Question: May one erase or throw out a paper with the name of a person who has Hashem’s name (such as alef and lamed) within the letters of his name (e.g., Shmuel, Yechezkel, etc.)?

Short Answer: According to some poskim, including Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l, these papers may be thrown out and these words do not need to be written with an apostrophe, while other poskim are stricter and prefer that words ending with a yud and hei be written instead with a yud and an apostrophe. If not, these words should be placed in sheimos.


I. S’dei Chemed’s Defense of His Sefer

When Rav Chaim Chezkiyahu Medini (d. 1904), wrote his sefer, the S’dei Chemed, he received certain negative feedback regarding his choice of the title, which contains the same letters (shin, daled, and yud) as one of Hashem’s names that may not be erased. See Article #1. Invariably, bookbinders rip out and destroy the first page (which often contains the title) during the bookbinding, meaning that the letters of the name of Hashem would be desecrated and destroyed. He was told that he should have instead called his sefer Sadeh Chemed. In response, the S’dei Chemed wrote (in Volume 5, Kuntres B’eir BaSadeh) published letters that he received from other rabbanim who defended his title. Because many of the letters repeat some of the key sources, I list below one of the more robust letters.

II. Rabbi Avraham Yechezkel Arlozorov’s Defense

Rabbi Avraham Yechezkel Arlozorov, the Av Beis Din of Kharkov and a Chabad chasid, wrote a defense. He starts by noting the opinion of those who challenged the S’dei Chemed. They base their opinion on the words of the M’il Tz’dakah (24), that it is prohibited to erase the name of Hashem, even when it does not have k’dushah. Rabbi Arlozorov responds that this is an incorrect citation of the M’il Tz’dakah, who merely writes that it is prohibited to erase the name of Hashem that was written to be Hashem’s name, but somehow does not have k’dushah. He never forbade erasing the letters of Hashem’s name that were written for other purposes, e.g., as part of a name of an individual or sefer.

Rabbi Arlozorov does concede that the Gilyon Maharsha appears to cite the M’il Tz’dakah as ruling that it is even prohibited to erase the name of Hashem when written for other purposes. Nevertheless, Rabbi Arlozorov proves this is not the case, as he cites the M’il Tz’dakah as requiring it be written “l’kavanas Hashem” in order for it to be prohibited to be erased. He further notes that the Maharshdam agrees with this ruling, as otherwise, it would be prohibited to erase any word with the letters alef next to lamed or yud next to hei.

Rabbi Arlozorov, however, challenges this leniency based on the B’chor Shor rules that it is prohibited to call your friend Shalom by his name in the bathroom. The B’chor Shor cites the Gemara (Sotah 10) as proof, as, according to his interpretation, the Gemara prohibits erasing the name of your friend, Shimshon, as this is also the name of Hashem. Rabbi Arlozorov rejects this challenge by noting that the Gemara in Sotah is merely suggesting that it is prohibited to erase the word “Shimshon” when written as a reference to the name of Hashem.

Rabbi Arlozorov adds that there are many poskim who rule that it is permitted to erase the name of “Shalom” when not written to refer to Hashem, including the N’kudos HaKesef and the Ridvaz. Indeed, the Gemara (Rosh HaShanah 18b) notes that the Chachamim abolished the practice of writing the year based on “Yochanan Kohen Gadol L’Keil Elyon” on contracts, as the contract eventually ends up in the garbage, and thus the word “L’Keil” would be defiled. The Gemara, however, does not mention any concern for contracts bearing the name Shmuel, Yisrael, etc., implying that there is no k’dushah to the letters alef and lamed in a person’s name.

Rabbi Arlozorov concludes that it is noble to be strict when writing a name like Yehudah, and thus it is preferable to write an alef instead of a hei, as there is otherwise a yud, hei, and vav together in the name. However, this is only for the name of a person, as the person sought to include Hashem’s name in his name, hence the yud, hei, etc. This stringency is absolutely unnecessary for the name of a sefer such as the S’dei Chemed, nor for a person’s name with an alef and lamed (which has other meanings, such as “strength”). Thus, there is no problem if the words “S’dei Chemed” get destroyed.

III. Practically Speaking

The Ginzei Kodesh (7:28) summarizes the topic, concluding that there is no problem to write, erase, or destroy a paper with the name Shmuel, Yisrael, or other names with alef and lamed. There are some poskim who are strict with respect to throwing out a paper with the name “Yehudah,” “Yeshayahu, etc. (with a yud and a hei).

In a footnote, the Ginzei Kodesh cites the Igros Moshe (Yoreh Dei’ah 1:172) as ruling leniently on all names/words except a word that has “sheim havayah.” On the other hand, he cites Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l as ruling stringently for himself, always writing a name ending with a yud and a hei with a yud and an apostrophe.

Further, the Ginzei Kodesh cites numerous other contemporary g’dolim, including Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zt”l and the Chazon Ish zt”l who were particularly careful with names ending with a yud and hei.

Next Week’s Topic: May one throw out an old, worn-out sefer that does not have the name of Hashem written in it? What about the binding or cover of such a sefer?

Rabbi Ephraim Glatt, Esq. is Assistant Rabbi at the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills and a practicing litigation attorney. Questions? Comments? Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..