Orthodox Judaism/Name Censorship


QUESTION: Greetings, I am doing research on the name censorship of our Creator. I know that it is Jewish tradition to censor and substitute the name. However, I am just curious as to what year this censorship began? When did the Jewish leaders begin name censorship?

Thanks a bunch

ANSWER: Hi Danne,

Actually, the prohibition of enunciating G-d's name for no (spiritual) purpose has its roots way back on Mount Sinai.

As part of the oral Torah Law we have been required to refrain from uttering G-d's Hebrew name as it is spelled (and He has many variations). Only the High Priest at a specific time during the year actually did so.

Besides uttering the  Name as it is spelled, Jews have also been careful not to refer to G-d casually for no spiritual purpose (such as in prayer). Outside of spiritual endeavors we substitute the word Hashem (lit. the Name) for any Hebrew word meaning G-d. This stems from the commandment to "fear" G-d. Again a practice traced way back to the Sinai experience. (Similarly, religious Jews would never call their parents by their first names, as it would be considered disrespectful to refer to them as your equal. A practice that in today's world apparently has become obsolete).

Finally, regarding writing the word G-d or any other permutation of His name, Jews have been careful to refrain from putting that word on to paper just because it may inadvertently be defaced which again is considered disrespectful to Hashem. Thus you see I use the word G-d in this communication to you. This is because it may be printed out and at some point in time discarded in a non "respectful" manner.

Hope this answers your question. Basically, the practice began when the Torah was given.


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thanks very much for your response. Is there any literature or perhaps scripture reference to this practice? I am looking to corroborate this. My main concern is trying to find an estimated date when this practice started, and have corroborating evidence for this timeframe. Is there any Jewish records or writings on this matter, or scripture references?

Thanks again

Hi Danne,

There certainly are a plethora of Jewish writings to this effect. Dating back to Mishnaic period

Not sure if you are Jewish or not. However, interestingly enough, this very week's Torah (Bible) reading is one of the scriptural sources to this custom. Shmos (Ch.3 v.15) as interpreted in the Talmud (circa year 600 ce) tractate Pesachim folio 50. It is also mentioned earlier in the mishna (circa year 300 ce) tractate Sanhedrin folio 90. It has been codified by Maimonides (circa 1200 ce)as well.  

Hope this helps.


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Tzvi Frank


As a scholar of Judaic Studies & Ethics for close to 25 years, I am happy to answer any of your questions regarding Jewish Law and its meaning as well as general Jewish philosophy. Thousands of years of Jewish religious scholarship teaches us to always ask questions. From the Talmud to this very day, scholars have been consistently questioning premises and concepts that exist in Jewish thought. Never be afraid to ask! The answer may change your life. I will not answer questions pertaining to Christianity or Jesus.


I have been a scholar of Jewish Studies & Ethics for close to 25 years and I have been responding to online questions for close to 10 years.

Have been published in numerous (Hebrew) Academic publications.

B.A. in Judaica Studies and Ethics.

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