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Twelve Lettered Name

The Jews had among their Divine names, besides the Tetragrammaton, a two-lettered name, which was Jah, as well as a twelve-lettered and a forty-two-lettered name. None of these, however, were so sacred and unutterable as the Tetragrammaton. Maimonides says of the twelve-lettered name, that it was formerly used in stead of Adonai, as being more emphatic, in place of the Tetragrammaton, whenever they came to that sacred name in reading. It v-as not, however, like the Tetragrammaton, communicated only to their disciples, but was imparted to any that desired its knowledge. But after the death of Simeon the Just, the Tetragrammaton ceasing to be used at all, the twelve lettered name was substituted in blessing the people; and then it became a secret name, and was communicated only to the most pious of the Priests. What was the twelve-lettered name is uncertain, though all agree that it was not a name, but a sentence composed of twelve letters. Rabbi Bechai says it was formed by a triple combination and permutation of the four letters of the Tctragrammaton; and there are other explanations equally unsatisfactory.

There was also a forty-two-lettered name, composed, says Bechai, of the first forty-two letters of the Book of Genesis. Another and a better explanation has been propounded by Franek, that it is formed out of the names of the ten Sephiroth, which with the l, vau, or and, amount exactly to forty-two letters. There was another name of seventy-two letters, which is still more inexplicable. Of all these names, Maimonides (more Nebuhim I, Ixii) says that, as they could not possibly constitute one word, they must have been composed of several words, and he adds:

There is no doubt that these wards Conveyed certain ideas, which were designed to bring man nearer to the true conception of the Divine Essence, through the process we have already described. These words, composed of numerous letters, have been designated as a single name, because, like all accidental proper names, they indicate one single object: and to make the object more intelligible several words are employed, as many words are sometimes used to express one single thing. This must be well understood, that they taught the ideas indicated by these names, and not the simple pronunciation of the meaningless letters.

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