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What does it mean: "God's Name" and "G-d's sake"?


Rabbi Ari Shvat

Tammuz 20, 5774
Shalom, In Psalm 23:3, there is the sentence: "He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake". What does "for His name’s sake" mean? Thank you very much
You ask a very important and basic question, so please focus well. A name is an identification tag, and accordingly, the Name or Names of G-d are a way of saying: the attributes or way/s through which He is seen by man. When man follows the “guidance” of G-d through the Torah and mitzvot, he is revealing the “Paths” of G-d [e.g. the 13 Paths or Attributes of G-d, in Shmot (Exodus) 34, 6: Merciful, Kind, Just…] by living a G-dly life. Accordingly "He ‘guides’ me in the ‘paths of righteousness’ for His Name’s sake". We find similarly, the Name of G-d is seen in the world through the nation of Israel. For example (Daniel 9, 18), “O L-rd, hear; O L-rd, forgive; O L-rd, listen and do (redeem Israel), do not delay; for Your ‘sake’, my G-d, for Your Name is called upon Your city and upon Your people." This verse has a very contemporary ring to it, for as I write these words, Israel is being shelled by our Arab Hamas enemies from Gaza. After several hundreds of missiles, shells and mortars raining upon innocent Israeli civilians (imagine having to run several times a day and in the middle of the night to wake up your children and run to the protective shelters, or having 6,000,000 men women and children being hunted and systematically and modernly exterminated in the Nazi holocaust, simply because we’re G-d’s Nation!), we ask G-d to please intervene and aid our Israeli soldiers, “for Your Name is called upon Your city and upon Your people”. When the Moslem fanatics kill Jews, they proclaim it as a victory for Mohammed, Islam and its violent ideals (“Allahu Akbar”). Until it is clear that G-d and morality (His real attributes) abhor such Islamic jihad wars, the world is going to suffer. We therefore pray that Hashem should have mercy on His Name, for the merciful attributes of G-d are seen through His protection of His city (Jerusalem) and His People (Israel), both of which bear His Name (=reflect upon Him and His Greatness), and through the defeat of the immoral and violent. Just as it is a bad reflection, as if it were, on G-d, when people ask, “where was G-d during the Holocaust?”, so too, we pray for the ‘sake of His Name’, that the G-d of Israel reveal to all that He is alive and well and living today in Israel, for His sake (that people should know that He and His Torah/Paths are true). In short, G-d’s attributes/Names (“the paths of righteousness”) are seen both through the actions of Israel, and through G-d’s actions towards Israel. The contemporary Ingathering of the Jewish Exiles to Israel and the miraculous Six-Day War (=G-d’s actions towards Israel), as well as the unparalleled morality of the modern Israeli army (=the actions of Israel), are all reflections for the ‘sake’ of G-d’s Name= how He and His attributes/Paths are seen to the world. With Prayer for Shalom in Israel! Rabbi Ari Shvat
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