You shall not take God’s name…

Texts and beliefs By Rabbi Oliver Joseph 05th Jun 2019

There are seven different names of God found in the Torah. The name thought to have the greatest sanctity is the unpronounced name, made up of the letters yud, hey, vav and hey. This name is used sparingly and never pronounced as written. 

The commandment of taking God’s name in vain is open to the humour of farce. Even in writing this article, I could be open to accusations of taking God’s name in vain. The most famous comedy which addresses this commandment is Monty Python’s sketch from the Life of Brian: “You said Jehovah!” 

A contemporary sketch from Israeli TV opens with Moshe holding the Ten Commandments in his hands, asking: “Any questions?” A woman replies: “A question relating to not saying God’s name in vain. Did you not just say God’s name?” 

Perhaps humour enables us to appreciate the beauty of our tradition? We take care not to write or print God’s name, or to discard pages that contain it. We avoid saying God’s name aloud unless in prayer or in study of our sacred texts. 

Yes, we utter the name of God often. But our attempt is always to write and say God’s many names with reverence. 

[This is taken from the publication “The Ten (Masorti) Commandments”. The full booklet can be found here.]

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