May God’s Name Be Increased
Yael Eckstein | January 17, 2022
He said, “Praise be to the LORD, who rescued you from the hand of the Egyptians and of Pharaoh, and who rescued the people from the hand of the Egyptians.” — Exodus 18:10
Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Yitro, which means “Jethro,” from Exodus 18:1–20:23
I want to tell you about a common Jewish expression, used when greeting one another. Most Christians know that the word for “hello” and “goodbye” in Hebrew is shalom, which means “peace.” But after we greet each other with shalom, we then inquire how the other person is doing, to which the common reply is “Baruch Hashem,” regardless of how they’re doing. That is then followed by a more detailed explanation of what’s going on in their lives.
Baruch Hashem means “bless the Lord.” Hashem, literally, “the Name,” is a shorthand nickname that Jews have been using for God for thousands of years. We are careful not to say God’s actual name in casual conversation out of reverence and respect.
We only say God’s name in prayer or study of Torah; otherwise, it’s always Hashem. When we say Baruch Hashem, what we mean is that no matter what is going on in our lives, the first and foremost priority is that God’s name should be blessed and increased through our lives. Then we can get on with discussing what’s really going on.
May God’s Name Increase
As I read this week’s Torah portion, I noticed something amazing. The first person to ever say the words Baruch Hashem was not a member of the nation of Israel! After hearing Moses describe all that God had done for Israel during the Exodus from Egypt, Jethro, Moses’ father in-law, a Midianite, exclaimed, “Praise be to the LORD [Baruch Hashem], who rescued you from the hand of the Egyptians and of Pharaoh, and who rescued the people from the hand of the Egyptians.”
Although many translate Baruch here as “praise,” the Hebrew word really doesn’t mean praise. Baruch means “bless.” Blessing in the Bible means increase and abundance. So, when we say Baruch Hashem, we are declaring that God’s name may be increased and abundant, that He should be known by everyone, of all nations.
How fitting that Jethro, the first non-Jew to recognize God’s love for Israel, was the first to say these words, Baruch Hashem!
Try adding a blessing of God to your daily greetings. This is a great way to increase knowledge and awareness of Him among everyone you meet each day.