On Not Saying Angelic Names
As is well known, observant Jews avoid saying the Tetragrammaton (it was spoken by priests in the Second Temple during certain liturgical ceremonies). This point has been taken up by other religious traditions; thus for example, in speaking of Biblical texts translated in the Catholic liturgy, the Vatican 2001 document Liturgiam Authenticam (41) writes:
in accordance with immemorial tradition, which indeed is already evident in the above-mentioned “Septuagint” version, the name of almighty God expressed by the Hebrew tetragrammaton and rendered in Latin by the word Dominus, is to be rendered into any given vernacular by a word equivalent in meaning.
A less widely observed custom is avoiding pronouncing the names of angels (although, many Chassidic Jews and Haredi Jews in particular observe this custom). Eli Mansour’s Daily Halacha column today addresses the point, and he addresses the custom to the great 16th century kabbalist Isaac Luria (the Arizal) (“the father of contemporary kabbalah”) who argues for the minhag (custom) to Exodus 23:13 (“make no mention of the name of other gods, neither let it be heard out of thy mouth.”)
I have put Mansour’s discussion in blue and annotated it in red to address some names which may not be immediately obvious:
Avoiding Saying the Names of Angels and the Full Name of Satan
Rav Haim Vital (1543-1620) writes that his teacher, the Arizal (Rav Yishak Luria of Safed, 1534-1572), made a point of never verbalizing the names of the angels, even over the course of study. For example, Rav Haim writes, the Arizal would refer to the “Sar Hapenim” [Me-ta-t-r-o-n] (angel that serves as “minister of interior”) as “Mem Tet,” rather than verbalize the entire name. The reason for this practice is that when an angel hears his name mentioned, he thinks that he is being summoned, and he becomes anxious. When he then finds out that his anxiety was for naught, he might become resentful of the person who made him nervous, and cause him harm, Heaven forbid.
This does not, however, apply to angels whose names are commonly used here on earth, such as Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, Azriel, and Malkiel.
The Arizal was especially adamant that one should never verbalize the complete name of the Satan [Sa-ma-e-l]. [Recall that Judaism has a rather different attitude towards the Satan than Christianity – mainstream Jewish belief is that the Satan is an angelic “prosecutor” who serves God, not a rebellious independent demi-god]. He would refer to the Satan by saying the letters “Samech Mem,” rather than articulating his name. Rav Haim Vital writes that on one occasion he was speaking to somebody at nighttime and mentioned Satan’s name, and the next morning, when he went to the Arizal’s home, the Arizal looked at his forehead and said, “At night you transgressed the prohibition of ‘Ve’shem Elohim Aherim Lo Tazkiru’ (‘Do not mention the name of other gods’ – Shemot [Exodus] 23:13).” The Arizal admonished Rav Haim in very harsh terms never to mention the name, especially at nighttime, when the Satan has power which could be reinforced by the mention of his name, such that he can succeed in causing the person to sin, Heaven forbid. Likewise, one should refrain from verbalizing the complete name of Satan’s “wife” [L-i-l-i-th], who should be referred to as simply, “Li,” rather than with her complete name.
This applies to all languages. As such, one should refrain from saying the word “D-e-v-i-l,” or the parallel Spanish term [D-i-a-b-l-o], especially during the nighttime hours, as this could arouse and empower Satan.