When I was in Israel, I heard from several Jewish friends that they couldn't ever write down the name of God or utter it. They could only say hashem. If they had written it down, and that of course would be an offense, they couldn't ever destroy that piece of paper. Could that be another reason for writing L-d or G-d? -- Kelly Hernandez

Back in the 1970s, I attended a largely Jewish high school. I remember students writing only the letters "G-d," and like you I was curious about the practice.

Hashem is Hebrew for "the name" -- viz. the name of God. Many strict Jews substitute this phrase for the actual name of God. This is a good example of an extrabiblical tradition. While there are reasons for it, particularly the human need for holiness and reverence in approaching the Almighty, none is compelling. In fact, one might argue that G-d is more holy, more respectful, than writing out the name in all its letters. If so, then destroying a slip of paper with G-d written on it might constitute an even greater sacrilege!

As Christians, we have freedom to utter the name of God (John 14:13). No one should take that freedom away from us.

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