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Using a pen name or a pseudonym in writing letters to the editor or essays or a book might seem like lying.

Is it Halachically permissible?

  • Do the publishers think it's your real name? If not, then why would it matter? – Double AA Dec 21 '17 at 17:18
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    Prob not considered lying. One of the most recent examples of a halchist using a pseudonym was R. Yosef Hayyim of Baghdad who, in a work titled 'Torah Lishmah' which has been widely proven and agreed upon that he authored it, would sign the responsa 'Yechezkel Kachli'. – Oliver Dec 21 '17 at 17:18
  • Welcome to MiYodeya Laya! Hope to see you around. – mbloch Dec 21 '17 at 17:24
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    R Samson Rafael Hirsch published his Nineteen letters under a pseudonym as well, Ben Uziel – mbloch Dec 21 '17 at 17:27
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    @Oliver And more recently R' H Goldwasser.... – Double AA Dec 21 '17 at 21:44
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While this may be considered anecdotal evidence, there were quite a few famous works that were originally published anonymously (although it often eventually became known, and sometimes became the new title of the author), which leads to the belief that it is indeed permitted.

See below for a partial list:

  • Sefer Chazon Ish
  • Sefer Chafetz Chaim
  • Sefer Orchos Tzadikkim (authorship still unknown)

From the comments to the question:

  • Nineteen Letters by Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (pseudonym Ben Uziel).
  • Responsa Torah Lishma signed by 'Yechezkel Kachli' but widely believed to be the Ben Ish Chai,

As was mentioned in the comments to this answer, the first examples given may be 'anonymous' names, but not necessarily a 'pseudonym' name. However, it seems like the names in the list of works from the comments would be classified as 'pseudonyms', which leads one to the conclusion that indeed, it is permitted to write as a pseudonym.

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    The question is about using pen name or a pseudonym, not anonymity. It might be that it's permissible to publish anonymously (where the reader is aware the identity is hidden), but not under a pseudonym (where the reader might think the author is confident enough to back his words with his own name, but only only he - the reader - doesn't know who it is). – Tamir Evan Dec 21 '17 at 17:52
  • @TamirEvan Personally, I view that as semantics, and don't think there's really a difference between the two. However, at least two other people who upvoted your comment disagree with me as well, so it would seem like I'm outnumbered ;) Regardless, I believe that the examples edited in from the comments are valid examples of pseudonyms as well. – Salmononius2 Dec 21 '17 at 22:50
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We need to distinguish between lying and changing things (seems like a tautology, but it isn't).

  1. Lying, which is denying or negating the truth is bad, agreed (see Gemmorah Shvuos 31, Chinuch 74, Sma"G 107).

  2. Changing things for noble purposes is permitted, based on Gemmorah in B"M 23b:

"בהני תלת מילי עבידי רבנן דמשנו במלייהו " (those are the three things the Sages change their words)

The examples are numerous, see also Shu"A Cho"M 262, 21, Mishna Berura 85,8 and many many more on different ways of changing one's speach.

THerefore:

  1. Choosing a pseudonym that is an explicit lie, especially if someone can be hurt is prohibited (for example signing your brother's or your friend's name or some Rabbi's without his permission).

  2. Using a pseudonym that is not a lie, but an arbitrary, usually a streamlined or shortened form of a name, as one is Halachicly allowed to alter his name, it is permitted.

Especially for long Ashkenazi surnames, like "Even Shushan" instead of Rosenstein or "Even Israel" instead of Steizaltz, or Al Berko instead of Alexander Eliyahoo Berkowitz.

And especially if there are some benefits for the writer (or less shame or disgrace)

  • "Using a pseudonym that is not a lie, but an arbitrary, usually a streamlined or shortened form of a name, as one is Halachicly allowed to alter his name, it is permitted." Shouldn't that only be permitted for noble purposes, accd to your logic? – Double AA Jul 20 '18 at 12:35
  • @DoubleAA Good question, I'd say if you value "תמים תהיה" and "מדבר שקר תרחק" your default behavior should be to sign your name, and if you don't for any cause you "transgress those". Therefore you'll need a 'noble cause" (עשה טוב) to override them (אתי עשה ודחי ללא תעשה). If you're not on that level, there's nothing Halachicly wrong with signing a different name as you're allowed to call yourself as many names as you like. – Al Berko Jul 22 '18 at 12:46

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