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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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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

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

... 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

George Ramos Murrieta, Ca February 21, 2017

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

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

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

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

Avram Newark September 1, 2016

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

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

Anonymous Anytown, USA August 30, 2016

Maybe God is telling you to not be ashamed of Him and to write out "God". Reply

Joann Petty CARTHAGE August 22, 2016

Thank you , Our God is Holy, I am so sorry that even asked the question. My heart leaped for joy when I read your answer. Keep His Name Holy, above all Names. Yours truly Reply

Tim June 1, 2016

I do realize that God is spelled out as God in the Bible, so I figure it that that's the way He prefers it. Reply

David Toronto May 31, 2016

Gd told the Jews not to take His Name in vain. That means not to write it anywhere but in sacred texts, such as the Bible and the prayerbook, and not to speak it except while praying or reading sacred texts aloud.

You have a right to your opinion even if you disagree with Gd's commandments.

You do not have a right to pretend to be "holier than thou" because you proudly proclaim your eagerness to deface Gd's name. If you write it, you subject it to being erased or defaced or soiled by some stranger on the web who prints it out and, for example, covers it with whiteout or throws the paper in the trash. Or worse. Just because you don't care how the Name is treated, doesn't mean that Jews should not care. Reply

Larry Klimek Howell May 29, 2016

I agree with Katy, besides, those who do deface the name of God are a reminder to us believers that evil always lurks just around the corner and by showing themselves, we can now try to save them. Reply

Anonymous Katy May 25, 2016

Ahhhhh! No...not falling for that...God is God and putting a little symbol in the middle doesn't seem right! God doesn't mind if we spell out his name!
God bless Reply