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According to the Midrash Tanchuma (see also see also Shemot Rabbah 1:29, Yalkut Shimoni 167 and Yalkut Reuveni: Parashat Shemot), Moshe killed the Egyptian (Exodus 2:11-12) by uttering a particularly holy name of God.

Is doing this today a violation of taking the Lord's name in vain or of blasphemy or do those mitzvahs refer to other actions?

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  • Another question is would it be considered murder? All he did was say a name Commented Jun 23 at 22:26
  • @Awtsmoos--עצמות All I did was pull a trigger
    – shmosel
    Commented Jun 23 at 23:18
  • @shmosel but by the name of hashem there's no natural mechanism that connects the action of the person with the result, it's just Hashem doing it miraculously. Hashem also directly causes the bullet to travel as well, just like he directly causes all "natural" things to happen from His Will, disconnected from the actual apparent cause of the, but He does that in a that it looks like it's within the predefined rules of the laws of nature Commented Jun 23 at 23:59

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The Shach (YD 179:18) writes that using shemos of Hashem to perform supernatural activities is technically permitted [see Rema (ad loc)], but the permissibility to use shemos is only to one who does so with "kedushah and taharah", and for the sake of Kiddush Hashem or tzorech mitzvah rabbah. The Shach writes that in our generation, we don't have anyone on the required madreiga. He further cites Kabbalists as strongly forbidding such practice.

וע"י ספר יצירה מותר. לעשות לכתחלה דשמות הקדש הם והש"י נתן בהם כח שיוכלו לפעול על ידיהם החסידים והנביאי' והפועל בהם מראה גדולתו וגבורתו של הש"י שמו אך שיתעסקו בהם בקדושה ובטהר' ולצורך קדושת השם או לצורך מצוה רבה אשר לא נמצא זה בדורות הללו בעו"ה ואפי' בזמניהם מצינו שנענש ישעי' ע"ז וכ"ש בזמה"ז שא"א לנהוג בטהרה ובקדוש' ורחמנא ליבא בעי עכ"ל עט"ז ודבריו נכונים וכן נמצא בכמה מחברים דורשי רשומות שאין להשתמש בשמות הקדש כ"א לצורך מצוה רבה ודאשתמש בתגא חלף וכן כתב הרב לקמן סי' רמ"ו סוף סכ"א ודאשתמש בתגא חלף י"א זה המשתמש בשמות הקודש גם בספרי המקובלים מבואר שעון גדול הוא המשתמש בשמו ע"כ המונע יבורך:

Although the Shach strongly discourages using shemos of Hashem, the prohibitions he cites are not blasphemy or taking Hashem's name in vain.

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What Moshe did was permitted because he followed the general conditions of using Hashem's Names, including:

  1. Using the Name only to avert danger to the Jewish people and/or a Kiddush Hashem (Sefer HaPeliah)
  2. Be an extremely holy person who is favoured Above, whom even the Malach HaMavet is his friend (See Midrash Petirat Moshe; principle from Sha'ar HaMitzvot Shemot; Sha'ar Ruach HaKodesh 13b, based on Shir Hashirim 1:3)

In theory, it is possible to do this even today, so long as the conditions are fulfilled, but according to HaRav Yaacov Hillel Shlita, in Faith and Folly p.44, the information on how to use the Names is no longer available.

Misuse of the Names is called אִשְׁתַּמֵּשׁ בְּתָגָא, or "exploiting the crown" (see Sefer HaIkkarim 1:18), and the sin is very great and punishable by death. Yishayahu died because he used one of Hashem's Names to rescue himself from danger (ibid; Yevamot 49b). R' Yehuda HaChasid commanded his students to go back to the situation of danger they had used a Name to escape from (a den of wild beasts) and not use it, and they were devoured (Kanfei Yonah 1:110).

See also Kiddushin 71a.

Which Mitzva is violated by misusing a Name? There are several associations, including the Rambam's Negative Mitzva 65, "שלא לאבד בית המקדש", which includes the halachot of erasing Hashem's Names. R' Moshe Chagiz brings inyanim related to this under his mitzva 513, "שלא לשאול בבעל אוב"*, as I believe using Hashem's Names for personal gain is akin to using sorcery or magic (although much worse). It is also connected, quite obviously, to the Negative Mitzva of Chillul Hashem, and "תָּמִים תִּהְיֶה" (codified as a Mitzva by the Smak), which is a Mitzva about trusting in Hashem and not trying to use special techniques to "cheat" one's way through the difficulties and challenges of life.

* See also chortkov2's citation, which indicates that this is also associated with the Negative commandements of "שלא ללכת בחוקות עכו"ם" and "שלא לנחש כעכו"ם"

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  • But Moshes situation was not a Kiddush hashem because there were no witnesses and it wasn't to save the nation as a whole. He could have killed the Egyptian using normal means or commanded him to stop. Commented Jun 24 at 13:27
  • @ClintEastwood Kiddush Hashem is בין בפרהסיא או אפלו בצנעא. Anyway, I hear your points, but given that he had just consulted with Angels, and it was to protect a Jew (and any other Jews this Egyptian would abuse), it was a situation of murder and adultery, and a situation where if he had not done it discreetly he would have brought about a very big danger to the community as a whole, I don't know if this is such a big problem. Note also this was before the Torah was given, and in fact Moshe was the first to be taught the Names and how to use them - it seems he knew what he was doing
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Commented Jun 24 at 14:00
  • (and was ultimately greatly praised for doing so)
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Commented Jun 24 at 14:25

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