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I have seen G-d in many English translations of a siddur, bencher, or other religious text but have trouble understanding why. The best answer I have received is that if God is recognized by another commonly used name, even if it is not in Hebrew, you should not write it fully. This was very confusing for me because God is known by many names in English such as Heaven, Providence, Lord, He/Him and others. Even in the translations that had G-d Lord was not hyphenated. God is also known very widely in Hebrew as Hashem, which is usually abbreviated in Hebrew, but not in English transliteration or speech. I do not know for sure, but I also doubt that Allah is hyphenated or abbreviated in when a Jew is referring to God in Arabic. Why do some people write G-d and why are the other common names of God ignored in this respect?

  • Just saying, I believe the hyphenation of G-d and L-rd is left over from what the Lubavitcher Rebbe, although I have no source. But most every Chabadnik (including me) I've met writes all names of Hashem with a hyphen. (G-d, L-rd, A-mighty, etc.) – ezra May 17 '16 at 3:49
  • @EzraHoerster Even "Heaven" and "Providence?" Why would this not extend to "Hashem" or other names? Even if it is not left over from him, did he give a rationale? – SophArch May 17 '16 at 3:51
  • The words "G-d" and "L-rd" are the proper names of Hashem in the English language, as are Tetragrammaton and Elokim (with a ה instead of ק of course.) Hashem only means "the name" in Hebrew and is actually not a proper name of Hashem, although we usually call Him that. Therefore, G-d and L-rd require dashes, because they are likened to the Tetragrammaton (as stated before) within the English language. – ezra May 17 '16 at 3:56
  • @EzraHoerster Do you have any idea how and when proper names for Hashem where chosen in other languages? I just assumed that anything that unambiguously referred to Hashem, like "Hashem" or a lot of capital pronouns and nouns would receive the same abbreviated treatment. Is there a rule or some other way of knowing what is a "proper name" or is it just the members of a list compiled a long time ago? – SophArch May 17 '16 at 4:09
  • I don't know about other languages, although the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch mentions not using even Hashem's name in German in vain (Gott). Maybe this answers some of your question? – ezra May 17 '16 at 5:42
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When we wrote the soc.culture.jewish FAQ we dealt with this question as follows. Note that one of the students who had been in the class at the time that Rav Soloveitchik wrote the name "God" and erased it verified that the story is true.

Writing: Why do some people write "G-d" with a hyphen instead of an `o'?

Answer:

Based on the words in Deut. 12:3-4, the Rabbis deduced that it is forbidden to erase the name of G-d from a written document. Since any paper upon which G-d's name was written might be discarded and thus "erased", the Rabbis forbade explicitly writing the name of G-d, except in Holy Books, with provisions for the proper disposal of such books.

According to Jewish Folklore, G-d has 70 names. However, only one of these names is the ineffable name, which cannot be erased or pronounced. Further, of the 70 names, seven may not be erased but they can be pronounced on certain occasions (such as when reading the Torah). The other names may be erased and pronounced, but still must be treated with respect. The Talmud (Shevuot 35a-b) makes it clear that this prohibition applies only to seven Biblical names of G-d and not to other names or attributes of G-d, which may be freely written. The prohibition was later codified by Maimonides (Mishneh Torah, Yesodei HaTorah 6:1-2). The practice of writing "G-d" is supported in Shut Achiezer, 3:32, end, where it is endorsed and accepted as the prevailing custom. Rambam cites Deut. 12-03:04, which states "and you shall destroy the names of pagan gods from their places. You shall not do similarly to G-d your Lord." The intent of this is to create an atmosphere of respect for G-d's name vs pagan gods names.

As a result of this, people acquired the habit of not writing the full name down in the first place. Strictly speaking, this only applies to Hebrew on a permanent medium, but many people are careful beyond the minimum, and have applied it to non-Hebrew languages. Hence, "G-d". One explanation is that using G-d is a reminder that anything which we may say about G-d is necessarily metaphorical. Spelling out the Name (even in a language other than Hebrew) would imply that one could speak meaningfully (not just metaphorically) about G-d.

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.

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