How to Praise God

Dear Rabbi Hyim,

Is the Hebrew word Hallelujah the highest praise we can give God?  If so, why?  If not, what is the highest praise we can give God?  Thank you for your assistance.

Sincerely,
Betty

Dear Betty,
The word “Hallelujah” is a combination of two words, Hallelu- “You praise” Jah- “G-d”.  A similar word “Hallejah” means “Praised is G-d”.  In addition other many similar forms are used in the psalms and in the Bible.

In Judaism we use many words to praise God.  Every blessing for instance begins with “Baruch” “Blessed (is G-d)”. Interestingly we follow this in every blessing with the word “You” and then several of G-d’s names including the word “Sovereign.”  We praise God by recognizing God as the source of blessing, but we do it addressing God as “You,” as “King,” and with the four letter name of God that is more of a name signifying G-d’s essence.

We have many names for God in Hebrew but most are aspects of the way God acts at different times such as: Judge, Warrior, Merciful, Peace, etc.

Interestingly we commonly refer to God as “Hashem,” literally “The Name”.  God is so Other, so Infinite, that we acknowledge that G-d on some level cannot even be referred to, and so we refer to God in the 4th person as only “The Name”.

Thus in Judaism we do praise God and indeed refer to God in the second person in the context of an intimate Other. However, in contrast, we also recognize that we can not really praise God at all or even refer to God.  Essentially our addressing of God and our conceptualizations of God are clothed in paradox — perhaps as it should be.

2 Comments

  1. I want to know is there a higher praise than hallelujah

  2. Excellent article. I absolutely appreciate this website.
    Stick with it!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *