There is a custom, within Orthodox Jewish circles, of not spelling the name of the Lord in English without inserting a dash in the center, hence G-d. This parallels the use of the apostrophe when writing G-d’s name in Hebrew, to avoid spelling the Deity in entirety. I’ve not seen the same when it comes to other names for the Deity in English transliterations such as “Hashem” – The Name; or “Hakadosh-Boruch-Who” – The Holy One Blessed Be He. Perhaps it’s because the latter are descriptive, whereas G-d is considered … well, G-d.
At this time of year, Rosh Hashanah – or the Head of the Year, the Jewish New Year, Jews present themselves prima facie before G-d to be held accountable for their actions during the preceding year. It would seem to verge on sacrilege to suggest that there is a two-way street; that Jews could possibly hold G-d accountable for actions during the preceding year. Yet it is very tempting to do so when the unconscionable occurs, as happened the day before Rosh Hashanah this year in East Brunswick, New Jersey, as a 51 year-old husband and wife walking home from synagogue were mowed down by a driver who lost control of her car. I use the term unconscionable from the standpoint of being unfathomable or, at best, incomprehensible.
The decree as to who will live and who will die is sealed on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Not only who will die, but how they will die. Here is the key text of the “Unisaneh Tokef” prayer:
On Rosh Hashanah will be inscribed and on Yom Kippur will be sealed how many will pass from the earth and how many will be created; who will live and who will die; who will die at his predestined time and who before his time; who by water and who by fire, who by sword, who by beast, who by famine, who by thirst, who by storm, who by plague, who by strangulation, and who by stoning. Who will rest and who will wander, who will live in harmony and who will be harried, who will enjoy tranquillity and who will suffer, who will be impoverished and who will be enriched, who will be degraded and who will be exalted.
Evidently it was sealed last year that Ari and Sari Horowitz, the couple killed by a beast of modern invention, would meet their demise right before Rosh Hashanah. But did it have to be that way? With all the tools at G-d’s disposal, did the family who lost Ari’s older brother, Neil [Natan] 26 years ago in a car accident have to suffer the kind of loss that brought back painful memories in such a flood, at this time? That seems to be the real significance of the “dash” in G-d’s name: There’s something missing that is central to questions that we formulate. The observant have reconciled that there is a larger picture we cannot see; that there is a purpose and master plan to everything that we as humans cannot fathom. We comfort one another when there are tragic, gut-wrenching losses by rationalizing why an elderly couple is supposed to go on living when both of their children have been ripped from their hearts in such a catastrophic way, and how the rest of the family must subdue demons with which they had finally made peace, by convincing one another that these necessary losses, in these necessary ways, are because G-d needs the ones that he takes at this time, and in this fashion.
Until matters are spelled out more explicitly, the hyphen remains.