By Pastor Paula Burchill
In the Hebrew Bible, the name for God is Yahweh. And when Jews would read their scriptures, they would sort of skim over the name, because Yahweh is too holy to be pronounced. I have always learned that it was a conscious way for them to remember how holy God is. That there is some level at which we can never fully know God because God is beyond knowing.
Last week, I read something by Richard Rohr about Yahweh. He writes, in “The Naked Now,” that the Jewish name for God—Yahweh—was not spoken but breathed. And when you pronounce it correctly the Yah mimics your in-breath, and the Weh mimics your out-breath. Try it. Say Yah – Weh as you breathe in and out.
At Holy Yoga, the teacher started our class with teaching us this, and then had us breathe throughout class saying God’s name. Rohr says that the one thing we do every moment of our lives is breathe. Breath is the first thing we take in and the last thing we let out—therefore, writes Rohr, the one thing we do every moment of our lives is speak the name of God.
I just LOVE learning stuff like that!!! When God created humans, the bible says he breathed into us, and after learning what Yahweh means, it hit me that God breathed God into us. And that means, every human contains God—God is in everyone. I find that so comforting. Some of the people I love the most don’t ever say God’s name, but God is still in them. In the deepest part of them. In their breath.
God’s name is certainly holy. And I think it is important to remember that. Especially with how often we hear God’s name so carelessly taken in vain. But I also am reminded when I breathe in Yah and breathe out Weh, that at my deepest core, God is there. There is no escaping God. And God loves me so much that from the moment I breathed my first until the moment I will breathe my last, God will be there—in me. Filling me up. Giving me life.
It is so easy to forget about God, isn’t it? To go through life pretending that God doesn’t matter and isn’t really at work in this world. Just like it is easy to take our breath for granted. Our bodies are made so we don’t have to think about breathing—it is automatic.
So maybe that is why God’s name was unpronounceable for the Jews. So that as you are reading the word, or praying your prayers, when you say Yahweh, you don’t say Yahweh, you breathe Yahweh. From your core—from the depths of who you are.
That is where God is. Yahweh.