There is at least one city mentioned in Tanach named Bes El, written as two words; that name currently belongs to a city in Israel and a number of synagogues and Reform temples. Does that "El" have the status of a shem (name of God), so that one should replace it (e.g. with "Kel") under certain circumstances (e.g., I think, when writing it on a paper that will be put in the garbage, though consult your rabbi for practical guidance)?


1 Answer 1


There is a dispute about it (in connection with writing a Sefer Torah, whether the sofer should declare it holy or not).

R. Elazar Fleckeles (Meleches Hakodesh, Lech Lecha 1) suggests that this depends on an earlier machlokes, recorded in the Yerushalmi (Megillah 1:9) and Maseches Sofrim (5:10), as to whether the name should be written closed-up (ביתאל) or as two words. Since the halachah is that we write it as two words, he says, then the second element should be considered holy. (Although he also cites Birkei Yosef (Yoreh De'ah 276:29) that some soferim have a tradition to consider it non-holy, and so he accepts that such soferim should continue this practice.)

Kesses Hasofer states flatly that it is kodesh, and in Lishkas Hasofer there (note 9) he says that this may be true even according to the opinion that the name is written as ביתאל. (Which, I guess, raises the question, according to him, of names like שמואל.)

On the other hand, Beis Aharon states that it is definitely chol, based on Targum Onkelos, which doesn't translate the name (whereas he usually translates the name א-ל as א-להא).

All of this is as far as writing it in a Sefer Torah. I don't know whether this would also affect how it should be spoken (when not saying a complete pasuk).

  • +1, many thanks! I'm wholly unfamiliar with the three books you link to. Are they standard hilchos safrus books?
    – msh210
    Jan 13, 2012 at 8:01
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    @msh210: Kesses Hasofer is indeed the standard go-to sefer for this purpose, and maybe Beis Aharon too (his list of shemos kodesh and chol is reproduced in a sefer on safrus that I have). In turn, both of them refer to Meleches Hakodesh.
    – Alex
    Jan 13, 2012 at 17:30
  • @Alex - Why do you put a dash between the letters of "אלהא")? Rav Soloveitchik taught that it wasn't necessary to put a dash between the G and the D in English, so I don't know why Aramaic would be any different seeing as it is another non-Hebrew language (i.e. not holy). Feb 9, 2012 at 2:20
  • @Adam: I'm not so sure about that, since Aramaic is used in Tanach, and this word is used there too to refer to Hashem, so arguably it has real kedushah. (I would have to look up sources about that, though.) Anyway, b'mechilas kevodo of Rav Soloveitchik, I do write "G-d" in English.
    – Alex
    Feb 9, 2012 at 4:33
  • I don't think this answers the exact question being asked (although it is good background). The questioner asked "does THIS 'El' have the status of a shem," referring specifically to the 'El' in 'Beth Kel' (and likewise in a lot of Hebrew names such as Eliyahu, Yael, and, yes, Shmuel.) I'd be really interested to know if one who has the custom to say "Kel" instead of "El" would need to do so in these cases.
    – SAH
    Mar 23, 2015 at 5:05

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