Friday, February 11, 2011

Oh Bleep

A guest post by a H.S student
(name on request)

For the average person, 80 - 90 words per day, or .5% - .7% of all spoken words, are what society deems bad words. Many people probably find this statistic extremely disturbing. I am one of those people. Because of my strong feelings against cursing, I created an organization called Bleep!, whose mission is to eradicate the usage of cursing among kids and teens today. Bleep!’s mission is not to tell people that it's illegal to curse; its mission is to illustrate the negative effects of cursing and show people the reasons they shouldn’t use bad words.

Read the rest after the jump

It’s commonly accepted that people who use bad words are ignorant, unimaginative, immature, whiny, offensive, unpleasant, and have nothing better to express themselves with. It also shows that you have a bad attitude, lack of control, and very little character. It’s also disrespectful and can make people uncomfortable, which can endanger relationships. When you curse, you give off a bad impression and people will lose respect for you. People will also lose respect for your family, school, and community. Your community can be any group you identify with, from your ethnicity to group of friends. One of those groups can also be your religion.

Judaism is very critical of cursing. Speech and the ability to express ourselves are the biggest strengths we have. However, with every power comes responsibility. We were blessed with speech from God, and to abuse such a power is showing God disrespect. An integral part of the Jew’s life is to elevate him or herself to become closer to God; by cursing, we are anchoring ourselves to the physical world.

Nivul peh is a mitzvah that prohibits using bad language. An “official” definition of nivul peh is a word or thought which could be conveyed in a more refined manner, or something that you wouldn’t say in polite company. The idea behind nivul peh is that we shouldn’t embarrass ourselves, the Jewish community, and God in turn by using bad words.

Another reason Jews shouldn’t use bad words is because we pray, make blessings, learn Torah, and say God’s name daily. Cursing degrades all the holy things we do. A rabbi of the Jerusalem Talmud said that he would have wanted a person to have two mouths, one for holy things and one for all other purposes, so that his mouth would remain holy for prayer and Torah study. He decided that if that were so, people would be less likely to refrain from speaking badly, believing it would not harm their connection to God. Because we have one mouth, we must realize that we bring down the holiness of the rest of the things we say with our mouths when we curse.

The mouth is considered the Jew’s weapon. After Balaam tried to curse the Jews in Parshat Balak, the Jews killed him by sword. Rashi explains that “Balaam came against Israel and exchanged his craft with Israel’s craft, for the Israelites triumph only with their mouth, through prayer and supplication, and Balaam came and seized their craft by cursing them with his mouth. They, too, came against him and exchanged their craft for the craft of the other nations, who come with the sword” (Bamidbar 31:8).

In the Al Chait prayers that we say on Yom Kippur, atoning for all the sins we committed during the year, 11 of the 43 apologize for the sins we did with our mouths, like cursing. Do you want to have to pray for forgiveness on the holiest day of the year for the bad words you said?

If you agree that cursing is an unacceptable practice, you can get involved in Bleep! by becoming a member. As a member, you receive an optional monthly newsletter with anecdotes about cursing and Bleep! news. So far, Bleep! has almost 600 members in 23 states and ten countries! To join, email with your name and state/province. Bleep! is currently running the Dr. Nathan and Sara Hoffman Competition to reach 613 members. The four people that refer the most new members and the 613th member will win Chofetz Chaim: A Daily Companion. Bleep!’s goal is to reach 1,000 members. Only 400 more to go!

The Chofetz Chaim’s book Shmirat HaLashon teaches that every organ has a certain amount of time allotted to it, the tongue included, so you can only say so many words in a lifetime. Why waste the precious words you have on curses?


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