What's In A Name?

Just as the introduction of God's new name represents a shift in our relationship with God, our different names and titles also symbolize different relationships and interactions.

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Provided by the Union for Reform Judaism, the central body of Reform Judaism in North America.

  • Despite God's message that they will be redeemed from slavery, the Israelites' spirits remain crushed. God instructs Moses and Aaron to deliver the Israelites from the land of Egypt. (6:2-13)

  • The genealogy of Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and their descendants is recorded. (6:14-25)

  • Moses and Aaron perform a miracle with a snake and relate to Pharaoh God's message to let the Israelites leave Egypt. (7:8-13)

  • The first seven plagues occur. God hardens Pharaoh's heart, and Pharaoh rescinds each offer to let the Israelites go. (7:14-9:35)

Focal Point

God spoke to Moses and said, "I am Adonai. I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as El Shaddai, but I did not make Myself known to them by My name Y-H-V-H. (Exodus 6:2-3)

Your Guide

Why does God reveal this new name to Moses at this point in the Exodus story?

What does God imply by mentioning the earlier Genesis name El Shaddai?

How does Moses' relationship with God compare with the Patriarchs' relationship with God in these verses?

By the Way…

"And Adonai God formed out of the earth all the wild beasts and all the birds of the sky and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that would be its name. And the man gave names to all the cattle and to the birds of the sky and to all the wild beasts. (Genesis 2:19-20)

"What is your name?" He replied, "Jacob." Said he, "Your name shall no longer be Jacob but Israel, for you have striven with beings divine and human and have prevailed." Jacob asked, "Pray tell me your name." But he said, "You must not ask my name!" (Genesis 32:28-30)

A good name is preferable to great riches. (Proverbs 22:1)

Rabbi Shimon said, "There are three crowns: the crown of Torah, the crown of priesthood, and the crown of royalty. However, the crown of a good name is greater than all of them." (Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Forebears) 4:13)


Adonai is a name, like "Fred." God is a job description, like "a lawyer." (Joel Grishaver, And You Shall Be a Blessing)

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Cantor Martin Levson

Cantor Martin Levson was invested as Cantor by the Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion, School of Sacred Music in 1991. Cantor Levson has previously served Temple Israel of Tulsa, Oklahoma, Temple Beth-El of Monroe, New York, and The Congregation Mishkan Israel of Hamden, Connecticut, and now works at Sinai Temple in Springfield, MA.