Thursday, September 11, 2008

In the Name of G-d

One of the Ten Commandments is the prohibition of saying G-d's name in vain, and after watching this video (see 1:48, whe they say E-L) I realized there are two approaches to this prohibition when it comes to music. All Yeshivish singers I know refrain from mentioning the Shem Hash-m, using the permissible "Hash-m" instead. That includes Shwekey, Lipa, MBD and so on.

On the other hand, many Israeli singers - Chaim Israel and Gad Elbaz for example - sing the Shem Hash-m frequently in their hit songs and I'm wondering what is the Halachic approach to this.

The same thing happens when people sing Shabbos Zemiros. Some are very careful not to mention the Shem when singing Tzur Mishelo or Kol Mekadesh for example, while others say the Shem Hash-m without any hesitation. Is there a difference between singing Zemiros with Shem Hash-m or singing modern-day songs with the Shem?

In my mind, there's no difference since Zemiros are no different than songs we sing today. Many of the composers of common zemiros were just good poets and not necessarily Rabbis. According to this, there's no difference between the songs of Donash Ibn Lavrat, composer of Dror Yikra, and Chaim Israel when it comes to saying the Shem Hashm.

If you look in the Zemiros it's often clear that the poets had in mind the actual Shem Hash-m, and not the substitute "Hashem". Let me bring a famous example:

צור משלו אכלנו ברכו אמוני
שבענו והותרנו כדבר יי

The rhyme אמוני/ יי only works if one mention's the actual Shem Hashm in this song. If you just read יי as being "Hash-m" the rhyme falls apart. So it's clear this song was always sung with the actual Shem Hashm.

But this is not a good Halachic point because maybe the poet was just wrong. I don't even know if he was a Rabbi. Whoever has an answer, please speak up!


Mordka said...

I had a similar question regarding saying the Shem during Zemiros several years ago. I was told by Rav Asher Balanson (of Telstone) that one could say the Shem as he was singing the Zemer, but one should not say it again if the part of the verse was repeated again for stylistic reasons. Meaning, read the Shem once, not twice.
This doesn't answer perhaps the most interesting question of why indeed there is this split among singers. From my unscientific observation, it seems like Ashkenazic artists refrain from saying the name (or 'wannabe' ashkenazim, like Shwekey), and Sephardic artists do say the Shem.
This would seem to apply regardless of whether the artist is in Israel or the US. (See Aaron Razel and Adi Ran, Israeli artists who do not say the Shem.)

So do you think its a machlokes Ran and Rosh, or just the kind of quasi-piety that is a hallmark of the ashkenazic communites? (you know what I mean here- compare how R' Ovad Yosef and R' Elyashiv get around).
I would guess the latter.
Good post!

YK said...


I have the same impression - the Sephardim do seem to mention the Shem deliberately.

And I also think you are on the ball when you mention the quasi-piety. I would rather call it pseudo-piety, wtvr