Bleep! It Out

Cursing is not the Jewish way.

In every generation teenagers create new terms to express themselves. It went from “swell” to “groovy” to “mind-blowing” from the 1950s through the 1970s. From the ‘80s to now “funky,” “what’s up?” and “cool!” have been used. Unfortunately, a teen’s language is also riddled with words that are extremely inappropriate: curse words.

I created Bleep!, an organization whose mission is to stop students, especially those in the day school system, from using bad language. Bleep!’s mission is not to tell teens that they aren’t allowed to curse; the First Amendment allows anyone to say anything they want. Bleep!’s mission is to convince teens that using bad language is detrimental and should be cut to a minimum, if used at all.

I am scheduled to speak at various day schools around the city. In my lectures I discuss reasons not to curse and how using profanity is a chillul Hashem (desecration) and an embarrassment to the Jewish community.

The negative effects of cursing are extensive and far-reaching. It’s commonly accepted that people who use bad words are ignorant, unimaginative, immature, whiny and have no better way of expressing themselves. Cursing also exhibits a bad attitude, lack of control and very little character.

When you curse and the people around you don’t, you become unpleasant to be with. It’s also disrespectful, offensive and can make others uncomfortable, which can endanger relationships. We live in a society where cursing is simply an unacceptable practice and when you curse, you give off a bad impression and people will lose respect for you.

When you walk outside every morning and act a certain way, you impact people’s views on not only yourself but on your family, school and community. Your community can be any group of which you are a member whether it’s your ethnicity, neighborhood, nationality, sports team, or other organization. One of those groups can also be your religious affiliation.
Judaism is extremely critical of cursing and has huge objections to it. On Yom Kippur part of the prayers state, “Lord our God...pardon...the sin we committed against You by offensive speech...the sin we committed in Your sight by unclean lips...for the sin we committed in Your sight by our manner of speech...”
An integral Jewish belief is that speech and language are our weapons. “The Israelites triumph only with their mouth, through prayer and supplication,” Rashi said in his commentary to Bamidbar (31:8).

We pray for guidance and help rather than reacting in a physical manner: our mouths are our weapons. When we use bad words, we let our swords go rusty.

It’s also inappropriate to use your mouth to daven to Hashem and to have Torah conversations after you just cursed a blue streak. After all, do you really feel comfortable saying Hashem’s name, discussing what you learned in Chumash class, and saying the f- word with the same mouth?

The Torah teaches that the way you act physically affects the person you are on the inside. If you often curse your character will be affected negatively and you will begin to think less of yourself.

Nivul peh is a prohibition of language that is disgusting, literally meaning vulgar and unclean speech. An official definition is saying a word or thought that you wouldn’t say in polite company. This means that nivul peh would prohibit the usage of the s-word, but using the alternatives “shoot” or “pooh” instead is just fine. The idea behind nivul peh is that we shouldn’t be embarrassing ourselves, the Jewish community and Hashem by using foul language.

It may not be fair, but people tend to hold Jews to a higher standard. When you go to a yeshiva or shul, wear a yarmulke and tzitzit, dress modestly or simply call yourself a Jew you are representing the Jewish nation at-large. If you curse, it’s a huge chillul Hashem. People will think less of not only you, but of all Jews.

The Chofetz Chaim’s book “Shmiras 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? 

Visit Bleep! at http://sites.google.com/site/bleeporganization

Talia Weisberg is a freshman at Manhattan High School for Girls. 

This article is reprinted from October 30, 2009