I am not Jewish, just curious.

I understand that, by the the third of the Ten Commandments, “You shall not take His name in vain.”

I also understand that followers of the Jewish religion should be cautious about this in case they inadvertently utter that name in vain.


I sometimes see the following - "G-d" or similar written when naming the deity. There may be a prohibition against saying the actual name - but what about writing it?

We all know, and I am sure that G-d knows, what the missing letter is. Nobody is fooled by it. In effect, the hyphen is simply a different way of writing the letter "o" - it's just another symbol.

Why doesn't this break the prohibition?

P.S. How does one read out loud a passage that has the word "G-d" in it?


The issue with "God" (yes, I just wrote it that way) is not about using the name in vain; it's something related -- not destroying a written name of God. (That's actually found in Deuteronomy -- get rid of [the idols'] names ... but don't do that to Hashem your God.) Onscreen is less of an issue; it's more about in written or print form, what do you then do with the piece of paper.

(So "G-d" is pronounced "God.")

  • Thanks. A question remains: If one has a paper with "G-d" written on it, can that be destroyed? – chasly - supports Monica Nov 25 '20 at 10:52
  • The reason why we write "G-d" and don't spell out the name is so that there won't be any problem when the paper gets destroyed eventually. – Mordechai Nov 25 '20 at 21:13

Many people use the number 0 (zero) rather than substituting '-' for the letter 'o' (such as in JewishWorldReview.com for its columnists) in order to prevent the various editors from putting the letters g and d on separate lines.

When we were writing the soc.culture.jewish FAQ we used the following question.

Note: The story below about Rav Soloveitchik was confirmed by a person who was in the class at Boston's Rambam high school when it occurred.

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.

  • Using a 0 wouldn't help as it's still a kosher O. There's no shinui tzura. – Double AA Nov 25 '20 at 18:31
  • @DoubleAA As I pointed out, Rav Soloveitchik held that even the o would have been allowed and the number 0 (zero) is indeed a shinui tzurah just to show that someone is being makpid. The first sentence shows usage of the number zero even though it often appears to be the letter o on some fonts. – sabbahillel Nov 25 '20 at 20:11
  • What does that mean "just to show someone is being makpid"? A zero in most fonts is a kosher letter o. It doesn't matter what unicode character is in the system but what is written on the paper. In order to allow erasing God's name the letter must be at least unrecognizable to a child. – Double AA Nov 25 '20 at 20:14
  • @DoubleAA As I said even the letter o is actually allowed to be written. In many fonts one can easily see the difference between the letter and the number even though one intends to show that the meaning is the letter. As the Shach says in my citation the letter is allowed even though one puts in something to show the difference. Similarly postings often use then number one (1) to replace the letter ell (l) – sabbahillel Nov 25 '20 at 20:18
  • I'm just discussing if using a zero helps anything according to the opinions that there is a problem erasing it. The answer is it doesn't. No sofer would allow erasing יהוה just because you typed it יה1ה in some font. It may be a cute programmer leetspeak trick, but it's halakhically not meaningful. – Double AA Nov 25 '20 at 20:20

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