Using God's Name

Although one is never to use God's name in routine conversation, or any time for that matter outside of study or prayer, one is permitted to use God's name in full when teaching children how to pray and recite blessings.[1] For example, although when referring to God in conversation one replaces His name with the title "Hashem", it is permissible to use His name of "Adonai", as is it used in prayer, when teaching or assisting others to recite a blessing.[2] This is true even with regards to young children whose prayers generally have no official halachic validity.[3]

It goes without saying that one is permitted to teach an adult how to pray and pronounce God's name and one is permitted to do so as well in the process.[4] If, however, the person one is teaching how to pray (or recite a blessing) knows how to recite God's name but merely needs prompting as to when it should be said, it is recommended that one merely say "Ado…" and allow the individual to then recite God's name on his own.[5]

It is a matter of dispute whether one who comes across God's name in the course of study should pronounce the name as it is written or substitute "Hashem". It seems to be the consensus of halachic authorities that one should not pronounce God's name when studying when it appears in the context of a prayer, though one can pronounce it when quoting scriptural verses.[6] This is true even if only a portion of the verse is being quoted.[7] Some authorities actually encourage one to always pronounce God's name in the course of study any time it appears. This is especially true when it appears in the context of a verse. Some authorities consider it unbecoming to insert irreverent designations for God, such as "Adoshem" or even "Elokeinu" when His name appears in the course of studying scriptural verses. [8] Other authorities completely disagree and maintain that one should always use such designations when mentioning God during study.[9] One is permitted to pronounce the name of God as it is written when singing Shabbat zemirot, and the like.[10]

It must be emphasized, however, that although there are a number of circumstances when mentioning God's name is appropriate and even required, doing so when uncalled for is a serious transgression.[11] Contrary to widespread misconception, the only names of God which are truly subject to any concerns for misuse are: the "Yud-Hay-Vav-Hay", Adonai, El, Elohim, Eheyeh, Shaddai, and Tzvaot.[12] All other references or titles for God may be recited as normal in all circumstances. One is also permitted to use God's name in routine conversation when the context and intention is to praise Him.[13]

[1] O.C. 215:3

[2] Mishna Berura 215:14

[3] Pri Megadim O.C. 657:1

[4] Igrot Moshe 2:56

[5] Kaf Hachaim 167:129, Eshel Avraham (Botatch) 167:19

[6] Mishna Berura 215:14

[7] Piskei Teshuvot 215:10

[8] Piskei Teshuvot 215:10

[9] Piskei Teshuvot 215:n57

[10] Piskei Teshuvot 215:18

[11] O.C. 215:4

[12] Piskei Teshuvot 215:12

[13] Piskei Teshuvot 215:18