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The Rambam in Mishneh Torah (Brachot, 1:15) write :

כָּל הַמְבָרֵךְ בְּרָכָה שֶׁאֵינָהּ צְרִיכָה הֲרֵי זֶה נוֹשֵׂא שֵׁם שָׁמַיִם לַשָּׁוְא וַהֲרֵי הוּא כְּנִשְׁבָּע לַשָּׁוְא וְאָסוּר לַעֲנוֹת אַחֲרָיו אָמֵן

That is :

Whoever recites a blessing unnecessarily takes the name of God in vain and is like one who swears in vain.

And it's seems that it been understood by Poskim as a real Deoraïta, torah-interdiction. However, I don't understand this idea as :

  1. "The forms of all the blessings were established by Ezra and his Court" (1:5), so how can we say that the Torah would make a difference between "simple" pronouncing the name of God and in a bracha, if this concept was not existing ?
  2. Why would it be allowed to say the name of God in a Zmira/Kina/etc but not in a bracha ? A bracha could be considered as a "gratitude" (shvach') for Hashem, even if I don't eat/drink anything !
  • For potential answerers: It may be relevant that it’s a dispute whether OP’s #1 is actually correct, or whether it’s in fact Rabbinic. Nevertheless, the question still stands according to those who say it is indeed Biblical in nature. – DonielF Feb 3 at 13:57
  • (2) is not always true, though it is most of the time. If I, as a Yisrael, say אשר קדשנו בקדשתו של אהרן, that's not praise of Hashem because it's a false statement. – Heshy Feb 3 at 14:21
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Those who understand this as a literal Torah prohibition will explain that the prohibition is in using the name of God for any halachic function which is not in fact relevant in the circumstances. The classic example is a pointless oath, but this also applies to reciting a pointless beracha. It is true that before the Chachamim instituted berachot, no Torah prohibition was involved. However, once this idea was created by the Chachamim, using it inappropriately automatically fell under the category of 'taking the name of God in vain.'

Those who maintain that the prohibition is really Rabbinic do so because they do not accept the explanation above as being reasonable.

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  • I understand the idea but it doesn't explain the second point : why are we allowed to sing a Zimra with the name of God, as it's not " for any halachic function " ? – EzrielS Feb 5 at 19:18
  • Using the name of God is generally permitted for any function, halachic or otherwise. The problem is when one uses the name of God for a false or halachic function - i.e in a manner which has a halachic function in other circumstances but one which is not relevant in the current circumstances. – tcdw Feb 6 at 20:24
  • Interesting, so it's not just depend on the concept of brah'a ? Have you got a source for that ? Also, I would say that to say a passuk with the name of God into may be made in halachic function (for example Achrei, the Hallel, the Meguila(ot)) - would it be forbidden to say those pessukim if not in their halachik functions ? – EzrielS Feb 6 at 21:11
  • The source is the equation between oaths and berachot. I don't there is another example of a similar halachic function of using God's name - with Hallel, Shema etc. the idea is saying the pesukim which happen to contain God's name, not using the name inherently. Megilat Esther famously does not contain God's name, and the other Megilot do not have a halachic function other than learning Torah. – tcdw Feb 8 at 17:28
  • I have heard that R. Mayer Twersky explained based on this view of the Rambam that although the obligation of reciting a bracha is only derabbanan, the concept of a bracha exists on the deoraisa plane – wfb Aug 6 at 13:16
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R. Asher Weiss suggests here:

יש מקום לומר דברכה לבטלה חמור טפי ודומה לשבועת שוא דיש בהם נשיאת ה' לשוא מחמת דין השבועה והברכה וחשיבותן, משא"כ באזכרה בעלמא, ועדיין צ"ע.‏

One could argue that a blessing in vain is more serious [than merely mentioning G-d's Name] and is similar to an oath in vain, as they both involve invoking G'd's Name heedlessly, owing to their status and importance as oaths or blessings, as opposed to a mere mention [of the Name], although the matter still requires further investigation.

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  • If I'm understanding this correctly, I believe that this is the same idea mentioned in @tcdw's answer, but now with a (contemporary) source. – Joel K Aug 6 at 9:11

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