Sign In Forgot Password

Names of God

08/26/2021 08:40:01 AM


Beth Schafer

Practicing the music of the High Holy Days brings me in touch with its liturgy weeks before everyone comes into the sanctuary to offer the prayers and blessings of the season. I have been ruminating a lot over how God is represented in our machzor. During our Days of Awe, there are many references to God conjuring up human roles: the parent, the king, the Lord, the shepherd, the Judge. These metaphors are supposed to help us relate to the task at hand - to return to our best selves under the authority of and in submission to the God who commands us in the Torah to be better people.

But for those whose concept of God transcends human metaphors, the liturgy of the High Holy Days can be difficult or even uncomfortable. And, particularly during these trying and uncertain times, we may be yearning for a gentler representation of God to help us.

There are other names that God is known by in Jewish tradition that might resonate with you more this year or be more in line with your personal theology.

Hamakor: the Source. God is the source of creation, of energy, of life, of nature, but also of goodness, blessing and holiness.

Hamakom: the place. God is here and now. God is in stillness and awareness. Wherever or whenever you are, God is.

El Malei Rachamim: God of Mercy. God listens to our hearts’ most fervent prayers with compassion. God comforts us at times of loss or sorrow.

Even the oft-associated, more orthodox moniker HaShem has a mystical, spiritual quality to it. For this name implies that God is so un-human and beyond our comprehension that we can't even pronounce God's name, settling a euphemism instead.

As this month of Elul brings us closer to the New Year and we move toward our annual encounter with the God of the Days of Awe, let all of God’s many names come to mind and inspire us to know God and ourselves differently. Let these Holy Days give us the opportunity to explore the many dimensions of our spirituality and in doing so, find renewed purpose, comfort, strength and peace.

Shabbat Shalom,


Wed, December 1 2021 27 Kislev 5782