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Why Don't You Spell Out G-d's Name?

Why Don't You Spell Out G-d's Name?

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Question:

As you know, I'm not a "believer." I am a logical person -- I only believe in things that can be logically proven. But I was just interested: Why do you always write "G‑d"?

Answer:

We do not write G‑d's name in a place where it may be discarded or erased. Treating G‑d's name with reverence is a way to give respect to G‑d. So even though on a computer the name is not really being erased (and perhaps is not really there in the first place), and "G‑d" is only an English term used to translate G‑d's holy name, it is in keeping with this respect that I write "G‑d" in my emails and on-line articles.

This causes problems. No matter how many times I write "G‑d", the spell-check on the computer has no idea what I mean. "G‑d" is not in its dictionary, and it won't accept it as an addition to the dictionary. So the computer comes up with all types of suggested corrections: Go, Do, G'day. And often half the name ends up on a new line: G-
d.

I guess I shouldn't expect any better. No matter how smart a computer is, certain things are beyond it. How would you program a computer to have respect for G‑d's name? It is unreasonable to ask a computer to relate to G‑d, because G‑d is not a logical concept -- He created intellect, and He cannot be captured by His own creation. A computer is limited to logic, so it can't handle spiritual concepts. Just as a metal-detector will beep when a gun is passed through it, but it cannot pick up a person's thoughts or intentions, intellect can grasp logic and rationale, but it cannot detect the Divine.

But a human is not a computer. Intellect is not where we begin and end. We have a soul that is beyond intellect, and our soul detects G‑d because our soul sees G‑d.

Jewish faith is about getting in touch with the soul that knows G‑d already, without needing any proof. This is not negating intellect -- it is transcending it.

How do you get in touch with your soul? Ask G‑d. He'll tell you.

Aron Moss is rabbi of the Nefesh Community in Sydney, Australia, and is a frequent contributor to Chabad.org.
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Guna Sydney April 17, 2017

Googled for answers because I found a tossed newsletter from a synagogue and was wondering why they replaced the O with a hyphen!
Question answered - thanks :) Reply

Joseph Sompolinsky Michigan April 14, 2017

A linguist told me that this G word is a variation of the word Good. Meaning the power that causes good. Reply

Craig Hamilton Sandwich, MA April 24, 2017
in response to Joseph Sompolinsky:

I have long thought this. It is also a reason why I don't like to use God to express the name for the deity I worship, because Hashem is so much greater than good. Good is what you get when you receive a B for a grade on an exam. Reply

JoAnn Petty CARTHAGE March 26, 2017

When I asked the question couple months ago. It got me thinking and looking at the way we (Christians) treat the name of God, we toss our Bibles on the pew/ floor/ , we throw or left over programs/lessons/ coloring pages in the trash . We should be ashamed. Then we point fingers at others for doing things or way. I only hope God forgives me of all my sins. For He is Holy. Reply

Sarah Indianapolis April 7, 2017
in response to JoAnn Petty:

When I was a child, I was hardly ever taken to synagogue. But sometimes I was. One of my early memories is of being there and finding the prayerbook too heavy to carry in one hand. I dropped it. I felt terrible. I knew it was a holy book, and I had insulted it. I picked it up and kissed it. Behind me a man remarked that I was what he called a "religious girl." He seemed pleased with me. I was surprised, because if I were so religious I would have been careful not to drop the book, and besides that I knew I did not keep Shabbat. But I do not know if I'd have remembered it all these decades later without his underscoring it.

If you want to treat your Bible respectfully, go right ahead!!! Good for you!!! Reply

Alex New York City March 26, 2017

As brief as it was, this was a very insightful article. Thank you. Reply

Anonymous February 21, 2017

I get your point, but... ... isn't it even worse to 'misspell' the name? I'm not a Jew, so maybe this is something you've been explained in great detail when you were kids. But for me, it just seems anorganic and (language-wise) halting. I'd love to hear your explanation, it's a really interesting practice I'd really like to understand. Reply

George Murrieta, Ca April 4, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

I'd like to know what "anorganic" has to do with this subject matter. Reply

Aaron Indianapolis April 7, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

You use the word misspell, so let me start with the fact that Hebrew has no real vowels. The letters "yud" (y) and "heh" (h) and "vav" (sometimes v, sometimes w) can help indicate where a vowel would go, but mostly there are no clues. Example: Baruch means "blessed" but in Hebrew it is spelled "bet" "resh" "chet" and there are no letters for the vowels at all. If you transliterated it, you would spell it BRCh. So for Jews, omitting a vowel is not a misspelling. It's omitting something "extra" which is used for those whose vocabulary is limited--those who don't know enough to recognize a word from its consonants.For example, an Israeli child, age six, came with his family to the USA. He was asked to write his name on the board. He wrote, BNYMN. The teacher was perplexed and asked what it said. He said, Benyameen (Benjamin). The teacher said, "But where are the vowels?" The boy said, "I"m a big boy now. I can read without vowels."

Any divine Name, in any language, is holy. Reply

George Ramos Murrieta, Ca February 21, 2017

Missed weightier matter I find it interesting that many here are criticizing Rabbi Moss for not answering as they would have yet miss the more important thing such as addressing the the correspondents' implication that being a believer and being a logical person are mutually exclusive. Reply

Nev February 21, 2017

Just add "G-d" to your computer's dictionary. Open Microsoft Word, type "G-d," then initiate spell check. When spell check tries to correct the word, click on the option "Add to Dictionary." Reply

Matthew Boston February 1, 2017

To Wayne and others who try to be respectful but still can't understand When we speak English, or French, or whatever--since there is only One Deity, the title (which means Deity) is used as a name for the only Deity there is. It becomes another Name and not merely a title. This was decided in a sequence of letters in medieval times. The local rabbi had the same question you did, except that he spoke French. The return letter cautioned that when we receive a letter, we may throw it out and it may wind up "on a dung heap" and this is insulting to the Deity.

When I was six years old, nobody had told me about taking the Name in vain. I wrote a letter and spelled out the G-word. Then it occurred to me, all alone, that the person who received it would likely throw it away, and it would be my fault. I've never forgotten that moment. Soon enough, I learned that this reaction has been the Sages for hundreds of years. So of course I faithfully avoid writing it. I'm sorry to notice that there are Jews who don't know or don't care that this dishonors the Deity. Reply

James Chicago February 1, 2017

Bill and others who, instead of seeking explanations, seek only to disparage By writing out the Sacred title you are taking it in vain, contrary to the Ten Commandments.
It would be better if you did not know this title. Then you would not be able to abuse it by writing it so carelessly where anyone could throw it in the garbage or flush it down the toilet. If only you did not know this title, you would not go out of your way to insult those who honor it and respect it.
Your community evidently lacks the respect for the Divine name.
That does not give you the right to call us weird for respecting it.
If you can't be courteous to those who avoid taking the Name in vain, you can at least avoid boasting about your disrespect or otherwise being obnoxious. Reply

BIll January 27, 2017

Thats weird I will just say God Reply

AR April 4, 2017
in response to BIll:

"Weird?" *That's judgmental. Did you even read the explanation in the article? Have some respect. Reply

Ann Kansas City December 25, 2016

Dear Rabbi Moss, Why not omit the hyphen? Write Gd. That way the computer will not put the "d" on the next line. It will treat it as part of the word--which it IS.

I always omit the hyphen for that very reason.

Please don't tell me to insert the hyphen. Is there really any reason to keep the hyphen? Can't you omit it? Reply

Wayne December 25, 2016

I don't get why you write "G-d."
You don't write "H-Sh-m..."
"God" is not The Name. It is more like a title, such as "President" or "Leader." "god" (small 'g') denotes any god, idol, or other item of worship in any religion. "God" (capital 'g') denotes a specific deity based on the writer's religion - but it could be any deity, depending on the writer. It is a generic term to indicate a specific thing, exactly like HaShem.
The Name itself starts with Y and ends with H. (Or, perhaps, J and H.) I can understand not using that; I don't use it inappropriately, either.

This is not to criticize the practice. I understand it.
It just seems odd that you would give reverent treatment to a word that is not The Name.
The perception from the outside is that you are trying to be reverent about... well... something, but are confused about the important part - the very Name that you revere! Reply

Jake Los Angeles April 7, 2017
in response to Wayne:

As you see from other posts, we do write out the word in Bibles and prayerbooks, which few are apt to throw in the trash. But if I write it here, or on a single sheet of paper, or even on a pamphlet, someone could then throw it in the dumpster or even in the toilet. The thought of insulting the Deity by letting His Title touch filth is yukky.
HaShem simply means "name" and is not a Divine Name, merely a reference--one of many circumlocutions. Others include "the Holy One, blessed be He" or "He Who spoke and the world was." We would not write or say Gd at all except to enable understanding in those who are unfamiliar with these circumlocutions. If you ask me, "How are you?" my instinct is to say, "Baruch haShem" which means "blessed be the Name." To you I'd likely say, "Thank Heaven," instead. It means I'm thankful for what Gd gives me, but you'd "get" Thank Heaven better than Baruch HaShem.

We avoid saying or writing it except in prayer--or as a courtesy, so you "get" it. Reply

Avram Newark September 1, 2016

Having read Rabbi Moss' reply, I see that he does not answer the question. First, Hebrew has no vowel letters. The sacred scroll of the Five Books of Moses has no vowels of any kind.
Prayerbooks aid the reader with added "vowels" via dots and dashes under or over the actual letters.
So of course we are "ashamed" of the Name.
What a bizarre accusation!!!
I wish Rabbi Moss would mention, up front, that we do spell out the word in sacred texts such as the Bible and prayerbooks.

But if we post on the internet, or write a letter, with one of the sacred names in it--in any language--that sacred name is subjected to others, who might throw it into the garbage or even flush it into the sewer. Either way, the sacred name would then be smeared with filth, dishonoring it.
We avoid exposing the Name even to the friend who receives our letter, for he may not want to keep the letter safe forever and ever in order to protect the Name in it.
As for sacred texts--we hope they will be respected. Reply

Gary Philadelphia August 31, 2016

To Anonymous on being "ashamed" Gd says not to take His Name in vain. He also says not to erase His Name.

If you choose to dishonor the Holy Name by writing it where anyone might print it out and then scratch it out--and you cannot be sure nobody will do that--we cannot stop you. But at the very least you can recognize that Jews honor the name and protect it and only write it in Bibles, prayerbooks, and other sacred texts, and avoid writing it in a public forum that makes it subject to mistreatment by those who disrespect it.

It is you who treat the name shamefully by exposing it to the abuse of who-knows-who. You should be ashamed of your disrespect. Reply