The term Hashem –
which literally means, “the Name” – is a respectful way of referring to the
most sacred Divine Name which was only pronounced (as it is spelled) in the
Holy Temple by the Kohanim – Ministers. This sacred four-letter
Name expresses the Divine attribute of compassion, and a source for this
idea is found in an ancient teaching of our sages:
Wherever Hashem is mentioned, it designates the Divine attribute of compassion, as it is written (Exodus 34:6): “Hashem, Hashem, Compassionate God.” (Sifrei, a midrashic commentary to Deuteronomy 3:24)
The Vilna Gaon states that this most sacred Divine Name refers to the One Who gives existence to all (cited in “Shaarei Aharon,” Genesis 2:4). As Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch explains, the meaning and grammatical form of this Divine Name denotes not only the One Who grants existence, but the One Who is always ready to grant new life (commentary to Genesis 2:4).
The ArtScroll Siddur (Prayerbook) adds that this Name indicates that Hashem is timeless and infinite, since the letters of this Name are those of the Hebrew words for, “He was, He is, and He will be.”
An awareness of the Divine attributes associated with the various Divine names is helpful to our Torah study; however, we need to also be aware that the Infinite One is beyond the limited understanding of our finite minds.
In general, we need to be aware of both the transcendence and immanence of the Creator. In this spirit, the Prophet Isaiah proclaimed the following Divine message:
“For thus said the High and Exalted One, Who abides forever and Whose Name is Holy: I abide in exaltedness and holiness, but I am with the despondent and lowly of spirit – to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the despondent.” (Isaiah 57:15)