Calling out “the Name” is evoked the world over in greetings.  The Spanish hello–hola–originated in Arab Spain from the term “O’Allah” — Allah of course being the Arab appellation of God.  In Austrian German they say Gruss God.  In Hebrew, the common response when asked how you are doing is Baruch Hashem–Praise God, or Thank God. The Hebrew greeting Shalom is actually a name of God.  In English, we still follow this custom when we part from someone and say “Godspeed” or “God be with you.”

In a wonderful and mysterious passage, the wisdom masters talk of a special decree made nearly three thousand years ago.  It taught that one should greet his friend with the name of God.  Although the Third Commandment proscribes such “idle use” of God’s name, this new law legislated special permission to use the divine name in casual greeting.  The source for the decree is said to be the verse “In a time to do for the Name (God) you may override the Torah.”

The idea underlying the decree is very powerful.  To greet a person, we are allowed to use the sacred name of God, which is never taken in vain, because to greet a person is to recognize them, to perceive them.  Perception is healing through love, for there is nothing more painful than anonymity. Love, you remember, is the perception of the infinite divine specialness in other!

You came to a party alone.  No one recognizes you for several long minutes.  You feel forlorn, alienated. Then someone taps you on the shoulder and calls your name in warm welcome.  The world is transformed. You have been recognized, perceived.  Called by name!

Of course, true recognition is deeper than a mere greeting. It requires a true knowing, receiving, and even merging with the name.  This is what happens when the Name (God’s and the beloved’s) is called at the height of sensual passion.  If the passion is situated in the context of a shared story and commitment, then the calling of the Name in the cherublike embrace of sexuality is the ultimate transcending of loneliness, both for the lover and the beloved.

Minimally, however, the wisdom masters write that we must greet each other with the Name.  The simple and correct reading of the text indicates that they are referring to the name of God.  But on some deeper level, the Name they refer to is none other than the Name of the person being greeted.  In this powerful rereading the new decree is that no person should remain anonymous. Every person should be called by their Name.  Never allow yourself to be served by someone without knowing their Name.  In knowing the Name of the waiter serving you there is a fixing and healing of God’s Name.

It is a time to fix divinity.  To create God.  God is created by revealing the infinite divine in every person.  God’s name is emptied when people live without having their Names recognized, without being called by Name.  So the wisdom masters decree, “Greet every man with the Name.”  The Name of God and the Name of the blessed and beautiful individual before you, for they are one and the same.

The Mystery of Love
Dr. Marc Gafni
Pages 237, 238