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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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Anonymous September 6, 2017

the only things that are beyond a computer are things we don't tell them to do. if you want a computer to "have respect for God's name" you can program it to recognize "G-d" as correct spelling. Reply

Rebeca Miami September 17, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

It's kinda hilarious how that paragraph attempted to be deep and spiritual and it just comes across as someone who really, really doesn't understand the basics of computers. Reply

Anonymous October 25, 2017
in response to Rebeca:

Rebeca, I don't think you understand computers. You can already add new words to a list so your spellcheck recognizes them. The OP is correct that you could program a computer with guidelines on how to handle god's name. Reply

Anonymous Lakewood August 20, 2017

Please receive the following with my deepest respect.

The prophet Moses received the two tablets containing the Ten Words from God. They were the workmanship of God (Exodus 31:18; 32:16). When he came down from the mountain, he saw the people of Israel engaged in idolatry. Moses, in righteous indignation, threw the two tablets to the ground. They contained God's personal holy name, as represented by the Tetragrammaton (YHWH) and His other holy descriptive titles.

We may glean from the sacred text that Moses did not have any concern of letting the tablets touch the ground or even shatter to pieces. In addition, the true God YHWH did not punish Moses for doing so. This account and many other sacred references indicate to me that it is the not the writing, the erasing or where the document containing the sacred name ends up that is of paramount importance. Honoring God's name is of utmost importance! We may do so in word and action, in imitation of the faithful prophets.- Isaiah 26:8 Reply

Anonymous October 27, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

Exactly! Reply

Max Queens, NY August 15, 2017

If "God" is not even the real holy name, and is itself a representation of the Holy's Being's Name, why would you spell it G-d??? You are making a representation of a representation. The name God is just an arbitrary name itself, stemming from the arbitrary fact that Jews live in places that speak English and use the Anglo's language in our daily comings and goings. Eventually you people will just be writing "...". Jesus Jews take things literally! I think you are genetically prone to it. (I'm half Jewish btw (and an atheist), so no offense intended). Reply

n USA November 1, 2017
in response to Max:

Exactly! it's a title, not a name. I don't say "My D--d and my M--m" even though I respect them. LOL Reply

Sue New York November 1, 2017
in response to Max:

No such thing to Jews as "half Jewish." If your mother was/is Jewish, you are Jewish. If your father was/is the Jewish parent, you are not Jewish. Reply

Anonymous July 9, 2017

You do know that you can add "G-d" as a correctly spelled word, don't you? Reply

Jonathan Boston July 11, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

We have seen this comment before, but I prefer to add "Gd" as a word. The point is to omit the vowel, so I think we should really omit it, rather than signal it with the hyphen.

However, for those who want to retain the hyphen, it is certainly an option to add the word "G-d." Reply

Anonymous June 22, 2017

What if you are writing and say "the Christian God"? Dash or no Dash?
What about if you are writing an essay and are trying to say "character believes that God will help"?


These examples have popped up before and I don't know what to do Reply

Mendel Adelman June 25, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

Hey Anonymous,

I suppose the best measuring stick is asking yourself whether the object of that word requires respect. Does "Christian God" mean something to you that requires respect? Does the god of the character that he is asking for help require it? Is the character pagan?

Generally, only the G-d that Judaism believes in is "dashed" by Jews. Reply

David Pittsburg July 11, 2017
in response to Mendel Adelman:

In my case, I would use the word "deity" (with a small d) for those expressions, since they seem to imply a different deity than the biblical Jewish Deity.

Sometimes, depending on the context, I might refer to a "god" with a small g. But with a capital G, it would never include the vowel unless it were in a text which I felt was safe. I would NOT feel safe about a magazine, since magazines are usually thrown in the trash, and the trash is exactly why I am trying to protect the Name.

Reply

Part Toon June 10, 2017

I wouldn't really say that God isn't a logical concept. As God is a literal reality that can be comprehended and discovered through science, reason, and yes, logic. When the Bible says to have faith in God, it doesn't mean to simply believe that He exists, but to have faith in His actions and works.

It like if you step into a taxi cab, you mentally know for a fact that the driver exists, yet you show faith in Him by trusting that the driver is a competent human being who won't get you killed. Same thing goes for God, we are to mentally know for certain that He exists. All one needs is a step by step reasoning process, one that I have been formulating for quite some time now. A reasoning process that can quite literally prove the existence of God.

Secondly, God simply means: "A being of highest possible stature", I.E. an infinite entity. The third commandment says not to use the Lord's name in vain, neither God, nor Lord, are His names. Reply

Penina Boston June 16, 2017
in response to Part Toon:

There is The Name. There are also Titles.

Finally, there are euphemisms, such as "HaShem" and HaKadosh Baruch Hu (The Holy One, blessed be He) and so on. [One of the euphemisms even uses the letters of the actual Name, but in a different order.]

Jews should avoid speaking or writing The Name itself, ever, even in prayer books and Torah scrolls and Bibles and so on. The consonants, yes, but either without any vowels or with the wrong vowels, in hopes that no one will have any idea how to pronounce it. That is the extreme protection given to The Name itself.

The Titles are protected to a lesser degree. They are written out in full, with correct vowels, in Bibles and other sacred texts, with the hope that nobody will erase them or desecrate such texts. But in letters, notes, or internet communication, or even in ordinary books such as secular studies or novels, the vowels are omitted so as to protect the actual Titles from being desecrated.


Or euphemisms are used freely, instead of titles. Reply

Stephen Newark September 8, 2017
in response to Part Toon:

Gd does not mean an entity of the highest possible stature.

Gd is not an entity of any kind. Gd is beyond entities, beyond existence. Gd is not within the universe. Rather, the universe is within Gd. Gd contains everything, and is within everything.

Gd is not a supreme being or a "being" of any sort. Rather, Gd is the Source of all being. Regardless of what we call this Source, it is essential to honor that "calling/title/label" and to protect that "calling" from filth. That means from being tossed in the trash or flushed down the toilet. So it is not to be printed out on someone else's computer to do with as he sees fit. It is not even to be printed in a magazine. In a prayerbook, yes, or a Bible or the like, where we have reason to hope it will be treated with respect. (For example, a Bible is placed on top of other books. Secular books are not placed on top of a Bible. If a prayerbook falls on the floor, we pick it up at once and kiss it and place it on a table, title side up.) Reply

Part Toon June 24, 2017
in response to Penina:

I'm still not quite sure if not saying the name of God is all that good of an idea. Honestly, I don't feel lead to do it, but maybe that's just me. We can always refer to His position, God. Like we would the President. But I wouldn't misspell the name, that seems to dishonor God even more than putting the name out there. I still don't understand why putting God's name out there in the first place would be a dishonor...

In the case of not putting it out there so that it cannot be erased, if someone erases it, that would be their fault, not the fault of the person who put it there. Honestly, I am not convinced that we shouldn't say God's name, maybe I haven't seen the deep Biblical reasons behind it, but I don't see any merit to this practice. Do you have reasons that could convince me of your stance in this field? Reply

Anonymous July 29, 2017
in response to Part Toon:

Once you understand that when you truly call upon G-d for his help, and understand that He will answer (even if the answer is NO), then, and only then, will you put that dash exactly where it belongs. That is the power of His Name. Words have power. You will use them at your peril; surely you are wise enough to remember the words you've uttered that you would take back if only you could. All of this will happen in your lifetime, even if, G-d forbid, it happens only on your deathbed. Reply

Part Toon August 3, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

Is there a Bible verse that you know of that states (or advises) that people shouldn't use God's name/position? It is an interesting practice, and I would like to know if the Bible says anything about it. Because for all I know, the Bible says "Thou shall not use the Lord's name in vain". Now of course, not using it at all is a guarantee that you will never use it in vain, but there are parts of the Bible where people use God's name in a non-blasphemous way.

Words do indeed have power, great power, but I am still not convinced why I should not use God's name. When you are talking to God, do you use His name while talking to Him? (Just a question to greater discover the reasons for this practice). Reply

Jonathan Boston September 8, 2017
in response to Part Toon:

The first prayer we say in the morning does not use the word Gd. It says "King" and it gives thanks for returning our soul to us in the morning. My grandma taught me this Hebrew prayer when I was three years old. But then we get up and wash hands and, having washed hands, we can say prayers which include the words Lrd and Gd in Hebrew or in any other language. We don't say these words casually. Omitting the vowel does not "misspell" the Name since there are now vowels in Hebrew. For example, the word for "name" in Hebrew is literally spelled HShM (and the vowels are commonly inserted in English, HaSheM). Jews often use HaShem as a euphemism instead of saying Gd. If I stumble and don't fall, I may say, Thank You, HaShem, since I haven't washed my hands. Reply

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

Yaakov Cinncinnati June 14, 2017
in response to Guna:

You say "a tossed newsletter"--that is exactly the point.

We don't "toss" Gd's Name or Title.

And we don't speak either except in prayer, with clean hands.

We have many circumlocutions. We may say "haShem" (literally, The name) or a longer one, The Holy One, Blessed be He (HaKadosh Baruch Hu) or even HaVaYaH which has the actual letters of the Name in a different order. But we don't write out any of Gd's names or titles (except in Bibles, prayer books, and the like) because they may be "tossed" or Erased (which is another way to take them in vain). 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

Michael Brooklyn June 14, 2017
in response to Nev:

Just omit the hyphen and type the G and the d together. It clearly means the same thing. 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

Anonymous Roberts November 21, 2017
in response to AR:

Oops. Must be a lib!!! 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

Rafael Manhattan June 14, 2017
in response to Wayne:

We do not omit the vowels from HaShem because this is not a Divine Title. It is a Euphemism, adopted especially in order to refer to the Deity without using a Divine Name or Title.

Ditto HaKadosh Baruch Hu (the Holy One, blessed be He).

Ditto all the other euphemisms.

Those of us who write G & then d are not "confused". We simply revere the Divine Titles enough to avoid writing them where they may be subject to being thrown out or erased. We do not have as much reverence for the euphemisms as we do for the Names and Titles. After all, the whole purpose of the euphemisms is to be able to use them. The whole purpose of the titles is to confine their use to prayer books & other sacred texts (such as the Bible, etc.)

The whole point of the Name itself is never to write or speak it at all. Even when the sacred consonants of the Name appear in Bibles & prayer books, it's always without any vowels, or with the wrong vowels, so as to make it impossible for any reader to say it correctly. 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