Shabbat Parashat Beha'alotcha| 5763
From the works of Hagaon Harav Shaul Yisraeli zt”l - “Erasing Hashem’s Name from a Cassette Tape" - Excerpts from Amud Hay’mini, siman 42
[We are reprinting this article from last year, because the issue if illegible names of Hashem has arisen in the Israeli press recently. This is not a psak halacha, and the circumstances are not identical, but….].
Rav O. Yosef (Yabia Omer IV, YD 20) shlita brings several reasons for permitting erasing Hashem’s name from a cassette tape. One can take issue with some of the claims. He quotes Even Y’kara who allows entering a bathroom with a microfilm copy of Tanach. The rationale is that writing which is so small that it cannot be read by the naked eye is not considered writing, with all its halachic ramifications. He brings a proof that microscopically sized objects are halachically non- existent from the fact that even the healthiest animal has tiny holes in its lungs, yet it is not a treifa since holes of that size do not count.
The assumption Rav Yosef makes is that the prohibition to erase Hashem’s name applies only when letters which are halachically recognized as K’tav (writing) are erased. However, it would appear that desecration of the name of Hashem is not dependent on the status of writing per se, but on any object which is read as Hashem’s name . The reading does not need to be through the visual sense but can even be oral (as with a cassette). After all, as far as unnecessarily uttering Hashem’s name, speaking is more stringent than writing His name.
Even the aforementioned Even Y’kara says that one must treat the names of Hashem within a microfilm of Tanach with respect. What difference is there between the names of Hashem and the Tanach itself? The Holy Scriptures require a written text to receive kedusha and possess the related special halachot. But regarding Hashem’s name, whatever is a manifestation of His name, even if it is illegible, must not be desecrated, and most prominently, not erased. That which the Even Y’kara allows one to enter a bathroom with the “names” that are included in the Tanach is due to the fact that, in their microscopic form, they are considered covered, not non-existent. Certainly one cannot erase a covered name of Hashem.
Rav Yisraeli agreed that the cassette tape, as opposed to the microfilm, can be erased for another reason [Ed. note - We should note that Rav Yosef also mentions this distinction]. The tape does not contain a name of Hashem which just needs a machine’s help in reading. Rather, there are only imprinted codes which prompt the tape player to create the sounds of Hashem’s names. The player does not “read” the sounds of the tape but uses electric impulses to mimic the voice that was coded on the tape. Thus, microfilm “names” need to be preserved and the cassette tape does not.
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