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The Shulchan Aruch says that when saying G-d's name אד-ני one should have in mind that G-d is אדון הכל, master of all. What does this mean?

  1. Does it mean G-d controls everything? I don't think so, because people have free choice, and השגחה doesn't seem to enter into it.
  2. Does it mean that G-d could control everything? Because that sounds like the description of אלקים, תקיף ובעל היכלת ובעל הכחות כולם, that G-d is Almighty.
  3. Does it mean G-d is the Ultimate Cause?
  4. Does it mean that everything should listen to G-d? (Which for people would mean 613 or 7 מצות, and for animals and plants would mean they were created to act in a certain way?)
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אדון הכל can mean "the owner of everything/everyone". The word אדון is used as the owner of a slave in the Tora (Exodus 21:5):

ואם אמר יאמר העבד אהבתי את אדני את אשתי ואת בני לא אצא חפשי
But if the servant shall plainly say: I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free; (OJPS, emphasis mine)

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master is not necessarily the same as owner as when Yehuda said to Yosef (Bereishis, 44: 18): "Bi adoni", and likewise Yaakov to Eisav in parsha vayishlach - there it seems to connote "my lord" or "my superior" – ray Jan 15 '14 at 20:30
    
In human terms ownership means the court will enforce me keeping and using this thing. What is the נמשל here with Hashem - that He "is allowed" to "use" us, without it being unethical? – Eliyahu Jan 15 '14 at 21:12
    
I just found this, with the help of google (written by צבי פסח בהרב זאב ז"ל פראנק, don't know who that is, the title page seems to say it's based on רב נחמן מברסלוב's teachings: hebrewbooks.org/…. He says "ופירוש "אדון הכל" אינה כפי הבנת והשגת קטני דעת, דכמו שיש אדון על עבדים ושפחות וכיו"ב, כמו כן השי"ת הוא האדון על כל הבריאה, זה אינו, אלא פירופו...שהשי"ת הוא המציאות של כל דבר שיש לו איזושהי מציאות...ומלבעדי השי"ת אין שום מציאות וקיום וישות כלל. See there. I have to read it over, try to find it's source and meditate on it. Food for thought. – Eliyahu Jan 19 '14 at 1:19

even though human beings have free will, it is God alone who brings all actions in this world to actuality...

this is explained throughout the shaar bitachon especially chapter 3,4

(likewise by the Ramchal)

excerpt from chapter 3:

What G-d has decreed that man will attain of them, man will attain fully after the completion of the prepared means. That which has not been decreed that he will attain - he will not attain, and the necessary means will be withheld.

and a bit more explicitly from the Marpe Lenefesh commentary there in chapter 4 search for

...The answer to this is that the completion of something is not in man's hands, rather, only the free will and resolve to do it, and G-d is the one who brings all things to completion...

and later on in chapter 4 the shaar bitachon:

[Of these three factors,] two are not beyond our control, namely, (1) the choice of service or sin and (2) intent and resolve to carry out the choice. For these, trusting in G-d would be a mistake and a foolishness, because the Creator left free choice in our hands whether to serve Him or rebel against Him, as written "...[life and death I have set before you] and you shall choose life" (Devarim 30:19). But the bringing out of the act into actuality, He did not leave in our hands, but rather, made it depend on external means which sometimes are available and sometimes are not.

Hence He is the master of the world in that no action can manifest in the world without His decree/authorization. (i.e. choice 1 of the question- He is the Boss - Adon means master)

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You think that this is what אדון הכל means? Why not גומר הכל or משלים הכל instead? – Eliyahu Jan 14 '14 at 21:43
    
He is the Boss - Adon means master. – ray Jan 14 '14 at 21:45
    
Can my will to do something happen without his authorization? You claim "nothing can happen without His decree/authorization". Is my will not a thing? That's a pretty non-intuitive use of the word "thing". – Double AA Jan 14 '14 at 21:59
    
i think that last quote answers your question. by nothing, i don't mean choice,will,resolve, but rather whether to successfully carry out the choice,will,resolve - that is exclusively in God's hands according to the SB – ray Jan 14 '14 at 22:04
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@DoubleAA the answer is that a thing referred to here is a thing which comes to actuality, thought and choice is only potential whether it comes to actuality – ray Jan 15 '14 at 17:20

Harchev Davar (Lech L'cha 15:8) explains that the adnus name (and, generally, referring to God as adon, master) refers to two different things:

  • He controls every aspect of His trusted, important servants' lives. Someone will use this name of God (intending this meaning) if he is such a servant and has this relationship with Him.
  • He (doesn't directly control every aspect of everyone's life, leaving that to nature, but) intervenes in people's life in a supernatural way on occasion. Someone will use this name of God if he has this relationship with Him.

But in benedictions specifically it refers to the latter.

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Rav Samson R Hisrch says that the shoresh/root of The Shem Adnus is the same as Adden, the one legged base of a table, or the Addanim for the Mishkan. The Addanim are very dense blocks of silver that are able to support the weight of the tall cedar wood posts of the Mishkan. Similarly, we look at haShem as the One Who supports us.

This explanation is then very close to the ideas expressed by the Shem Havaya, the name which indicates that haShem is, was and will be, but also Caused, Causes and Will Cause us to be.

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You posted this as an answer to my question. Then I realized that it'd been asked already, so I closed mine and moved your answer over here. Just a heads-up in case you want to edit your answer in light of the different wording of this question. – msh210 Jan 10 at 5:34

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