Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Hebrew in Meher Baba's Universal Prayer

I was recently looking at Meher Baba's "Universal Prayer," which I was first introduced to via Pete Townshend's song "Parvardigar," from the album Who Came First, the lyrics of which were adapted from Meher Baba's prayer. What caught my eye was a section from the end of the prayer:

You are Parabrahma, Allah, Elahi, Yezdan,
Ahuramazda, and God the Beloved.
You are named Ezad — the only One
worthy of worship.
"Elahi" could easily be a transliterated version of אֱלֹהַי ('elohai, "My God"). And, especially given the words following, I am sure that "Ezad" must be some variation of אֶחָד ('echad1, one). Elahi is certainly meant to be a Hebrew/Jewish name for God, since it follows the Arabic/Muslim "Allah," but I wonder if Ezad is directly taken from Hebrew or if it is sourced from a related semitic language. The wording of that line is somewhat reminicent of the first line of the Sh'ma:

שְמַע יִשְרָאֵל יהוה אֱלֹהֵנוּ יהוה אֱחָד
"Listen, Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one."

Any Baba followers or knowledgable linguists who might be able to shed some light upon this should feel free to speak up and add thier thoughts to the comments on this post.

1 the "ch" in 'echad should be pronounced as in the Scottish "loch."



Gud to find ur blog Bro. As someone interested who is also interested in the meaning of words can you please tell me what exactly does Nehushtan mean and why was did a rabidly anti-idolatory religion resort to an idea of salavation thru an image of a snake? I've read Karen Armstrong and she talks about 'jewish paganism', was there such a thing? Please also visit my blog!!

Eliyahu ben Avraham vaSarah said...

Well, the word nechushtan (the "ch" pronouced as it is in loch or Bach) - נְחֻשְתַן - is very likely related to the word נָחָש (nachash, serpent) and perhaps related to the very similarly spelled נָחַש (nachas, to practice divination) and/or נָחוּש (nachush, of bronze).

The Nechushtan itself was created by Moshe in Number 21.4-9. The people had spoken out against God and Moshe and as punishment God sent HaNechashim HaSeraphim, Seraph Serpents against the people. When the people repented and Moshe interceded with God on thier behalf God gave instructions for Moshe to make a bronze serpent mounted on a standard. The result was that anyone who had been bitten needed only to look at the Nechushtan to be cured. So, by the description given in that passage there is no mention of the people actually worshipping the bronze serpent, therefore it would not be considered an idol--which is something worshipped in lieu of God. It was also not used for any sort of "salvation," but rather seems to have been some kind of divine/magical snake bite cure.

The Nechushtan is destroyed in 2 Kings 18.4 by King Hezekiah because people were offering scarifices to it, this making it an idol despite its originally stated purpose. This shouldn't really come as a suprise since the Hebrew Bible is filled with accounts of the people going back to worshipping idols and other/false gods. I would imagine the reason the Torah and the Prophets seem so rabidly anti-idolotry is because it was an issue that was constantly being battled. If it hadn't been a continuing problem they would have had no reason to talk about it as much as they did.

As to "Jewish paganism," it would depend on what is meant by "paganism."

old carriage sports lounge said...

But not related to having "naches," which is what Bubbe has when you come home with a good grade on your test.
I agree, the Jews were constantly going astray, turning to avoda zara, which is why no one knows the burial place of Moshe Avinu, lest they turn the great prohet into an idol to worship as well.
Cool blog dude! (long live rock)

RagaTala said...

Thanks for dropping in my blog area and leaving a note.

I have to tell you Ive been told your explanation many times before. Creation of the World in some sense can only mean an awakening to a higher level of consciousness. But who awoke and who made the proclamations of the New Year of this New World?

Im frustrated because when Ive gone to Temple in the past I see everyone wishing Happy New Year but they have no clue of the meaning of any of it. Then they are on to the next topic of something going on in their life. And then there is the notion that Rabbi's will decide what we are told, taught and believe. I just can't allow that type of censorship in my life.

Suffice to say I feel alot of Jews today are hypocrites. They call themselves Jews without really knowing the meaning of what it means to be a Jew. And I don't know either...What does it mean to be a Jew? I was born a Jew. can anyone take that away from me? No. I can commit thousands of sins and I will still be a Jew. Maybe the religion is losing its grip on us Americans. Although I read alot about Jews in Israel redefining the religion and trying to find more Spiritual and Meaningful ways to express the religion so its not just a mechanical exercise. Spirituality is definitely missing in Jewish Religious studies and ceremonies.

Anyway, I took alot of advanced cultural anthropology in college and that doesn't help my mind from wandering (and wondering) quite a bit. One day I'll hopefully be able to relax about my identity and what it represents.

So, Happy New Year to you (ha, ha). Seriously, if it means something important to you and your beliefs I hope you have a peaceful and pleasant holiday.

Ken N said...

Just came across your site so a very late at least partial answer to your question. Ezad is Persian from the Zoroastrian faith,
(as are Ahuramazda and Parvardigar) meaning "the only One worthy of worship" No Scholar but i would imagine It greatly influenced The Hebrews during the Babalonian exile period?
Meher Baba (Merwan S Irani) was born in 1894 into the Poona(Pune) India Zorastrian community

Eliyahu ben Avraham vaSarah said...

Ken - oh the Jews were undoubtably influenced by the Babylonians during the exile. I'm sure there was some kind of cross polonization going on because 'echad and ezad seem too similar to be a coincidence. As far as I know Hebrew and Persian aren't related (Hebrew is semitic and Persian is Indo-European), but the word could have been borrowed in one direction or the other. I actually have a friend who speaks Persian Farsi, so I can ask and see if he knows anything more.

Thanks for the info!

The background image on this page is a Hebrew translation of the verse from Bob Dylan's song  It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding), from which the title of this blog is taken. Translation courtesy of Yoram Aharon of Hod-HaSharon's page--found via YudelLine-- which has many Dylan lyrics in Hebrew.