Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Rambam Yisodei Hatorah Perek 6 Halacha 3: Erasing a Prefix or Suffix to G-D's Name

כל הנטפל לשם מלפניו מותר למוחקו כגון למ"ד מליהוה ובי"ת מבאלהים וכיוצא בהן אינן כקדושת השם. וכל הנטפל לשם מאחריו כגון ך' של אלהיך וכ"ם של אלהיכם וכיוצא בהן אינם נמחקים והרי הם כשאר אותיות של שם מפני שהשם מקדשם. ואע"פ שנתקדשו ואסור למוחקם המוחק אלו האותיות הנטפלות אינו לוקה אבל מכין אותו מכת מרדות:

Anything added infront of the name [of G-D] is allowed to be erased. For example, the letter Lamed in the word "to G-D" (Lamed means to) or a Beis from the word "with G-D" (Beis means with) and similar [additions] are not holy like the name [of G-D itself]. [However,] Anything added on to [G-D's] name at the end, like the kaf at the end of "your G-D (singular)" (kaf means your, singular) and the kaf mem at the end of "your G-D (plural)" (kaf mem means your, plural) and everything like it, are not allowed to be erased and they are like every other letter in [G-D's] name because [G-D's] name makes them holy. Even though they are considered holy and it is forbidden to erase them (the letters at the end, the suffix), a person who does erase them does not receive lashes [from the Torah], but he/she does receive Rabbinic lashes.

The name of G-D is given a special status, a holy status, as we have discussed in the previous halachas of the Rambam. However, what about different letters that come to be added onto the holy names of G-D? The Rambam tells us that if we erase a prefix to the name of G-D, that is allowed, but a suffix is forbidden. Why the distinction?

I think the answer can be derived from the same idea as to why the name of G-D is holy and why it is, therefore, not allowed to be erased. The name of G-D is not allowed to be erased because the one who erases it shows disdain for G-D and a rebelliousness towards G-D. A person who erases a prefix does not show this same disdain. The prefix of a lamed or a beis means to and with, respectively, they are both prepositions. A preposition is a word that shows the spatial (space), temporal (time), or logical relationship of its object to the rest of the sentence. Thus, a preposition does not define G-D in any way, it just allows a sentence to flow. There is no inherent value or meaning to a preposition. However, the suffix of a kaf or kaf mem means your (singular) and your (plural). This suffix defines the word G-D. The word no longer means G-D, but your G-D. It now identifies the idea that you believe G-D is YOUR G-D. A person who erases this suffix is still being rebellious and showing disdain for G-D. The person who erases this suffix is implying that he or she does not want G-D to be his or her G-D. Therefore, it is forbidden to erase the suffix, but not the prefix.

If this is true, why then does a person not get lashes from the Torah? This is because the act that is forbidden by the Torah is to erase the name of G-D. Here, although you are showing disdain, you still are not erasing the actual name of G-D, nor even erasing one letter that, effectively, erases the name of G-D (changes the meaning of the word to not be referring to G-D anymore). The only reason this extra letter is off limits is solely because it is attached to G-D's name. Therefore, there are no lashes from the Torah when erasing this letter. However, the Rabbis recognized the disdain a person was showing and, therefore, proclaimed that such a person would still get Rabbinic lashes.

No comments: