Drilling Holes Through Verses Etched on a Mechitza

QUESTION


Skokie, IL

We are creating new glass mechitza panels with the text of Kabalat Shabbat etched into them. The engineers want to drill holes in a few panels to install handrails. Some of those proposed holes will be drilled through Shem Hashem (God’s name). Would this be a problem?

ANSWER

Yes, this would be a problem. There is an issur de’orayta (Torah prohibition) to destroy God’s name, even if it is etched into something (and not, say, written in ink), which applies to even one single letter. (See Rambam, Yisodei HaTorah 6:1, 6:3, and 6:6, Shulchan Arukh, YD 276:9)

If altering the letter doesn’t destroy it but changes its appearance (for instance, detaching the roof of a “Heh” from its right vertical line), it likely falls within this biblical prohibition.

If it doesn’t change the letter’s appearance significantly—for instance, a hole in the middle of the “Heh”‘s roof while the surrounding etching remains intact—it might not be considered an issur de’orayta, though it might not be entirely permissible either. If the alteration is in the white space of the “Heh,” it would not be a halakhic issue.

This entire discussion is only if we are dealing with the actual Shem HaShem (for a list of those names included in Shem HaShem, see Shulchan Arukh YD 276:9) but rather something like a “Heh” with an apostrophe (‘ה), none of this applies (Arukh HaShulchan YD 276:28).

That being said, even in the case of a “Heh” with an apostrophe, or only in the white space, I think you should consider the chinukh/appropriateness/messaging here (See, for example, the Arukh HaShulchan YD 276:28 who writes that even for those that have no kedushah, one should not treat them disrespectfully).

That’s all regarding the halakha, but I’d like to add one point from a policy perspective. If the the etching doesn’t appear reversed on the other side of the mechitza, I would recommend it is changed to be such, otherwise, it is not a good message of inclusion the women sitting on that side.

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