In response to a comment on a recent post of mine, Obadia18 wrote:
LOL! You’re discussing censorship and you type God as the Jewish G-d. Now that’s what I call ironic.
Since I’ve been meaning to explain the origin of G-d to y’all for some time, I figured now is as good a time as any. Oh, and by the way:
HAPPY NEW YEAR AND A WONDERFUL 2013!!
Anyway, as I was saying, Jewish law requires Jews to treat the name of God with respect. For example, we’re not supposed to mention the name of God in a restroom or bathroom. We’re also not supposed to erase the written name of God. Since we’re not supposed to erase it, it follows that we’re careful when/where we write it. Since holy books are disposed of by burial (which is considered respectful), we use the name of God in such books without reservation. But newspapers, magazines and various scrapes of paper are typically thrown away. So we avoid writing the name of God on those.
But is “God” the name of God? According to Jewish law it clearly is not. There are seven names which Scripture uses to refer to God. All of them are Hebrew/Semitic words. A translation of the name of God into another language is not the name of God. My name is Hebrew for “behold a son”. But if somebody were to call me “beholdason”, I would not answer; it’s not my name.
While “The Lord” is a perfectly good translation of the Hebrew “Adonai”, it’s not “Adonai”. “God” is not the same as “Elohim”. “The Almighty” is a great translation of “Shaddai”, but it’s not the same thing. In short, Jewish law only prohibits disrespect toward the actual names of God (in Scripture), not their various translations.
Also, I wanted to point out that manipulating ones and zeros in computer code doesn’t necessarily equate with “erasing” the name of God. This is unknown territory in Jewish law and, like electricity, it’s been treated based solely on appearances (this paragraph was added 01/02/13).
But Jewish tradition is more than just Jewish law; it also includes a vast collection of voluntary practices (“minhagim”). There is a (very influential) school of thought that would have these traditions carry the same weight as Jewish law itself. The problem with this is the inevitable ratcheting up that occurs when people try to outdo each other in piety. What used to be considered voluntary is now considered obligatory. In this way, the Jewish religion becomes a prison for many people.
I’ll quote the late Mori Yosef Gaffih (who I met a few times). He noted that the letters of the Hebrew word “Minhag” (tradition) are the same letters as the Hebrew word “Gehinom” (hell). Note that Hebrew has no vowel letters.
I suppose, if it makes one feel all warm and fuzzy inside to write “G-d”, then there’s no harm in it. I just wanted to clarify the origins of this practice.