Monday, February 21, 2011

Writing the name of G-d

As I have been researching various websites in my quest to learn more about Jewish symbolism and culture, I have noticed that every website from a Jewish author never shows the name of God written as such. Rather, God's name appears this way: G-d

My very first thought the first time I read this was that it must have been a typographical error. However, when it appeared again later in the paragraph, I knew it was intentional.

Further investigation revealed that Jews do not casually write any Name of God. This practice does not come from the commandment not to take the Lord's Name in vain, as I intially guessed. In Jewish thought, that commandment refers solely to oath-taking, and is a prohibition against swearing by God's Name falsely or frivolously (the word normally translated as "in vain" literally means "for falsehood").

Judaism does not prohibit writing the Name of God per se; it prohibits only erasing or defacing a Name of God. However, observant Jews avoid writing any Name of God casually because of the risk that the written Name might later be defaced, obliterated or destroyed accidentally or by one who does not know better.

The commandment not to erase or deface the name of God comes from Deuteronomy 12:3. In that passage, the people are commanded that when they take over the promised land, they should destroy all things related to the idolatrous religions of that region, and should utterly destroy the names of the local deities. Immediately afterwards, we are commanded not to do the same to our God. From this, the rabbis inferred that we are commanded not to destroy any holy thing, and not to erase or deface a Name of God.

It is worth noting that this prohibition against erasing or defacing Names of God applies only to Names that are written in some kind of permanent form, and recent rabbinical decisions have held that writing on a computer is not a permanent form, thus it is not a violation to type God's Name into a computer and then backspace over it or cut and paste it, or copy and delete files with God's Name in them. However, once you print the document out, it becomes a permanent form. That is why observant Jews avoid writing a Name of God on web sites: because there is a risk that someone else will print it out and deface it.

The Jewish people place such a high respect and reverence on the Lord...even going so far as to not wanting to risk His written name to be defaced. Perhaps we should take a lesson from their practice...and not be so casual in our approach to the King of Kings. Indeed, He is our "Abba" Father...but He is also the Creator and Ruler of the Universe....


Arvin U. de la Peña said...

hi..can we exchange link..i hope you can add my blog to your blog list..i'll be happy for that..thanks..

Crown of Beauty said...

Hi Deb I have enjoyed reading and reading your Jewish theme posts.

I loved the one on the shofar, and now this.

Very helpful posts!