YHVH is the second name of God introduced in Torah. Because we Jews are forbidden from pronouncing this Name, our rabbis created a euphemism we can pronounce: Adonai, Lord. With this they made YHVH in their own image. Where YHVH is a verb, Adonai is a noun. Where YHVH is not gendered, Adonai is masculine. Where YHVH is nonhierarchical, Adonai is the top of a hierarchy. Where YHVH is imageless, Adonai is the image of the rabbis themselves.
While it is true that YHVH is without form, it is not true that we cannot derive attributes of YHVH from Torah. Here are some that I find compelling:
YHVH the Becoming
Contra the ancient rabbis, YHVH is anything but Adonai. In response to Moses request for clarity regarding God, YHVH reveals the meaning of the Name as Ehyeh asher Ehyeh not the fixed “I am that I am” of so many English Bibles, but the dynamic “I am becoming what I am becoming” of Torah herself (Exodus 3:14). YHVH doesn’t change; YHVH is change! And what change might bring is unknown even to YHVH. YHVH is endless surprise.
YHVH the Liberating
“I am YHVH your Elohim who brought you out of Mitzraym (literally the “Narrow Places,” Egypt), out of slavery. You shall worship no other Gods but me,” (Exodus 20:2–3).
YHVH is the Ever Happening; Elohim is endless creativity. Torah is teaching us that when YHVH is linked to Elohim, when happening is creative, the result is liberation from narrowness and slavery. Any God that does not lead to liberation isn’t YHVH Elohim, the God of Torah.
YHVH and the Game of Black AND WhiteIt is commonplace for people to divide the world into competing opposites: good or bad, up or down, in or out, right or wrong, us or them. Alan Watts calls this the Game of Black or White. YHVH plays a different game, the Game of Black and White: I am light–ing and I am dark–ing; I am prosper–ing and I am sorrow–ing. I YHVH am all this doing,” (Isaiah 45:7). YHVH is the endless happening of reality. Some of what happens is good and some is not, but it is all God.
When we imagine God on our side the God we imagine isn’t YHVH. When we imagine God blessing those we cherish and cursing those we despise the God we are imagining isn’t YHVH. When we imagine God choosing us and rewarding us with the Promised Land the god we are imagining isn’t YHVH, even if our story uses that Name.
YHVH is the unknown and unknowable from which, in which, and as which the known emerges. YHVH is pure potential manifesting as the laws of nature and probability (Natura naturans) to produce the universe (Natura naturata).