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I was told that in the sequence of numerals with Hebrew letters, the numbers 15 and 16 are rendered with טו and טז instead of יה and יו to prevent the tetragrammaton from being formed irreverently.

I'm not sure how this is possible: יו is not a substring of the tetragrammaton, and יה would have to be connected somehow with a וה, but וה isn't used numerically.

What am I missing?

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I would add that this rule seems to be applied inconsistently as 31 is usually written aleph lamed. – alef lamed May 2 '12 at 21:17
Thirty one is never written as aleph-lamed... – jake May 2 '12 at 21:56
It is not unheard-of to see י then ו as a numeral in older s'farim. Example: The Shu"t Mahara"m Shik, when the year is (5)616, uses תרי"ו. – WAF May 3 '12 at 0:37
hilariously related: w3.org/TR/2002/WD-css3-lists-20021107/#hebrew (NOTE: this is an old version of the spec) – Charles Koppelman Dec 10 '14 at 22:31
up vote 12 down vote accepted

י and ה by themselves do form a Divine name, used in several places in the Bible (e.g., Ex. 17:16). All of the laws about not erasing a name of G-d apply to it as well (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah 276:10).

As for י and ו, we do find those used as a representation of G-d's name in personal names like יוחנן (Yochanan/Johanan, "G-d is kind") and יוכבד (Yocheved/Jochebed, "G-d's honor"). True that there is no law (that I know of) against erasing this combination, but I guess people still considered it too close for comfort.

The point, in any case, is not so much that the numbers 15 and 16 might be used irreverently (they're numbers like any other), but that a piece of paper bearing these numbers, written as Divine names or something similar to them, might be thrown into the garbage or otherwise treated disrespectfully.

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Is it just minhag to maintain the tradition in sefarim which are most certainly shaimos? – Naftuli Tzvi Kay Oct 17 '11 at 7:10
@TKKocheran: probably. Then, too, it would be confusing to write these numbers one way in print and a different way in ephemera. – Alex Oct 17 '11 at 17:02
If you intend to write יה as a number, why would it have any more kedusha than writing אלהים when referring to idols (or judges)? – Double AA Oct 7 '13 at 8:28
  1. It's 15 and 16. Not 14 which is יד.
  2. יה does represent one of god's name. It can be without the וה ending.
  3. I don't know about יו
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