Wednesday, April 24, 2013

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A Brief History of G-d

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths


Recently a social commentator / writer / blogger (non-Jewish) that I read wrote, “I’m convinced Shakespeare thought he was writing regime propaganda and bawdy jokes.  BUT his subconscious or his muse or G-d or whatever you wish to believe is behind it, had other plans.”  While there’s an interesting discussion to be had there regarding Hashgacha Pratit (Divine Providence or the plan of the world by Hashem), what struck me was a non-Jewish writer writing the name of G-d as “G” “-“ “d”, a particular form used pretty much exclusively by religiously observant Jews.

The question is, why?  Why do we religiously observant Jews use this unusual form?  And as a related question, who’s “Hashem”?

In brief, the Torah commands us to not take G-d’s name in vain and not erase G-d’s name.  These are very serious prohibitions to be avoided.

So if you’re a religious Jewish person, and you want to ask your friend a question about the Torah in a letter… “Hey, when God said to Moses so and so, why did Aaron do so and so?”  What if you drop the letter, or need to reuse the (in the distant past, rather expensive parchment)?  Serious sin.

But the sin applies specifically to the name of G-d, or rather the Name of G-d, the formal written mystical (or pronounced) Name of G-d.

So to avoid such problems, the custom was adopted of writing and speaking about “The Name”, literally saying in Hebrew “the name”, Ha (the) Shem (name).  So Hashem, in Hebrew, means G-d’s main formal name. (G-d is known by a variety of names in the Torah – different names describing how G-d is interacting with creation.  But when G-d acts beyond the bounds of creation and with the Jewish people, He is referred to by “The Name”.)

Yet even further, to prevent prayer books and other religious materials from including The Name, allowing for it to be easily damaged or worn with time or dropped to the floor, many such publications write HaShem (the name) instead.  Another alternative approach is to remove certain letters from The Name – such as writing just yud-yud, or sometimes just dalet. 

And that’s the custom that’s leaked into English and writing God with G-d.  There is no restriction on writing a translated name in another language.  But the pattern having been set, G-d is it.

So there you have it, G-d is It.


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