May one erase the name of Hashem that is on a screen [i.e. delete the name, close the file or computer, open a new file]

May one erase the name of Hashem that is on a screen [i.e. delete the name, close the file or computer, open a new file]?[1]

Background:

It is forbidden to erase even one letter of the seven names of Hashem.[2] This leads to the question of whether it is permitted to type one of the seven names of Hashem on a computer even though it will become erased. On a computer, the concept of erasing is not just applicable when deleting Hashem’s name in the file, or backspacing a letter of his name, but even when saving and closing the file, or viewing another file, which causes the current file, and its name of Hashem, to be erased from the screen. Does this “erasing from the screen” constitute a prohibition against erasing the name of Hashem. This question also extends to the case in which one did not type the name of Hashem on a file, but simply opened a file that contains one of the seven names, such as he opened a Chumash or Siddur file or app, and the name of Hashem was written in full. May he now close this file, or open a new file, or must he wait until the computer turns off on its own? Is his computer now forever stuck with this file remaining open? This question is especially relevant to Safrus software, in which a computer application is used to review and edit the words of a Torah scroll, Tefillin, or Mezuzah, in which the names of Hashem are written in full. If closing the file/screen would consist of a erasing of the name prohibition, then the use of these programs which are so useful for editing of Safrus would actually be forbidden to use. When the technological advancement of such software was made available, the above questions were pondered on very seriously, and brought to the table of Gedolei Haposkim for them to give judgment as to whether this poses an issue or not. The matter under debate is as to whether letters that shine on a screen have any substance of letters from the viewpoint of Halacha. Perhaps the letters are viewed as simply virtual and imaginary, and hence have no issue in being erased. Furthermore, even if the letters were to contain substance, perhaps since they were not “written” on the screen for the sake of holiness of G-d’s name, they therefore do not contain any holiness and therefore may be erased. The following is their ruling [See B]:

Technological background of screens:[3] There exist several types of technologies of screens that can be used for a computer, television, smartphone, watch, and other digital technologies. Each screen type uses a different form of technology to display the words and images on the screen. One of the most popular and technologically advanced screen displays used is called LCD [Liquid Crystal Display]. Another older display is called CRT [Cathode Ray Tube]. A new and growing screen display is known as LED [Light Emitting Diodes]. The question of whether Hashems name written on a screen contains Halachic substance would be dependent on the understanding of each of these technologies used. In LCD screens, it displays the words to you by dimming and brightening millions of pixels of colors red, green, and blue [RBG] that go through a lighting and dimming phase through the liquid crystals that sit behind the pixels. In CRT the letters are projected onto the screen using a light ray.

 

The ruling:

Some Poskim[4] rule that the name of Hashem on a computer screen is absent of holiness, and may be erased.[5] Other Poskim[6], however, suspect that perhaps the letters are viewed as a physical substance and hence may not be erased.[7] Practically, the majority of Poskim follow the lenient approach and so is the custom.[8] Nevertheless, initially it is best to avoid writing G-d’s name in full, but rather with a dash or exchangeable letter [i.e. Elokim with a K].[9] Another alternative is to explicitly stipulate prior to writing the name that holiness will not befall it, and it is being written on condition to erase.[10] The above is only relevant to G-d’s name as it is written in Hebrew, Lashon Hakodesh, however there is no issue with erasing G-d’s name in a different language even if it was written on paper, and certainly regarding if it was written on one’s computer.[11]

 

Summary:

It is permitted to erase the name of Hashem that is displayed on a screen or written in a computer file. One may delete the name, erase the file, switch screens, close the file and anything of the like. This applies even if the name is written in Hebrew letters and is one of the seven names that cannot be erased. Nevertheless, initially upon typing one of the seven names of Hashem in Hebrew letters one is to use a dash or exchangeable letter, and upon opening up a file with the name, one is to intend that no holiness befall it and it is being opened on condition to be erased.

 

 

 

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[1] See Piskeiy Teshuvos 154:19; Koveitz Or Yisarl

[2] Michaber 276:9; Shavuos 35a

[3] See Ginzei Kodesh 7:22 Miluim 7 for a general overview on how computer screens display words

[4] Teshuvos Vehanhagos 3:326; Rav Ben Tzion Aba Shaul in Kedushas Beis Hakneses p. 285; Tzedaka Umishpat 16 footnote 83 based on Bnei Yonah; Rav SZ”A in Meorei Heish p. 740 footnote 8; Rav Elyashiv in Ginzei Kodesh p. 298; Rav Ovadia Yosef [see Yechaveh Daas 4:50]; Rav Mordechai Eliyahu

[5] The reason: There are several reasons for leniency: 1) The name does not contain any physical substance and is a mere electronic wave; 2) The name is not meant to last. 3) The name is written without intent of Kedusha. [See Shach 276:12; Chavos Yair 16; Beis Shlomo 2:162 and 175; Beis Efraim Y.D. 61; Maharsham 3:39; Eiyn Yitzchak 5, Mahariy Asad in Chochmas Shlomo 12, Bnei Yonah 276:9, Meishiv Davar Y.D. 80; Os Chaim 27:9; Yabia Omer 4:20; Yechaveh Daas 4:50]

[6] Sheilas Shaul Y.D. 59:3; See Shevet Halevi 7:4 who initially suspects for this approach

[7] The reason: As a) there is some substance involved and it is not 100% electronic letters and b) Some Poskim rule Hashem’s name may not be erased even when written without Kedusha. [Peri Chadash; Minchas Chinuch Mitzvah 437]

[8] Piskeiy Teshuvos ibid

[9] Rav SZ”A ibid; Rav Elyashiv ibid; Rav Mordechai Eliyahu ibid; Piskeiy Teshuvos ibid

[10] Shevet Halevi ibid that the main ruling follows the Poskim who rule that if one writes a name intentionally without holiness that it may be erased even initially if a stipulation is made and certainly if it was written with intent to erase [See Shach 276:12; Chavos Yair 16; Beis Shlomo 2:162 and 175; Beis Efraim Y.D. 61; Maharsham 3:39; Eiyn Yitzchak 5, Mahariy Asad in Chochmas Shlomo 12, Bnei Yonah 276:9, Meishiv Davar Y.D. 80; Os Chaim 27:9; Yabia Omer 4:20; Yechaveh Daas 4:50 that Biblically it may be erased if written without Kedusha and if make Tnaiy then may even initially erase] Other Poskim, however, rule that even if the name is written without Kedusha it Biblically may not be erased. [Peri Chadash; Minchas Chinuch Mitzvah 437 leaves matter in question]

[11] Admur 85:3 “This name has no holiness in its written letters and may be erased”; Admur 334:12 “If the names of Hashem are also written in a script or language other than Lashon Hakodesh they are not to be saved even during the week”; Shach Y.D. 179:11 “The name of G-d in Hebrew is a name, although in other languages it is not a name as is proven from the fact that one may erase the name of G-d written in other languages, such as Got in Yiddish or Bog in Russian and the like”; Tashbeitz 1:2; M”A 334:17 in name of Rambam, as writes Admur ibid; Implication of Rama 179:8; Zera Emes 2:120 in name of Tashbeitz ibid; Chavos Yair 106 regarding if written in non Ashuris letters; Pischeiy Teshuvah Y.D. 276:11; M”B 85:10; Shaar Hatziyon 334:27; Sdei Chemed Kuntrus; Igros Moshe 2:55 “There is no prohibition to erase names of Hashem written in English, as English letters are not considered the names of Hashem, are a simply a sign for reading of which there is no prohibition”; Minchas Yitzchak 1:17; See Shiltei Giborim Perek Kol Kisvei on Shabbos 115a

Other opinions: Some Poskim question that perhaps the names of Hashem written in other languages contains holiness and may not be erased. Practically, they conclude that it is best to be stringent. [Shiltei Giborim Perek Kol Kisvei on Shabbos 115a, brought in M”A ibid]

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