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Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (6:3) writes:

אסור להוציא שם שמים לבטלה וכל המוציא שם שמים לבטלה עובר על מצות עשה דכתיב את ה' אלהיך תירא ... ולא לבד בלשון הקודש אסור אלא אפילו בכל לשון אסור

It is forbidden to say G-d's name (lit. ''the Heavenly Name'') in vain, and everyone who says G-d's name in vain transgresses a positive commandment, as it is written: ''The Lord your G-d you shall fear;'' ... It is not just in (Hebrew) the Holy Tongue, that (mentioning the Name) is forbidden, but even in any language it is forbidden.

In this context of stating "any" language, is this restricted to verbal language, or is sign language included?

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    I read your title as "singing" at least 4 times. – Double AA Apr 30 '15 at 20:10
  • @danf how In general is sign language viewed halachically? I'm assuming it does not have a halachic status as a language – Shoel U'Meishiv Apr 30 '15 at 20:33
  • Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/a/1317/5514 – Shoel U'Meishiv Apr 30 '15 at 20:36
  • @Mefaresh - I have to research a source, but I believe that it may actually be considered a language. It has grammar and syntax and it is the way the deaf communicate. – DanF Apr 30 '15 at 21:15
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    @IsaacKotlicky - "It's just another means of conveying English" - This statement is absolutely false. I know some ASL, and I can tell you that ASL, in a sense, originated from a French form of sign language! Regardless, the grammar of ASL does NOT conform to English grammar for the most part. It has its own grammar. Look it up on the web, you'll get a better explanation than I can expound on here. – DanF May 4 '15 at 1:10
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If it is forbidden to speak God's name in vain, and it is forbidden to desecrate God's name in the writing of any language (MB 85:10), then it seems obvious that it is forbidden to irreverently sign God in conversation. The simple idea is about the respect we give in referring to our Creator.

Nevertheless, if you wanted to look down the pilpul glass, then it's important to note that the issue of determining the status of sign language as a halakhic language is an evolving one. This question has particular contemporary significance for the religious participation of deaf people. A good introduction into the changing status of how halakha understands sign language is a responsum written last year by R. Benjamin Lau on conducting weddings for the deaf. He argues that the advances and sophistication of modern sign language perforce changes the status of deaf people from that of feeble-mindedness, as understood during the Talmudic Era, to that of intelligence. In doing this, R. Lau argues that sign language should now be considered a full language, and he quotes other authorities who agree with him (such as Chief Rabbi of Israel David Lau) and those who do not consider sign language a natural, normal language (R. Yaakov Ariel).

So at the moment, while there is not a consensus as to the halakhic status of sign language as a language, it seems to be evolving toward greater recognition. Perhaps this prevents us from answering the question (although I still believe the spirit of the halakha should be accounted for here).

P.S. As someone who studied sign language, I personally find that it completely parallels speech in terms of communication. In ASL, the word God is, like spoken English, a general term used by many kinds of religious and secular people (as opposed to the Jewish term HaShem). In Hebrew sign language, the word for HaShem is made pointing the index finger upward toward the sky. This recalls the signing used in the Talmud (Br. 48a):

אביי ורבא הוו יתבי קמיה דרבה, אמר להו רבה: למי מברכין? אמרי ליה: לרחמנא. - ורחמנא היכא יתיב? רבא אחוי לשמי טללא, אביי נפק לברא אחוי כלפי שמיא.

Abaye and Rava, when they were children, were seated before Rabba. Raba said to them: To whom does one recite blessings? They said to him: To the All Merciful. Rabba asked them: And where does the All-Merciful reside? Rava pointed to the ceiling. Abaye went outside and pointed toward the heaven.

  • Aryeh - thanks. I'll try to view your link, later. I am familiar with the ASL term for G-d; there are a few variants, BTW. I'm not too fluent in ASL, but I asked this Q as my son is deaf. – DanF Jul 14 '15 at 21:10
  • @DanF: From what I know, the most common ASL sign looks like a cross with one hand. So many Jews either wave a hand across the sky or point toward the sky. It is perhaps unsurprising that most sign languages, like Spanish, French, German, Ukrainian, etc. make the same pointed movement upwards. Israeli Sign Language was mostly developed from the German system, and thus also has pointing upwards. – Aryeh Jul 14 '15 at 22:19
  • I don't know ISL (Israeli), but I'll ask my son as he knows some ISL, also. BTW, are you deaf or hearing impaired? – DanF Jul 15 '15 at 1:30
  • No, I just love the language. I first started learning it to communicate with my daughter when she was born (you can communicate baby sign language way before children reach speaking age), and remained interested. – Aryeh Jul 15 '15 at 12:10

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