Hashem in Hebrew literally means "The Name." It is the title most commonly used by Jews to refer to God's holy personal name, Yahweh. Spelled in Hebrew with letters Yod, Heh, Vav, Hey, this four letter name is also known as the Tetragrammaton. More than just referring to the name however, the phrase Hashem is actually used to refer to God Himself. The phrase Baruch Hashem literally translates to "Bless the Name," but means "Bless the Lord" or "Praise God."
Names define the relationship between people. A man might have the legal name Jonathan, be known as Jon by his coworkers, be called J.D. by his friends, and answer to Darling from his wife, while his children only ever call him Dad. The same man goes by different names depending on the relationship he has with the person calling for his attention. Yahweh is the name God gave to His people to differentiate Himself from the pagan gods they encountered who also may have been called lord, king, or even god by their worshippers. He told Moses, "I AM WHO I AM… This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations" (Exodus 3:14–15). The phrase I AM WHO I AM (Yod Heh Vav Hey) in Hebrew is thought to come from Haya, Hoveh, Yeheyeh—meaning past, present, and future—showing that God transcends time, existing self-sufficiently in past, present, and future simultaneously. This name God gave Himself shows that He is limitless, infinite, and completely unlike the humans whom He created. However, His desire to reveal Himself to these humans and to give them a name by which they can know Him illustrates His desire for relationship. This relationship between God and humankind would be one where humans would be in awe of this infinite being, recognize their own limitations, and humbly rely on this limitless God.
Shortly after sharing this holy personal name with Moses, God also gave laws by which His people were to live. In Exodus 20:7 God declared, "You shall not take the name of the LORD [Yahweh] your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain." In an effort to avoid the sin of misusing God's holy name, Jews started substituting the title Adonai, or Lord, whenever reading the Tetragrammaton aloud in Scriptures and saying Hashem whenever speaking about God or His name in conversation. In many ways, Hashem has become like a nickname Jews use for God similar to the title Dad. Hashem is not found in Scripture as a formal title for God, so it is a title that shows intimacy based on a long history of relationship between God and His people. Yet, it is still a title of respect that recognizes the holiness and complete "otherness" of God as well as the dependency and humility of humankind.
Scripture is full of different names for God, revealing the many ways He invites people to know Him: Creator (Isaiah 40:28), Healer (Exodus 15:26), Friend (Jeremiah 3:4), and Father (Jeremiah 3:4), among others. Paul reminded the Ephesians, "This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him" (Ephesians 3:11–12). So the Christian believer has direct access to a relationship with God where we can approach Him with boldness and confidence calling Him by any of the names He has provided in Scripture. We have no need to substitute a manmade title in fear of committing the sin of misusing His holy name simply by writing or speaking it. However, when we hear someone else use the title Hashem, we can recognize the reverence and intimacy this phrase confers.
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