To Call Upon The Name Of HaShem

By Rabbi Dr. Hillel ben David (Greg Killian)


In this study, I would like to examine the meaning of "calling on The Name" or "making a name", and the distinction between the two. Lets start by seeing who called on the name of HaShem:


Bereshit (Genesis) 4:25-26 Adam lay with his wife again, and she gave birth to a son and named him Seth, saying, "God has granted me another child in place of Abel, since Cain killed him." Seth also had a son, and he named him Enosh. At that time men began to call on the name of HaShem.


The first person to call upon the name of HaShem, was Seth. Seth began to call on The Name when his first child was born. This begs the question: What does it mean to call upon the name of HaShem?


My beloved teacher has shown us that to call upon the name of HaShem = to proclaim His Name = To confess His Name = to hold a Jewish Prayer service on Shabbat and weekdays which includes the reading of the Torah and a sermon. This perspective is echoed by Chazal in the Talmud:


Pesachim 119b R. ‘Awira lectured, Sometimes stating it in R. Ammi's, Sometimes in R. Assi's name: What is meant by. And the child grew, and was weaned [wa-yiggamel]? The Holy One, blessed be He, will make a great banquet for the righteous on the day He manifests [yigmol] His love to the seed of Isaac. After they have eaten and drunk, the cup of Grace will be offered to our father Abraham, that he should recite Grace, but he will answer them, ‘I cannot say Grace, because Ishmael issued from me. Then Isaac will be asked, ‘Take it and say Grace.’ ‘I cannot say Grace,’ he will reply, ‘because Esau issued from me.’ Then Jacob will be asked: ‘Take it and say Grace.’ ‘I cannot say Grace,’ he will reply. ‘because I married two sisters during [both] their lifetimes, whereas the Torah was destined to forbid them to me. Then Moses will be asked, ‘Take it and say Grace.’ ‘I cannot say Grace, because I was not privileged to enter Eretz Yisrael either in life or in death.’ Then Joshua will be asked: ‘Take it and say Grace.’ ‘I cannot say Grace,’ he will reply, ‘because I was not privileged to have a son,’ for it is written, Joshua the son of Nun; Nun his son, Joshua his son. Then David will be asked: ‘Take it and say Grace.’ ‘I will say Grace, and it is fitting for me to say Grace,’ he will reply, as it is said, I will lift up the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord.


Thus we see that when David led the prayers for the grace after the meal, he was calling on The Name of HaShem. This Gemara was written as explanation for Tehillim 116:


Tehillim (Psalms) 116:1-19 I love HaShem, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live. The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came upon me; I was overcome by trouble and sorrow. Then I called on the name of HaShem: "O HaShem, save me!" HaShem is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion. HaShem protects the simple hearted; when I was in great need, he saved me. Be at rest once more, O my soul, for HaShem has been good to you. For you, O HaShem, have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, That I may walk before HaShem in the land of the living. I believed; therefore I said, "I am greatly afflicted." And in my dismay I said, "All men are liars." How can I repay HaShem for all his goodness to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of HaShem. I will fulfill my vows to HaShem in the presence of all his people. Precious in the sight of HaShem is the death of his saints. O HaShem, truly I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your maidservant; you have freed me from my chains. I will sacrifice a thank offering to you and call on the name of HaShem. I will fulfill my vows to HaShem in the presence of all his people, In the courts of the house of HaShem--in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise HaShem.


In the verses below, we can see that Abram started a public prayer service; he established a synagogue and invited all to come and join him in the service of HaShem:


Bereshit (Genesis) 12:7-8 HaShem appeared to Abram and said, "To your offspring I will give this land." So he built an altar there to HaShem, who had appeared to him. From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to HaShem and called on the name of HaShem.


Here we see that Avraham called on the name of HaShem. Avraham did this when HaShem promised him offspring and land.


About Avraham, the Torah relates that "..he called there by the name of G-d, the Ruler of the world". The Talmud tells us (Sotah 10) "…don't say 'he called' but rather 'he caused others to call' - it comes to teach us that Abraham caused others to call upon the name of HaShem".


Sotah 10b And he called there on the name of the Lord, the Everlasting God. Resh Lakish said: Read not ‘and he called’ but ‘and he made to call’, thereby teaching that our father Abraham caused the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, to be uttered by the mouth of every passer-by. How was this? After [travellers] had eaten and drunk, they stood up to bless him; but, said he to them, ‘Did you eat of mine? You ate of that which belongs to the God of the Universe. Thank, praise and bless Him who spake and the world came into being’.


To call upon the name of HaShem is to have a prayer service. In this case the prayers were the grace after the meal. This is why Avraham built an altar. This is why the altar and prayers were offered among the Gentiles. Prayer is a form of outreach to the Gentiles.


Bereshit (Genesis) 13:1-4 So Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev, with his wife and everything he had, and Lot went with him. Abram had become very wealthy in livestock and in silver and gold. From the Negev he went from place to place until he came to Bethel, to the place between Bethel and Ai where his tent had been earlier And where he had first built an altar. There Abram called on the name of HaShem.


Here we see that Avraham called on the name of HaShem again. Avraham did this at the same place where HaShem had promised him offspring and land.


Bereshit (Genesis) 21:28-34 Abraham set apart seven ewe lambs from the flock, And Abimelech asked Abraham, "What is the meaning of these seven ewe lambs you have set apart by themselves?" He replied, "Accept these seven lambs from my hand as a witness that I dug this well." So that place was called Beersheba, because the two men swore an oath there. After the treaty had been made at Beersheba, Abimelech and Phicol the commander of his forces returned to the land of the Philistines. Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba, and there he called upon the name of HaShem, the Eternal God. And Abraham stayed in the land of the Philistines for a long time.


HaShem has changed Abram's name to Abraham. Abraham calls on the name of HaShem after he made a covenant with Abimelech and planted a tamarisk tree. What is the connection?


Bereshit (Genesis) 26:19-25 Isaac's servants dug in the valley and discovered a well of fresh water there. But the herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with Isaac's herdsmen and said, "The water is ours!" So he named the well Esek, because they disputed with him. Then they dug another well, but they quarreled over that one also; so he named it Sitnah. He moved on from there and dug another well, and no one quarreled over it. He named it Rehoboth, saying, "Now HaShem has given us room and we will flourish in the land." From there he went up to Beersheba. That night HaShem appeared to him and said, "I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bless you and will increase the number of your descendants for the sake of my servant Abraham." Isaac built an altar there and called on the name of HaShem. There he pitched his tent, and there his servants dug a well.


In this passage, Isaac calls on the name of HaShem after he has been promised an increased number of descendants. Again, we see that the altar indicates that Isaac was conducting a prayer service.


Vayikra (Leviticus) 18:21 "'Do not give any of your children to be sacrificed to Molech, for you must not profane the name of your God. I am HaShem.


In this passage, HaShem commands His people not to profane His name by sacrificing their children to Molech. Again the name is associated with descendants.


Devarim (Deuteronomy) 18:1-7 The priests, who are Levites--indeed the whole tribe of Levi--are to have no allotment or inheritance with Israel. They shall live on the offerings made to HaShem by fire, for that is their inheritance. They shall have no inheritance among their brothers; HaShem is their inheritance, as he promised them. This is the share due the priests from the people who sacrifice a bull or a sheep: the shoulder, the jowls and the inner parts. You are to give them the firstfruits of your grain, new wine and oil, and the first wool from the shearing of your sheep, For HaShem your God has chosen them and their descendants out of all your tribes to stand and minister in HaShem'S name always. If a Levite moves from one of your towns anywhere in Israel where he is living, and comes in all earnestness to the place HaShem will choose, He may minister in the name of HaShem his God like all his fellow Levites who serve there in the presence of HaShem.


Here we see the Levites ministering "in the name of HaShem" and it is related to their inheritance. Additionally, we see that calling on The Name of HaShem involved a synagogue type prayer service.


Devarim (Deuteronomy) 28:58-59 If you do not carefully follow all the words of this law, which are written in this book, and do not revere this glorious and awesome name--HaShem your God-- HaShem will send fearful plagues on you and your descendants, harsh and prolonged disasters, and severe and lingering illnesses.


Once again we see that revering the name of HaShem is related to our descendants.


I Melachim (Kings) 18:18-39 "I have not made trouble for Israel," Elijah replied. "But you and your father's family have. You have abandoned HaShem's commands and have followed the Baals. Now summon the people from all over Israel to meet me on Mount Carmel. And bring the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel's table." So Ahab sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel. Elijah went before the people and said, "How long will you waver between two opinions? If HaShem is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him." But the people said nothing. Then Elijah said to them, "I am the only one of HaShem's prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets. Get two bulls for us. Let them choose one for themselves, and let them cut it into pieces and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of HaShem. The god who answers by fire--he is God." Then all the people said, "What you say is good." Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, "Choose one of the bulls and prepare it first, since there are so many of you. Call on the name of your god, but do not light the fire." So they took the bull given them and prepared it. Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. "O Baal, answer us!" they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made. At noon Elijah began to taunt them. "Shout louder!" he said. "Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened." So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention. Then Elijah said to all the people, "Come here to me." They came to him, and he repaired the altar of HaShem, which was in ruins. Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes descended from Jacob, to whom the word of HaShem had come, saying, "Your name shall be Israel." With the stones he built an altar in the name of HaShem, and he dug a trench around it large enough to hold two seahs of seed. He arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood. Then he said to them, "Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood." "Do it again," he said, and they did it again. "Do it a third time," he ordered, and they did it the third time. The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench. At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: "O HaShem, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, O HaShem, answer me, so these people will know that you, O HaShem, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again." Then the fire of HaShem fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, "HaShem--he is God! HaShem--he is God!"


When Elijah called on the name of HaShem, fire came down from heaven to perform what Elijah had requested. Notice again that the calling on The Name of HaShem involved a synagogue type prayer service.


Yeremiyahu (Jeremiah) 3:14-18 "Return, faithless people," declares HaShem, "for I am your husband. I will choose you--one from a town and two from a clan--and bring you to Zion. Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding. In those days, when your numbers have increased greatly in the land," declares HaShem, "men will no longer say, 'The ark of the covenant of HaShem.' It will never enter their minds or be remembered; it will not be missed, nor will another one be made. At that time they will call Jerusalem The Throne of HaShem, and all nations will gather in Jerusalem to honor the name of HaShem. No longer will they follow the stubbornness of their evil hearts. In those days the house of Judah will join the house of Israel, and together they will come from a northern land to the land I gave your forefathers as an inheritance.


This time, when HaShem's people honor the name of HaShem, it is related to their inheritance in the land, and to their relationship as the bride.


Zephaniah 3:8-20 Therefore wait for me," declares HaShem, "for the day I will stand up to testify. I have decided to assemble the nations, to gather the kingdoms and to pour out my wrath on them--all my fierce anger. The whole world will be consumed by the fire of my jealous anger. "Then will I purify the lips of the peoples, that all of them may call on the name of HaShem and serve him shoulder to shoulder. From beyond the rivers of Cush my worshipers, my scattered people, will bring me offerings. On that day you will not be put to shame for all the wrongs you have done to me, because I will remove from this city those who rejoice in their pride. Never again will you be haughty on my holy hill. But I will leave within you the meek and humble, who trust in the name of HaShem. The remnant of Israel will do no wrong; they will speak no lies, nor will deceit be found in their mouths. They will eat and lie down and no one will make them afraid." Sing, O Daughter of Zion; shout aloud, O Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O Daughter of Jerusalem! HaShem has taken away your punishment, he has turned back your enemy. HaShem, the King of Israel, is with you; never again will you fear any harm. On that day they will say to Jerusalem, "Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands hang limp. HaShem your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing." "The sorrows for the appointed feasts I will remove from you; they are a burden and a reproach to you. At that time I will deal with all who oppressed you; I will rescue the lame and gather those who have been scattered. I will give them praise and honor in every land where they were put to shame. At that time I will gather you; at that time I will bring you home. I will give you honor and praise among all the peoples of the earth when I restore your fortunes before your very eyes," says HaShem.


Calling on the name of HaShem, here, is related to their home (the land) and a restoration of their fortunes. The service involved prayer for this is how we call upon The Name of HaShem.


Fulfilling HaShem’s command to influence and “compel” the Gentiles sets the stage and prepares the way for fulfillment of the prophetic promise that HaShem “will make the peoples pure of speech that they will all call upon the Name of HaShem and serve Him with one purpose”  in the complete and final Redemption. Their repentance will be the direct result of HaShem’s anger and the Jew’s synagogue prayer services. It is in the synagogue that the Gentiles will learn how to call on The Name of HaShem.


Rashi expounds on Devarim 6:4:


“Hear, O Israel (Shema Israel) — HaShem Who is our G-d now, but not the G-d of the [other] nations, He will in the future be HaShem is One, as it says, For then will I change the nations to a clear language, for all of them to call upon the Name of HaShem[1]. And it says, On that day will HaShem be One and His Name One.”[2]


So attending Synagogue for a Jewish service is, in itself, making confession with the mouth since there in the presence of the community we recite Shema. Which means that we publicly take upon ourselves the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven, and call upon The Name of HaShem.


The Nazarean Codicil sums up our lesson by putting all of the pieces together:


Romans 10:12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. 13  For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. 14  How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? 15  And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!


Let us pray with the authority of HaShem’s people. Let us acknowledge HaShem before the Gentiles when we call upon The Name of HaShem.




Now, lets see what happens when we look to our own "name" rather than to call upon HaShem's name:


Bereshit (Genesis) 11:1-9 Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As men moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. They said to each other, "Come, let's make bricks and bake them thoroughly." They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth." But HaShem came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. HaShem said, "If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other." So HaShem scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel--because there HaShem confused the language of the whole world. From there HaShem scattered them over the face of the whole earth.


Ok, so the end result of making a name for ourselves is confusion! This is what the wicked do: They try to make a name FOR THEMSELVES. The righteous call upon The Name of HaShem to praise Him and to serve Him. When we acknowledge Him, instead of ourselves, we acknowledge His preeminence. I think that I would rather call upon the name of HaShem!!




There are numerous places where folks in the Scriptures, did something in The Name of HaShem. Many take a somewhat shallow understanding of this enigmatic phrase. They see this as simply using some mystical name. Those who study and observe will come to a far different conclusion.


A US ambassador will visit a foreign country and come to them in the name of the peoples of the United States. When the ambassador signs a treaty he is obligating every citizen of the country to obey that treaty, because the ambassador, by definition, was sent by them, to represent them.


The same holds true for those who come in The Name of HaShem. They are coming with His authority and power. They have this authority and power because He sent them.





This study was written by

Rabbi Dr. Hillel ben David

(Greg Killian).

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[1] Tzefania 3:9

[2] Zecharia 14:9