Baruch Hashem

BH.pngOver the years a few people have wondered by I close my posts by writing B”H.  A few folks thought that they were my initials or some kind of online ‘handle.’  Obviously this isn’t the case.  Others, not wanting to venture a guess, have simply asked.  I just read a short article on aish.com (which sparked this post) entitled “Thank God” which opens up saying:

“Mah nishma?” is the Hebrew version of “What’s new?” It’s an innocuous, universal greeting which needn’t mean much more than a passing hello. The answer given is usually Baruch Hashem — Thank God, which can mean anything from “Great!” to “Don’t even ask. My enemies should have my troubles!” Often, upon hearing a dubious sounding Baruch Hashem, the questioner will respond with, “Gee, what’s wrong?”

So B”H (ב”ה) stands for Baruch Hashem (ברוך השם — lit. blessed be the name) which the author of the article uses to mean thank God.  This is a bit different from how I use it though.  I use it to mean “Blessed be God” (Hashem being a circumlocution for the divine name).  It’s simply a way for me to bless God at the end of every post.  I could just as easily end them all with a hallelujah but I’ve been doing this for a number of years, before I was blogging even.

B”H (ב”ה) can also stand for Be’ezrat Hashem (בעזרת השם) which means “With God’s help.” You’ll see a lot of yeshiva students using it in this manner when they write.  If I were to use it this way then I think it would be more appropriate to begin the post with it rather than end it but I’m not sure if there’s a proper protocol for that or not.  I’m also sure that if I were to ask for God’s help in composing these posts then they’d be a lot better than they are right now!

So that’s that…

B”H

9 thoughts on “Baruch Hashem

  1. בס”ד

    As in so many areas of life, there is a great dispute about these things.

    Many people feel that God should be mentioned first, so the convention is to write B”H or B”SD at the top of every page (name, at the upper right of every page — which is the place where the page “begins” in a right-to-left language such as Hebrew. My own belief is that this is proper, and I have to admit that when I first started reading this blog, I slightly scandalized that Nick put praise to God at the bottom of each post rather than at the beginning. At first, I thought Nick might be a heretic who was symbolically throwing God away, but in time, I realized that he is pious and wishes to praise God and was simply unaware of the convention to put B”H first.

    Also, as you may know, Jews use Hashem as a reference to God because many names of God in Hebrew are often sacred and not to be spoken except under the strictest rules. The holiest name is spelled with a yud and a hei and a vav and a hei and that name when used requires extraordinary protection it is not uttered (except by the chief priest on Yom Kippur in the Holy of Holies in the Temple — so this has not happened for 1940 years). One big problem with this name (which is often thrown around by Gentile scholars) is that we don’t know how it was originally pronounced — there are several vowelizations possible. Thus among many religious Jews, the convention has followed to use Hashem (The Name) as a replacement for God’s name.

    The problem is that some people think the word Hashem has holiness, or even an English word such as God has holiness — and in extreme cases, they will write Hashem as H-shem and God as G-d). I find that to be a bit absurd, but it is related to my next point.

    Only a few pious Jews don’t write B”H down on day-to-day documents. Invoking God for a post involving football or wrestling, for example, seem to border on irreverence. So, instead, they will use a different acronym, BS”D, meaning “with the help of heaven.” Again, when used, this always go to the top. The linked Wikipedia page has a fair amount of useful information.

    Finally, it is usually a convention to write these acronyms in Hebrew rather than Roman letters: בס”ד and ב”ה .

    The idea of putting God forward in all aspects of life is a central one in religious Judaism. For example, you may be familiar with the famous New York camera store B&H Photo. The workers there claim that initials B&H are supposed to reflect B”H.

  2. Theophrastus: Thanks for the informative comment. I have been aware that B”H is generally placed at the beginning of a writing but it presents certain aesthetic challenges for me that I can’t overcome. It’s also customary for me (and many Christians, at least many Pentecostal Christians) to offer a word of praise at the end of our statements. If ever you were to visit my church you’d hear the preacher (whoever might be preaching on any particular day) finish statements with a “hallelujah” or “praise God.” That said, I’ve toyed with the idea of including the B”H in my header image itself which would satisfy having it at the beginning of each page (like we see on many Jewish websites) and my aesthetic sensibilities. What I feel like I’d be losing is the word of praise that follows all of my statements on the blog.

    In terms of writing it in Hebrew, I used to do it before I blogged, but it’s really a pragmatic issue for me at this point. It’s simply easier to not switch between keyboards in the midst of posting, especially when I’m not used to the Hebrew layout. It took me quite a few tries before getting the Hebrew in this post correct because keys don’t seem to be where they should be (e.g., ה is the v key rather than the h).

  3. Quite related is the traditional Greek response to “How are you?”: Δόξα τω Θεώ. “Glory to God.” The intonation of the phrase may elicit further concern, of course! “Glory to God for all things!” is of course, the final statement in this life of St John Chrysostom, and this is perhaps from where most people take the connotation of “God is gracious; I won’t complain.”

  4. Nick — you just need a different Hebrew key assignment — rather than using an Israeli Hebrew keyboard, you can use a keyboard where the letters are laid out according to Roman “equivalents” (e.g., the ה is the “h” key). I know many, many Americans who type Hebrew using these “Romanized” Hebrew key assignments (including me!) I would be in trouble if I tried to get a job as a secretary in Tel Aviv, but for casual writing — no problem.

  5. Kevin: Fascinating. I didn’t know that.

    Theophrastus: I’ll have to look into that. Once upon a time I had a tyndale unicode keyboard and I think everything was where it should have been. I’ll have to see if I can find that again. You might have difficulty typing on an Israeli keyboard but at least you can actually read and write Hebrew! I feel blessed just to be able to recognize the letters and sound them out.

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