Rabbi Mark Sameth, author of the book, The Name: A History of the Dual-Gendered Hebrew Name for God, is this week’s Seekers of Meaning Podcast guest.
The God of ancient Israel — universally referred to in the masculine today — was understood by its earliest worshipers to be a dual-gendered, male-female deity.
So argues Mark Sameth in The Name.
Needless to say, this is no small claim. Half the people on the planet are followers of one of the three Abrahamic religions — Judaism, Christianity, and Islam — each of which has roots in the ancient cult that worshiped this deity. The author’s evidence, however, is compelling and his case meticulously constructed.
The Hebrew name of God — YHWH — has not been uttered in public for over two thousand years. Some thought the lost pronunciation was “Jehovah” or “Yahweh.” But Sameth traces the name to the late Bronze Age and argues that it was expressed Hu-Hi —Hebrew for “He-She.” Among Jewish mystics, we learn, this has long been an open secret.
What are the implications for us today if “he” was not God?
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About the Guest
Named “one of America’s most inspiring rabbis” by The Forward (inaugural list, 2013), Rabbi Mark Sameth (he/him/his) is featured in Jennifer Berne and R. O. Blechman’s God: 48 Famous and Fascinating Minds Talk about God. His interfaith work was the topic of a story in The New York Times. His essays appear in books published by Jossey Bass, Jewish Lights, CCAR Press, and New Paradigm Matrix, and in Reform Judaism Magazine, Journal of Jewish Education, CCAR Journal, and the New York Times (“Is God Transgender?” Op-Ed, August 12, 2016). He tweets from @fourbreaths.
Where does “Hashem” fit into this discussion?
I think this book is quite frankly disappointing. R Sameth is playing language games based on the presumption that God has binary identity. God is transcendent and infinite. The binary characteristics Jewish tradition ascribes to God are due to the limitations of language and human imagination.
R Sameth has fallen into this trap and gone down the wrong path. I really wish he would have started with modern gender theory as the basis of his argument. Instead he gives a passing comment to it at the end of his book, that still disproves his entire thesis.
Rabbah Rona Matlow MAJEd, MAJS, MEM
Author of “We are God’s Children Too”