Many times in Tanach, God is referred to as יהו-ה or אדנ-י. Individually, each of these is read as Adonai. However, when those two different names are mentioned consecutively, the custom is to pronounce the יהו-ה name as Elohim.

Why is יהו-ה pronounced differently when these names appear consecutively?

  • 1
    The name יהוה is really pronounced something like 'yahvah'. Substituting it for the name אדני out of respect works fine except when the name אדני is already right there when it would get confusing. So people substitute a different name in those cases.
    – Double AA
    Feb 11, 2018 at 19:16
  • @DoubleAA Doesn't there have to be something more basic than "substituting [something that makes sense] out of respect"? You can get out of shema by בכל לשון, but how can the kohanim fulfill birkat kohanim without some deoraita rationale to say אדני specifically? (This is all for saying it as אדני, I can't think offhand of any אדני יהוה in the ones that have to be said in lashon hakodesh.)
    – Heshy
    Feb 11, 2018 at 22:13
  • @heshy birkat kohanim is indeed supposed to be with Shem haMeforash. See Sotah 38a
    – Double AA
    Feb 11, 2018 at 22:46
  • @DoubleAA ??? ובמדינה בכינויו. Are you saying it's derabbanan in the medinah?
    – Heshy
    Feb 11, 2018 at 23:49
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    @Heshy The Keren Orah to Sotah is bothered by your point btw: והיה נראה קצת, דחיוב מצוה זו בגבולין לאו דבר תורה הוא, דכתיב "ושמו את שמי" וכו' – שמי המיוחד לי, והיינו בבית הבחירה דווקא אבל לא בגבולין. אבל מסתפינא לומר כן. The most famous (IMO) proponent of it being derabanan nowadays is R Yaakov Emden.
    – Double AA
    Feb 12, 2018 at 16:47

1 Answer 1


Shadal on Bereishit 2:4 points out that the Tetragrammaton was originally read as written. (Later in the piece he goes on to attempt to reconstruct the original vowels.)

However, sometime during the Second Temple period, it was enacted not to read it as written, instead replacing it with the name of Adnut (Ad-noy).

He notes further that:

שלא ניקדו אותו על דרך אחת בכל מקום, אלא לפעמים ניקדוהו בניקוד אלהים, וזה כשלפניו או לאחריו שם אדנות (אדני ה' או ה' אדני), והיה טעמם כדי שלא לכפול שם אחד בעצמו שתי פעמים רצופות בקריאה במקום שלא נכפל בכתוב

[The Masoretes] did not vowelize [the Tetragrammaton] in the same way in all places; rather, sometimes they vowelized it with the vowels of Elokim, in cases where it is preceded or followed by the name of Adnut (Ad-noy YKVK or YKVK Ad-noy). Their reason for doing so was so as not to double a Name, reading it twice, consecutively, in a place where it was not written doubled.

  • 1
    (Arguing on Shadal,) the Gemara Pesachim 50a makes it seem like the original practice.
    – Mordechai
    Jan 24, 2021 at 13:09
  • Maybe an asmachata?
    – Joel K
    Jan 24, 2021 at 13:16
  • Shadal would say so.
    – Mordechai
    Jan 24, 2021 at 13:42
  • When it is pronounced as "Elo-him" due to this, and it has a prefix, the prefix's vowel works with that pronounciation. E.g. לֵיהֹוִ-ה rather than לַיהֹוָ-ה. I assume therefore that the Mesorites also accounted for that in their vowelization, and the "original" vowel is also "modified"
    – Rabbi Kaii
    May 9 at 23:01
  • 1
    @RabbiKaii Presumably
    – Joel K
    May 10 at 3:28

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