The Dash

Post by Melissa

Ok, I’ll admit it – I don’t buy into “the dash.”  However, growing up in the Conservative movement, I do understand it.

I can understand why to some people writing G-d feels like a more true upholding of not using/writing the name in vain.  I can intellectualize this concept and action.  Though, to my best knowledge, God as an English word, is not remotely close to God’s real name. So, while I can understand the use of it, I really don’t get it…

To top it off, I got an email from a definitely Orthodox organization which said “May the A-mighty give comfort” – really?! We can’t write Almighty out either?

Please, share some insights dear readers. I’m lost!


{I apologize in advnce if this offends you, but if it does – set me straight!}


7 thoughts on “The Dash

  1. Great post Melissa! So glad you raised the topic because just a few months ago Aylee and I were having this exact discussion. I’ve never really been into the dash either but Aylee always has been! So I sorta wondered what’s the source in halacha was for such a practice, especially since it’s pretty widespread. Why must we show such caution with Hashem’s name even as it’s called in non-Hebrew languages?! By golly I think I B”H actually found an answer, by accident (I mean Divine providence) going through Kitzur Shulchan Aruch with a chavrusa:

    Take a look at Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 6:3, first paragraph on the linked page here:

    In a paragraph discussing taking the Creator’s name in vain, he says it applies not only to those designated names in Hebrew, but from every language! He says when writing a letter in a foreign language, such as Yiddish (lashon Ashkenaz as he puts it) or French, caution should be taken how one refers to Him even in those languages too, knowing full well the letter will likely end up in the trash.

    Incredible, huh?

    Still, I’m always taken aback seeing it in actual BOOKS, because that’s not like a letter or scrap paper where it’s likely to end up in the trash. I have some Artscroll books where it’s throughout the book always with a dash and others with no dash. At first I thought it was subjective, perhaps based on any given author’s personal preference. But then I looked within some books by the same author, like Rabbi Abraham Twerski, and some have it and some don’t! So I’m puzzled.

    Finally, there’s another interesting, related custom that’s always eye catching. Some people who have Hebrew names with G-d’s name (see, I finally succumbed) have a tendency to put a dash or apostrophe within their own name when writing letters for similar reasoning .

    For example, a guy with the name שמואל would write שמוא-ל or a gal with the name חיה would write חי׳. My late aunt’s name is Chaya Raizel and when a memorial plaque was put up for her at one of the local Orthodox shuls it appeared with the apostrophe and all, also curious to me since that’s not like a letter where it’s gonna end up in the trash.

    However, if I ever start seeing something like H-shem, then I’ll really be irked, because as we all know that’s not even His name in another language, but simply mean The Name, which I assume gets us off the hook from dashing. 😛

    Anyways, a most interesting topic indeed!

    P.S. I’m pretty sure your other half is aware of the HebrewBooks site, but if not, you gotta show it to him. It basically means anyone with internet has access to tens of thousands of seforim !

  2. I just heard Rabbi Hershel Schachter of Yeshiva University in a recorded shiur say that there is no difference between G-d and God as far as halacha is concerned.

  3. I admit, I use the dash. But not for the “usual” reason. I understand the rationale of building that fence around the law, but don’t subscribe to it myself. It is not Their name. My reason for writing “G-d” with the dash has more to do with expressing my desire to not limit G-d, to not define Them in any way.

    It was, while pursuing a Religious Studies minor, that I came across the Hindu concept of neti neti, which means roughly “not this, not that”. The idea of conceptualizing something by clearly defining what it is not, as opposed to what it is or could be, resonated with me. It was then that I picked up the habit of not writing “G-d” in full.

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