Were Jews the
First to Conceive
the Concept of Mathematical Constant?
Mathematically speaking, words such as who, where, when and what are variables. In this context, are there any other natural-language words that have mathematical functions? For example, what about the mathematical concept constant.Mathematical and scientific Constants are common substitutes for large numeric constant values. A constant stands for a specific and fixed value. For example, such terms as speed-of-light or light-year are English constants but they are clearly derived from physics so their mathematical root is obvious. Are there words or terms in English or in some other language that serve a similar function, say, instead of using a specific nouns or proper names people use these terms.
It occurred to me that when orthodox Jews use the term The Name instead of using the explicit name of their god, they use a constant. They do so because of the prohibition imposed by the Second Commandment:
"Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain."
Therefore, according to Jewish law and custom, Jews are prohibited from mentioning the explicit name of God in vain. The exclusion to the Commandment, that is, when the explicit name is used not in vain, is reserved for prayers and worship. So, when an observing Jew wants to say the name of the Lord he utters instead Ha'shem, the English transliteration of Hebrew's The Name.
Note that in all of the following examples the word the is spelled The (first intial is capitalized). This is because it is part of the name or, as I am suggesting here, part of the constant that the Jews assigned to their god.
The most common usage of The Name is with The Name's help (be-ez-rat ha-shem, pronounce the be as in bevel, ez rhymes with Pez and rat pronounced as rut.)
Le'ma'an Ha'shem means for The Name's sake (or for God's sake.)
Ba'rooch Ha'shem means Blessed The Name (that is, blessed God, pronounce the ba as in ba ba black sheep, the ch in rooch sounds like the Spanish J as in San Jose.)
We said that often constants are often used in place of large numbers. In this context, the term large refers to numbers that may be large in the sense of their magnitude, like a light-year (9,465,000,000,000,000), as well as irrational numbers, having many digits, as (3.14159265358979…) or e (2.7182818284…). The use of The Name as a constant is quite appropriate, as it is a substitute for the largest concept humans can conceive, the almighty. And, when I grew up, there was a notion that the true explicit name of the Almighty consists of 76 Hebrew characters. Reading it literally, the Jews took out of the prohibiting text of the Second Commandment a two-word phase and adapted it for daily use, assuring adherence to the prohibition.
Another common expression is for God willing is if The Name wills or if The Name will want or if The Name will desire. (in Hebrew, eem year-tze ha-shem, pronounce eem rhymes with deem and yea as year and tz as in tze-tze fly but tze as a whole is pronounced as like the musical note re.)
A different constant that Jews use when they talk of god is He. (This useage is also practice by some Christians and I do not know if its origin is among Jews or Chrstians.) For example, Jews often say Ha'ka'dosh Ba'rooch Hoo for He The Sacred Blessed (pronounciation is simple and follows previous examples.)
Are there other cases of using contants in ordinary languages? Or, is the Jewish application unique?
Did the Jews miss the point? While this solution indeed complies with the letter of the law it does not comply with the spirit of the law. For the Second Commandment does not spell which name is prohibited from use. Neither it indicates that only a single name exists. From linguistic viewpoint, interpreting "the name" to indicate that only a single name exists is indeed adhering to the letter of the law. Since the phrase the name (a noun) became The Name (a proper name) [Hebrew has not word capitalization] and since for hundreds of years millions of Jews have used it frequently and exclusively instead of any other name, it too has become one of the explicit names and should be covered by the prohibition. From worship perspective, the intent of the Second Commandment is to prevent addressing the Lord in for vain purposes. Addressing their Lord by a nickname, the Jews get around the spirit of the law.