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YHWH – the breath of life

February 2, 2007

A couple days ago I was told about a rabbi that shared regarding the name of God, YHWH, at a recent march in Washington D.C. I don’t know if this is the same rabbi, but I have located an article on the Internet by Rabbi Arthur Waskow which contains similar content. ( Take time to really think about God being the breath of life.

“You might pause to try this yourself: try to say “YHWH” with no vowels. Not “Yahweh” or “Yahovah,” but with no vowels at all.

Over the years I have invited thousands of people at synagogues, retreat centers, Hillels, and conferences to explore what happens if they try to do this, and almost everyone who does this, experiences either a breath or the wind. The real Name is BEYOND pronunciation, unless you consider breathing pronunciation.”

“2) The notion of YHWH as “the Breath of Life” accords with a deep sense of God as intimate and transcendent at once. If we have no breath in us, we die. If there is no breath beyond us, we die.

3) Moreover, it makes profound sense for at least one of the real Names of the real God to be not a Hebrew word, nor a word in Egyptian, or Latin, or Greek, or Arabic, or Sanskrit, or English – not in any single language but in all of them, or in some form of expression that both underlies and transcends language: just breathing, which all humans of all peoples do.

4) Still more, Breathing encompasses not only all humans but all life-forms. What the trees breathe out is what we breathe in; what we breathe out is what the trees breathe in. So YHWH as a breathing sound evokes “kol ha’neshama,” all breathing beings, and “nefesh chaya,” all those in which is the life-breath.

It includes not only specific life-forms but the interwoven life-process, in which all earth – even aspects that we often think of as not alive, like rocks and the ozone layer – take part in a planetary breathing.”

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