I want a piece of liturgy praising Adonai, God of Linguistics and Etymology.
I once had a Rabbi of whom I am not a big fan try to explain God’s name, יהוה, YHVH. The name is seemingly unpronouncable, yet one Rabbi explained what he thought was the incredible poetry of this name. He said that there is some evidence to suggest that the letter ו, vav, was formerly pronounced more like a W is in English today. That in mind, he asserted that God’s name was intended to be a breath in and a breath out. “Yaaaahhhhh… Waaaahhhhh…”
Right. I’m definitely not on board with that theory. But here, from the Jerusalem post via Jewschool’s Yehudit Brachah, is an explanation for God’s name that I can really get behind. Not only is it a good historical explanation, but it involves etymology, a pet interest of mine.
Yehudit beings by saying:
An interesting piece in the Jerusalem Post this month about the development of the Hebrew alphabet: as opposed to the Phoenician system of lettering, the Hebrews developed vowels, which allowed people to read out loud their texts, contributed to the spreading of the Bible, and the lasting impact of Judaism. Also, we loved it so much we named our god after the achievement.
Then she quotes JPost:
In short, the patriarch, matriarch, and deity of the Hebrews all get their names by adding a heh to convert otherwise common words into special ones. The Hebrews used their vowel-letters not just to make writing possible, but to create their most important names.We find a four-letter name for God, the tetragrammaton (which means “four-letters” in Greek). The four letters are yud, heh, vav, heh. Common pronunciations such as “Yahweh” or “Jehovah” miss the point. What really matters here is the remarkable fact that this name consists entirely of the Hebrews’ newly invented vowel letters, each included once, with the particularly special heh repeated.The tetragrammaton is unique in ancient Hebrew, in that its pronunciation seems divorced from its spelling. It also seems to lack any plausible etymology, and is unattested in similar ancient languages. Now we know why. The Hebrews paid homage to the vowel letters that made it possible to spread the Word of God by using those letters to refer to God.
I wish I could find the full article. The link given at Jewschool didn’t work and I couldn’t find the article on the JPost site.