Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Rabbinic Humor

A conversation was recently held, on one of my Rabbinic e-mail lists, about deleting God's name from a computer. For those who don't know, Judaism forbids the destruction of God's name. Once God's name is written down*, that piece of paper is sacred, and can't be thrown in the garbage, or burned, etc.

* that applies to God's formal name - spelled yud-heh-vav-heh in Hebrew - not various other nicknames, such as "God" or "Eternal One")

So, that led someone to ask their Rabbi about computers. What, this congregant wanted to know, does it mean if you store God's name on your computer? Is your Hard Drive now sacred? Can you never delete the file? Sources were checked, and everyone agreed that there was no need to worry - God's name wasn't really on the harddrive. All that was there was a series of one's and zero's.

Which led one colleague of mine to reply, "Not true. There are no zero's. God is only One."

Rabbinic Humor. Never a good idea.

By the way, if this topic interests you, then the more difficult question is what do we do if God's name appears on our computer screen? If we scroll down, and thus "erase" God's name from the screen, does that count as an illegal destruction of God's name? If you want to know the answer, check out this Responsum (Rabbinic legal opinion). And, if you find that interesting, then think about joining us on Thursday evenings (starting at 7:30) in February for our class on Reform Responsa!

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