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Ask A Jew: Misusing Sacred Jewish Words

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Ask A Jew: Misusing Sacred Jewish Words

What questions do you have about Judaism? Submit them online, or fill out the form below. 

By Hyphen Parent

I have a necklace with yhvh in Hebrew. I am not Jewish and I love God. Would I offend if I wore it?

Wearing that necklace would be considered incredibly offensive.

Here we don’t just have a case of taking Jewish symbols, but misusing sacred Jewish words in a way a Jewish person would find disrespectful. It’s one thing to take another religion’s symbol. It’s another thing entirely to use that word in that way. The letters described spell out the name of G-d. That name is sacred. It is never spoken and not widely written. In the rare cases where it is written out, it is treated with care. In previous essays, I’ve explained why cultural appropriation of Jewish symbols isn’t a good idea, but this goes well beyond that. This is taking something sacred and treating it in a way Judaism finds despicable. 

Neal Schindler and I have written about the sacredness of the name of G-d before. In Judaism, there are rules for how the name is to be treated when it’s written out. Wearing it as jewelry would mean it’s exposed to the elements and not protected. It would impossible to treat it with the respect required in Judaism. 

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