Why do we find that there is no differentiation in targum between the The four letter Shem HaShem and Elokeinu; they are both translated as Yud Yud?


1 Answer 1


Shadal in his book "Ohev Ger" on Targum Onkelus, Second Nativ (path), wrote:

"הנתיב השני שנויי הלשון לכבוד מעלה, להרחיק כל מחשבת רבוי אלוהות. מן המין הזה הוא מה שתרגם כל שם של אלהות ואדנות על ידי שם הויה תמיד, הרחיק רבוי השמות להרחיק כל ריח רבוי, ולא השאיר שם האלהות רק כשהוא כמו שם לווי אחר שם ההויה."

Translation: "The second path is the changing of phrases in honor of the Above, to distance any thought of the multiplicity of gods. From this sort is that he translated every appearance of Elohut and Adnut with Shem Havayah, to distance the multiplicity of names, in order to distance any scent of multiplicity, and only left the name of Elohut when it immediately followed the Shem Havayah."

Rabbi Wosner in Shevet Halevi vol. 7, siman 108, wrote:

"והנה עצם הדבר שמתרגם מאלקים הוי' ב"ה בכל מקום כבר נשאלתי ע"ז וכנראה דהתרגום רצה להעלות דרגת הענין כיון ששם העצם הוי' ב"ה, והתרגום בכל מקום מעלה הענינים לכבוד ה' יותר כמש"כ הרמב"ן, וע"כ מתרגם הוי' ר"ל בבחינת ה' הוא האלקים ה' אלקינו ה' אחד..."

Translation: "And here, the reason that he translates from "Elokim" to Havayah, Blessed is He, everywhere, I was already asked about this, and it seems that the Targum wanted to raise the level of the subject, because the noun(?) is the Havayah, Blessed is He, and the Targum in every place raised the subjects in honor of Hashem, as the Ramban wrote1, and for this reason he translates [Elokim as] Havayah, Blessed is He, as is if saying this is an aspect of "Hashem is the Elokim, Hashem Elokeinu, Hashem is One..."

Near as I could understand, it seems Rabbi Wosner meant that Onkelos, when dealing with matters of the highest spiritual level – such as in the case of the Names of Hashem – he would translate them per their deepest spiritual level (and see this comment – though he doesn't bring up Rabbi Wosner, his idea seems to complete it: "Elokim", like other words, has several meanings, and so Onkelos appeared to have chosen the most central of those meanings, perhaps for consistency).

1 I think it's this one, but I'm not sure.

  • Doesn't he intend proper noun (i.e. name)? Aug 1, 2021 at 10:21
  • @Kazibácsi Maybe? I really don't know (hence the question mark).
    – Harel13
    Aug 1, 2021 at 10:27

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