What does “Baruch shem k'vod malchuso l'olam vaed” mean?
msh210 asked:1 A sentence commonly said during prayer is "בָּרוּךְ שֵׁם כְּבוֹד מַלְכוּתוֹ לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד". How do we interpret it? What does it mean?
It sounds like it means:
Blessed is/be the name of the glory/honor of His kingdom forever and ever.
(Note: "מַלְכוּת" can mean "the area under the control of a king", in this case the universe etc., or "the status or quality of being king". I'm translating it ambiguously as "kingdom", but ideally an answer explaining what the sentence means will clarify which meaning "מַלְכוּת" has.)
However, that doesn't make much sense to me. That would mean God's kingdom has glory. And the glory has a name. And we're blessing the name of the glory, or saying it's blessed. That seems very… odd.
So what does the sentence really mean?
He went on to reflect on a few translations that came to hand:
A slightly more palatable (to me) translation makes "כְּבוֹד מַלְכוּתוֹ" into "His glorious kingdom", as follows:
Rabbi N. Scherman (ArtScroll):2
Blessed is the Name of His glorious kingdom for all eternity.
Rabbi J. Sacks (Koren):3
Blessed be the name of His glorious kingdom for ever and ever.
It's more palatable, I say, because at least we're not claiming His kingdom's glory has a name — just that the kingdom itself does. It's still odd to me (that God's kingdom has a name), though, and that we're saying the name is blessed, or blessing it. Plus, we have the grammatical objection that "כְּבוֹד מַלְכוּתוֹ" shouldn't mean "His glorious kingdom": that'd be "מַלְכוּת כְּבוֹדוֹ".
There is an even more palatable translation:
Rabbi J. Hertz:4.
Blessed be His Name, Whose Glorious Kingdom is for ever and ever.
Rabbi A. Davis (Metsudah):5
Blessed [is His] Name, Whose glorious kingdom is forever and ever.
That makes the entire end of the sentence, "כְּבוֹד מַלְכוּתוֹ לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד", into a description of God; "Him whose glorious kingdom is forever" (or, one could even say, "Him whose kingdom's glory is forever", to avoid the "מַלְכוּת כְּבוֹדוֹ" issue). This, as I say, is the most palatable of the bunch: we're not saying a name is or should be blessed, nor glory, nor a kingdom, but God. But if this is the correct interpretation of the sentence, I seek a source for it (besides Rabbis Hertz and Davis).
yEz expounded: שם — a name refers to reputation, or how something is known. "טוב שם משמן טוב" (Koheles 7:1) means a good reputation is better than oil. One who is "מוציא שם רע," a slanderer, as described in Devarim 22:14 — "וְשָׂם לָהּ עֲלִילֹת דְּבָרִים, וְהוֹצִא עָלֶיהָ שֵׁם רָע" — "and lay wanton charges against her, and bring up an evil name upon her" — has created a bad reputation.
The idea of a name is that which you use for others to relate to you. One does not identify oneself by one's name; it is there for others to use.
כבוד - Honor refers to a presence, the extent to which something is recognized. The Gemara in Bava Basra 3a records a dispute about the verse (Chagai 2:9) "גדול יהיה כבוד הבית הזה האחרון מן הראשון" — "The honor of the later Temple will be greater than the former":
רב ושמואל ואמרי לה ר' יוחנן חד אמר בבנין וחד אמר בשנים
Rav and Shmuel, one said it means it was larger, and one said it means it stood longer.
Both of them agree the greater "honor" refers to its physical presence; at issue is whether it was in space or in time. (As the Gemara points out, they were both correct.) This is also why "seeing" Hashem is often referred to as "seeing" His "honor" (e.g. Shemos 29:43, Vayikra 9:23).
The idea of getting honor means you are acknowledged. You get honor when you are recognized in some way.
מלכות - Royalty refers to making something manifest. Bringing something from the potential to the actual is the attribute of malchus. Rav Pincus in Shabbos Malkisa6 explains that this is why malchus is always at the end of a list (i.e. in Nishmas, in "לך ה' הגדולה," the list of middos (attributes) in Yishtabach), because malchus only comes after everything else, and brings it out to actualization.
The role of a king is to actualize the potential of the individuals that make up the nation. This is one explanation why "מלך שמחל על כבודו אין כבודו מחול" — a king does not have the right to forgo his own honor — because the honor is not really his: it is the projection of the nation as a whole.
R' Tzaddok7 writes (Resisei Layla 25) that the world was created with the Trait of Malchus: bringing out the infinite potential of creation into a finite actual was accomplished through Malchus.
The concept of ברוך שם כבוד מלכותו is that the perception of Hashem's Presence should be increasingly brought out from infinite potential into a perceptible realtiy. This is because
ברוך means רבוי, increase, according to Rashba and Nefesh HaChaim. Thus, roughly:
ברוך - Increased [should be]
שם - the relationship to
כבוד - the physically-apparent aspect of
מלכותו (the manifestation of Hashem).
In Nefesh HaChaim Sha'ar ג Chapter יד, in a gloss, he explains that Yaakov Avinu said ברוך שם כבוד מלכותו and Moshe Rabbeinu did not (when each respectively said Shema), because Yaakov was still on the level of acknowledging the realness of a finite reality, and therefore his perception of ה' אחד relied on bringing it down to this world. Moshe, however, was on the level of, to some degree, perceiving Hashem's essence, that there is no authenticity to finite reality (see the beginning of Sha'ar ג) and therefore did not need to relate to Hashem through translating His infinitude into finite manifestation. Nefesh HaChaim also sees this line as relating to the relating to Hashem (שם) through the bringing out (מלכות) of His Presence (כבוד) into this world.
We (and everyone except Moshe Rabbeinu, see Nefesh Hachaim immediately after above-quoted gloss) live in a reality in which we experience Hashem on the level of how He appears in this world, and that is the level on which our relationship with Him must function (see Maharal Nesiv HaAvoda ch. 12). We therefore pray that His manifestation in this world should increase, in order that we have a greater experience of that relationship. Baruch Shem Kevod is the Tefillah of asking for that increase. (It is placed where it is, immediately following Shema, because Shema is the declaration of Hashem's oneness which supersedes finite existence and declares that His existence is the only real existence. We have to "mitigate" that for ourselves into our realm of experience, which is the reality of this world.)
- Original question: mi.yodeya.com/q/35663
- Scherman, Nosson, and Meir Zlotowitz, eds. The Complete ArtScroll Siddur: Weekday, Sabbath, Festival: a New Translation and Anthologized Commentary. Mesorah Publications, 1985.
- Sacks, Jonathan, ed. The Koren Siddur, American Edition. Koren Publishers Jerusalem Ltd., 2009.
- Hertz, Joseph H. The Authorised Daily Prayer Book: Hebrew text, English translation with commentary and notes. Bloch, 1971.
- Davis, Avrohom. The Complete Metsudah Siddur. Metsudah Publications, 1990.
- Pincus, Shimshon Dovid. שבת מלכתא. 2001.
- Rabbi Zadok ha-Kohen Rabinowitz of Lublin, a Hasidic leader in 19th Century Poland.