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In Judaism, the name of God is more than a distinguishing title. It represents the Jewish conception of the divine nature, and of the relation of God to the Jewish people. To show the sacredness of the names of God, and as a means of showing respect and reverence for them, the scribes of sacred texts took pause before copying them, and used terms of reverence so as to keep the true name of God concealed. The various names of God in Judaism represent God as he is known, as well as the divine aspects which are attributed to Him.

The numerous names of God have been a source of debate amongst biblical scholars. Some have advanced the variety as proof that the Torah has many authors, while others declare that the different aspects of God have different names, depending on the role God is playing, the context in which God is referred to, and the specific aspects which are emphasized. This is akin to how a person may be called by: his first name, 'Dad', 'Captain', 'Honey', 'Sir', etc. depending on the role being played, and who is talking.

Halakha requires that secondary rules be placed around the primary law, to reduce the chance that the main law will be broken. As such, it is common Jewish practice to restrict the use of the word Adonai to prayer only. In conversation, many Jewish people will call God "Hashem", which is Hebrew for "the Name" (this appears in Leveticus 24:11).

While other names of God in Judaism are generally restricted to use in a liturgical context, Hashem is used in more casual circumstances. Hashem is used by Orthodox Jews so as to avoid saying Adonai outside of a ritual context. For example, when some Orthodox Jews make audio recordings of prayer services, they generally substitute Hashem for Adonai.