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I remember learning a gemarah (midrash?) that one of the tanaim (possibly R' Chanina [ben Dosa]) said the shem hameforash explicitly. Can you source this story and explain why the shem hameforash was used?

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It's in one or both of the piyutim we say about the ten martyrs. –  msh210 Nov 8 '12 at 15:58
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@msh210, in Eleh Ezkera, it is R' Yishmael haKohen haGadol. –  Noach mi Frankfurt Jul 15 at 0:28
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The Talmud (Avodah Zarah 17B-18A) tells us that heaven decreed Chanania ben Teradion's death for using G-d's 42 letter name.

See this answer as well.

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