Torah Knowledge For Non-Jews Vol. 1
1. Introduction to the Noahide Laws
1.4. Blessing the Name
One of the Laws not understood in the non-Torah world is the prohibition against “blessing”1 the name. In Sanhedrin 56a the Talmud describes the legal proceedings against a person who “blesses the name.” During the trial the chief witness is asked to tell the court what was said using a euphemism “may Yosi strike Yosi.” Once this is done the court is cleared and only the judges and the witnesses remain. The chief witness is asked to tell the court exactly what the person in question said without the euphemism, using instead the name of God. Once this is done the other witnesses will say “I too heard as him.”
The penalty for “blessing the name of God” is a death penalty. In the case of the Jewish person they are executed by stoning. In the case of the non-Jew he is always executed through decapitation;2which is considered a faster and less painful death than death by stoning.
Very often this Prohibition is confused with the prohibition in Shmot 20:73 against swearing falsely by God’s name. Swearing falsely by God’s name is much different but related to using God’s name to “bless” him.
1. In the Talmudic literature (Sanhedrin 56a) and the Mishnah Torah (Avodah Zarah 2:7, Hilchot Melachim 9:3) and other works; the term “blessing the name” is used euphemistically to mean cursing the name of God.
2. This is because the only place where death penalties are mentioned in relation to non-Jews is in Bereishit 9:6. There we are told: “Whoever sheds the blood of man, By man shall his blood be shed…” meaning, we are told that in order for a person to be put to death their blood must be shed. The only death penalty mentioned in the Torah involving shedding blood is decapitation. The Torah describes other death penalties for Jews. Beheading is said to be the least painful death penalty.
3. Exodus 20:7, the prohibition against swearing falsely by God’s name is one of the Ten Commandments.