It is commonly asserted that the Jews do not speak the name of God (Tetragramaton) in reverence to the Name. It is even treated as taboo to speak or pronounce, or utter the name.

Yet, in the Bible reverential people are shown as using the name, attesting to the name, swearing by the name, "as YHWH lives..." praising the name, exalting the name, proclaiming the name...

Does someone in Rabbinic tradition prohibit speaking and pronouncing the name of God (the Tetragramaton). If so, where? When was it first prohibitted? Where is the prohibition found, or where was it first documented? What does it say. What are the subsequent rabbinic addresses regarding this. What were the surrounding circumstances to the prohibition? How far back can it be traced historically with evidence?

Please provide citation and if possible translation.

All of the quotes I have seen only reinforce God's command to not take His name in vain. They only warn against speaking it falsely, needlessly, disrespectfully or incorrectly.
They never prohibit speaking God's name in ways that God proscribes--swearing by His name, praising His name, proclaiming His name...

This is precisely what I would expect from Jewish sages, men of wisdom and integrity, who would never contradict God's word.

  • 2
    Similar: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/20465
    – Fred
    Commented Jul 8, 2016 at 16:31
  • Could you provide a link to where I might read: Shach YD 179:11
    – user2411
    Commented Jul 8, 2016 at 17:45
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    The relevant comment in the Shach: "God's Name in Hebrew is an actual Name of God [refer to Rambam, Hil. Y'sodei HaTorah 6:2 for the seven Hebrew Names of God that may not be erased -Fred], whereas in another language it is not a Name at all. Consider, it is permitted to erase a Name written in another language, such as "Gott" in German or "Bog" in Polish and Russian, and the like."
    – Fred
    Commented Jul 8, 2016 at 22:40
  • This is a complex topic, and a proper answer would necessarily be very lengthy. In brief, however: When God revealed himself to Moses with the Tetragrammaton, He said "זה שמי לעלם", generally translated as, "This is My Name forever" (Exod. 3:15). But the word "לעלם" is lacking a vav, which implies the word "לְעַלֵּם" ("This is My Name to conceal"). Thus, the Talmud (P'sachim 50a) explains that it should generally remain unpronounced, but that it should be remembered when mentioning a substitute Name (per the next phrase in the verse, "and/but this is My remembrance for all generations").
    – Fred
    Commented Jul 15, 2016 at 9:01

1 Answer 1


The Mishnah in Sanhedrin 10 (1) lists those who have no share in the World to Come. Included in these according to Abba Shaul is someone who utters the Divine Name as it is spelled.

See Rambam's commentary on the mishnah where he says,

And [likewise], one who pronounces the name [of God] with its letters, yod, hay vav, hay - which is the explicit name (shem hameforash). And they have already mentioned things besides these, that if one does them, he has no share in the world to come:

See Rashi תלמוד בבלי, מסכת סנהדרין, דף ק"א, עמוד ב' (the prohibition refers to the Name of Hashem of 42 letters) and Tosfos (מסכת עבודה זרה [don't have exact source]) it refers only to the Tetragrammaton.

See the Hebrew Wikipedia article for these and other sources and the English Wikipedia article for other material.

  • Thank you Avrohom. Do we have access to the writings of Rabbi Akiva, and Abba Shaul to look further into this? Is it possible that this was not a total prohibition of uttering the Divine name as it is spelled, but rather uttering it as part of an incantation over a wound? Does Abba Shaul write independently of Rabbi Akiva? Or does he respond and elaborate on what Rabbi Akiva says? Is there reference anywhere to where he derives these thoughts? on what premise he asserts this? Should I ask these as separate questions?
    – user2411
    Commented Jul 8, 2016 at 11:51
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    @Sarah, Rabbi Akiva was a Tanna. As such, his "writings" are mostly recorded in the Mishnah. Likewise Abba Shaul. To study their comments on the matter, you'll have to refer to the Mishnah and Gemaras referenced by Avrohom and the commentaries thereon.
    – Seth J
    Commented Jul 8, 2016 at 15:33
  • None of these prohibit speaking the name in ways that God proscribes--swearing by His name, praising His name, proclaiming His name.... They only seem to warn and prohibit speaking it in vain, disrespectfully or incorrectly.
    – user2411
    Commented Jul 10, 2016 at 19:32
  • Rambam seems to interpret the Mishnah to be stating a prohibition against spelling the name?
    – user2411
    Commented Jul 10, 2016 at 19:56
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    Why would he do that?
    – user2411
    Commented Jul 10, 2016 at 20:39

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