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    Swear to G-d

    Jews are averse to swearing–taking oaths–for two reasons. One is the

    severity of the prohibition against violating an oath. Another is the prohibition,

    listed among the so-called Ten Commandments, against using

    G-d’s name in vain. If you swear to G-d falsely, you not only violate an

    oath but also use the divine name improperly. The next question is what constitutes

    G-d’s name. The Holy Language is Biblical Hebrew. What if you use Gd’s

    name in another language in vain? What if you swear to G-tt or to G-d?

    The answer to this question can potentially affect a number of related laws.

    1. Cursing: We are biblically prohibited

    from cursing someone

    with G-d’s name. What if we

    curse someone in English? Does

    that fall under the prohibition?

    2. Prayer: We are allowed to pray

    in any language. If we pray in

    English and use G-d’s name

    translates into English, do we

    fulfill our obligation for prayer?

    3. Erasure: We may not erase Gd’s

    name. What if we write it in

    English. Can we erase it? Or do

    we have to write “G-d” to avoid

    the potential problem?

    4. Blessings: We are obligated to

    recite a blessing before and after

    eating food. If, for any number

    of reasons, we are unsure whether

    we need to recite a blessing,

    we generally do not recite it out

    of doubt because doing so constitutes

    as forbidden unnecessary

    blessing. Can we recite the

    blessing in another language?


    An important source in this discussion is the Shach (Yoreh De’ah

    179:11) in the laws of forbidden pagan practices. The Rema (ad loc., 8)

    writes that the prohibition against chanting a verse to heal a wound is

    only in Hebrew. The Shach quotes the Bach who disagrees, since we may

    not recite a verse in another language while in a bathroom. The Shach argues

    that the bathroom is different because you may not study any Torah

    there. But G-d’s name in other languages is not holy and may even

    be erased. Others note that Rashbatz (Responsa 1:2) had already also ruled

    that you may erase G-d’s name in another language.

    The Gilyon Maharsha (ad loc.) quotes the Chavos Yair (no. 106) who rules

    that if you transliterate G-d’s name in another language into Hebrew letters,

    then you may not erase it. Presumably, he would also be careful about

    saying G-d’s name in another language.


    Rav Akiva Eiger (Responsa, no. 5) rules that G-d’s name in other languages

    is a kinuy, a nickname or idiomatic reference. Therefore, it may be

    erased and said in vain without any prohibition. However, he adds that

    reciting a blessing is a stricter issue and forbidden. Elsewhere (Commentary

    to Megillah 17), he points out the difficulty in translating G-d’s name.

    Rav Akiva Eiger quotes Moses Mendelssohn, who translated it as “Der

    Evigger, the Eternal.” While this captures the time element of G-d’s fourletter

    name, it lacks the implication of mastery, adnus. Therefore, translations

    of G-d’s name are not really the name.

    Rav Ya’akov Ettlinger (Binyan Tziyon, no. 68) differentiates between

    erasing a name and saying it. While the Shach is correct that we may erase

    G-d’s name in other languages, that does not mean we may say the name

    in vain. We can pray in other languages and we may not curse someone

    with G-d’s name in a different language. Therefore it must also be prohibited

    to say it in vain. The Chayei Adam (5:1) rules likewise.

    However, others disagree. For example, Aruch

    Ha-Shulchan (Orach Chaim 202:3) rules that there is no prohibition to

    say G-d’s name in other languages. Therefore when you have a doubt

    whether to recite a blessing, you may do it in other languages. He says that

    he personally does it frequently.

    III. G-D

    Rav Chaim Ozer Grodzenski

    (Achiezer, vol. 3 no. 32) follows

    Rav Akiva Eiger

    but adds, based

    on Rosh Hashanah

    (18b), that

    one should prevent

    G-d’s name in any language from

    being treated disrespectfully, even

    when no other formal prohibition is

    violated. Therefore, he recommends

    writing “G-d” (really “ גט†”) so that

    G-d’s name in another language is

    not mistreated. He also quotes Rav

    Yonasan Eybeschutz (Tumim 25)

    who rails against people who write

    “adieu” in letters, which are thrown

    in the garbage. That is disrespectful

    treatment to G-d’s name (although

    Rav Grodzenski adds that “adieu” has

    evolved into an independent, mundane


    Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik (quoted

    in Nefesh Ha-Rav, pp. 160-161) follows

    Rav Akiva Eiger’s view. He

    used to say that writing “G-d” is am

    haratzus, ignorant,” because G-d is

    also an idiomatic reference to G-d.

    He added that the Geonim (quoted

    in commentaries to Nedarim7) have

    a chumra (stringency) to refrain

    from even saying a divine nickname

    in vain. However, that position is not

    normative. Similarly, the Mishnah

    Berurah (85:10) writes that you may

    erase G-d’s name in any other language.


    Authorities debate whether you

    may say G-d’s name in languages

    other than Hebrew in vain. According

    to the Binyan Tziyon and Chayei

    Adam, it is a problem. According to

    Rav Akiva Eiger, Rav Chaim Ozer

    Grodzenski and Rav Soloveitchik,

    it is not. All

    of those quoted above

    (except the Bach) agree

    that you may erase G-d’s

    name in other languages.

    However, Rav Eybeschutz

    and Rav Grodzenski rule

    that you should prevent

    these names in other

    languages from being

    treated disrespectfully by writing, for

    example, G-d. Of course, if you are

    writing a book that you do not expect

    will be treated disrespectfully, there is

    no reason to write G-d against any of

    these authorities.