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Sometimes the letters י-ו seem to serve as a name of Hashem. For example, many authors replace י-ו with טז in a numbering system, presumably so as to not write Hashem's name, similar to replacing י-ה with טו. In many names, י-ו seems to refer to Hashem, as in יוחנן and יונתן.

Where does this come from? Is this name ever used anywhere on its own?

  • For the names you indicated, often the original spelling was Y-H-V, but the heh ended up getting swallowed/dropped (yehonatan => yonatan is an excellent example of this). Historically, a similar thing happened in reverse when the vav started getting dropped from name endings, when Yishayahu got turned to Yishayah, yirmiyahu to yirmiyah, etc. – Isaac Kotlicky Jun 29 '15 at 14:05
  • @IsaacKotlicky Thanks - I believe one of the answers beat you to that point. – Y     e     z Jun 29 '15 at 18:49
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R. Aryeh Kaplan, in his article "Reverence of the Sacred," writes that י-ו is written as טז, not because it's a divine name (unlike י-ה, which Avot DeRabbi Natan 34:2 and others write is actually a biblical name of God). Rather, its lettering is changed because י-ו "resembles a divine name."

This exemplifies our sensitivity to desecrating God's name (other examples include writing BeSiyatta DeShamaya in correspondence or writing Yehudah with a final Aleph - "lest one accidentally leave out the letter Daleth and write the Tetragrammaton").

As for the examples that you mention, it's important to remember that biblical names with weak letters are often abbreviated, but when written in full, י-ו become י-ה-ו names, which definitely include a biblical name of God. For example, in II Sam. 1:22, Yonatan is fully spelled יְהוֹנָתָן and in 2 Chron. 28:12, Yochanan is יְהוֹחָנָן. Thus, such names commonly spelled with י-ו refer to Hashem because their "full" names include a divine name, י-ה.

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See the Gemara in Sukka 5a in discussing the Mitznefet, there Tosafot (s.v. Yud Hey) says that even half the name of G-d is considered as if you are mentioning His Name

  • But these two letters aren't half of a Name, at least not contiguously, are they? Could you please edit in a more precise reference, including daf and preferably also divrei hamatchil for the Tosafot? – Isaac Moses May 7 '15 at 13:09
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    @IsaacMoses see 5a first tosafos on top. יו"ד ה"א מלמעלה. אע"פ שיו"ד ה"א שם גמור אין זה הוגה שם באותיותיו אם מזכיר שתי אותיות כיון דאינו מזכירם לשם שם שלם ועוד ההוגה שם באותיותיו פירש בקונטרס שדורש אותיות של שם בן ארבעים ושתים ואעפ"כ נזהרין בכל השמות: – Shoel U'Meishiv May 7 '15 at 13:45
  • @Mefaresh Your quote seems to support Isaac's objection, and additionally to say the opposite of what this answer reports - Tosefos is talking about two letters which do make up, on their own, a name of Hashem, and says that as long as the intent is not to be a complete name. – Y     e     z May 11 '15 at 23:03
  • @yEz i dont understand why this doesnt answer the question – user9410 May 12 '15 at 18:36
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    You cited a Tosefos about Yud Hey. The Tosefos does not mean what you say on two accounts - 1) he is talking about an existing name of Hashem, namely the name Yud Hey, which is its own name, and has no bearing on my question, which is about Yud Vov, two non-consecutive letters of Hashem's name which are not on their own a separate name. 2) Tosefos says that even Yud Hey, which is a name, is absolutely fine to say if you do not intend to say it as a full name (i.e. you intend it as half of Yud Key Vov Key, not as the entirety of Yud Hey). – Y     e     z May 12 '15 at 20:11
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It seems that perhaps this developed as a minhag or may have something to do with kabbaloh as the yud and vav lettering does not appear in Tanach (as a word unto itself). There are rishonim, most notably Rashi who in various places do actually use the yud and vav abbreviation, and not the tes and zion abbreviation. It may also have to do with using letters of Shem Hashem together (as said to me by a rabbi).

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    what do you mean that the lettering doesn't appear in the Torah? – mevaqesh Feb 5 '15 at 5:31
  • @mevaqesh - they are not used as a word. – Einbert Alshtein May 6 '15 at 7:32

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