“The Name: A History of the Dual-Gendered Hebrew Name for God” by Rabbi Mark Sameth— A New Look at God

Sameth, Mark. “The Name: A History of the Dual-Gendered Hebrew Name for God”, Wipf and Stock, 2020.

A New Look at God

Amos Lassen

Until quite recently the God of Israel had been referred to in the masculine. Rabbi Mark Sameth shows us that the God of ancient Israelwas understood by its earliest worshipers to be a dual-gendered, male-female deity. Today about 50% of the people in this world are followers of one of the three Abrahamic religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam and each of these has roots in the ancient cult that worshiped this God whose Hebrew name, YHWH, has not been said aloud in public for over two thousand years. Rabbi Sameth traces the name to the late Bronze Age and argues that it was expressed “Hu-Hi” which isHebrew for “He-She.” For Jewish mystics, this has long been an open secret. 

Reading “The Name” is akin to reading a mystery novel. It is filled with twists and turns as we venture into the idea of faith. We have tradition, revolution, history, philosophy, myth, rationality and irrationality all in one book and it is an exciting read that will have you questioning some of the ideas that you have always believed. It is not often that I read an entire book in one sitting but I did so with “The Name”.

We read about the nature of sexuality and the Divine and as we do webetter understand the Jewish concept of God. We follow the existence of the Jewish people through its history beginning with Abraham and Moses, the Priestly caste in the Temple in Jerusalem and the Babylonian exile. While the Jews were in the Diaspora that followed, the rabbis wrestled with the language of the Torah and God’s gender. It appears that the Torah, at times, uses the masculine and at other times it refers to the feminine traits of God and God’s name. We approach the King James translation when God was given the “ineffable name”. of God.” We ultimately see the importance of gender in God’s eyes of the Divine and the surprise is that it was always there but we didn’t see it.

Written for everyone, in fast moving praise with a bit of humor,  Rabbi Sameth pulls us in and takes us on an unforgettable journey and we see the play with language in the Torah. We come to understand that our bible was written for a specialized group that could easily see the many word tricks in it including hidden references, allusion and coding. Here are the influences, secrets, and documents that until now have brought about our beliefs about the nature of God.

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