Two Yuds for Name of God
I see that prayer books often show God’s name with two letter yud‘s together. Is that one of God’s names? And what is the basis for it?
The Aish Rabbi Replies
It’s a very good question. The truth is, the double-yud symbol is a bit of a historical anomaly (as heard from my father of blessed memory, Rabbi Azriel Rosenfeld). There is a Kabbalistic triangular symbol for God’s name which consists of two yuds with a sideways vuv above them. The gematria (numerical value) of those three letters is 26, which is the same as God’s ineffable name (the Tetragrammaton). When printing was introduced, printers had trouble representing the sidewise vuv. They thus simplified the symbol into the two yuds alone – which de facto became a new not-very-sacred representation of God’s name!
Note that since this symbol is not an actual representation of God’s name, it does not have the sanctity of the actual names of God. Thus, by the letter of the law, it may be discarded. However, since it’s an accepted symbol it is no less sacred than any other representation of God’s name, such as His name in English. Thus, out of deference, it should preferably not be thrown out. See this response for a more detailed discussion. (See also Igrot Moshe O.C. IV 39.)
It’s amusing to note that without being aware of the double-yud’s curious history, many fascinating explanations for their significance have been proposed – several of them ingenious but probably none of them true. In that light I will share a nice little lesson I once heard myself (quoted from elsewhere by Rabbi Yitzchak Breitowitz).
A father was once teaching his small child to read, and they were reading verses of the Torah. The boy reached a double yud and pronounced it “yih’yih”. The father explained, that no, when two yud’s are together we say God’s name. Corrected, the boy continued. When he reached the end of the verse he saw a colon (as is typically used to divide Hebrew verses), and seeing two small yud-like symbols, he again pronounced God’s name. The father corrected him again: “When two yud’s are together, we say God’s name. When one is above the other we do not.”
The father then recognized the significance of what he had just said. The name of the letter yud is almost identical to the Yiddish word “Yid” – a Jew. Thus, when two Jews are next to each other, as equals, God’s Divine presence is with them. When one is above the other and looking down on him, God does not appear!