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What is saying חַס וְשָׁלוֹם (chas v'shalom) supposed to accomplish? Does it do so, or is it just a waste of breath?

Based on the answers given to my previous question about this phrase, it seems likely to me that it serves as a prayer that bad things not occur. But I'm here seeking any source that indicates as much or that indicates any other reason to say it or what it accomplishes.

Relatedly — and this may be wholly answered by the answers to the first part — what is חַס וְשָׁלוֹם to be said regarding? I've seen or heard it said about

  • things that one hopes will not happen ("if his cancer is to come back, chas v'shalom"),
  • things that would have been bad had they happened (but they didn't: "if I had been sleeping, I would never have smelled the gas, chas v'shalom"), and
  • things that can't possibly happen ("if God didn't exist, chas v'shalom").
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Your last category is not just that can't possibly happen, but is also blasphemy. –  Isaac Moses Oct 10 '11 at 14:57
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@IsaacMoses, true. Most curious — and I have heard this — are things like "if God didn't exist, God forbid". –  msh210 Oct 10 '11 at 21:10
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Well, I suppose He does in fact forbid such a state, Baruch Hashem. –  Isaac Moses Oct 10 '11 at 21:18
    
Are those cases to which it applies simply all subjunctives? The last one seems like it might not be subjunctive because the event "cannot" happen, but it probably is anyway because the irrealis state is still proposed, just negated. (Not sure if that makes sense.) –  WAF Oct 11 '11 at 0:01
    
@WAF: The last seems subjunctive to me, but "If his cancer is to come back" is indicative, no? Anyway, ifthat is subjunctive, then so is "If I become a talmid chacham", to which I don't think I've ever heard "chas v'shalom" appended. –  msh210 Oct 11 '11 at 3:02

3 Answers 3

I haven't seen it spelled out but my understanding is as follows:

Berachos 19a warns us לעולם אל יפתח אדם פיו לשטן

The idea as I understand it is that to some extant our judgement influences how we are judged in shamayim, where our adversary is waiting to use our words/judgments against us. By stating a possible negative scenario or consequence (which is when we typically use the phrase in question) we do not want to be construed as saying that this is the appropriate, desired, or inevitable consequence חו"ש. By adding the disclaimer we are circumventing the issue by actively making it clear verbally, that such an outcome is undesired and inappropriate in our estimation.

Incidentally, while looking up the makor cited I notices that the Gemara cites R' Yehudah as saying Chas v'Shalom, so chas v'shalom that we should call it a "waste".

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Every thing that comes out of your mouth should be truth, so even if you say something for example or illustration there is a chance it can come to be. So if you add a chas ve shalom it changes your example into the negative, so there is no worry that it will come true.

For not nice things, you can say Lo Aleinu. Because mentioning of things give them strength, a small prayer that they dont happen to you/us

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Thank you! Do you have a source for this explanation of the use of chas v'shalom? –  msh210 Nov 25 '11 at 16:09

I heard HaGaon HaRab Bension Musafi Shelit"a say (paraphrasing his Hebrew) "like there is no God- Has VeShalom." I take from that, that there is a source to say it there.

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