such a post.
But as recently as a 1100 years ago, a contingent of Karaites believed it to be an act of “unbelief” to replace the Divine Name with the generic title “Adonai” (usually translated as “Lord”).*
Of course, “recent” is a relative term. The rabbinic ban on pronouncing the Divine Name dates back approximately 1800 years (depending on when one believes the ban went into full effect). (See Mishnah Sanhedrin 10:1.) And by all accounts, the Essenes also prohibited the pronunciation of the Divine Name. (See 1QS 6:27-7:2.)
We’ve mentioned Daniel al-Kumisi’s famous Sermon to the Karaites before. In it, Kumisi, a tenth century Karaite, argues (solely from the Bible) that we are forbidden to pronounce God’s name.
From a Karaite perspective, it doesn’t matter that there is disagreement about the permissibility of pronouncing God’s name. All that matters is whether each person arrived at the interpretation based on an honest reading of the Scripture.
It appears even Kumisi recognized this, for after explaining why he believed it was forbidden to state the name, he urged his readers to search the Scripture for themselves: “What I had in my mind concerning the uttering of the Lord’s name, that have I written down for you. As for you, do ye investigate the matter according to your own wisdom, lest you should to according to my wisdom in reliance upon my opinion.”*
I don’t actually expect the average person to use God’s personal name, but it sure would make discussions about our belief in God – and whether we’re intending to convey the same concept – much clearer.
* See Leon Nemoy, The Pseudo-Qumisian Sermon to the Karaites, Proceedings of the American Academy for Jewish Research, Vol. 43 (1976) pp. 49-105.
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Today is the 4th day of the 5th week of seven weeks. Today is the 32nd day of the counting of fifty days from the day of the waving of the Omer on the morrow after the Sabbath.