jewish Funeral Guide

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One of the proper names of God, which is written in Hebrew as י followed by ה, followed by ו, followed by ה, is known as HaShem HaMeforash / השם המפורש - God’s Ineffable Name, or the Tetragrammaton (from the Greek τετραγράμματον, meaning “four letters”). In prayer and Torah reading it is uttered either as אדני - the Lord, or אלהים - God, depending on the Nikud / ניקוד - the vocalization dots under the Hebrew letters.

The Tetragrammaton and six other proper names of God must be treated with great respect. Since Jewish law prohibits erasing any of these names, they are known as “names, which are not to be erased / שמות שאינם נמחקים”.*

Because of the great sanctity of the Tetragrammaton many Jewish prayer books print it as an abbreviation יְיָ, which is uttered as אדני - the Lord. Other names of God are written in the prayer books without modifications. However, one should not write any of these proper names of God in a letter, newspaper or brochure that is normally thrown into the garbage after it has been read. Consequently, when referring to God in everyday writing it is customary to either use a Kinnui / כינוי - a descriptive name, such as “HaRahaman / הרחמן — the Merciful One”, or various abbreviations, such as '‎ה‎, '‎ד‎, etc.

Many people extend the rule regarding the writing of the Tetragrammaton and other names of God, which are not to be erased, and write the word “God” with the dash instead of letter o (“G-d”), even though Jewish law does not in fact require one to do so.

Names of God in any language but Hebrew are considered to be a Kinnui / כינוי - a descriptive name, and have no stringency of the proper names of God mentioned above. Any page containing the names of God, which are not to be erased, requires deposition in a Genizah / גניזה when no longer usable. However, a page containing only descriptive names of God (including translations, abbreviations and alterations of God’s proper names) may be recycled in any way that is not disgraceful, but still may not be used as toilet paper, for example.

It is certainly beyond the scope of this short note to analyze all the concerns, but an unconventional combination of symbols referring to God does not seem to be better than an English word, since any reference to God still must be treated respectfully. And besides, some readers find this practice of writing “G-d” with a dash confusing and even offending. This is especially absurd when the Hebrew portion of the same page contains unmodified, fully spelled names of God, including the Tetragrammaton.

For the sake of clarity this web site follows the regular English spelling rules as do some prominent Jewish web sites such as Since one of the goals of this site is to analyze various prayers and scriptural verses recited by the mourners, the Hebrew text is also reproduced here as it may appear in the prayer books. Those who want to print pages from this web site will be warned that the printout may contain scriptural verses and, therefore, must be treated with respect.

*However, erasing text containing the Tetragrammaton on a computer display (e.g., by turning computer off) or erasing computer files is allowed.