Hebrew In Israel | Hosh’a-Na and The Name – Learn Torah

Hebrew In Israel | Hosh’a-Na and The Name – Learn Torah


An interesting point about the Hosha-Na practice:

We must remember that the time frame I am talking about is at a time where many had already refrained from speaking the name of God, so I use the idea of hinting in this argument about The Name.  The practice of not speaking God’s name has been traced by some scholars to the 3rd and even 4th centuries.

Sara Yefet, in her book on the book of Chronicles, indicated that the replacement of יהוה with אלהים during this period, both in Chronicles and in the “Elohim Psalms” (which date to this time), is an indicator of a change in the peoples attitude.  It is interesting that this practice predates any rabbis, but is usually attributed to rabbinic decries.

What is the “Hosh’anot”?

During the days of Sukkot, Jews world wide circle the Torah reading podium (the Bimah- not to confuse with Bamah) while reciting the Hosha-Na which means “Please save/redeem/protect”.  This practice dates back to the 2nd temple where the altar was circled.  In the Talmud it mentions that one of the things that was said during this ceremony was “אני והו הושיעה נא”- Ani Vaho Hoshi’a Na”:
בכל יום מקיפין את המזבח פעם אחת ואומרים אנא ה’ הושיעה נא אנא ה’ הצליחה נא ר’ יהודה אומר אני והו הושיעה נא
Every day they went round the altar once, saying, “O Lord, save us, O Lord, make us prosper” (Psalms 118:25).  Rabbi Judah says: “Ani vaho, save us.” (Babvli, Sukkah 45:a)
My focus is on the “Vaho”.  Could it be that this reference to the name of God also include some of the vowels of the name.  The Vav in the beginning has an A sound that can be seen as a variant of the vowels of the conjunctive Vav.  However, one may argue that we have a double use here where the Vav also carries with it a vowel of the name.  The exchange of Vav and Yod are well attested in Biblical Hebrew, and it could be that the idea was to bluntly hint to the name by replacing the Yod with a Vav.  The sounding of an A sound under the Vav should not be an issue due to the variety of sounds for a vocal shva.  Most people know the shva as a short e, however a short a is also in use, and many other sounds are attested.  The sound attested under the Vav is a long a, but this could be a hint to a short a.
Another part of this is also using just three letters.  As early as the 5th century BC we find a rendition of the name as יהו with out the final Hey (Elephantine papyrus).

Hinting the name

This rendition could be an attempt to not write the name in full so not to desecrate the name in non-Biblical text.  One may assume based on this, that והו is really יהו which is the name.  Hence by saying Vaho we have a hint to 2nd temple times reading of the name which fits the name passed on to us by the Masoretes in the Aleppo codex.

It is important to point out that the reading of this Talmudic text and its vowels were passed on from generation to generation, making the vowels an oral and independent reading of the vowels used in the name.  This argument can stand because the practice was never stopped and continued as an oral part of Jewish liturgy used by many, and was independent of the Masoretes.  Hence I argue that this is another confirmation that the vowels used in the Aleppo codex are a clear Jewish tradition of how to read the name of God.


Originally Published: 5 October 2015


Pat Turner

October 8, 2017 at 7:02 pm

Based on the names of some of the prophets, such as Ishiyahu, Eliyahu, what if the vav functions as a vowel? what if it carries the “oo” sound, as in ‘who’? The Yod would be followed by a short “a” sound, the middle “H” would pair with the vav as a vowel, that is to say H OO … and the final H would be silent, as it often is …blending in at the end of the sound that precedes it ??

    Yoel Halevi

    October 16, 2017 at 7:48 pm

    This is an interesting idea, but the silent H at the end is impossible. In 1st temple spelling you would write all consonants which are used. In this case either the H was sounded, or that it represented a vowel point.

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