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Can I delete G‑d’s name on a computer screen?

Can I delete G‑d’s name on a computer screen?

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Question:

I’ve recently stumbled upon a Q&A on your site that explains the reason why many Orthodox Jews write “G‑d” (with a hyphen), as opposed to “God.” I was wondering, does this rule apply across the board—whether writing by hand or typing on a computer?

Answer:

Thanks for contacting us.

As explained in the article you reference, it is considered disrespectful, and hence forbidden, to erase the name of G‑d.

Regarding computer screens, however, most halachic authorities deem a computer screen and its contents—even names of G‑d or words of Torah—to have no sanctity. As opposed to handwriting or the printed word, which are intended to be permanent, there is no intention for words typed on a computer screen to be permanent; as soon as you finish your work you close the screen and everything there is “erased.” (The encrypted data on the hard drive has no halachic significance.) It’s not a medium intended to support anything of permanence, as the pixels which make up the letters on a computer screen are constantly being refreshed and are considered to be more virtual than they are real.

Moreover, even as we type and move the cursor on a screen, the letters and their positions are constantly moving on the screen—erasing them from one area on the screen and recreating them elsewhere—making erasing a constant act.

One can therefore erase the name of G‑d or words of Torah from a computer screen. It follows, therefore, that there’s also no need to type a hyphenated “G‑d.”

Practically speaking, however, I’d advise you to accustom yourself to always write “G‑d” with a hyphen, apostrophe, underscore, etc., even when typing on a computer. It's a good habit to adopt, and furthermore, there’s always the concern that you or someone else will print out the text typed on the computer.

I hope this helps, and feel free to explore further on our site.

Rabbi Vidal Bekerman
for Ask the Rabbi @ chabad.org


Sources:
Talmud, Shabbat 120b; Maimonides, Laws of the Foundations of the Torah 6:1; Igrot Moshe, Yoreh De’ah 2:142; Nishmat Avraham quoting Rabbi S.Z. Auerbach.
Rabbi Vidal Bekerman and his wife Chanah Leah are Co-Directors of the Chabad Center at their alma mater—York University in Toronto, Ontario.
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.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
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Discussion (20)
August 20, 2014
Computer vs Print
I am writing a totally synchronous story, an ongoing Diary on my Face Book Page. When I share a picture it always goes into synch. In fact everything in my life is Visibly Synchronous and astounding does not begin to cover this. The proof is via an electronic Diary that can certainly be downloaded as I have not one drop of doubt it's All G-d. You cannot delete Divinity. If you take a Divine Name in vain this is wrong but the codicil, since all is Divine leads you then directly into the most difficult paradox of all, free will vs determinism. If as I see it and as many Orthodox Jews also see it, everything happens for a Divine Reason, there is a paradox inherent in all this. The answer: an inbuilt learning curve that opens up ethical consciousness on that climb we call Jacob 's Ladder.
ruth elise housman
marshfield hills, ma
August 14, 2014
G-d's name contained in other words
Is one permitted to erase or white out names which contain G-d's name within them such as eliyahu?
kyle
November 4, 2013
re. Oh my G-d
"Are there not more important things in life to worry about", evidently not enough to occupy your interest away from this article! I hope you've invested your time more fruitfully since Anonymous, UK.

Thank you for the insight Rabbi, anything that encourages Torah debate and interest is of inspiration and value. Kedusha is found in the bytes of a hard drive when it becomes the medium for Kedusha in the world, which is permanent; despite the inherent impermanence of the images on the screen.
Josh
Australia
June 4, 2011
Absolutely correct
I discussed this at length.

Bytes on a hard drive can not have kedusha. The fact that certain patterns of bytes may be rendered into one of God's names via one or more encodings (e.g. Unicode or an 8-bit ISO standard, etc.), that doesn't mean those bits are actually a divine name. Those bits can just as easily be rendered through other encodings to produce other images, or could be numbers or software or anything else.

If you want to prohibit all bit-patterns that could conceivably be rendered into a divine name, then you effectively must prohibit all electronic communication, because you can never be sure that there isn't some code somewhere that will produce some name from what's on your computer.
David C.
Vienna, VA
June 3, 2011
OH MY GOD
Are there not more important things in life to worry about?
Some of you guys must really have too much time on your hands!!!
Anonymous
London, UK
June 3, 2011
Along similar lines:

It is forbidden to take a holy book into a bathroom.

I often pray and study using my smartphone (thank you chabad.org). Could it then be forbidden to take my phone into a bathroom?

So I wondered.

I concluded, that the prohibition of erasing G-d's name has limitations, such as which actual names it applies to, whether in Hebrew or translated etc.

Such as was done with the Tetragrammaton, that it was reserved only for scribal use, so too i think should be done with all names of G-d for which this prohibition applied, that they be replaced with their less restrictive counterparts, or otherwise hyphenated etc.

While there may be sufficient Halachic basis for the english word G-d to need no hyphenation, I always do so anyway, as it is one more opportunity to express respect of G-d.
Anonymous
New York
June 2, 2011
an attempt to provide more clarity
I think that the following two points should be kept in mind:
[1] What is prohibited is the "erasing of the written name of HaShem."
[2] Judaism is, in general, very "legalistic" in defining its terms.

So, in our specific case, "written" has an official Halachic definition that is based upon the "traditional" definition of writing -- i.e., a graphical representation of the symbols, in a physical and relatively-"permanent" method on some physical medium. This could mean physical ink on physical paper, or a physical engaving in physical rock, or even the physical trace that results when writing using a finger on a foggy window.

So, "permanance" is necessary but not sufficient subset of the criteria.

On the other hand, it is true that the "bits" encoded in a flash memory or magnetic disk are both "physical" and "permanent," but Halachically they are not considered "writing."
Yosi Mor
Kiryat Ata, ISRAEL
June 2, 2011
H
BS"D
This is exactly how Chabad hold as you've written. Someone asked me why I use the hyphen and write "G-D". It's easier by hand and on a pc you must shift for G let loose for - and again shift for D, Why they asked di I go to the trouble on pc with most Rabbanim holding as you wrote? There are hundreds of thousands of pc experts who have dealt with this very question. Why do I insist to do this in and writing but also on the PC? For my own constant need of reminder, it's belief 'Emuna' as mentioned in The Book of Tanya that "Craftmanship" or craft is Umanut,the same word as belief. To get your profession well done you must hone your skills, and the same with belief in H". Each hyphen reminds me so.
Moshe
Bat Ayin, Israel
chabadwestmichigan.com
June 2, 2011
G-d's Name on the Computer
I think we should also bear in mind that when we write something on our computer or as an article on the internet, it may be printed, possibly by others, who do not realize the sanctity involved. Therefore, I would think it would be better to stick to usuing a hyphenated form.
Leah Lipszyc
Simferopol, Ukraine
chabadcrimea.org
June 1, 2011
the computer "screen"
Words are words, wherever and however written. I download much of what I write on the computer as part of an ongoing manuscript. I do believe it is intent in life that counts and not what we delete or leave in.

I think there are actually too many rules that circum SCRIBE our lives, and that in all things, use intelligence tempered with love in figuring out for yourself, your relationship to what is Divine,. We have the word divine, to figure out, for this reason.

As to the holiness or non holiness of computers. Who really invented computers? If ALL is G_d?

I once tried to download a poem for a poetry reading and it simply would NOT print. I finally gave up. When I got home, and I had done nothing to my printer. I decided to try again, IT printed.

So I feel, often, that there is a sensate universe, including the universe of computers and other "things".

I was on a web site reading about a powerful energy source on the island of Malta. All electrical systems blew. Yes, really!
ruth housman
marshfield hills, ma