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Home :: Seven Laws :: Second Law is No Blasphemy

Second Law is No Blasphemy

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The prohibition to curse the name of G-d is meant by No Blasphemy Law. That means any name used to call G-d in any language. The meaning of the prohibition refers to man who must accept humbly and thankfully everything that happens in his life and remember Hashem is merciful and long-patient. His providence never leaves any of us. He's the One Who leads and supports us. And each detail in our life is a part of His special plan regarding each of us. And if something's going wrong and not the way we'd like it to be - it's necessary to clearly understand this is Hashem's will. He sure has some serious reasons why everything should be like this, not different way. And that all is for our sake.

This is the second one from Seven Laws, but in fact this is the very first prohibition. It is exactly what Talmud starts to discuss Seven Laws of Noah Descendants with, placing it in before all other Laws. Probably, coz the Law means not only recognition of G-d (as it is meant by No Idolatry Law), but human's full and absolute obedience to the will of G-d, as it can be understood from the previous paragraph. Then it becomes clear why No Blasphemy Law precedes much more actual, on the face of it, Law - No Idolatry. And even RAMBAM in his monumental work "Mishne Tora" places Blasphemy laws into Idolatry column, saying that both of them embody denial of universe and life foundations.

Now let's approach Babylonian Talmud. What does it tell us about that fundamental prohibition (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin 56a):

"The Sages teach: why is it written in Scripture - any man (written regarding No Blasphemy (Vayikra 24:15): Any man who blasphemes his G-d shall bear his sin - RASHI's comment)? To include the peoples of the world who should beware of Blasphemy the way Israel is commanded about that."

How is Israel commanded about that ("Mishne Tora" Religious Code, Laws of Idolatry 2:8 - Maimonides (RAMBAM)):

"The warning about Blasphemy follows from Tora, as it's written (Shemot 22:27): You shall not curse G-d. Each time Blasphemy case is brought before the court - the parable "May Yose strike Yose" is used (one of curse examples, where "Yose" substitutes for G-d's names pronounced by a blasphemer - Author's note). When the inquiry is over, all those present are asked to leave, and the most respected one from witnesses is asked to literally pronounce what he heard. He pronounces [...], the second witness says: I heard the same he heard. And if there are many witnesses, each of them must say: I heard the same."

RAMBAM writes the paragraph before ("Mishne Tora" Religious Code, Laws of Idolatry 2:7):

"A blasphemer is sentenced to the death penalty through throwing down onto stones only providing he pronounced the unique four-lettered Name of G-d and cursed it with one of non-erasable names, as it's written (Vayikra 24:16): And one who blasphemously pronounces the Name of the L-rd shall be put to death, the entire community shall stone him, Ger (a person converted into Judaism - Biblical language translation) and resident (a Jew - Author's note) alike if he pronounces the Name, he shall be put to death. For special Name - death penalty, for nick-names - only the warning that it's prohibited."

Now it is necessary to do some digression. The matter is one can find in Bible the great number of names used to call G-d. All them are subdivided into two groups. So called special four-lettered Name consists from letters הויה and has the highest holiness. It was allowed to pronounce only in Jerusalem Temple. Now when there's no Temple, its pronunciation is strictly prohibited. In English it is usually translated as the L-rd. Nick-names are seven special names of G-d in Biblical language, which are allowed to say only during the prayer and Tora's studies, and which are prohibited to erase from any place they were written at, and all the rest names of G-d that can be met in TaNaCh, like Kindful, Merciful etc.

All that - regarding Israel. However regarding the peoples of the world, RAMBAM writes ("Mishne Tora" Religious Code, Laws of Kings and Their Wars 9:3):

"Noah Descendant who cursed G-d - either he cursed the special four-lettered Name or he cursed the nick-name in any language - is to be sentenced to the death penalty. What is not like that as for Israel."

But why is the law severer to the peoples of the world? Talmud explains (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin 56a):

"Rabbi Itzhak Napaha said: it's said to include the nick-names (regarding written in Scripture (Vayikra 24:15): Any man who blasphemes his G-d - it's written to include the nick-names into No Blasphemy, so that the peoples of the world would beware of Blasphemy the way Israel is commanded about that; coz where all Seven Laws are taken from, there only prohibition to curse the special four-lettered Name follows, for it's written the L-rd, and G-d is interpreted as No Idolatry Law - RASHI's comment). But according to rabbi Meir's opinion, the teaching (Vayikra 24:15): Any man who blasphemes his G-d shall bear his sin - what does Tora's text speak about? For it's already said (Vayikra 24:16): And one who blasphemously pronounces the Name of the L-rd shall be put to the death. As far as it's written: And one who blasphemously pronounces the Name shall be put to the death - there can be understood that the human (both Israel and peoples of the world - Author's note) is to be sentenced to the death only for special four-lettered Name. Where from can it be seen the nick-names are included? Tora's text teaches: Any man who blasphemes his G-d - that is at any case. And this is rabbi Meir's opinion but the Sages said: for the special four-lettered Name - capital punishment, and for the nick-names - the warning. And that differs with rabbi Meisha's opinion. For rabbi Meisha told the Sages: Noah Descendant who cursed G-d with one of the nick-names is to be sentenced to the death. What Tora's lines does his opinion leans on? (Vayikra 24:16): Ger and resident alike if he pronounces the Name, he shall be put to death. It can be seen from here that Ger and resident are sentenced to the death only for the special four-lettered Name, but Noah Descendant - even for the nick-name. But for rabbi Meir the line "Ger and resident alike" serves only to mark the difference in punishment. Ger and resident - by the death penalty through throwing down onto stones, but Noah Descendant - by the death penalty with sword (that is, according to rabbi Meir, both Ger and resident and Noah Descendant are to be sentenced to the death for the nick-names; they all were included by phrase "any man", that is Ger and resident are equalized with Noah Descendants - RASHI's comment). It can come to your head to say that as far as they were included (in this section, all of them as those to be sentenced to the death for the nick-names - RASHI's comment), then they were included (also into everything written in the section, with the death penalty through throwing down onto stones - RASHI's comment). That's why it was explained to you! And for rabbi Itzhak Napaha and the Sages, whom his opinion is conformed with, the line "Ger and resident alike" is adduced coz Ger and resident need the special four-lettered Name, but Noah Descendant doesn't need it. Why then it's written "any man"? This expression in Tora is spoken and it doesn't carry any special semantic load."

All names used to call G-d in all languages except for Biblical are the nick-names, according to Tora's law. Thus, as for English, No Blasphemy strictly prohibits pronouncing the phrases like "G-d damn it" and using the nick-names mixed with really bad words and their combinations. It is also prohibited to curse G-d with names of idols, to take names "G-d" and "L-rd" in vain, and in general to speak scornfully about Creator of all existing, Who supports and refreshes the life in every one of us each single moment.

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