The name I myself use most often is Hebrew, but I pronounce it in the Galician Yiddish renditions of my childhood: Ribboyno shel oylom, Master of the Universe. This is the God that listens to me when I need to reach out, the God I am intimate with.

These names are like 'heart accounts' that our people have invested in through the ages. Every time someone cried out a name of God, they made a deposit to that account. These accounts have been there for centuries now, collecting interest. They are part of our ancestors' legacy to us, available for anyone to access; all we need to do is make a withdrawal with understanding and sincerity. These names, these heart accounts, are one of the paths our traditions offer us to make a connection, to achieve spiritual intimacy. Their currency has been greatly devalued in our time, but they still have the power to move us — if we let them. We should not be too quick to throw them away.

Yet just as our interfaces with the infinite evolved over time, so must we continue to slowly open new accounts, to evolve names for the infinite that ring true for us today. We are quick to resent images of God that don't fit. They infantilize and disappoint us. But why do we react this way? Could it be because they fall short of the images of God that we long for? I believe that even some of the most hardened and skeptical among us have felt, in their heart of hearts, 'If only God could mean this to me.' This is exemplified most touchingly in the movie Dead Man Walking, when Sister Prejean promises a convicted rapist and murderer that she will be 'the face of God' for him in the final moments before his execution, a visage of the divine mercy and forgiveness that he cannot find in the human society that will, the following day at dawn, strap him to a gurney and pump a fatal dose of earthly justice into his veins. This is the great power of our names and metaphors for God. They are our gateways to the infinite. If we call upon them, no matter what our extremity, they will open the way for us.

Doorway: Finding Your Own Name for God

What is the face of God that you long for in your deepest moments? Is it a friend you need? Or a comforter? A rock you can lean on when you are most besieged? A recipient of your joy and thanks? An address for your prayers for yourself or your loved ones?

Can you give that face of God a name? Try it. See what wells up inside you. Take a quiet moment, or wait until some joy or sorrow opens your heart. Perhaps it will be a name from our tradition, perhaps something you make up. Whenever you feel the need to reach out, say that name. Repeat it over and over to yourself. Say it out loud if you can. Try it out on your tongue. Savor it. Open an account for yourself. Start making a connection.

Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, Joel Segel in Jewish with Feeling