Parshas Shmos 5768

On the topic of isur “hogeh es haShem b’osiosav”

by Rabbi Shlomo Lagoviyer

When Hashem revealed His name to Moshe Rabbeynu in this week’s parsha He added “zeh shmih leolam…” which means this is my name forever. The word leolam is written in the Torah without a “vav”, and can be read “lealeim” which means to hide. The Gemorah in Psachim (50a) learns from this that the name of Hashem is not to read the way it is written.

The Gemorah in Sukkah (5a) when describing the “tzitz” that the Kohen Gadol wore in the Bais Hamikdosh states that it was a golden plate with the inscription “kodesh laHashem” – “Holy to Hashem”, “yud key” on the top and “kodesh le” on the bottom. The tosafos points out that when referring to Hashem’s name the Gemorah only mentions two letters of the four letter name and asks that these two letters themselves constitute a name of G-d, thus the issur of pronouncing Hashem’s name by its letters still applies. Apparently the Tosafos understood that the reason why the Gemorah used only two letters out of four was to avoid the issur of “hogeh es Hashem b’osiosav” which is learned out of the aforementioned pasuk and brought down in the Mishnah in Sanhedrin (90a) where the Tannah Abba Shaul says in the Mishna that whoever says Hashem’s name by its letters does not have a portion in the Olam Haboh. The Tosafos answers that because the Gemorah in Sukkah was referring to the four letter name rather than the two letter name it did not transgress the prohibition by mentioning those two letters.

One can deduce from both the question and the answer of the Tosafos that he held that the prohibition of pronouncing Hashem’s name applies even if one just speaks out the names of the letters rather than actually reading the name.

The Radvaz in shaalos and teshuvos writes that the commonly accepted view is that the this prohibition applies only to reading the four letter name the way it is written, however Tosafos in Sukkah holds that it includes even speaking out the its letters and Rabbeynu Chananel whose opinion is quoted by the Tosafos in Avodah Zorah (18a) holds that even saying the first two letters of the “Shem Haadnus” is also forbidden because they have a special sanctity as evident from the fact that they may not be erased. On the latter he asks that even if we accept the view of the Tosafos that even speaking out the letters of Hashem’s name is forbidden, this cannot possibly apply to the Shem Haadnus, because the name itself is permitted to be said (in certain circumstances such as during davening or learning Torah). Thus he rules that ‘lamaaseh” one should be stringent and follow the opinion of the Tosafos, but one does not need to follow the view of Rabbeynu Chananel.

(Incidentally, besides the Radvaz’s kasha, one can also ask on the Rabbeynu Chananel from the Gemorah in Psachim mentioned before that says that the name of Hashem is read “b’alef dales”; according to Rabbeynu Chananel the Gemorah itself transgressed the prohibition.)

Rabbi Tzvi Pesach Frank, z”l, in his sefer Har Tzvi on Sanhedrin (90a) asks the same kasha on the Tosafos in Sukkah, because from their answer it can be deduced that speaking out the letters of the two letter name is prohibited if one has in mind that name, which seemingly contradicts logic because that name itself may be read as it is written.

Rabbi Tzvi Pesach Frank answers both questions with a brilliant and profound answer. The aforementioned Gemorah in Psachim relates that Ravah wanted to darshin Hashem’s name in shiur, but was stopped by a certain old man who told him that it is forbidden to do so because the Torah requires Hashem’s name to be hidden. The Gemorah continues by bringing the drasha from the word “leolam” that teaches that the four letter name is not to be read the way it is written. From this we learn that the requirement to hide Hashem’s name includes not only the prohibition of reading it as it is written but also a prohibition of explaining its meaning and drashos. The connection is simple; all of these are forms on revealing Hashem’s name on different levels.

It is also well known that the Hebrew letters have the revealed part (the sound of the letter) and the hidden part (the rest of its name). For example the letter “lamed” is the revealed part of the letter and the letters “mem” and “dales” are the hidden part. R’ Tzvi Pesach Frank concludes that the Tosafos held that speaking out the letters of Hashem’s name is a greater revelation of it than reading it as it is written. Thus, while the issur of reading the Name the way it is written applies only to the Shem Havayah, the issur of speaking out the letters applies even to the other names, which can be read, and according to Rabbeynu Chananlel it even applies to the first two letters on the Shem Haadnus, because they may not be erased.

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