Rabbi Yitzchak Neria
Former Rosh Kollel in Montreal
A practical question that frequently arises is: May one use Hashem’s Name while learning Torah? Many times, the Gemara and other sifrei kodesh quote p’sukim with Hashem’s Name. Must one say the Name with a shinui (literally, a “modification”)? Or may one use Hashem’s Name in this context?
In principle, there is a severe prohibition against mentioning Hashem’s Name livatalah (literally, wastefully). As the Encyclopedia Talmudit summarizes:
“The prohibition of mentioning Shem Shamayim (the Name of Heaven) livatalah. ‘Hashem your God you shall fear’ (Devarim 6:13) – this is a positive admonition addressed to one who utters Shem Shamayim livatalah, because it is part of yirat Hashem (fearing Hashem) to refrain from citing His Name livatalah… To fear Hashem… and included in fearing Him is not mentioning Him livatalah. And some hold that the prohibition is due to ‘You shall not take the name of Hashem, your God, in vain.’ (Shmot 20:7) The prohibition involves mentioning any of the Unique Names, even if one did not swear, and these are all the Names that may not be erased. Therefore, if one had a slip-of-the-tongue and uttered the Name livatalah, he should make haste and immediately praise Him, in order not to mention livatalah. How? If he said ‘Hashem,’ he should say, ‘Blessed is He forever and ever.’ Or, ‘Great is He and immensely glorified,’ and so on.”
Nevertheless, clearly, using Hashem’s Name in the context of a pasuk is not livatalah, because the Name is part of the pasuk itself.
Indeed, the gedolei olam disagree in this regard. On one hand, the Tashbetz Katan (419) writes:
“And one should not recite the four-lettered Name in the Talmud, rather [one should say] ‘Hashem.’”
Does this refer to the brachot (blessings) which appear in the Talmud or to the p’sukim? The Magen Avraham (215:5) discusses the issue of brachot:
“But a gadol, when studying the brachot in the Gemara, says without mentioning the Name. And so we find in the Rambam’s peirush on the Mishnah…”
In contrast, the Aruch HaShulchan (215:2) rules:
“One may teach the brachot k’tikunan (i.e., using the full text) to tinokot (loosely, young children), even though they recite the brachot livatalah during learning. But a gadol while learning should not explicitly say the Name. Rather, he should say ‘Hashem’, and also, he should say ‘Elokeinu’. And similarly, public speakers who cite a pasuk with [one of the] Names should not utter the Name explicitly but should say ‘Hashem’. And even though there are those who permit [this practice], it is proper to distance oneself from it. And such is our custom.”
However, the She’elat Ya’avetz (1:81) states:
“My son asked me if it is permitted to pronounce the azkarot (places where Hashem’s Name is mentioned) in p’sukim which are cited by the Talmud. The answer is that even though we have seen cases where children are meticulous in this regard, and they think that this involves ‘you shall not take Hashem’s Name’ livatalah, this is certainly a mistake on their part. And we have not seen older rabbanim be meticulous about this. And the opposite was clear to us when we were young. And when we learned Gemara before my father, my teacher, the Gaon z”l, and when I would come to p’sukim and I would pronounce the Name with a kinui (an alternative name) as I had heard from my teachers, [my father] would scold those who pronounced in this way. And he instructed us to pronounce the Name like a Torah reader [does].”
Similarly, the Gaon Rav Ovadiah Yosef in Yabia Omer (III Orach Chayim 14) concludes:
“One who learns sha”s and midrashei Chazal and comes across p’sukim with azkarot – he should read them as they are read in the Tanach when Shem Shamayim is mentioned. And one should not be stringent about this. However, azkarot in the context of brachot in sha”s and the poskim should only be read with the kinui of ‘Hashem’. And similarly, he should say ‘Elokim’ or ‘Elokeinu’ with a kuf, because they are also included in the prohibition against mentioning Shem Shamayim livatalah.”
Thus, the Ashkenazim are more stringent in this regard and try not to pronounce Shem Shamayim while learning. In contrast, the Sephardim are more lenient – as long as the Name is part of a pasuk. However – with the exception of the aforementioned Ya’avetz, who holds that Hashem’s Name may be pronounced in the context of brachot as well – most authorities rule that a kinui should be used in lieu of Hashem’s Name for the brachot cited in the Talmud.