Menachem Mendel

Menachem Mendel RSS Feed
 
 
 
 

The Tetragrammaton in Newspapers

While reading the most recent issue of The New Republic at breakfast this morning, I noticed that on the cover were two instances of the tetragrammaton (YHVH) appearing in Hebrew. Can I throw the cover in the garbage or do I have to treat it like a page from a humash and put it in a genizah? (On the question of the disposal of printed matter containing the tetragrammaton see this responsum and the literature cited at the end.) The Rambam in Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah 6:8 codified that the only writings which require proper disposal are those which were written by a Jew and for the sake of holiness (בקדושה). One of the first places where this question was raised was regarding the proofs or galleys of printed books which were intended to be proofread and contained God’s name. Since these were never intended to be holy, it was not necessary to dispose of them in a genizah (see Shu”t Ein Yitzhak OH 5) Despite this codified halachah, R. Moshe Feinstein said that while he doesn’t look for instances of God’s name in the newspaper, when he does see one, even though it was not written for the sake of holiness, he rips it out and disposes of it properly (Iggrot Moshe YD I:172).

One Response to “The Tetragrammaton in Newspapers”

  1. 1
    Menachem Mendel:

    Your post reminded me of a comment a professor of mine made years back about how in the “good ol days” even pagan were respectful (terrified?) of the tetragrammaton. I was told this amusing historical point: In Egypt around 2000+ years ago archeologists found various prayers and petitiions as well as magic spells to a mysterious chicken god suddenly appearing all over place. This chicken god was a complete mystery, until someone pointed out that the god began to appear at the same time that Jews began to be prominent in ancient Alexandria, and that if you read the tetrammaton backwards and assuming that the letters are Greek (not a bad assumption to make if you are an Egyptian thinking about the writing of Alexandrian Jews who were Greek-speaking) then the word you get is “PiPi” which apparently means Chicken in ancient Egyptian.

    The Egyptians apparently were so impressed with the tetragammon they assimilated it into their world view and assumed that anything so powerful must refer to a god and mis-read it as chicken.

    [Contrast this with the relatively disrepectful way in which the tetragammon is treated in popular culture]

    Anyway, an amusing anecdote.
    David | 04.26.06 – 12:27 pm | #

    Columbia University’s seal has the shem Hashem in it. It’s even imprinted, IIRC, on the floor in Low Library (which is neither low nor a library).

    The sweatshirts, on the other hand, have yud chet vav chet written on them.
    jdub | 04.27.06 – 2:12 pm | #

    According to a number of sources that I read Columbia changed the writing to Y-chet-V-H at the request of a number of people, primarily the former Hillel rabbi Charles Scheer.
    Menachem Mendel | Homepage | 04.27.06 – 5:32 pm | #

    at Low? cool. last time I was there was years ago, i seem to remember it beinh YH VH
    jdub | 04.27.06 – 10:25 pm | #

    Sorry, I wasn’t clear about the change, it was only on the sweatshirts and ID card.
    Menachem Mendel | Homepage | 04.27.06 – 10:39 pm | #

    >R. Moshe Feinstein said that while he doesn’t look for instances of God’s name in the newspaper, when he does see one, even though it was not written for the sake of holiness, he rips it out and disposes of it properly (Iggrot Moshe I:172).

    Hm. Artscroll’s Reb Moshe bio never mentioned he read newspapers.

    Paranthetically, I posted about how Samaritans vocalize the tetragrammaton today.
    S. | Homepage | 04.28.06 – 4:26 pm | #

    1) I remember that until they changed the seal, religious Jews would walk around that section of the library floor.

    2) As with the Shakh in YD 242, I think the difference is between inherent sanctity and abuse. The New Republic page has no sanctity. However, it is still forbidden to proactively humiliate the Tetragrammaton by throwing it in the garbage.
    Jeffrey R. Woolf | Homepage | 05.03.06 – 1:56 am | #

    Name:

    Email:

    URL:

    Comment: ?

    Notify me of followup comments via email

    Commenting by HaloScan

Categories

Tags

Archives

Recent Posts

Meta

Sign up for an email subscribtion to this blog.

Michael Pitkowsky

Biblioblogs

Daf Yomi

History

Israel

Jewish Law

Judaica

Law and Legal History

Politics

Religion

Talmud