Monday, August 22, 2005

A rant on the writing of God's name

We Jews take the idea of not taking God's name in vain and not destroying God's name very seriously. That's why we don't write the Tetragrammaton on disposible media, nor do we pronounce it directly. Instead, we refer to God using His attributes: Lord (אדוני), God (אלהים), Omnipresent (המקום), and so on. To fill in for the unpronouncable Divine name1 in common speech, we use the word “Hashem”, which is clearly a replacement filler, as it means “the name [which we aren't saying here]”. In text, it is frequently abbreviated 'ה, for השם or 'ד‎.2

But, this concept gets reduced from a matter of respect to absurdity when it's taken too far. It has become fashionable to write “G-d” instead of “God,” despite the fact that God is not God's proper name. Artscroll wouldn't even write “Lord” in its translation of the siddur, instead using “Hashem ”. Despite the note hidden in the introduction, it probably causes people to pray using the filler, instead of the real name. Needless to say, the Hebrew text still contains words that refer to the attributes of God, making it questionable as to what they thought they'd gain, except making the text sound even more awkward than it already is.

Today, I got an email that thanked “Hash-m”. Does this matter have an end?

UPDATE: It's everywhere! (Look at the first comment.)

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1 Aka, the “Ineffable Tetragrammaton,” which, coincidentally, would make a great name for a rock band.
2 DW and I disagree about whether the ד is used because people didn't want to write ה or because it, as the fourth letter of the alphabet, represents the missing 4 letters.

It's kind of like the song "BINGO." We'll progress from Hashem to H-shem to H--hem and so on to ------. When we decide that hyphens are too holy to write, we'll replace them with a blank space, and then with nothing at all. At that point, we will all forget what we were talking about and become atheists.
I've been seeing is written "H-shem" more and more lately. People forget that Orthodox Judaism is a cult, so absurdity is to be expected.

"At that point, we will all forget what we were talking about and become atheists."

And say amen.
When you look at it in the greater context of the entire email, it kinda makes sense.
Hash-m does not make any sense. Vowels aren't that expensive.
I meant that it makes sense in that the authors clearly don't know how to write.
Rock. On.

I used to do a lot of davening out of the English side of the siddur - and, yes, I would (quite frequently in fact) say "Hashem" thanks to that being the oh-so-helpful word provided in the "translation."

I make a point of writing out "God" whenever possible. God. God, God, God. Also, gods.

(Seriously, what do these people write when refering to the deities of ancient Greek culture?)
I meant that it makes sense in that the authors clearly don't know how to write.

Actually, that was my mistake. I showed you an excerpt that DH sent me. He's the one who cut out the whole middle so that it didn't make sense.
There is still something odd about their being too frum to write "Hashem" AND calling the ceremony a "brit milah", not "bris milah."

Happy anniversary.
Hey, I admitted it was silly! My comment on Shanna's blog is the one that made you say it was everywhere, and this was my response, further down the comments: elfsdh, I'm not sure where I picked up the habit of writing Hash-m. It's similar to writing G-d, and especially in pixels I'm not sure it matters at all, even were I to write it out in Hebrew. I cross my 7s too... just a habit, no real reason.

At least I can admit I don't have a good reason for doing it... but I probably still will, at least half the time, out of habit. I think the 'ד is over the top too, and have been known to be asking my kid his parsha questions and say "why did 'duh' tell Moshe..." instead of saying Hashem, because that's what it looks like to me! At least the excuse there is that a H is part of the real name too... but it's a common letter. And then my middle name ends in aleph-lamed, and I don't put an apostrophe in between them! But I've seen it done.
excuse me, that should say a heh is part of the real name, not an H
Miriam -- I'm just using you as an example (don't you feel lucky?). I hadn't seen it (or maybe I hadn't noticed it) until very recently, and now, it's popping up all over the place. Maybe I just started reading things I didn't before.

I see you're agreeing with DW on the origin of the 'ד. :-/
I've always written "God," and I still do, though I try to be sensitive; when posting a comment on the blog of somebody who clearly prefers G-d, I use that instead, out of politeness. But on the whole I think this whole thing gets taken way too far.

The utility I find in G-d (or G!d, or G@d, or what-have-you) is that seeing it always jolts me slightly and reminds me that the word signifies something ineffable that language can't express. (That's not the original intent of the practice, I realize, but it's what I get out of it, when I encounter it.) And that can be useful, because "God" is a terrifically limited term that doesn't begin to express what it supposedly means. But that's another rant for another day... :-)
Shanna, in high school I was taught to pronounce the word elohim when it was referring to avodah zarah (in a verse for example). It's not the word itself that is an issue, it's the intent. So I don't think anybody complains if you write about Greek gods using vowels.

I don't have a strong opinion on this topic yet but this ten year old post presents one possible excuse for writing Hash-m.

You're right about the use of elohim for other gods. I know of people who will say “elokim acherim”, but, as far as I know, it's a mistake.

The defense of “Hash-m” in the mail-jewish link (thanks for the early reference!) is this:
Not really. The word "hashem" is used in the Tanach itself in reference
to God. For example "va'ykov et ha'shem" (Lev 24:11); or "le'yrah et
ha'shem" (Det. 28:58). See also Isa. 73:11; Ez. 22:5; Chron I, 11:34

Not quite. I looked up the references. None of these references name God as “Hashem”. Isaiah 73 doesn't even exist. The rest are referring to God's actual name (the Tetragrammaton) indirectly, not to God Himself. The reference to Chronicles I 11:34 was particularly entertaining. The original poster (who is probably only somewhat well-versed in using a concordance) seems to think that Hashem the Gizonite, in a list of David's soldiers, was God.

It maybe called a Biblical substitute if you wish, but no different than
any other substitutes used in the Bible for God's name. We generally see
the original name and all it Biblical substitutes as holy. I share your
observation that we treat "ha'shem" differently but I am not sure why.

Since Hashem is not a Biblical name for God (at least not by these proof texts), this logic doesn't work. The only reason Hashem seems to be treated differently is Tetragrammaton-avoidance-avoidance-avoidance.
H-shem? Oh no, you almost wrote the ineffable septagrammaton!
*ahem* sexagrammaton

Or do we add in a phantom letter because we don't want to associate God with "sex?"
Sounds much like a discussion I was having with a friend recently: and we too were wondering where it would stop, although said friend was more tolerant of the dropped letters than I. It's odd, since this is something I do with G-d, if only to make other people more comfortable. At least that's a genuine label of some sort, not a filler. Hash-m makes me crazy. ALso, if we're working on a Hebrew-based thought-system, is dropping a vowel really making much of a difference anyways? (tongue somewhat in cheek)
Or do we add in a phantom letter because we don't want to associate God with "sex?"

Isn't there some kabbalistic idea that God unites with the Shechinah at midnight? Because of the earth's rotation on its axis, does it not imply that at every time, God is having sex somewhere in the world?
No, no, no. G-d is having s-x. What a lovely th--ght!

I had to figure out boundaries for teaching this, as a matter of fact. On the blackboard (which gets erased) or on student handouts (which get tossed), I will write any English name for God and any transliterated Hebrew name, but I draw the line very precisely at writing the Tetragrammaton in Hebrew.

Your method of dealing with the name of God is about the same as mine.

If this blog gets influential enough, we might see new religious principles coming out of the idea of G-d (or is it H-e or F-c or ---?) having s-x. Just wait and see...
Seen the ban on visiting hatzolahtalk? Not only does it have "Hash-m" it has "Chas Veshol-m."
Hallelukah, praise the L-rd!

One of my (very small) pet peeves is when someone says "halleluKah". Hallelujah is chol, just like Michael, Raphael, etc. Ever heard a little kid say "Ginger Kale" and be serious about it?

And what's the deal of the very old tradition of using Tet-Zion for Page 16. I can understand Tet-Vav (for Yud Hey, um can I even write that??), but for g--dness sake, just because Yud and Vav are two of the letters of the Tetragrammaton?

Shol-m, y'all.
Ever heard a little kid say "Ginger Kale" and be serious about it?

It's a form of flavored cabbage. Kids don't usually seem to want it, though. :-)
Nevermind all the foolery. I'll just use the name He Himself told us to MAKE KNOWN....YHWH. I asked Him how He wants me to pronounce it, and I do it HIS way. If you love Him and want to please Him, ask Him yourself. He will answer.
Now, if only He had thought to tell us the vowels. :-)
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