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Tetragrámaton

Index: La muerte y la brújula, Ficciones, OC,Obras completas. Buenos Aires: Emecé, 1974. 500-507. La cábala, SN,Siete noches. Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1982. 138.
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four letters of sacred name in Judaism

Fishburn and Hughes: From the Greek tettara, 'four' and gramma, 'letter': the technical name in Judaism for the four Hebrew letters J H V H denoting the pre-eminent name of God: that which is separate from, and which exceeds, all other appellations. Of uncertain meaning, it is generally thought to be etymologically connected with an imperfect form of the Hebrew verb 'to be'. The tetragrammaton was uttered only by the high priest during worship in the temple, probably to safeguard it from desecration by heathens. It was held in such reverence that, after the destruction of the temple, its utterance was forbidden, and in the liturgical passages in which it appeared it was pronounced Adonai ('Lord'). In a non-religious context it was referred to simply as 'the Name'. There is historical precedent for Borges's irreverent and perhaps subversive use of the tetragrammaton in 'Death and the Compass'. As its utterance fell into disuse its original pronunciation became uncertain (though it is now thought to be represented in English by the sound Yahweh'). Moreover it often came to be written in an abbreviated or substitute form worked out by means of combinations based on the numerical value of the four sacred letters. This extreme reverence attracted a heretical belief in its magic and healing properties, and its letters were used in magic papyri and inscribed in amulets. Death and the Compass