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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Re'ey, Devarim 12:3-4. Erasing Hashem's Written Name

 It is assur to erase or obliterate any of the seven primary names we use for Hashem.  This halacha is stated in YD 176:8, and in the Rambam 6 Yesodei Hatorah 1.  The words of the Rambam are:

כל המאבד שם מן השמות הקדושים הטהורים שנקרא בהן הקדוש ברוך הוא, לוקה מן התורה--שהרי הוא אומר בעבודה זרה, ואיבדתם את שמם . . . לא תעשון כן לה' אלוקיכם

The source of the issur is the passuk in our parsha, "you shall destroy their names (of the pagan gods); you shall not do so to Hashem your G-d."

My son, a Rov and Rosh Kollel, mentioned that one of the members of his community is a jeweler who has for many years bought and sold scrap gold.  Several years ago, he asked whether there was a problem melting down those pieces that have Hashem's name on them.  My son told him doing so might be assur on the basis of our passuk.  Since then, he has accumulated a significant amount of gold that he cannot melt down.  On the one hand, it has quadrupled in value since he acquired it.  On the other hand, if he cannot melt it down, it is of no value to him at all.  Assuming these shaimos have kedusha, he does not have the option of recycling the pieces into new jewelry that incorporates the old pieces, because the Kedushas Hashem precludes such use.  We don't use Hashem's name as an ornament.  (I once saw a non-Jewish man- nice looking fellow, with a wife and two blond kids- at a highway rest stop in Kentucky, with a tattoo of the YKVK on his inner forearm in giant blue letters, from wrist to elbow.  He didn't even know what the names of the letters were, only that this is how the Jews write G-d's name.  It could have been worse.)

My son did not state for a fact that it was assur, only that it might be assur.  He had not yet made a careful analysis of the sugya, and in any case such a question ought to be addressed by a widely recognized and experienced posek of the highest caliber.  Under the circumstances of a possible issur de'oraysa, caution is not only prudent but legally required.  (Note, also, that Reb Moshe says in a teshuva that this issur is uniquely strict in that it is not mitigated by a countervailing Assei: we do not say Assei docheh lo saaseh by lo saasun kein.)

This question raises three issues that need to be examined sequentially.
1. Assuming that erasing is assur, is Grama (indirect destruction) muttar.
2. If the person who made the name was unaware of its meaning, is it assur to erase it.
3. Assuming that a name written without awareness is muttar to erase, and assuming that most are written by non-speakers of Hebrew and are therefore muttar to melt down, but some were written knowingly, do we go bassar Rove, do we rely on the majority to allow melting all of them.

Issue one: Grama

Assuming it is assur to erase the word, is it muttar to do so indirectly, by means of a Grama?  The Aruch Hashulchan decides that Gramma is not an option.  The following is the relevant section of the Aruch Hashulchan  (276:36-7):

סעיף לו

ודע דבשבת (קכ ב) אמרינן דגרמא במחיקת השם מותר, מדכתיב: "לא תעשון כן לה' אלקיכם" – עשייה הוא דאסור, הא גרמא – שרי. ולכן אם היה שם כתוב על בשרו, ונזדמנה לו טבילה של מצוה – יורד וטובל אף על פי שהשם יתמחק, עיין שם. והרמב"ם הביא זה בפרק ששי מיסודי התורה, עיין שם.
ותמיהני על הטור ושולחן ערוך שלא הביאו דין זה בשום מקום, והרי אין מי שחולק על זה? ויראה לי דהדין עמם, דהך דינא לא משכחת לה רק בהדין הנזכר, ודבר זה לא שכיח כלל. אבל בעניין אחר לא משכחת לה, דזהו וודאי לגרום הגרמא, כגון להעמיד מים סמוך לה כדי שתשפוך על השם ותמחקנו – פשיטא שאסור, דזהו גופה עשייה גמורה היא. ולכן גם הש"ס לא צייר דין זה רק בטבילה, כמו שכתבתי.

(I want to point out that this mehalach of the Aruch Hashulchan forms the basis of Reb Moshe's teshuva, which was argued against by many, in OC 4 8:2.  Not that Reb Moshe needs support against the individuals that argued with him, but there it is anyway.)

סעיף לז

ולפי זה ברירא לי במקום שיש טעות ואי אפשר למחוק השם לפי הדינים שנתבארו – אסור גם לעשות גרמא להמחיקה. וכתבתי זה לפי שראיתי לגדול אחד שהתיר לעשות גרמא למחיקת השם (עיין פתחי תשובה סעיף קטן י"ט בשם הב"א). ולדעתי איסור גדול הוא, וחלילה לעשות כן.
ומצאתי לגדול אחד שעמד על השמטת הטור ושולחן ערוך דין זה, וכתב משום דאמרינן במגילה (כו ב):
ספר תורה שבלה – נותנין אותה בכלי חרס, וקוברין אותו אצל תלמיד חכם.
ומדלא התירו רק בכלי חרס למען יעמוד ימים רבים, ולא התירו בלא זה שהיה נמחק מיד – שמע מינה דלית הלכתא כהך דשבת, וגרמא נמי אסור (נודע ביהודה תנינא, חלק אורח חיים, סימן י"ז "מבנו").
ודברים תמוהים הם, שהרי הרמב"ם פסקם להשני דינים, ומבואר להדיא שאין סותרין זה את זה. ולפי מה שכתבתי לא קשיא כלל. ולכן בלא כלי חרס – הרי הוא עושה הגרמא, ואסור כמו שכתבתי.

See the comments regarding the teshuva he brings from the Noda B'Yehuda's son and the numerous problems with that teshuva.  My dear friend and Rebbi, Rabbi Moshe Brown, in his sefer Maadanei Moshe, on page 263, also distinguishes, as does Eli in the comments, between a Sefer Torah and other sheimos.


Issue Two: What makes a name a Name?

Certainly, if a Jeweler had hand-made this jewelry, and he knew what he was writing, there would be an insuperable problem.  The question is in a case where the jewelry was stamped out or otherwise fabricated by a person that had no idea what the letters mean, and for whom the jewelry had no more significance than a random design.  I don't know this for a fact, but I am assuming that the final step of the manufacture of most jewelry of this sort is done in China or India, or in any case by people who have no idea at all what they are doing.


There is a Tashbeitz brought by the Beis Yosef that indicates we are meikil in such a case. תשב"ץ ח"א קעז; סמ"ק ק"ס, הובאו בב"י בד"ה רעו, ט

However, the Shach in 276:12 says that one may only apply this hetter when doing so enables you to fix a sefer torah (under the logic of net benefit, that mekalkel al menas l'saken is called a tikun), implying that it would be assur for mere monetary benefit.  (I believe that this logic underlies the Aruch Hashulchan's argument as brought above.)

But I found that the Noda B'Yehuda YD II 180 is mattir be'feirush in precisely such a case, because the person who did the stamping knew nothing about what the letters meant.   Also, the Chazon Ish (YD 162:3) says that where the person did not even know that he was writing a name, and certainly did not know he was writing Hashem's name, it is muttar to erase it.  The Satmerer Rov was also mattir in a pre-war letter printed in the Satmerer journal Olas Hachodesh of Chodesh Av Tof Shim Mem beginning on page 529.

Yes, some poskim disagree with the Noda B'Yehuda, but since I'm not paskening for anyone here, I can tell you that in my opinion they don't really matter.  The svara is pashut- it's no different than the letters אל; if you wrote it to mean "to," you certainly can erase it.  Harav Chaim Medini didn't have any problem with the שדי in his שדי חמד.  (A lamden might argue that those cases are different because they gave the words a different meaning, whereas in our case, it was Stam, neutral, and maybe neutral is more of a problem.  I don't agree with that, and why I don't agree is a whole different discussion, involving the Machane Efraim's hagahos on the Tur about how a Sheim acquires kedusha- awareness or intent, and the Raavad brought in the Ran in Nedarim that says that the Kedusha of a Sheim is a davar hanadur, and the Kli Chemda in this week's parsha that says that according to the Raavad, you can be shoeil on the Kedusha of a Sheim, but the teshuvos at the end of the Avnei Miluim #18 says that being shoeil on the kedusha of a sheimis just as bad as mechikah, and the Asvan De'Oraysa #15 (P 27b) that argues on the Avnei Miluim.  In any case, if you say that according to the Raavad you can be sho'eil, that means that Stam is zero, because she'eila won't make it kavana misnagedes.)

Also, I happened to speak to Reb Shmuel Kaminetsky about this the other day, and he stated his strong agreement with the Chazon Ish, although he said the hetter would not apply by pesukim from Tanach (like the hundred Shekel note).  This was before I saw the Noda B'Yehuda, and I thought the Chazon Ish was a sole mattir.

I later saw that Reb Shmuel's distinction was made by Reb Moshe in OC 4 8:1, by the Achiezer 2 48:2, and others, as I mention in the comments. 

Issue Three: Rove

Assuming that an unwittingly written Sheim is not Sheimos, what if some of these pieces of jewelry were made by individuals who knew they were writing G-d's name, but most were written without knowledge?  Can we rely on the Rove and melt the whole bunch down?  Although in general we go bassar rove, that may not be the case by a davar chashuv or by issurei hanaah.

I would respond that while this would be a problem in Taaroves, it is not a problem in cases of Kol Deparish.  My son said even a better reason it's not a problem:  because a Sheim is not assur b'hanaah.  I had postulated it was assur b'hanaa because the Gemara says that a utensil that has Hashem's name on it is assur to use, which , to me, sounded like issur hanaah.  But he said that It's just assur to use it because of zilzul.  That is not the same as something which is inherently assur b'hanaah, and there's no reason to think it's not batteil b'rov.

I know that this too brief.  If I have time I'll expand it.  But the bottom line is that if it's unwittin', it can be unwritten.

Dear Eli has sent me a very valuable mar'eh makom, as follows:

Following the footsteps of R. Akiva (Kerisus 15):

I came across Chavos Yair (http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=857&st=&pgnum=44 middle of left col. brought by Mishna Berura OC 334,52) which is relevant to your discussion:

"ולפי זה במטבעות שנטבעין במדינות שוודין בשם של ד' אותיות היה צ"ע, ומ"מ נראה שמותרים הם כי נטבעו להוציאם והוה ליה ככתיבת השם בפירוש לשם חול"

So, even though the manufacturer knows the letters mean a Sheim, still it's considered Chol when done with the purpose of Chol usage.

I was surprised to learn 17th century Swedish coins had Shem of daled osios. Here is one such coin:
located here.


Post Script:
Circumstances under which Mechika would be allowed.

The Chasam Sofer in the last volume of the Teshuvos (#8) was asked about a case where a Rasha attached a Sheim Hashem to a place where it would disgrace the sheim.  He paskens that the issur is to cause disgrace by erasing; therefore, where erasing would prevent a greater disgrace, it is muttar to erase it.  See here.
The awesome aspect of this teshuva is the very end, where he says that you can't have a child do it, because without intent to prevent disgrace, the act of erasure is inherently disgraceful.  Since the intent of a child is not recognized by the halacha, his erasure would be an erasure without intent of preventing disgrace, which would be an issur de'oraysa.

7 comments:

Mighty Garnel Ironheart said...

Would this issue not have come up decades ago when secular Hebrew newspapers starting appear in which one of God's names might appear in the original?

Anonymous said...

What about selling the gold to a Goy? I have researched selling gold recently and if he was just going to melt it down then the value is only the gold. There are plenty of sources that will pay 90%of the gold value (for 14K multiply the weight by the spot price of gold and then by 0.583) less 10%. There are many who pay much less but if he has bulk and is in the business he must know many. He would be out the 10% but up overall considering the rise in gold prices. If that is mutar by all than it may be a better option.

b said...

Garnel- you're right, and if not for the "kula" of print being different than writing, we'd be drowning in Sheimos.

Anonymous- The problem selling to a goy is that unlike Chametz and Shvi'is and Bechora and Sirus, selling to a goy who will be mochek is the same zilzul. Like leaving Sheimos on the garbage can and letting the sanitation workers worry about it. Your chiyuv is to not be mezalzel: selling to a goy that's going to melt it is zilzul.

BUT I agree that if it's muttar, it would still be a good idea to sell it to a goy that's going to do the actual melting.

Chaim B. said...

The Chasam Sofer paskens that gerama is permitted (O.C. 32).
More applicable to this case is the Rashba on the sugya in Shabbos who says the tevilah is permitted because the water will not necessarily obliterate the shem. Where there will be an unavoidable act of destruction, that's not called gerama.
The sefer L'Horos Noson on the parsha has a whole discussion on this topic.

Eli said...

Regarding The Noda BiHuda (actually the Tshuva is from his son, R. Shmuel) -- this was mentioned in our shul, and I found his Raaya puzzling. קבורה בכלי חרס is specific to Sefer Tora, while Mezuzah and Tefilin are buries without. Thus, as we know כלי חרס is more protective of the Sheimos (as we find in Yirmiyahu), and still we allow Kevura without one, this proves גרמא is not the reason for requiring כלי חרס, but rather the special Kedusha of S"T.

Also, note that R. Akiva Eiger in OC #70 says מחיקת השם בגרמא is, at most, איסור דרבנן. Still Assur, but could be used in conjunction with other Heterim you mentioned.

b said...

Regarding the Teshuva from the NB's son,

Now that a new annotated version of the NB has been published, we know that the following has been said about that teshuva:

1. תורת מיכאל- לכלוכית הקרקע מוחקו מיד והוי כמחיקה בידים, which I don't understand at all.

2. משנת יעקב (רוזנטל) - פשוט ברמב"ם ו' יסוה'ת ו דספר תורה שאני (like you said, and Reb Moshe says the same in OC 4, 8:1)
אבל המג"א קנ"ז ט כותב דה"ה שאר ספרים והפרמ"ג כותב ע"ז שלא ראה נוהגים כן

3. From אחיעזר ב מ"ח ב, that the NB"s son should have brought a better proof from Shabbos 14, where they were gozer tumas yadayim to prevent the unlikely event of achbarim destroying a sefer. So he says that answer to the stira is simply that Grama is only muttar by a solitary Sheim, but assur by kisvei kodesh, as he proves from Shabbos 115b where we're mattir hatzala for sfarim but not for brachos and kamei'in.

b said...

and Eli- I put the new information into the post. Yasher koach.