She said she said

I was from the south, young, Jewish, and IN LOVE
with a preacher’s boy—so naturally I ended up following
him to the small Baptist university his family chose for him.
(It didn’t last.) The point is that there, religion was mandatory,
so I took the course on The Old Testament,
in which the professor kept going on about Yahweh.

At first, I didn’t know what in the world she was talking about.
In Hebrew, YHWH is pronounced Adonai,
and I kept wondering—and still do—how she couldn’t know that.
I mean, you’d think someone would explain it to her.

To my shame, I do not know when and from whom I received this story. It was, I believe, in an email or a comment in response to one of my poems. If you are the original author, please accept my apology and contact me so I can grovel appropriately.

Yahweh was the national god of the Iron Age kingdoms of Israel (then known as Samaria) and Judah, and may have developed from ‘El’, the head of the Bronze Age Canaanite pantheon. After the return from exile in Babylon, Yahweh had become monotheistic, the sole Divine Presence. The relationship of Yahweh to the tetragrammaton of YHWH, and on to the numerous names and titles of God used throughout Jewish history is a fascinating history that is too long and too complex to get into here. (But I urge you to follow the links…it really is interesting.) Christian bibles tend to translate YHWH as either Jehovah or Lord, although a modernist approach is to leave the tetragrammaton unchanged.

The point being, in Judaism, it is traditional to say ‘Adonai‘ for the word YHWH. But it is not that YHWH is pronounced as Adonai (which, by the way, strictly means ‘My lords’) it is a substitution made out of reverence and respect. Another is HaShem (The Name).

Thank you for reading All she needed do was ask. I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph was taken in Acre, Israel, some years ago; the family was there as part of our Bahá’í pilgrimage. To see my photography blog, please visit the Book of Bokeh.


Photograph, poem and notes © John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © John Etheridge, The photograph is not licensed for use in any way without the expressed consent of its creator.

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