From the Rav’s Desk: Writing the word Shalom incompletely

  1. Question: [Monday, 25th Tammuz 5781]

I’ve seen some people avoiding writing the word Shalom in full and rather write שלם or  שלו’. Must one be particular in doing so, and does it apply only in Hebrew or also in English, and does it apply to the name of a person?


When writing the word Shalom in reference to the name of an individual, there is no need to be particular against writing it in full, whether one writes it in Hebrew and English. However, when writing it in Hebrew in reference to Hashem, as one of his names [such as when quoting the verse “Vayikra Lo Hashem Shalom”], then it should not be written in full due to that the paper needs Geniza and must be properly respected. Accordingly, even when writing the word Shalom as a greeting of Shalom Aleichem, some are particular to not write it in full, although others are not particular in this and so is the widespread custom of the world. Practically, the custom of the Alter Rebbe was to be stringent in this, although the custom of the Rebbe Rayatz and Rebbe was to be lenient and write the name in full. Even those who are particular, must only be particular when writing the word in Hebrew letters, and not when writing the letters in English when they have no holiness to the name. Likewise, even those who are particular, only need to be particular when the intent of using the word is as a greeting, and do not need to be particular in doing so when the intent of the word is “peace,” such as to say there’s peaceful relations between the countries.


Explanation: Everyone agrees that the name Shalom is one of the names of G-d, as the verse states [Shoftim 6:24] “And they called Him G-d Shalom.” However, it is debated as to what degree of holiness it contains. It is a dispute amongst the Rishonim as to whether the name is considered like the seven names of G-d that may not be erased, and although the Shach leaves this matter inconclusive, the Alter Rebbe rules that the name is permitted to be erased. Nonetheless, even so it may not be defiled and must be treated with respect. Accordingly, some are accustomed never to write the name in full due to the respect that must be shown to the name. However, aside for the fact that the Poskim record that the widespread custom is not to be particular in this, the Poskim differentiate between different intents of the word, and write that only when the intent is on G-d, is one to be particular, while if the intent is to say the word peace, then there’s no need to be particular.


Sources: See Rama Y.D. 276:13 in name of Tashbatz Katan 420 and Maharil, that some are particular not to write it in full, and rather write “שלו’; Shach 276:16 based on Teshuvos Harosh 3:15 that the world is accustomed to being lenient in this; However, see Nekudos Hakesef ibid that according to Tosafus Sotah 10a the name Shalom has Kedusha and may not be erased, and he concludes with a  Tzaruh Iyun Lemaaseh; Radbaz 202, brought in Pischeiy Teshuvah 276:28, that only when Shalom is written in reference to Hashem, such as when blessing another Jew, is one to be careful, and not when the intend is for the word peace, such as that there is peace between two people; Mateh Efraim 581:9 [stringent]; Sdei Chemed Peas Hasadeh Alef Klal Kuf; M”B 84:6 [write incomplete without a Vav- שלם]; Igros Moshe 4:40 [differentiates between the word is written in plain in which case it should not be written in full, versus if its written as part of a sentence that it may be written in full]; Ginzei Hakodesh 7:8; See regarding the general status of the name Shalom that it may be erased but not defiled, and the difference between Shalom as the name of a person versus other intents: Admur 84:1 [that by the name of a person, it is disputed, and the custom is to be lenient]; 85:3; M”A 84:2; Taz 84:3; Ketzos Hashulchan 10:16; See regarding writing Hashem’s name in English that it may be erased: Admur 85:3; 334:12; Shach Y.D. 179:11; Igros Moshe 2:55 “There is no prohibition to erase names of Hashem written in English, as English letters are not considered the names of Hashem, and are simply a sign for reading of which there is no prohibition”; See regarding the Chabad custom: The Alter Rebbe would not write the last letter (mem) when writing the word shalom. [see Igros Kodesh of Alter Rebbe p. 143 and 179; Igros Kodesh of Rebbe Rashab 1:259] However astoundingly, despite this, the Previous Rebbe would write the word fully. The leaders of Gur would also not write the word fully. [Meeting of Rebbe with Rosh Yeshiva of Sefas Emes brought in Toras Menachem 19th Teves 1982] The Rebbe ion all his letters would write the name in full.

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