Shaddai in the Midrash

There is a Midrashic interpretation as an acronym standing for “Guardian of the Doors of Israel” (Hebrew: שׁוֹמֶר דְלָתוֹת יִשְׂרָאֶל). This acronym is commonly found as carvings or writings on themezuzah, which is placed on the doorposts of Jewish homes and other dwellings.

Still another view is that “El Shaddai” is composed of the Hebrew relative pronoun She (Shin plus vowel segol), or, as in this case, as Sha (Shin plus vowel patach followed by a dagesh[5]The noun containing the dagesh is the Hebrew word Dai meaning “enough,sufficient, sufficiency”.[6] This is the same word used in the Passover Haggadah, Dayeinu, which means “It would have been enough for us.” The song Dayeinu celebrates the various miracles God performed while liberating the Hebrews from Egyptian servitude.[7] The Talmud explains it this way, but says that “Shaddai” stands for “Mi she’Amar Dai L’olamo” – “He who said ‘Enough’ to His world.” When God was creating the world, He stopped the process at a certain point, holding back creation from reaching its full completion, and thus the name embodies God’s power to stop creation.

It is often paraphrased in English translations as “Almighty” although this is an interpretive element. The name then refers to the pre-Mosaic patriarchal understanding of deity as “God who is sufficient.” God is sufficient, that is, to supply all of one’s needs, and therefore by derivation “almighty”. It may also be understood as an allusion to the singularity of deity, “El”, as opposed to “Elohim” (plural), being sufficient or enough for the early patriarchs of Judaism. To this was latter added the Mosaic conception of the tetragrammaton YHWH, meaning a God who is sufficient in Himself, that is, a self-determined eternal Being qua Being, for whom limited descriptive names cannot apply. This may have been the meaning the Hebrew phrase “ehyeh asher ehyeh” (which translates roughly as “I will be that which I will be”) and which is how God describes himself to Moses cf. Exodus 3:13-15. This phrase can be applied to thetetragrammaton YHWH, which can be understood as an anagram for the three States of Being: past, present and future, conjoined with the conjunctive Hebrew letter vav.

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