Towards the end of Part One of Satan of Goray, there's this scene with Reb Itche Mates:

Meanwhile Reb Itche Mates waited in the dark room in Reb Godel Chasid's home. All day long he sat swaying over the appendix to the Zohar and working out numerical combinations of the name of Yaweh. At night, when everyone else was asleep, he stole out of Reb Godel Chasid's house and went to the bathhouse, which was situated between the infirmary and the old graveyard.
Satan in Goray, part 1, chapter 10: "Reb Itche Mates Sends a Proposal of Marriage to Rechele" (translated by Jacob Sloan)

Why does Singer spell out the name of God here? Jews generally avoid saying or even writing the name of God, and never pronounce it like that - traditionally, it's only said by the holiest person (the Kohen Gadol / High Priest) in the holiest place (the Beit HaMikdash / Temple) on the holiest day (Yom Kippur / Day of Atonement) of the year. At any other time and place, a different pronunciation is used. Aside from that, any document with the name of God spelled out must be treated as holy, which has its own special rules.

Why, then, does Singer (or the translator) spell it out in English here?

  • The work is intended for a general audience, no? That is probably the name for the Jewish God that most people would recognize.
    – Alex
    Commented Feb 20, 2022 at 2:43
  • In gematria, yod-he-vav-he has a different sum (26) than other names of God (El is 31, Elohim is 86). I doubt that the specific numerical value is meaningful in the story though. Alex's answer is probably correct.
    – Juhasz
    Commented Feb 22, 2022 at 22:21
  • I strongly suspect this name is not spelled out in the original Yiddish. To write yud-hey-vav-hey in Hebrew characters, even when writing Yiddish rather than Hebrew, is to change the status of a printed book from an ordinary novel to a sefer, a holy book that should not be carried into a outhouse, soiled, destroyed, etc. Even though Singer was secularized, he was raised in a rabbinical family and would not have discarded this ancient taboo so easily.
    – Mike
    Commented Feb 23, 2022 at 18:01
  • @Mike - Indeed. That's one reason why I was surprised to see it written out even in English.
    – Mithical
    Commented Feb 23, 2022 at 18:01


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