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Recording God’s Name for Educational Purposes

(OH 215:3)

Question:
Is it permissible to pronounce God’s Name when recording prayers or Shabbat songs for educational purposes?

Responsum:
At the outset, it should be remembered that even when we recite “Adonai” in the prayers, we are not pronouncing God’s Name as it is written, but rather a substitute. But according to halakhah, even this substitute should be used with caution. That is why there is a custom among observant Jews to use Adonai only in religious contexts such as in prayer, blessings and Torah study. There is, however, one exception: one is allowed to pronounce Adonai if it is for educational purposes. Thus it is permitted to record Adonai in Shabbat prayers and songs for two reasons: prayers and Shabbat songs are a religious context, and the aim of the recording is education.

It is also permissible to play these tapes, because the prohibition of pronouncing Adonai is related to people, not to machines. Furthermore, if it is permissible for people to pronounce Adonai
for educational purposes, then it is certainly permissible to do so via a machine.

There is also no prohibition of erasing the recording in question, for the following reasons: a recording cannot be considered as something written because it is invisible; what was recorded is not really God’s Name, but a substitute, and many authorities allow the erasure of substitute names, at least in an indirect way (gerama); the prohibition of erasing God’s Name pertains only to Hebrew letters; there is no act of contempt in the erasing, because one cannot see that the tape contains God’s Name.

Nevertheless, there is an old custom of recycling tashmishei mitzvah such as tzitzit or aravot and using them to fulfill other mitzvot. Though a cassette does not have the same halakhic status, if it is necessary to erase a cassette, it is still preferable to reuse it for other prayers or sacred songs. Finally, if the tape tears, one should discard it in a respectful fashion (e.g. in a bag) in order to avoid the appearance of impropiety (mar’it ayin).

Rabbi Chaim Weiner
Approved Unanimously

A Reaction to the Responsum on the Wearing of a Kippah by Men and Women

(OH 91:3-5)

I agree with Rabbi Frankel’s responsum, aside from the last section regarding women and girls. Inasmuch as wearing a kippah is a symbol of Fear of Heaven, of modesty, and of respect for tradition, which became a binding custom in times of sanctity, we have to require the wearing of the kippah not only of men and boys but also of women and girls. By so doing, we give women and girls the same opportunity to enrich their religious experience and to give the sacred moments in their lives the additional dimension that wearing a kippah adds.

Rabbi Gilah Dror
In favor: Rabbi Michael Graetz
Opposed: Rabbi David Frankel
Rabbi David Golinkin
Rabbi David Lazar
Rabbi Simchah Roth
Rabbi Yisrael Warman

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