On Yom Kippur, the kohen gadol, during the day's service, said a particular name of Hashem. I had always thought that he said the 4 letter name, but in shul, the rabbi mentioned that it was the 42 letter name alluded to through Ana Bako'ach which explains why the poem is followed by the line "baruch shem k'vod…"

Was the shem hameforash that the kohen gadol said the 42 letter name and is there a source about this I can read?

2 Answers 2


According to the Rambam the Kohen Gadol pronounced the 4-letter name, see MT Avodat Yom haKippurim 2:6

Thus he mentions God's explicit name ten times on this day. On all occasions, he recites the name as it is written, pronouncing His explicit name (shem hameforash).

The Rambam elsewhere (Hilchot Tefila 14:10) defines the shem hameforash as yue-kei-vav-kei

They recite [God's] name - i.e., the name י-ה-ו-ה , as it is written. This is what is referred to as the "explicit name" in all sources. In the country, it is read [using another one of God's names]: אדני, for only in the Temple is this name [of God] recited as it is written.

This is also how Shulchan Aruch Harav 621:8 has it

Ten times in the course of Yom Kippur the High Priest would utter the Four-Letter name of G‑d as it is written — three times in his first confessional: “Please, Ha­Shem, I have sinned…; please, HaShem, atone…; ‘before HaShem you will be purified’ ”; three times in each of the second and third confessionals; and once at the lottery [concerning the goats to be offered], when he said [concerning one of them], “A sin-offering for HaShem.”

Your rav might have alluded to other views as mentioned there in note 23 "Other authorities understand the term Shem HaMeforash differently in this context (see the Reshimos of the Rebbe, Booklet #41)". One of these views might be the one of R Bachya ben Asher (quoted here).

  • If I recall correctly, the 42 Letter Name comes straight out of the Zohar and has no mention in Jewish Literature prior.
    – ezra
    Jan 14, 2019 at 15:37
  • 1
    @ezra The name of 42 letters is mentioned in the Gemara, Kiddushin 71a. Now, if you hold that the Zohar was in fact written by R' Shimon ben Yochai and his school, then that does predate the Gemara; but if you think it was written later, why then you have a prior reference to it.
    – Meir
    Oct 13, 2020 at 20:43

Tosfos Chaggigah 11B says :


תוספות ד"ה אין דורשין, במעשה בראשית

(SUMMARY: Tosfos explains that this refers to Hash-m's 42-letter name.)

פי' ר"ת הוא שם מ"ב אותיות היוצא מבראשית ומפסוק של אחריו.

(a) Explanation (return): This is Hash-m's 42-letter name, which comes from Bereishis and the next verse.

You count the letters beginning with the first word in the Torah starting with the letter BAIS and go to the letter BAIS in the words in the second Posuk TOHU VEVOHU. I wrote the letter V but it is actually a BAIS but without the dot in the middle is pronounced VAIS. It is not clear to me whether these letters themselves are the name of HASHEM or they merely allude to the actual name? Simialr to the answer on the number of letters in the ANA BEKOACH, are the letters themselves the 42 letter name of Hashem, or do they mereley allude to the Name??

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