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Ask A Jew: Why do you write it G-d?

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

By Hyphen Parent

I noticed that you sometimes write God as G-d. Why is that?

SPO_Ask-a-Jew-ad_042114For me personally, I never write it out.

The Jewish take on names is exactly the opposite of Shakespeare—what’s in a name? Power. Identity. History. Connection. Everything.

in Judaism, names are incredibly important. Traditionally, we don’t share a baby’s name until he or she has an official naming ceremony. We won’t discuss names we’re considering during pregnancy. We often name children after people whose positive qualities we hope they’ll develop. After an illness or something life-saving, some people will change their Hebrew names. While not incredibly common, it’s done when someone feels they have greatly changed as a person.  There is power in a name.

There is a name of G-d that we do not pronounce. In fact, one of the names we call him instead translates to “The name.”

His name is sacred and while we are allowed to write it, we are not allowed to destroy it. When the name of G-d are written, we must treat wherever it’s written with respect. If it’s on paper, there are rules and restrictions on where we cannot take the paper and how it must be handled. It cannot be thrown away. It needs to be buried or stored in a cemetery or burned in a sacred fire. If we do not write the names, out, however, these restrictions do not apply.

Technically this only applies to writing in Hebrew, but for many Jews (myself included), we don’t feel comfortable potentially destroying the name of G-d in any language.

About Hyphen Parent

Dorothy-Ann Parent (better known as Hyphen) is a writer, a traditional Jew, a seeker of justice, a lover of stories, the self-proclaimed Jewish Molly Weasley, hobbit-sized, and best not left unattended in a bookshop or animal shelter.

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4 comments

  1. One thing that strikes me about this: Do the letters G, O, and D really spell the name? I feel like the transliterated Hebrew name of the deity has more oomph than G, O, and D. Do we do the same thing with L, O, R, and D in English? Also, the Internet provides an interesting new paradigm regarding destruction. Since internet articles are not material, as books or magazines might be, is the erasure of a website with the deity’s name destruction? Intriguing 21st century question…

    • I don’t spell out either word. Like I said, in the article, it technically only applies to the Hebrew, but many aren’t comfortable destroying the names in any language. I completely agree with you that the Hebrew names feel as though they have more power, but still, I can’t feel comfortable destroying the name in any language.

      With the internet, you never know when someone is going to print something out. The words you type have the potential to become the printed word and so we still have a responsibility to make sure we protect the name.

  2. This one lost me. I didn’t get it. God is not a proper name. Don’t the Hebrew Scriptures refer to other “gods”?

    • When it’s capitalized, it’s used a proper name. It’s often used as the English translation of many of the Hebrew names.

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