Posted BY: Rabbi Michael Barclay
The Church of England has announced that it is evaluating the language of gender in relation to God. While they recognize that God is neither female nor male per se, the dialogue came up in a recent exchange in the General Synod, the governing body of the Church, when a priest sought options to speak of God in a non-gendered way.
While this is an interesting theological discussion within the Church, answers have been given about God’s “gender” in Judaism for millennia. There is no need to start a “gender inclusive” description of the Almighty and become pronoun conscious in order to satisfy the desires of modern gender activists. The understanding of God’s “gender” can be easily understood and explored through an understanding of Hebrew; and in so doing, we can avoid surrendering the infinitude of Divinity to a populist desire for gender inclusion in language.
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The main name of God found in the Bible in the original Hebrew is “YHWH” (the four Hebrew letters of Yod, Hey, Vav, and Hey; and often pronounced as Yahweh, Jehovah, etc. and referred to by academics as the Tetragrammaton). Each of these four letters is “soft” and can be pronounced in a multiplicity of ways. Additionally, in the original Hebrew of the Torah, there are no vowels, so in theory, the name could be pronounced as “JoHoWaHa”, “YaHWaH”, “JeHoVaH” or any number of other ways. Because we don’t want to mispronounce the name of God, Jews often refer to this word as “HaShem” (meaning “the Name”) or “Adonai” (meaning “my Master”). But the name itself is a hidden key to understanding God’s Presence in the physical world. In order to use this four-0lettered name as a key, we need to take a moment and understand Hebrew grammar.