Dreaming of Moshiach

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Shorter Language

The Jewish concept of "profane language" is somewhat different from the current popular conception.[+/-] show/hide text
(First of all, to clarify, "profane" literally means "non-holy" or "ordinary". While the Talmud has much to say about ordinary speech, I doubt that is what you have in mind.) There is no concept in Jewish thought of a word which simply cannot be used under any circumstances (with the partial exception of God's name). The furthest Judaism goes regarding this is to encourage using a 'cleaner' way of expressing an idea if this is as efficient as the less 'clean' manner. The Talmud (Pesachim 3b) states, "Whenever they are equal, use the clean language; whenever one uses more words, use the shorter language". "Clean" in this context is a very broad idea, even simply referring to a pig or a lizard unnecessarily is considered unclean.

There is another issue which is much more serious. This involves the prohibition of nivul peh - lascivious talk. Speaking about sexuality in an inappropriate manner is a very serious sin. The Talmud states (Shabbos 33a):

"For the sin of nivul peh many troubles and harsh decrees arise, the young men of (the enemies of) Israel die, orphans and widows cry out and are not answered, as [Isaiah 9:16] says, "Therefore HaShem has no happiness from his young men, and He has no mercy on his orphans and his widows, for they all flatter and do evil, and every mouth is full of obscenity; due to all this His anger is not turned away and His hand is still outstretched." What does "His hand is still outstretched" mean? Rabbi Chanan son of Rava said, Everyone knows why a bride enters the bridal canopy, but anyone who speaks obscenely (i.e. speaks out the reason), even if they (the Heavenly Court) had signed a decree of seventy years of goodness for him, it is turned to bad. Rabbi Chisda said, Anyone who speaks obscenely, they deepen Hell for him..."




והיה השם למלך על כל הארץ, ביום ההוא יהיה השם אחד - ושמו אחד ישתבח שמו לעד לנצח נצחים בכל העולמות Blessed is His name for eternity in all worlds אין עוד מלבדו