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Writing Hashem’s Name

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This column is dedicated to the refuah sheleimah of Shlomo Eliezer ben Chaya Sarah Elka.

In this week’s parshah the Torah writes about the mitzvah to destroy avodah zarah. At the same time, the Torah says not to do avodah zarah to Hashem your God. As the pasuk says: “va’avaditam es shemam min hamakom hahu, lo sa’asun kein la’Hashem Elokeichem.” We derive from this pasuk that it is forbidden to erase Hashem’s name. The Minchas Chinuch (437:6) asks the following interesting question: how can one ever write “Yud, Kei, Vav, Kei” for the name of Hashem? After one writes the first two letters, he has written one of Hashem’s names, Yud Kei; when he continues to the next letter and writes a vav, he is destroying the name Yud Kei. It should therefore be impermissible to write the name of Yud, Kei, Vav, Kei.

One way to avoid this issue is by writing the name out of order. The Minchas Chinuch says that since we do not find that it is imperative to write the name of Hashem out of order, it must be permitted. The reason why it may be permitted is that it is destruction for the purpose of writing Hashem’s name – and there is no other way to do it.

Based on this, the Minchas Chinuch explains that we can understand the Gemara in Yuma 38a. The Gemara says there that there was a man who knew how to hold four kolmusin (quills) at once and write four letters at once. But he did not want to teach this feat to anyone, and the Gemara says that he is therefore considered a rasha. The Minchas Chinuch asks why he would be considered a rasha for not teaching his amazing trick to others. Maybe we could say he was not a nice guy – but a rasha? The Minchas Chinuch explains that the Chachamim understood that it would be better if the name of Hashem (Yud, Kei, Vav, Kei) would be fully written simultaneously, as this would avoid the abovementioned problem of erasing the name of Yud Kei that is written at the beginning of the name. Of course it is permitted to write the name Yud, Kei, Vav, Kei, as the Minchas Chinuch explained. However, the Chachamim felt that if there was a better way to write it, we should utilize that way of writing it. If all the letters of Hashem’s name could be written at once, this problem would be avoided. But since this fellow did not wish to teach his feat to others, the Chachamim considered him a rasha.

The Dovev Meisharim (chelek 1, siman 18:3) quotes the Divrei Chaim that draws the opposite conclusion from the Gemara in Yuma. The Divrei Chaim says that writing simultaneously is considered out of order. By definition, in order means that it must be written in order – not simultaneously. Therefore, he says that it is clear from the Gemara that one does not need to write the name of Hashem in order.

Rav Akiva Eiger (Teshuvos Yoreh De’ah 276:11) quotes the Ginas Viradim (Orach Chaim 2:12, 13, written by the Pri Megadim) and the Shemesh Tzedakah (siman 52) that say that one must write the name Yud, Kei, Vav, Kei in order. However, the other names of Hashem do not have to be written in order. Therefore, regarding the name Elokim, since one can write it out of order one should be obligated to do so, because when it is written in order the name Kel is written first and then erased when the letter vav is written. However, we do not find that one is required to write it out of order. The same should apply to the name Elokeinu, since after one has written Elokei the letter nun will erase Hashem’s name.

The Kiryas Sefer (Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah, perek 6) says that if one has in mind to write the name Yud, Kei, Vav, Kei, when he writes the letters yud and kei they do not have kedushah and one is permitted to erase them. The same would apply to the name Kel from Elokim. This can better be explained as follows: The name Yud, Kei, Vav, Kei and the name Yud Kei are two separate names. Thus, when one is writing the name Yud, Kei, Vav, Kei the first two letters are part of that name and do not yet have kedushah. So when one writes them he can continue to write the letter vav, since the first two letters do not have kedushah. One may even be able to erase the letters yud kei even if he simply changed his mind. This is because they do not have kedushah when they are written as part of the four-letter name Yud, Kei, Vav, Kei.

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One Response to “Writing Hashem’s Name”

  1. Tim Upham says:

    You write HaShem's name using two yods. The first time I read a Siddur in Hebrew, I saw two yods. I had to stop and think what it meant. Then I realized it meant HaShem.

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