Ecumenical Number Plate

Ecumenical Dialogue
By on January 30, 2024

When my wife was attending seminary, she chose the letters “SHADAI” as her car number plate. She liked the name because “El Shaddai” was a song that Amy Grant popularized. My wife didn’t realize how much this number plate would create interest from passing strangers, who attributed that word to many different interpretations. You might say that it became a witnessing tool that did not involve proselytizing because people would approach us.

According to Wikipedia, El Shaddai is one of the names of the God of Israel, conventionally translated into English as “God Almighty.” However, it is “El” that means God, and “Shaddai” is the Hebrew word for “human breasts.” The significance of that, I will leave you to interpret for yourself.

The spelling for Shaddai on the number plate, according to licensing rules, had to be six characters long, and the choice was limited. Moving from Ontario to California and then British Columbia, we kept the number plate spelling with just a few minor alterations.

Over the years, people have made different remarks about the plate; some have claimed it meant something to them in other languages, including Polish, Persian, and Japanese. Someone remarked that he solved a problem that he was having and saw SHA DAI as meaning “should I?” Apparently, the plate evoked a question and helped him solve his issue.

On another occasion, a woman asked me if I lived in the area and said she had been wondering if she should move there. When she saw the number plate, it confirmed the area was a good place for her. The number plate acted as a witness and as a messenger.

Another word closely linked to Shaddai is the Arabic word Shahada. The Shahada (“the testimony”) transliterated as Shahadah, is an Islamic oath and creed and one of the Five Pillars of Islam and part of the Adhan (call to prayer). It reads: “I bear witness that there is no deity but God, and I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of God.”

The number plate gives testimony not only for Christianity and Judaism, but also for Islam.

One time, I was driving down the Presidio in San Francisco, a beautiful drive by the ocean which is also a speed trap set by police. My speed was a little over the limit (not a good testimony) when I was pulled over by police. The cop asked for my registration, and then he proceeded to check it out on his computer. When he returned, he asked me about the number plate. I said it was the name of God, “El Shaddai,” and he said, “baruch adonai ham’vorach l’olam,” which in Hebrew means, “Praised are You, Our God, Ruler of the universe.” Then he asked if I was “some kind of Holy Ghost Christian?” At that moment, his computer “screeched” and he said, “I’ll let you go this time, but keep your foot off the accelerator.”


I have had many experiences with our sacred number plate, and it reminds me of the Day of Pentecost, when the disciples spoke in tongues and people from different cultures understood what they were saying in their own language. Praise be to God!





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