Not Saying Hashem's Name in Vain
This is the approved revision of this page, as well as being the most recent.
Saying Hashem's Name In Vain
- It is forbidden to say Hashem's name in vain. This includes any name that is specific to Hashem, such as Elohim or Shaday, whether it is in Hebrew or in any language. 
- It is permitted to say Hashem's name in a form of praise or as one is learning. Certainly it is permitted to recite Hashem's name in a bracha when it is needed.
Using Hashem's Name as One is Learning
- It is forbidden to recite Hashem's name when one is reading bracha in the while of one's learning a gemara, rambam, or shulchan aruch.
- It is permitted to read Hashem's name as part of a pasuk while learning gemara or midrash. Ashkenazim have the practice not to say Hashem's name when reading a pasuk in the gemara or when reading a half pasuk. Sephardim have the practice to say Hashem's name as part of a pasuk while learning gemara.
- It is permitted to correct a Baal Koreh in the pronunciation of Hashem's name so that the Baal Koreh can repeat it and it isn't considered Hashem's name in vain.
Using Hashem's Name for Zemirot
- It is permitted to say Hashem's name when singing Zemirot. Some have the practice not to say Hashem's real name when singing zemiros and simply say Hashem. 
Starting a Sentence with Hashem's Name
- According to the strict law it is permitted to start a sentence with Hashem's name as some have the practice to do in greeting someone with Elokim Yehey Imach or comforting a mourner with Elokim Yinachem Etchem. Yet some are strict to avoid this. 
Changing the Pronunciation of Hashem's Name
- It isn't respectful to say Adoshem to avoid using Hashem's name.
- Some say that one shouldn't say Elokim rather one should say Elohim since Elokim might be an inappropriate change from Hashem's name.
- Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 6:3. Olot Yitzchak 2:74 proves that all names specific to Hashem are forbidden to say in vain including Elokim and not just Hashem.
- Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 6:3
- Magen Avraham 215:6, Eliyah Rabba 215:4, Birkei Yosef 215:4, Mishna Brurah 215:14, Yabia Omer 6:38:2, and Olot Yitzchak 2:74. See Sheilat Yavetz 81 who permits. Maharam in Tashbetz Katan 119 says not to say Hashem when reading Hashem's name in the gemara.
- Chaye Adam 5:2, Mishna Brurah 215:4, Birkei Yosef 215:5, Yabia Omer 6:38:2, and Olot Yitzchak 2:74. Sheilat Yavetz 81 writes that his father admonished him for not saying Hashem's name when learning a pasuk in the gemara. He rejects the suggestion that it is forbidden since the it is forbidden to say a pasuk by heart and so it is better not to say Hashem's name because if that were the case it would be forbidden to say any part of the pasuk. He entertains the idea that the reason the gemara only quotes partial pesukim is in order to avoid the issue of quoting a complete pasuk by heart but he doesn't like that idea based on gittin 6b. Rather since we're concerned about forgetting Torah it is permitted to write it down. If so, it is permitted to read the pesukim and from the gemara.
- Aruch Hashulchan 215:2 writes that it is proper not to say Hashem's name when explaining pesukim as one is learning. The Dirshu (Mishna Brurah 215:16) quotes the Steipler (Karyana Digarta 1:132) who recommended saying Hashem when learning gemara or a half pasuk. They also cite Rav Elyashiv (Shiurei Brachot p. 634) saying that the minhag is not to say Hashem's name (Adonay) when learning gemara out of extra respect but it is say the other names of Hashem such as Elokim. Such was the practice of Rav Elyashiv.
- Birkei Yosef 215:5, Yabia Omer OC 3:14. Olot Yitzchak 2:74 writes that this is also the Yemenite practice. Yabia Omer explicitly writes that it is permitted and one shouldn't be strict not to say it. Orchot Maran v. 2 p. 845 writes that Rav Ovadia Yosef's practice was to mention Hashem's name when learning or giving a shiur. Or Letzion 2:14:34 writes that it is permitted to say Hashem's name as part of a pasuk in the gemara as long as the part of the pasuk is meaningful in it of itself such as a phrase but not just two words out of context.
- Olot Yitzchak 2:74
- Rav Moshe Feinstein (quoted by Rabbi Tendler in Moreshet Moshe v. 2 p. 53) held that it is permitted to say Hashem’s name in Shabbos zemirot but if Hashem’s name is repeated the real name should only be said the first time. Olot Yitzchak 2:74 concludes that it is permitted to say Hashem's name as one is singing Zemirot if one does so in a respectful manner with fear of heaven.
- Rav Moshe Soloveitchik (cited in Nefesh Harav pg. 160)
- The Gemara Nedarim 10b states that when a person vows to give a korban he shouldn't say LHashem Korban he should rather say Korban LHashem. Rashi 10b s.v. minayin explains that the concern is that a person will stop mid-sentence and only say LHashem and instead of making a Neder he will just have said Hashem's name in vain. Rosh 10a s.v. vechen seems to agree. Tosfot Yeshanim, Tosfot Harosh, Ritva in Yoma 39a agree.
- These rishonim are addressing the Mishna Yoma 39a that the kohen gadol on Yom Kippur would say LHashem Chatat to establish the korban. Why doesn't that contradict the Gemara Nedarim? Tosfot Yeshanim answers that since the pasuk says it in that order that is how the kohen gadol has to say it. Ritva agrees. The Ritva additionally answers that the entire concern is derabbananand they didn't impose it for a kohen gadol who is punctilous and not going to make a mistake. Similarly, the Tosfot Harosh says that since the kohen gadol was doing work for the public there's no concern that he'll be negligent. The Ritva adds another answer in that saying LHashem as part of a neder is meaningless and so there’s a prohibition. However, there’s no prohibition to say it to establish the Chatat korban on Yom Kippur since the word has an effect. Even according to the opinion that you need to say both words nonetheless there is a mitzvah fulfilled with each word.
- However, these rishonim all understood the gemara to mean that it is only a concern to say Hashem’s name as part of a Neder that a person might retract from but not generally. Yet, the Shlah in Pesachim 151a explained that the gemara means that there’s a prohibition to say Hashem’s name in the beginning of the neder since a person might die and not complete it. This is also corroborated by several achronim cited by the Chida including the Drush Shmuel on Vayikra, Minchat Arev on Rut, and Bet Yakov responsa 144. However, many question this approach in the Chikrei Lev OC 105 since there’s no halachic concern that a person is going to die any second. The concern is only that over a longer period of time a person might die and he may not push off performing a mitzvah for a long time. This is evident in Tosfot Yevamot 18a s.v. dilma and Tosfot Yoma 2a s.v. vchachamim, and Maharam Shik EH 1. Chida and Torat Temimah Vayikra 1:10 agree with the Chikrei Lev and reject the Shlah.
- Why were chazal able to establish brachot before eating if there’s a concern a person might die before he finishes the sentence?
- Why is a person allowed to say Shalom Aleichem if Shalom is Hashem’s name and a there’s a concern might die before he finishes the sentence?
- Why was Boaz allowed to greet someone else with Hashem Imachem if there’s a concern a person might die before he finishes the sentence?
- Why was Dovid allowed to praise Hashem in Tehillim starting with Hashem as in the pasuk LHashem Haaretz Umeloh?
- To answer all of these questions, some say that we don’t follow the Shlah at all and in fact we accept the Rishonim because there’s no concern a person will die in a short period of time. Additionally, some say that we don’t follow the entire gemara Nedarim since the Rambam and others don’t quote in their works. One reason suggested by the Chida (Petach Eynayim Yoma 39a) is that in the Torat Kohanim it seems that Rabbi Yehuda denied the entire concept and we always follow Rabbi Yehuda when he disagrees with Rabbi Shimon (Eruvin 54b).
- Daf Al Hadaf Nedarim 10b quotes Rav Zelig Rueven Bengis 1:10 who answered that bracha levatala is only rabbinic and so chazal weren’t concerned about a person dying in the middle of a bracha but saying Hashem’s name in vain is Biblical.
- The Daf Al Hadaf Nedarim 10b quotes the Belzer Rebbe who answered that since greeting someone grants a person long life there’s no concern he’ll die as he’s greeting someone.
- Boaz was allowed to start with Hashem Imachem since this concern is only rabbinic as the Ritva Yoma 39a writes and it wasn’t introduced until after Boaz. This is suggested by the Chida.
- Dovid was allowed to start with LHashem since that was a praise of Hashem and was meaningful even if he stopped in the middle. This is the answer of the Magen Avraham in Zayit Raanan on the beginning of Vayikra.
- Another reason to not start with Hashem’s name which isn’t either the rishonim’s reason or that of the Shlah but that of the Zohar Yitro 87. The Zohar says that we aren’t entitled to use Hashem’s name until we started to express some words of Torah or davening first. That is the reason that the Torah didn’t begin with Hashem’s name and only mentioned it after 2 words. The Chida is concerned for this reason.
- Yechava Daat 3:13 quoting Yosef Ometz 349 and Taz 621:2
- Olot Yitzchak 2:74