Do not profane G-d's Name

The Literal Commandment

You shall not profane My holy name, but I will be sanctified among the sons of Israel; I am the LORD who sanctifies you, who brought you out from the land of Egypt, to be your God; I am the LORD. (Leviticus 22:32-33)

 

The literal commandment is that we should not profane G-d's holy name.

 

Messiah Says

Messiah implicitly affirmed this commandment when He spoke about the Law:

"Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-19)

 

Pictures of Messiah

This command to sanctify G-d's name pictures the holiness of Messiah's name:

"I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are."  (John 17:11)

 

As a consequence of Messiah's faithfulness and obedience, G-d has given to Him the name which is above every name (Philippians 2:9).  Just as G-d's name should be sanctified so should the name of the Messiah.

 

How Messiah Fulfilled

Messiah fulfilled this commandment by not profaning G-d's special and holy name, YHVH, though common use.  He used other words in place of G-d's special name: "Heavenly Father" (Matthew 5:48), "Kingdom of Heaven" (Matthew 3:2), and "Lord" (Matthew 4:10) are just a few examples.  This practice of using one name or label in place of another is known as "circumlocution".

 

Traditional Observance

Traditional observance of this commandment involves several aspects:

  • not speaking G-d's sacred name
  • not fully writing out G-d's name or titles (as we do here by inserting a hyphen into the word G-d)
  • treating anything that contains G-d's name (Bibles, prayer books, etc) with respect

 

Items that contain G-d's name are not burned, thrown in the trash, or otherwise casually discarded.  They are treated reverently and buried or stored in a safe place.  It was this practice of burying Scripture (like a dead body) that provided us with the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Tracey Rich, on his website, jewfaq.org, writes

In Jewish thought, a name is not merely an arbitrary designation, a random combination of sounds. The name conveys the nature and essence of the thing named. It represents the history and reputation of the being named.

This is not as strange or unfamiliar a concept as it may seem at first glance. In English, we often refer to a person's reputation as his "good name." When a company is sold, one thing that may be sold is the company's "good will," that is, the right to use the company's name. The Hebrew concept of a name is very similar to these ideas.

For more details, see Mr Rich's article on The Name of G-d

 

Other Notes

We are able to fulfill this commandment today and should not profane G-d's name.

 

Profane literally means "marked by contempt or irreverence for what is sacred".1

This commandment is the mirror reflection of previous one which is "sanctify G-d's name."

As was noted regarding the preceding commandment, the word "G-d" is not His holy name.  "G-d" is a title.

G-d's holy name is the special four-letter name He gave to Moses (Exodus 6:2-3).  It is transliterated into English as YHVH.  Some Bibles incorrectly translate this name as Jehovah or Yahweh.  Many Bibles use LORD (all caps) in place of this name because its true pronunciation is unknown.

Other passages of Scripture provide insight into specific prohibitions against profaning G-d's name.  For example, Deuteronomy 12:3 says that we should obliterate the names of foreign gods from the land of Israel.  Verse 4 says that we should not act like this towards the LORD our G-d.  We should not obliterate his name or treat it profanely.

 

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Footnotes

1. Excerpted from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition  © 1996 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Electronic version licensed from INSO Corporation; further reproduction and distribution in accordance with the Copyright Law of the United States. All rights reserved. [back]

Commandment Details

  • Mishneh Torah # 7
  • Mishneh Torah Book # 1
  • Mishneh Torah Book Knowledge
  • Mishneh Torah Category 1- The Foundations of Torah
  • Reference Leviticus 22:32
  • Scripture Book Leviticus
  • Chapter 22
  • Verse 32
  • English You shall not profane My holy name, but I will be sanctified among the sons of Israel; I am the LORD who sanctifies you,
  • Hebrew לב וְלֹא תְחַלְּלוּ, אֶת-שֵׁם קָדְשִׁי, וְנִקְדַּשְׁתִּי, בְּתוֹךְ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל: אֲנִי יְהוָה, מְקַדִּשְׁכֶם.
  • Greek 32 καὶ οὐ βεβηλώσετε τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ ἁγίου, καὶ ἁγιασθήσομαι ἐν μέσῳ τῶν υἱῶν Ισραηλ· ἐγὼ κύριος ὁ ἁγιάζων ὑμᾶς
  • Parashah 31- Emor
  • Positive/Negative Negative
  • Sefer Hachinuch # 295
  • Sef. Hach. Command To do nothing by which the Divine Name will be profaned or desecrated among men
  • Category G-d
  • We can fullfill today Yes

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