I read here in Italy, in some forums organized by Orthodox Jews, that the term Elohim, when referring to HaShem, means "Supreme Legislator". Is this statement correct? Would it be permissible to use this translation? (I repeat, only when Elohim refers to the Creator)

  • I thought it meant "G-d". In the beginning of the siddur it says: When one mentions the name E-lohim think that He is "Powerful and Master of the Ability and Master of all the Powers" (Takkif ubaal hayecholet ubaal hakochot kulam) Commented Dec 18, 2017 at 23:51
  • I believe that Nachmanides sees it as "the most powerful of all the forces" and since the word also means (referring to humans) "judge" one could combine the 2 I guess.
    – rosends
    Commented Dec 19, 2017 at 0:18
  • @NaftaliTzvi What's the difference between "G-d" and "Supreme Legislator"? Don't they refer to the same being/thing?
    – Double AA
    Commented Dec 19, 2017 at 0:43
  • It seems to me that its more like Supreme Executive. He has power to grant life or death, to create and destroy, and generally to control or even micromanage the whole world. Like a Commander-in-chief. Or a puppeteer. He is also Lawgiver. This is a separate and also true attribute or role of G-d. Commented Dec 19, 2017 at 1:15

1 Answer 1


Rashba writes (Shu"t HaHadashot: 368) that the name 'Elohim' means:

מנהיג ודיין...נגיד ומצוה

Leader, judge, prince, and ruler.

These synonyms; particularly דיין and מצוה (meaning 'judge' and 'one who issues commands' receptively) seem similar to "Supreme legislator".

Importantly, the same word 'elohim' is traditionally understood to mean judges, as used elsewhere is Scripture. For example, Exodus (22:27) states:

אֱלֹהִ֖ים לֹ֣א תְקַלֵּ֑ל וְנָשִׂ֥יא בְעַמְּךָ֖ לֹ֥א תָאֹֽר

Do not curse elohim, and a prince in your people, do not revile.

The structure of this verse suggests that 'elohim' is parallel to 'prince in your people', (while the synonyms for cursing similarly parallel each other). In this vein, the classical commentators (such as Targum Onkelos) explain the term 'elohim' in context to mean 'judges'.

  • The Hebrew word אֱלֹהִים literally means "powers". This of course is not how the Name should be understood when referring to G-d but I thought I might add that to your answer.
    – ezra
    Commented Dec 20, 2017 at 1:03
  • @ezra does it mean powers? In the singular it can mean power, but in the plural is it ever clearly used to mean powers?
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Dec 20, 2017 at 4:42
  • Actually, "Master of all Forces" IS a translation given to E-lokim. See the early chapters of Nefesh haChaim. Commented Dec 20, 2017 at 11:54
  • @micha I know. My point to ezra was that I wasn't aware offhand of usage where that is unequivocally the peshat. Elohim lo tkalel is supported by both targum and the parallelism. If you have similarly strong evidence for another usage, great!
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Dec 20, 2017 at 12:03

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