Name of God (not G-d)

The name of God in Hebrew is yod-heh-waw-heh, with no vowel points, i.e. the Tetragrammaton (“four letters”).  Originally, that word would have had vowel points, but we don’t know what they are for sure.  In order to avoid saying the name of God, the Jews of antiquity changed the vowel points and said “adonai” (“Lord”) instead.  Now we have others who simply say “ha-Shem” (“the name”) which makes sense because yod-heh-waw-heh is in fact the name of God.  But the name of “God” for Jews is “yod-heh-waw-heh,” not “God.”  The word for “God” in Hebrew is “Elohim.”   Thus:  “Elohim” = the concept of God; “yod-heh-waw-heh” = the name of God.  Some have started to spell the word, “God” in the form of “G-d,” equating this with the Hebrew.  This is English, however, and “God” is not a Hebrew word.  There is no need to use the spelling, “G-d,” which in fact communicates the misimpression that “God” is also a Jewish name–it’s not.  The name of God is and has always been “yod-heh-waw-heh.”  The word, “God” is not the equivalent of “yod-heh-waw-heh,” but rather “Elohim.”  In my opinion, “G-d” is a misnomer.

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Judaism and Social Action II

This is an email response to a friend of mine:

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We both agree then:  The Government is US, and there are appropriate and inappropriate uses of government (federal, state, county, city).  And you’re right that the GI bill and the federal interstate highway system are projects WE commisioned government to implement.  That’s exactly my point:  “They” is “us.”

But here’s where we disagree.  The very projects that changed our lives are “improvement” projects.  They are a form of “social action.”  The GI Bill allowed a whole generation of people to move into the middle class.  The interstate highway program (even though it began as a defense project) made it possible to truck goods quickly and efficiently all across the country and helped to unify this county by making it accessible to a much larger percentage of the population.  Social Security and Medicare helped to transform the economic and social status of our elderly population.  Affirmative Action (flawed as it is) made it possible for large numbers of women and minoirites to enter into careers and companies from which they would otherwise have been excluded.  Etc.  This all involves improvement.   If you call that “socialism,” then I guess we’re stuck.  I call it intelligent public policy.  And nothing is value-free.

Further, “improvement” is related to “stability.”  Look at Cincinnati and what happens when a city fails to deal with deeply rooted policies of racial prejudice.  City government in Boston did something different.  When confronted with the same problems, the mayor and council adopted a plan that changed the ethnic and racial makeup of its police force.  Guess what?  The problems diminished, and Boston (once synonymous with racial tension) has developed a reputation for decent community policing and relative ethnic harmony.  In other words, if you want stability, you also need “improvement.”  I don’t see how you do this without government (WE), though private corporations and non-profit groups are equally important.  Cliched as it is, “private-public partnerships” is an excellent and apt phrase.  By its very definition, government is involved in forms of social action.  Otherwise, I guess we’re back to the state of nature.

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