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What is the proper pronunciation for the tetragrammaton (Y-H-V-H)?

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg


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The correct pronunciation of the tetragrammaton is unknown. It is only permitted to utter that name in the Holy Temple; since we do not have a Holy Temple today, that name is never uttered. Instead we substitute "Adonai" (my Master) whenever the Y-H-V-H appears in the prayers.

Since we do not have a Holy Temple, we substitute "Adonai" (my Master) whenever the Y-H-V-H appears in the prayers.
When the Messiah comes and rebuilds the Holy Temple, he will once again teach us how to pronounce G-d's holy name.


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Posted by: Rich on Aug 25, 2005

Question: Was there ever a time before the construction of the Temple that people did pronouce the sacred name? If so, then why must we limit our vocalization to only the Temple when the Moshiach comes?

Editor's Comment

G-d's ineffable name was only uttered in the Temple, and before that, in the Tabernacle -- neither of which we have today.

Tetragrammaton: Only pronounced in the Temple?

Posted by: Anonymous, Tiffin, OH on Dec 05, 2005

Your comment that the Tetragrammaton was only pronounced in the Temple is not completely correct. Outside hundreds of examples in the Tanach (where individuals from various social classes and walks of life freely speak the name of G-d) we have found the Tetragrammaton written dozens of times on pottery pieces from the First Temple Period. If that were not enough the Moabite Stone (Mesha Stele) has the Tetragrammaton written on it. Obviously Mesha King of Moab knew who the G-d of Israel was and how to say his name (the events that led up to the Moabite Stone inscription are recorded in 2Ki 3). A number of Rabbis in the past have demonstrated, from the Mishna and Talmud, that the name of G-d was pronounced at times outside the temple walls in the 2nd Temple Period. For more information see, "The Old Rabbinic Doctrine of God" by Rabbi Marmorstein and "The Name of God, a Study of Rabbinic Theology" by Samuel Cohen.

Editor's Comment

The fact that we find written documentation of the Tetragrammaton does not prove anything. Today, too, the Tetragrammaton is written in every Torah scroll -- but not pronounced.


Posted by: Anonymous on Feb 01, 2006

Actually the Talmud says that the Name used to be pronounced and taught to any who wanted to learn it, only until the 'sons of disobediance' multplied then it was concealed. There is not Mitsvah in the Writen Torah or Tanach against speaking the Name, only speaking it in false oaths, 'leshaveh' the eseret hadevarim say. If orthodox Judaism wishes to claim to be truth it must objectivly look at its fairy tales and traditions, even Talmud says that the Samaritens spoke the Name during oaths, and due to this and other transliterations scholars have a very close idea of what the sound of the Name was, not to mention hebrew grammer as well, ie 3rd person imperfect or causitive form of Havah. We simply see no hint in Tanach that Dovid or any other hesitated to speak the Name. I agree out of respect we do not call our father or king by his Name, but to say it was never spoken or that others have never known it is simply a pios wish and is not a Mitsvah from the Torah.

Editor's Comment

The same Talmud which says that the Tetragrammaton was taught to proper students (albeit in private -- see Avodah Zara 18b), also says very clearly that other than for academic purposes it is absolutely forbidden to utter this holy name. The Mishna states (Sanhedrin 90a), that "one who utters The Name with its [proper] lettering" has no portion in the world to come! Bear in mind that the Mishnaic sages lived merely a couple of centuries after Biblical times. Yet, there are those today who claim to have a better understanding of the Biblical period than the sages of the Mishna!


Mitzvot » Holy Temple Mitzvot
History » The Holy Temples » Holy Temple Mitzvot
G-d » What is G-d?
Mitzvot » Prayer » About

1. Usually a reference to the Holy Temple which was/will be situated in Jerusalem. 1st Temple was built in 825 BCE and was destroyed in 423 BCE. The 2nd Temple was built in 350 BCE and was destroyed in 70 CE. The 3rd Temple will be built by the Messiah. 2. A synagogue.
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.