The Minchas Shai on Shoftim 17:3 quotes the Gemara (Shevuos 35a) and Maseches Sofrim (4:6) regarding if the names יהוה and אלהים in the story of Micha's idol are holy or not. The Tanna Kama says that none of them are, while R' Eliezer (Gemara) or Rabbi Yosi (Sofrim) says that יהוה is, אלהים is not with one exception. The Minchas Shai points out that Yonasan ben Uziel, who was also a Tanna, doesn't exactly follow either of those opinions and treats more instances of אלהים as holy.

The Rambam follows the Tanna Kama that all of the names are not holy. The Radak, followed by the Minchas Shai, doesn't exactly disagree, but says it's better to be strict like R' Yosi and not erase those names. (The Minchas Shai also adds that כל ימי היות בית אלהים בשילה, which R' Yosi brings as an exception, is holy according to everyone.)

How should you pronounce יהוה when reading these verses?

  • אדני, like we do in most places? That seems very strange if it's not holy.
  • אדנַי, with a patach, which is apparently the chol version of אדנָי?
  • אלהים, like we do where it's next to אדני?
  • As it's written? If so, with what nekudos? This seems to be the simplest answer, because there's seemingly no reason to change the pronunciation out of respect, but I've never heard anything like it before. If anything, I've heard not to say Jehovah's Witnesses when referring to the Christian group, which would seem to be an analagous case.
  • Practically if we're going to be machmir lekadesh al tnai then you'd say "hashem" anyway. The question is interesting how Rambam would have read it but that's not how "we" seem to rule.
    – Double AA
    Oct 18, 2021 at 14:43
  • 1
    If the old manuscripts dot it with the dots of אדני that's almost certainly how they intended you to read it. The question is then who were they holding like and does that even matter?
    – Double AA
    Oct 18, 2021 at 14:44
  • @DoubleAA the Aleppo Codex does dot it with the dots of אדני, which is interesting because the Rambam saw it too. I don't see any kodesh/chol indications in the margins but I'm also not so good at deciphering those.
    – Heshy
    Oct 18, 2021 at 14:52
  • @DoubleAA also kiddush al tenai is a pure chumra, but calling A"Z by the Name of Hashem if you're not supposed to is actively disrespectful. I guess you could (should?) have in mind "if this is kodesh then I mean אדני as in my Lord, but if it's chol I mean אדני in this lady's voice as she was referring to the idols she considered her lord".
    – Heshy
    Oct 18, 2021 at 15:56
  • 1
    – Double AA
    Oct 19, 2021 at 13:15

1 Answer 1


I believe the premise of the question is incorrect. When we say that this or that shem (name of God) is not holy, we are always referring to an ambiguous case. Yud he is always holy without exception.

In the passages in question, there are two types of names used, yud he and alef lamed. The question is only on the second name, which is often used to refer to other gods. The Gemmara on this point can be misread, but it would seem that the line about yud he being holy is agreed upon by all sides, and is not part of the discussion.

  • 1
    The Rambam (as explained by e.g. Kesef Mishneh) disagrees with you
    – Joel K
    Oct 19, 2021 at 7:38
  • Teshuvot Haradbaz 5:1440 explicitly considers your interpretation and rejects it
    – Heshy
    Oct 19, 2021 at 9:48
  • Those four letters in that order aren't always holy judaism.stackexchange.com/q/33584/759
    – Double AA
    Oct 19, 2021 at 13:09
  • @DoubleAA, I mean in Tanach the word never appeares in a non-holy instance.
    – Mordechai
    Oct 19, 2021 at 18:29
  • It appears you are wrong about that too, but what even is the basis for making that claim? You are agreeing that יהוה is just like any other name in that it can be kodesh or chol, but just by coincidence there is no example of chol usage in Tanakh
    – Double AA
    Oct 19, 2021 at 18:30

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