What does it mean to take God's name in vain? From the Jewish perspective. I struggle with the worldly interpretation and my own.

2 Answers 2


The 3rd commandment is not to take a pointless oath in G-d's name (e.g. swearing that a table is a table, and other pointless oaths, see ch 1) as is codified by Rambam (Hilchos Shvuos) and Sefer HaChinuch(30). By swearing pointlessly invoking the name of G-d, one trivializes G-d's significance as the singular force in the Universe.

Rambam (Hilchos Berachos 1:15) based on Berachos (33a) adds that making a unneeded bracha is also "like" swearing falsely but it is the subject of much debate(see Frankel Rambam sefer haMafteach for 25+ references) if he means min hatorah or miderabanan. Not saying G-ds name without affording it due respect is a lack of "Fearing G-d" (Rambam Hilchos Shvuos 12:11) -- but it is by no means (even according to Rambam) the core definition of the 3rd commandment.

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    There are 4 varieties of שוא: swearing about something obviously true that it is true; swearing in such a case that it is false; swearing to do something obviously impossible; swearing to violate a mitzva. See Rambam Shevuot Chapter 1
    – Double AA
    May 21, 2014 at 6:37

Jews understand the 3rd commandment to mean: refrain from mentioning Gcd's name in vain.

The only time Jews actually pronounce Gcd's names are:

  • When praying
  • When making an oath in a Jewish court of law (Bet Din)
  • When reading entire verses from the Bible
  • When teaching children how to pray

Even writing out Gcd's name is problematic, according to some opinions.

All other times, Jews use a nickname instead of using one of His names. Typically this is "HaShem" (which means "The Name").

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    Most Rishonim hold that Bracha Levatalla is perfectly fine in terms of this commandment, Kol Shekein to partial verses. Your list of when we say it might be pretty accurate, but that doesn't make it Ikkar HaDin.
    – Double AA
    May 20, 2014 at 16:02
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    I see this as a preventative action to prevent the mentioning of God's name in vain. As I agree is a commandment. Without actually taking his name in vain I am searching for a better definition of what "vain" really means, so I do not feel that this answers the question in its current state.
    – Decrypted
    May 21, 2014 at 2:15
  • Are you writing "Gcd" to avoid writing "God"? See here
    – MTL
    May 21, 2014 at 13:15
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    @Shokhet: Correct - as per the Kitzur Sh. Aruch in 6:3: וְכֵן אָסוּר לִכְתֹּב בְּשׁוּם מִכְתָּב שְׁמוֹ יִתְבָּרַךְ בְּכָל לָשׁוֹן. וְרַבִּים טוֹעִים וְכוֹתְבִים שְׁמוֹ יִתְבָּרַךְ בִּלְשׁוֹן אַשְׁכְּנַז, May 21, 2014 at 14:42
  • @DannySchoemann If you looked at the answer I linked to...."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."
    – MTL
    May 21, 2014 at 18:24

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