The first thing I did was take a deep breath.
The second thing I did was have a minor panic attack, as I’ve just written a whole book that’s about to come out any second (God-willing) called: Talk to God and Fix Your Health, and the full three-letter monty is all over it.
The third thing I did (when my brain started functioning again) was figure out a couple of things that instantly calmed me down, which I’d like to share with you now:
- God is not a Hebrew word, or term. Thus, using the English word ‘God’ is akin to using the Hebrew term Hashem (which literally means ‘The Name’) to refer to the Creator of the world. Last time I checked, nobody in the world hyphenates H-shem – because it’s not actually a real name of God. And neither is ‘God’.
- Nevertheless, the Shulchan Aruch (the universally-accepted codes of Jewish law) warns us to be very careful about our use of even colloquial, non-Hebrew terms for God. The main concern it brings is that a person could write the word ‘God’, or something similar, in a letter, that would ultimately end up in the rubbish bin.
Firstly, that particular problem doesn’t occur with blog posts – there’s an argument that everything that appears ‘electronically’ isn’t really written in any real sense of the word. It’s the printed word that could get taken into unpleasant, disrespectful places.
Secondly, whenever I’m using the word God, I’m talking about God! I’m not using it in vain, God-forbid, or using it lightly. My writings are generally all about building a real relationship with God, relating to Him as the Prime Force in our lives, and encouraging other people to make a connection with the Creator of the world.
So why was my correspondent getting so snippety?
Sadly, the Jews have been in exile for so long, that I think that even some of the more religious ones have forgotten that English is not the language God used to create the world.
The Hebrew alphabet is innately holy, (and I’m getting all kabbalistic for a moment, so please excuse me), and is actually the foundation of our physical reality. When God created the world, He spoke it into being, and the letters and words He used to do that were Hebrew. That’s why the Hebrew names of God contain so much power, holiness and sanctity, and have to be treated very carefully indeed: they are the building blocks of creation.
But English isn’t.
And after praying on the whole G-d thing for a while, I decided that it’s hard enough relating to our Creator, without there being a big, empty space in the middle of it all. Personally, I want a whole, complete relationship with God, in any way I can get it.
The last word on the matter goes to Rashi, who wrote the following on Parshat Toldot, the infamous passage where Jacob ‘steals’ his father Isaac’s blessing by pretending to be his twin brother Esau. Rashi explains that Isaac gets suspicious when Jacob mentions the name of God when he’s talking to him, because his evil brother Esau never did.
Isaac always assumed that Esau didn’t mention God’s name because he was ‘too righteous’, and didn’t want to risk using it inappropriately. But with the benefit of hindsight, we know otherwise: Esau was bad news, while the name of God appeared so easily and frequently on Jacob’s lips because he had a vibrant, ongoing and real relationship with Him.
And just maybe, the same is still true today.