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Why are Jews so meticulous about not saying/writing "god"? I see all sorts of words around, like "G-d", "lord", etc., but they all mean exactly the same thing. It's not like the halacha has a list of words meaning "god" in all foreign languages, which are to be avoided. "God" is an English word, synonymous with many others. Why avoid it and not the others, or why not avoid them all?

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I don't know the sources for this, but: The Hebrew names specifically have special significance, and there's no hard prohibition of saying or writing most of the common ones. The problem with saying them is that it could be used in the context of an oath (one of the 10 commandments), and the issue of writing it is that it is then forbidden to erase or deface that word. –  Avram Levitt Mar 25 '14 at 21:59
But "lord" is just fine? That's inconsistent, and just seems like a cheap workaround. –  user5129 Mar 25 '14 at 22:01
You're overlooking the most obvious difference between the two terms. "God", when it has an initial capital, is functioning as a proper name and is thus given a one-to-one correspondence with the actual name of God; "lord" (without an initial capital) is merely a noun functioning in reference to that name. If you were to use "god" or "godhead" without the capital, that would not be problematic, while "Lord" (with a capital) would be. –  Shimon bM Mar 25 '14 at 22:21
Highly related (possible duplicates): and –  Fred Mar 25 '14 at 22:36
L-rd is hyphenated as well Source: many Jewish websites. Also there are many different usages of the word lord. Both in English and in Hebrew. Rashi points out a couple אלוקים instances where they refer to judges not Hashem. In English esteemed people are given that title as well. –  armoose Mar 26 '14 at 4:43

3 Answers 3

When we were writing the soc.culture.jewish FAQ we used the following question. Many people use the number '0' rather than substituting '-' for the letter 'o' (such as in for its columnists) in order to prevent the various editors from putting the letters g and d on separate lines.

Section - Question 11.3.1: Writing: Why do some people write "G-d" with a hyphen instead of an `o'?

Based on the words in Deut. 12:3-4, the Rabbis deduced that it is forbidden to erase the name of G-d from a written document. Since any paper upon which G-d's name was written might be discarded and thus "erased", the Rabbis forbade explicitly writing the name of G-d, except in Holy Books, with provisions for the proper disposal of such books.

According to Jewish Folklore, G-d has 70 names. However, only one of these names is the ineffable name, which cannot be erased or pronounced. Further, of the 70 names, seven may not be erased but they can be pronounced on certain occasions (such as when reading the Torah). The other names may be erased and pronounced, but still must be treated with respect. The Talmud (Shevuot 35a-b) makes it clear that this prohibition applies only to seven Biblical names of G-d and not to other names or attributes of G-d, which may be freely written. The prohibition was later codified by Maimonides (Mishneh Torah, Yesodei HaTorah 6:1-2). The practice of writing "G-d" is supported in Shut Achiezer, 3:32, end, where it is endorsed and accepted as the prevailing custom. Rambam cites Deut. 12-03:04, which states "and you shall destroy the names of pagan gods from their places. You shall not do similarly to G-d your Lord." The intent of this is to create an atmosphere of respect for G-d's name vs pagan gods' names.

As a result of this, people acquired the habit of not writing the full name down in the first place. Strictly speaking, this only applies to Hebrew on a permanent medium, but many people are careful beyond the minimum, and have applied it to non-Hebrew languages. Hence, "G-d". One explanation is that using G-d is a reminder that anything which we may say about G-d is necessarily metaphorical. Spelling out the Name (even in a language other than Hebrew) would imply that one could speak meaningfully (not just metaphorically) about G-d.

However, the Shach (Yoreh De'a 179:11) ruled that "God" spelled in a foreign language does NOT have the status of a "shem" and thus may be erased, lehatkhila. There is a story about Rav Soloveitchik (z"l) intentionally writing GOD on the board while teaching a class and then just as deliberately and intentionally erasing it, so as to demonstrate by his own example that this was not a halakhically a problem.

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See the Mishna Berurah 85:10

מ''ב: {י} נאמן - הראב"ד אוסר ברחום וכתב הב"ח ויש להחמיר וכ"פ הפר"ח מיהו בלע"ז לכו"ע שרי הואיל וזה אינו מיוחד דוקא להקב"ה משא"כ שאר ד"ת וכ"ש השמות שאינם נמחקין אסור לאמור שם אפילו בלשון לע"ז כגון גא"ט בלשון אשכנז או בוגא בלשון פולין ורוסיא וכה"ג שאף ששם זה אין בו קדושה באותיות כתיבתו ומותר למוחקו מ"מ יש בו משום בזיון בהזכרתו במקום טינופת כמו בהזכרת השלום שמותר ג"כ למוחקו ואעפ"כ כיון שהקב"ה נקרא בו אע"פ שאינו מיוחד לו אסור להזכירו כשמתכוין על ענין השלום וכמש"כ סי' פ"ד וכ"ש בזה שלכמה דברים דינם כשמות שבלשה"ק כגון לענין שבועה ולענין הזכרת ש"ש לבטלה ולענין קללת חבירו בשם:

In discussing saying or referring to G-d in the bathroom, the Mishna Berurah says that the prohibition to mention G-d's name also applies to names in foreign languages such "God", although there is no prohibition to erase these names, nonetheless it is still considered disrespectful to say these in the bathroom or places which are filthy.

I have heard that out of extra stringent piety, many Jews took upon themselves to use great care when referencing these names of G-d even in non filthy places.

Thus, in deference to these references to G-d's name in foreign languages, many Jews add a dash so as not to fully reference the name.

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I cant actually cite exactly where but there is a disagreement between the Chayei Adam and the Shach on the kedusha status of Hashem's name written in other languages.

From what I was told this is a disagreement that was never really settled upon so people just follow the stricter opinion. But even according to the stricter view, if it isnt referring to "our" G-d but merely to an idolatrous god then we neednt worry about the kedusha of it.

Source: All information was gathered from a correspondance that I had with a Rav around a year ago.

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The question was about "God" versus, for example, "G-d" or "lord", since all have the same meaning. I don't see that this addresses that question. –  msh210 Mar 26 '14 at 4:32
@msh210 O I thought the question was why are people apprehensive about saying G-d at all. But dont Jewish sites hyphenate L-rd also? –  armoose Mar 26 '14 at 4:41
I think some do, yes. Nonetheless, that appears to be the question. –  msh210 Mar 26 '14 at 4:48

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