Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Name of Hashem Written without the Proper Intent

A braisa (Daf Yomi: Gittin 20a) was taught: A scribe was supposed to write the Name of Hashem in a Sefer Torah, and instead intended to write the name Yehudah. [The name Yehudah is similar to the letters in the Name of Hashem, except that the word Yehudah has a letter “dalet” between the “vav” and the “hey.”] He forgot to insert the “dalet” and ended up writing the Name of Hashem but without the required intention necessary to write the Holy Name. Rabbi Yehudah posits that the scribe can pass his quill over the Name of Hashem and have the proper intention of writing the Name. The Chachamim disagree, claiming that this is not the best way to write the Name of Hashem (and the Sefer Torah is subsequently invalid).

The Rishonim ask: According to Rav Chisda, who holds that the Chachamim maintain that the Sefer Torah is disqualified, why does he use the term that it is not the best way to write the Name of Hashem? This would indicate that the writing is good, but it is not written in the most preferable method! Why didn’t he say that the new writing does not accomplish anything?

The Rashba answers that they actually hold that the tracing over of the word is not regarded as an act of writing at all and the Sefer Torah is disqualified. They only used that term to discuss Rabbi Yehudah’s opinion.

The Pnei Yehoshua suggests a novel approach to explain the Chachamim’s terminology: Although the Chachamim maintain that the Sefer Torah is disqualified, they nevertheless hold that the Name of Hashem retains its sanctity and is forbidden to be erased. He proves that the Name of Hashem, although it wasn’t written with the correct intention, cannot be erased. This is why the Chachamim say that it is not the best way to write the Name of Hashem.

The Tashbatz, however, proves from our sugya that it is permitted to erase the Name of Hashem when it is written without the correct intention.

The Gemora in Yoma (38a) states that Ben Kamtzar had a unique talent that he was able to write four letters with one hand at the same time and he did not teach this talent to anyone else. The Gemora says that this was considered a shame and due to this, he was referred to as an evil person. What were the Chachamim concerned about? Rashi comments that this was referring to the Name of Hashem which has four letters.

The Tosfos Yom Tov explains that there is an advantage for the Name of Hashem to be written at one time, so that His Name should not be missing for a moment.

The Minchas Chinuch has a novel approach and says that if one writes the first two letters of the Name of Hashem which is the “yud” and the “hey,” that itself is one of the Name’s of Hashem, and by subsequently writing the third letter, the “vav,” it constitutes erasing Hashem’s Name. Ben Kamtzar was able to avoid with his special skill.

The Emek Brocha asks that if the Name of Hashem is written without proper intent, there is no prohibition to erase it, so why should there be a prohibition here when the scribe did not intend to write the ‘two letter’ Name of Hashem, but rather His ‘four letter’ Name?

According to the Pnei Yehoshua, this is not a question, for this, in fact, a prohibition to erase the Name of Hashem, even when it is written without the proper intent!

8 comments:

David said...

1) Is there really no problem of erasing Hashem's name when there is no intention? The Gemara says a scribe has to be very careful, becasue if he writes the name "Yehuda", and a fly lands on the word causing him to erase the ink the fly lands on, he is liable for punishment for "mechikas shem".

2) Derech Agav - the Maharatz Chajes suggests that the meaning of this gemara, ( that Bar Kamtzar was able to write 4 letters with one hand) is that he invented a sort of printing press. Intressante. ( I apologize if this is common knowledge).

Avromi said...

1) It seems that there is an issur derabanan and that might be your case. I will check though in the Minchas chinuch, for i think he might hold there is an issur min hatorah.

2) I saw that in passing but it didnt register , so i looked again at the maharatz chayus and thank you

Jerry said...

Does the Minchas Chinuch differentiate btw kavana to write the name with 2 letters of 4 letters. Perhaps, once you're incolved in the ma'asa of writing the name, your intent for 4 letters is disregarded, the entire ksiva is now one geared towards the totza of having Hashem;s name written? Where in the Chinuch is this found?

Zaidy said...

Bimchilas kvodchem, lefi miut sichli, the old time printing presses using cold-type, or hot-type (ie; melted metal)placed one letter at a time in a line form (linotype)that was placed on the printer. By printing the line, you can print more than 4 letters. However,if this printing of four letters at once was done by keyboard entry, what determined the order of the letters. VTZ"Y

Avromi said...

Zaidy:
the maharatz chayus asks your question - that if it was a type of press (though he doesnt get involved in hot/cold etc.) then it could have even been more than four, but the main chidush and advantage was for the shem Hashem which had four letters.

Minchas Chinuch is 437

Avromi said...

The emek brocha page 40 says your distinction that since he was intending for the shem of 4, it is kodosh even at 2 letters.

ben said...

Not sure about the Minchas Chinuch, as to the best of my knowledge even writing the yud-hay-vav is a Name of HaShem. Could be that's only al derech kabalah but not in halacha.

Avromi said...

that would be correct