Yyyyhhhwwwwhhhh – Interbreath of Life

YHWH is the bearer of consequence, not punishment or rewards.”

Excerpts from Dancing in God’s Earthquake: The Coming Transformation of Religion, by Rabbi Arthur Ocean Waskow (Orbis Books, 2020)

Dancing in God's Earthquake: The Coming Transformation of Religion, by Rabbi Arthur Ocean Waskow (Orbis Books, 2020)Recently, I began reading Rabbi Arthur Ocean Waskow’s newest book, Dancing in God’s Earthquake, which I discovered through the August 2021 Friend’s Journal review.

Finally, I have a term to use in place of the word “God,” which creates so much doubt and misdirection for so many people, both religious and secular.

Rabbi Waskow1 opens his book with “A Note to the Reader – Coronavirus: The Eleventh Plague.”  His manuscript was submitted to Orbis Books in November 2019, a month before the first reports of a new virus in Wuhan, China.

He explains that, though coronavirus is not mentioned in this book, he calls this eleventh plague an earthquake “among all the earthquakes in our lives—the life of all Humanity.”

Reb Walter uses this Note to demonstrate a key principle of reading scripture: the necessity of “reading the context.”

The ancient rabbis taught that Torah was written not in black ink on white parchment but in black fire on white fire—we must read the fiery “blank” spaces by interpretation of the whole intent….

I invite you to read not only this [book] but whatever sparks of meaning rise for you from all the other white spaces that await you. (ix)

Next, Reb Walter puts the CIVID-19 crisis into the context of the Ten Plagues in Exodus, frowning on the traditional reading of this story as being about the victory of a Super-Pharoah (God) over the human Pharoah.

This understanding that the Exodus is a contest between a king and a Super-King is underlined by the false biblical translation of YHWH as “LORD.”  (The rabbinic tradition substituted “Adonai/Lord for “YHWH” but the Hebrew Bible does not.)

The Tetragrammaton in Paleo-Hebrew (10th century BCE to 135 CE), by Manuela Ideacrea. [Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)]

It is more likely that YHWH with no vowels is simply a breath—Yyyyhhhhwwwwhhhh: The Breath of Life, sometimes the Wind of change, sometimes the Hurricane of destruction.

This Ruach (Hebrew for “breath, wind, spirit”) is what intertwines all of life.  We know now this is literally, physically, scientifically true: the Oxygen-CO2 interbreathing between animals and vegetation keeps all life alive.  So YHWH is the bearer of consequence, not punishment or rewards.

Try reading the whole Plague narrative substituting “Interbreath of life” instead of “LORD.”  For me and others who have tried this it changes the whole story. (x)

Reb Walter’s teaching on Yyyyhhhhwwwwhhhh predates this book.  The idea is developed more fully in “Do We Need to ReName God?,” his recent article for The Shalom Center,2 (12/23/2021).

With a sacred but outdated Name, an outdated way of understanding our world, we will, like Moses, fail at the task before us.

For years, I have encouraged prayer communities to breathe the Name as YyyyHhhhWwwwHhhh and then to use “Yahhh” instead of “Adonai.”   And then I have said that anyone who feels deeply God-connected through the use of the “Adonai” which they have recited, chanted, sung a thousand times should – for God’s sake! – keep on using what connects them.

But I have come to think this is an inadequate teaching.  I am now intending to say all this, and then to add my understanding of why Moses failed at first. And why the Voice had to insist on the new Name. And I will invite people to keep that challenge in mind as they voice their own response to the Voice.

Interbreathing, not OverLordship, is how our world now works. Now Is. And will be.

Breath the name.  Not make the verbal sounds with vowels, “Yaaaaaah Weeeeeh.”  Breathe out, YyyyHhhh. Breathe in, WhhhHhhh.

Interbreathing, not OverLordship.

And so it is.

Blessèd Be,
Michael Bright Crow


Notes & Image source

Image: “Jehovah-autor_Brave_heart,” The Tetragrammaton in Paleo-Hebrew (10th century BCE to 135 CE), by Manuela Ideacrea. [Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)].

The more familiar version of the Tetragrammaton in square Hebrew (3rd century BCE to present) scripts is shown here (also by Manuela Ideacrea, created in Inkscape, with the same CC BY 2.0 attribution)

Tetragrammaton in square Hebrew (3rd century BCE to present) scripts is shown here (also by Manuela Ideacreaby Manuela Ideacrea. [Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)]

Hebrew letters י (yod) ה (heh) ו (vav) ה (heh), or YHWH, the Tetragrammaton.

 

  1. From the About section of The Shalom Center’s website:

    Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Ph. D., founded (in 1983) and directs The Shalom Center, a prophetic voice in Jewish, multireligious, and American life that brings Jewish and other spiritual thought and practice to bear on seeking peace, pursuing justice, healing the earth, and celebrating community. He edits and writes for its weekly on-line Shalom Report….

    Since 1969, Waskow has been one of the leading creators of theory, practice, and institutions for the movement for Jewish renewal. Among his seminal works in this area have been

    The Freedom Seder (l969), the first Haggadah for Passover to intertwine the archetypal liberation of the Jewish people from slavery to Pharaoh with the modern liberation struggles not only of the Jewish people, but also the Black community in America and other peoples. The Freedom Seder has become a model for many Jews during the past generation to shape Passover Seders to celebrate their own commitments to emerging aspects of liberation — such as environmental concerns, feminism, and the freedom of Tibet.

    Godwrestling (Schocken, l978), an examination of new ways of interpreting Torah and applying it to contemporary issues, as they emerged in the early havurot.

    These Holy Sparks: The Rebirth of the Jewish People (Harper and Row, l983), a study of the history and meaning of the Jewish renewal movement in North America, 1967 to 1982.

  2. From the About section The Shalom Center’s website:

    The Shalom Center: Spiritual Roots, Prophetic Action

    The Shalom Center seeks to be a prophetic voice in Jewish, multireligious, and American life.

    The Shalom Center equips activists and spiritual leaders with awareness and skills needed to lead in shaping a transformed and transformative Judaism that can help create a world of peace, justice, healing for the earth, and respect for the interconnectedness of all life.

    We weave the human experience of our own day with Jewish spiritual tools, such as sacred texts, midrash, liturgy, and ritual.

    We connect the experience and wisdom of the generations forged in the social, political, and spiritual upheavals of the last half-century with the emerging generation of activists, addressing with special concern the planetary climate crisis and the power configurations behind that crisis.

     

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