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Friday, 14 March 2014

Understanding the Kadish response: What is G-d's great name?

Sukkah 39

During the kadish, we chant the line “yehay shmai raba mevorach” out loud.  The meaning of this verse is, “May His great name be blessed.” 

Rava cautions us not to break between ‘great name’ and ‘be blessed;’ otherwise it sounds like one is saying ‘May His name be great.’

What is meant by the term “G-d’s name”?  If I lived all alone on a deserted island, I would not need a name.  The purpose of my name is merely to relate to other people.  If there’s nobody else around, my name is unnecessary.

When we talk about G-d’s name, it refers to the way He relates to His creations.  When He is alone, He has no name. 

When we look at the world around us, it should be obvious to all that His name is great.  We need only think about all the wonderful creations and we become awe-inspired by His great name.  So it would be almost blasphemous to say ‘May His name be great.’  It surely is already great!

Rather, we intone “May His great name be blessed.”  Our prayer is that all humankind recognizes Him and that each of His creations shows gratitude for everything He does, by blessing Him constantly.

But it is not enough to simply pray that all come to know Him.  We have a duty to teach those around us, just like Abraham and Sarah did, just like the prophet Samuel did.  Our mission in this world is to educate the entire world about His great name.  At the End of Days, “G-d will be king upon the entire earth.  On that day, G-d will be one and His name will be one.”


Next time you respond to the kadish, think about the mission that you are committing yourself to!  Go out and teach people about G-d’s great name, i.e. everything He has done for them.  And then you will fulfill your prayerful wish that “His great name [shall] be blessed.”