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What should I do if I pronounce G‑d's name in vain?

What should I do if I pronounce G‑d's name in vain?

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In Judaism, mentioning the name of G‑d is a big deal—as evidenced by the fact that the third of the Ten Commandments is "You shall not take the name of the L-rd, your G‑d, in vain." (Click here for more on G‑d's names.)

It is permitted to pronounce any of G‑d's names when in the context of a prayer, blessing, or when reciting a full passage from the Scriptures—as that is not considered "in vain." If, however, we mention His name inappropriately – for example, if we accidentally recite an incorrect blessing (the formula for every blessing includes His name) – we immediately say, "Baruch shem kevod malchuto l'olam va'ed." "Blessed be the Name of the glory of His kingdom for ever and ever."

In the Talmud1 we are told that after the High Priest (Kohen Gadol) recited the Ineffable Name, the people responded by reciting this formula. Evidently, this practice was based on an oral tradition, supported by a verse,2 "When I call out the name of the L-rd, ascribe greatness to our G‑d," as explained also in the Talmud.3

From the phraseology in the Code of Jewish Law4 it appears that reciting this passage atones for having mentioned G‑d's name in vain, albeit inadvertently. But Maimonides5 implies that by reciting this verse we actually retroactively correct our misstep, because it turns out that although we mentioned His name, since we then praised it, we rendered our utterance acceptable, at least after the fact.

Rabbi Eliezer Danzinger for Chabad.org

Footnotes
1.

Yoma 66a.

3.

Taanit 16b.

4.

Orach Chaim 206:10, taken from the Tur, Orach Chaim ibid.

5.

Laws of Blessings 4:10.

Rabbi Eliezer Danzinger, first content editor for KabbalaOnline.org, is the translator and editor of several important chassidic texts. He also serves as the Jewish chaplain for York Central Hospital, and for numerous Federal prisons. Rabbi Danzinger currently resides in Toronto, Canada, with his wife, Yehudis, and their children.
All names of persons and locations or other identifying features referenced in these questions have been omitted or changed to preserve the anonymity of the questioners.
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