Air Hunger and the big I AM

Mon 01/16/06 at 1:37 pm

“It’s a hell of a thing,” I think to myself as I turn to Darcy at the end of the day and state, matter-of-factly, and, if I do say so myself, with some poignancy, “I’m glad I didn’t die today,” and she, who was there for the worst of it, replies “I’m glad you didn’t either.” Yes, once again it’s exacerbation time at Walking Raven Central. And once again I managed to stop just short of taking that existential leap of, or perhaps in this case to, the absurd. And as I touched down on solid ground (metaphorically speaking, of course), I just want you to know that I thought of you, Gentle Readers. At the moment however, what it was I thought escapes me. And so you will have to wait until the next time (if there is a next time) for me to tell you what I learned about the great beyond — though I confess I didn’t see a white light, just Tinky Winky purple (which, according to Darcy, was about the color of my face at the time). Maybe that’s because, technically, exacerbatory episodes (now that’s a hell of a euphemism) fail to qualify as “near death experiences” in that the heart never really stops, though at times one has a fleeting moment of panic that it might explode. A lot of terms describe what happens, dyspnea, cyanosis, hypoxia, but the phrase that best fits for me goes back to our good old anglo-saxon roots — air hunger. When it’s at its worst, the only thing that will prevent an episode from occurring is to keep from moving around too much or too quickly, and forget about bending over. [I’m much better now. What a difference a few days (and a couple hundred milligrams of prednisone) makes.]

And now an abrupt change of subject. The First Voice, in part, will feature the God who calls himself YHWH [אהיה] translated as I AM. As explained by the Jewish historical society of Greater New Haven:

“YHVH” is a name that is usually translated as “LORD.” It is used approximately 7000 times in the Bible (Tanach), more than any other name for God. It is also referred to as the “Tetragrammaton” which means “The Four Letters” because it comes from four Hebrew letters: Yud, Hay, Vav, Hay. It is generally believed that these four letters represent the tenses of the Hebrew word for to be. That is, HVH (Hovah)=to be, HYH (Hayah)=was, and YHYH (Yi-yeh)=will be.

This is the special memorial-name that God revealed to Moses at the burning bush. “And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM; and He said, thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, I AM has sent me to you… this is My eternal name, and this is how I am to be recalled for all generations” (Exodus 3:14-15). Actually, the phrase in Hebrew is “eh-yeh asher eh-yeh.” The word “eh-yeh” being the first person future form of “hovah” (to be). A better English translation would really be, “I will be who (or what or that) I will be.” Even though the name YHVH appears earlier in Genesis 2, God didn’t reveal Himself as YHVH until Exodus 3 in conjunction with the creation of Israel.

Because this name comes from the Hebrew verb which means “to be.” YHVH emphasizes God’s absolute being. He is the source of all being, all reality, and all existence. He has being inherent in Himself. Everything else derives its being from Him. YHVH denotes God’s complete transcendence in time. He is beyond His creation. He is without beginning and without end because He always is.

Although some pronounce YHVH as Jehovah, this is probably not correct since the vowel points that define the pronunciation (not added to the Bible until the early Middle Ages) are from the substitute word Adonai. Another, often used English transliteration is Yaweh, which seems to be more correct, but the consensus among rabbinic scholars is that we no longer know the proper pronunciation. The Jewish people stopped saying the Name by the third century C.E. out of fear of violating the commandment “You shall not take the name of YHVH your God in vain” (Exodus 20:7). According to the rabbis, the Tetragrammaton may not be pronounced under any circumstances. The word, Adonai, which simply means my Master or my Lord, is spoken in place of YHVH during prayer, otherwise, it is simply uttered as “HaShem,” The Name.

As I’ve alluded to in past entries, one objective I have in writing The First Voice is to expose the Tetragrammaton for the misanthropic deity I perceive Him to be . See, e.g. September 13, 2005 Post. I set forth the above today in the hope it may help those of you who may be unfamiliar with this aspect of Judaism better to appreciate the irony of the experience I had shortly after the worst of it. I was lying on the sofa trying not to move too much or too quickly when somewhere from the back of my mind came the thought, “Be still and know that I AM.”

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