Adapted from a discourse of Rabbi Shneur Zalman, "the Alter Rebbe."
by Rabbi Yossi Marcus

The Divine Name Tzvakos does not appear in the Five Books of Moses. (Tzvakos is the traditional method of pronouncing this Name, which is actually Tziva-os.)

From the day G-d created the world, says the Talmud, no one called Him by the Name Tzivakos until the barren Chana, father of Shmuel the prophet came along and called Him so (Berachos 31b).[1] Said G-d to Chana: Your son [Shmuel] is destined to begin his prophecies with this Name (see Midrash Shmuel 2).

Primarily, this Name is used by the later prophets—especially Chaggai, Zechariah, and Malachi—toward the end of the First Temple era and at the beginning of the Exile. Most of their prophecies utilize this Name (“So said the L-rd of Hosts—Havaya Tzivakos”).

The Name never appears alone. It is always prefaced by another Name, as in Havaya Tzivakos, the L-rd of Hosts. Thus its sacredness is the subject of debate in the Talmud. According to Rabbi Yose, an opinion rejected by the Talmud, it is not sacred and can be erased, since it refers to the Jewish people. Halacha, however, follows the opinion that it is one of seven sacred Names of G-d and must not be erased if written down (see Shavuos 35b).

Why the controversy behind this Name and why was it not used by Moshe in the Torah?


…And it was on that very day that all the hosts of G-d—tzivos Havaya—left the land of Egypt (Ex 12:41).

Behold it is known that the essence of the Infinite Light is beyond any type of description. The attributes attributed to Him by the prophets and the sages, such as wisdom, mercy, etc., are not appropriate at all for His essence. For He is far removed from any such characterization. Wisdom, which is the highest attribute for a created being, is as removed from Him as is physical reality.

(Indeed, even this statement is misleading, since it implies some connection between G-d and wisdom. For one would not negate a fact that is truly absurd. For example, one would not say that a concept is so lofty that it cannot be touched, since concepts do not exist in the world of touch to begin with (Bi’etzem 5747, citing Tanya 2, ch. 9.). [G-d is beyond wisdom in a way that cannot be expressed in the phrase “He is beyond wisdom.”])

Nevertheless, the prophets and sages use these terms. For in what we perceive as His greatness, lies His humility (Megilla 31a). In other words, when He lowers Himself to be enclothed in the attributes of wisdom, kindness etc., we can apprehend Him and sense His greatness. [In reality, though, what we perceive as His greatness is not His essence but a manifestation and degradation thereof. For example, when a sage speaks to a common person without adapting his thoughts to the level of his listener, his greatness will be lost on his listener who will hear nothing but gibberish. Conversely, when he lowers himself and adapts his thoughts so that they can be perceived by the commoner, his greatness is seen; but it is a degraded form of his sagacity that is apprehended.] 

Hence the Divine Names. Each Name describes the lowering of the Divine essence into another one of the attributes. Keil refers to Chesed, Elokim to Gevurah, Ad-nai to Malchus, etc. The Name Havaya is the inner being of each Name, i.e., it is the force that draws the Divine light into the specific attribute.  Havaya, therefore, is often combined with the other Names, as in Havaya Elokim, Havaya Tzivakos, etc.

The Divine Names, excluding Tzivakos, refer to G-d as He is manifest in the world of Atzilus, the world of Oneness. Tzivakos refers to G-d as He is manifest in the lower worlds, the worlds of Separateness. Tzivakos contains the word tzava, army or host, and os, sign. This Name, then, refers to G-d, the Sign, as He is manifest in the myriad hosts of creatures of the lower worlds.

In Zohar and the writings of the Arizal, Tzivakos is associated with the sefiros of Netzach and Hod, since their function is not for Atzilus itself but to facilitate the influx to the lower worlds. As is known, Netzach and Hod are “kidneys that advise,” i.e., they are “processors,” processing, for example, a thought, before it can be transmitted from father to son or from teacher to student (See Tanya 4:15 p. 124b).

(In his “notes” on the Zohar (2:284), Rabbi Levi Yitzchak comments: Tzivakos can be divided into two words with an alef between them—tzadik beis, alef, vov tof. The alef consists of an upper yud and a lower yud connected by a vov. According to Rabbi Levi Yitzchak, the first two letters of Tzivakos with the upper yud of the alef represent Netzach, while the lower yud of the alef with the letters vov and tof, represent Hod. The two parts of the word—Netzach and Hod—are united by the vov of the alef.

He also points out that when spelled out this way—tzadik beis yud, vov, yud vov tofTzivakos equals 524, which is the number of chapters in the Talmud, as well as the numeric equivalent of “Talmud Bavli.”[2])

Thus Tzivakos is not mentioned in the Torah but only by the prophets. For Moshe our teacher was a soul of Atzilus and operated in that reality. The Torah that he purveyed, and which is called by his name (Malachi 3:22), also describes the Atzilus reality. So Tzivakos, which refers to G-d’s manifestation in the lower worlds, is not appropriate for Moshe and his Torah.

(Similarly, Moshe’s wars were fought by G-d himself “G-d will wage war for you” (Ex. 14:14). Yehoshua’s wars, however, were fought by “the commander of G-d’s army,” who says “now I have come,” but not before, during the times of Moshe.[3]

[Joshua 5:13-5: Once, when Yehoshua was in Jericho, he looked up and noticed a man standing before him, with his sword unsheathed in his hand. Yehoshua went over to him and asked, “Do you belong to us or to our enemies?” “No,” answered the man, “I am the commander of G-d’s army (sar tzva Hashem). Now I have come to you.”]

For Moshe faced is compared to the sun, while Yehoshua’s is compared to the moon (BR 75:1). Thus the exodus from Egypt and the splitting of the sea took place in an openly miraculous manner that went entirely beyond the dictates of nature. This was the level of Havaya, Atzilus. With Yehoshua’s wars, though they, too, were miraculous, natural means that were employed as well. [Thus it was inappropriate for Moshe to send spies for intelligence gathering, while it was appropriate for Yehoshua to do so (see Rebbe’s Chumash on Shelach).])

Hence the necessity for the prophecies of the prophets: to draw the wisdom of the Torah down to the level of their generations of Jews. The Torah of Moshe did not speak to these new generations. Man and Torah remained separate entities. It was the task of the prophets to bring Torah to the lower worlds so that it would address the people on their level.

Thus it is only trough the prophets that the Name Tzivakos is introduced, since they lived at a time when the Jewish people effected the union of G-dliness with even the lower worlds, their reality.

Thus Tzivakos, as in the above verse “tzivos Havaya,” refers also to the Jewish people, since it is they, through their service of elevating the sparks, that effect the union of G-dliness with the lower worlds, a concept expressed by the Name Tzivakos.

[The word tzivos, “hosts,” is the conjunctive form of Tzivakos. In Hebrew, when a word is used as a “prefix” to another word, such as “hosts of (G-d),” its pronunciation differs from its primary form. Thus Tzivakos means “hosts,” whereas tzivos means “hosts of.” Similarly, “beard” is zakan, while “beard of” is zikan, as in zikan Aharon, “the beard of Aharon.”]

This is achieved through eliciting a lofty light that is beyond Havaya, as the prophet says of Chana (the first to use the Name Tzivakos), “And she prayed upon Havaya” (I Samuel 2:1).

& [Adapted and summarized by Rabbi Yosef Marcus from Torah Ohr, Bo; Bi’Etzem 5747; Bosi LiGani 5740.]


[1] Actually, the Name appears in Scripture before Chana’s prayer, however, she was the first person to use this Name.

The Talmud explains her intention in calling G-d the L-rd of Hosts: “Master of the Universe! From all the hosts upon hosts [of creatures] that You have created in Your universe, is it difficult in Your eyes to grant me one son?” The Talmud provides a metaphor: A pauper stood by the door of the palace as the king dined with his subjects. He asked for a piece of bread but was ignored. He pushed his way in and approached the king: “My lord, the king! Out of the entire feast that you have made, is it difficult in your eyes to give me one piece of bread?”

[2] [As explained below, Tzivakos represents the descent of Divinity into the lower worlds. Similarly, the Talmud takes the wisdom of the Torah and applies to the mundane details of human interaction and experience.] 

[3] BR 97:3; Zohar 3:286b.


Rabbi Yossi Marcus is director of Chabad outreach activities in S. Mateo, California. He is also the editor of the Q&A database at AskMoses.com and is one of the translators at Kehot Publication Society.


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