Refining Speech – With and Without Torah

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8 Responses

  1. Ori says:

    A heuristic people can easily learn and apply in most circumstances can be more useful than an exact solution that takes a long time to memorize and implement.

    In this case, I’d say the heuristic should be two out of three. It’s OK to say things that are true and kind, regardless of necessity. It is sometimes necessary to say kind things even when you’re stretching the truth, as when telling a kid s/he is big and responsible. And unless we want evil to hide and flourish, we have to say things that are necessary and true even when unkind sometimes.

  2. Dr. E says:

    Perhaps more important than the more popular physical manifestations in dress, “tzniyut” is very much about how one conducts her/himself, including one’s speech. Even without violating the tenets of Hilchot Lashon Harah per se, there are certain aspects of one’s life that don’t need to be shared with all others. (This certainly applies to sharing details of someone else’s life as well.) Call it gossip or call it TMI (too much information). The tendency of some to freely share information might be linked to a certain dose of self-centeredness. It might also be due to a need to remain relevant socially. Either way, it is not only a turn-off to some, but it can have negative ramifications socially and professionally. We don’t need to know that the reason why you are late to a meetingt was due to your sister-in-law’s vort going overtime, or you missed an appointment because your baby threw up in the mini-van. Just say that “something came up” and make sure that these unforeseen circumstances occur closer to 0% of the time than to 100%.

    Unfortunately, the downsides of technology include the Internet, email, social media, cell phones, and texting is TMI (too much information). What was previously kept under wraps is now put out there–as part of the feeding of an obsession to give a minute by minute accounting for one’s life for all of one’s “friends” to see. It is no wonder that this carries over to speech.

  3. Dovid Sherman says:

    It seems to me that all such rules raise questions about their application. It is apparent that in spite of all the talk about the hazards of lashon horah, it is toeles that is constantly being ignored in the frum world. Over and over I hear of deceptions in shidduchim that come back to haunt couples. Similarly from my vantage point in youth programming I have heard too many stories of molesters who could have been stopped sooner

  4. Mr. Cohen says:

    Since 3 is a magic number in this discussion, I offer 3 quotes about the evils of unrefined speech [nibul peh]:

    QUOTE 1:

    Tanach / Bible, Isaiah, chapter 9, verse 16:

    Therefore, G_D will not rejoice over His youths and He will not have mercy on His orphans and widows, because all of them are hypocrites and evil doers and every mouth speaks obscene language…

    QUOTE 2:

    Babylonian Talmud, tractate Shabbat, page 33A:

    Obscene language causes calamities to increase and new harsh decrees against Jews and the men of Israel die young, and orphans and widows cry out and are not answered.

    QUOTE 3:

    Babylonian Talmud, tractate Shabbat, page 33A:

    Rabah bar Shilah taught in the name of Rabbi Chisdah:
    Anyone who speaks obscene language, Gehinom [Hell] is deepened for him.

  5. Bob Miller says:

    Unmoderated blogs invite unrefined speech in written form. That’s why they often cheapen and debase our discourse; this has not escaped the attention of Gedolim. Moreover, once the cat is out of the bag and the debased discourse is on line, it’s very hard to pull it back.

  6. dell says:

    I think another way to model refined speech that doesn’t include talking non-stop about others is changing what goes on in the yeshiva classroom. Over the years my sons have come home with gossip gleaned from their rebbeim- which Gvir lost all his money in a bad investment, which Askan is hosting a parlor meeting for a political candidate because he is a big contributor, etc. It is never mean or evil discussions, but just blabbing and sharing “maiselach” (almost exclusively) about wealthy people. Besides my resenting that important learning time is filled with gossip (tell a T’nach or Gadol story if the boys need a break), it always comes out as a discussion about people who have things no one else does, etc. And I won’t even get started on all the Hashgacha Pratis stories that have wonderful endings (also always about money), with the main character gaining back triple his donation, etc.

  7. Shades of Gray says:

    An important part of the article is the following:

    “When I finished my tirade, my mom said, ‘You know, this boy you find ugly and weird is some mother’s pride and joy…So the next time a boy asks you to dance, before you turn him down or make fun of him, just remember: Every boy is some mother’s son.’ ”

    While high school proms have no relevance in yeshivos, teasing and bullying is an issue which has recently received attention. If the above quote about dances could be adopted for relevant situations and followed, the problem could be lessened. The broader point is actually “d’alach sani l’chaverca lo taveid”(that which is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor). In this past week’s parsha as well, Ohr Rashaz has a number of essays on putting one’s self in another’s shoes reagrding “he went out to his brethren and saw their burdens”.

  8. Mr. Cohen says:

    Continuing from message number 4 of this discussion, I offer 3 more quotes about the evils of unrefined speech [nibul peh]:

    QUOTE 4:

    Commands of Rabbi Eliezer the Great, Paragraph 9:

    Do not defile your mouth with foul language [nivul peh] even as a joke.

    NOTE: This is the Rabbi Eliezer from the Pesach Hagadah.

    QUOTE 5:

    Rabbeinu Yonah, Shaarei Teshuvah, Chapter 3, Paragraph 229:

    Whoever speaks crude language [Nibul Peh] is heavy with guilt and abominable and abhorrent, because he has abandoned shame and modesty which are famously the traits of the holy people [literally, holy seed] and he walk with brazenness which is the trait of disgusting and wicked reprobates

    MINIBIOGRAPHY: Rabbi Yonah ben Abraham of Gerona, died 1263.
    He was a cousin of Nahmanides (Ranban) and wrote a commentary on tractate Avot.

    QUOTE 6:

    Rema comment on Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, Siman 53, Sif 25, Sif Katan 81:

    A prayer leader [Shaliach Tzibbur] who defiles his mouth with crude words or sings songs of Gentile religions, it is correct to protest that he should not do this.

    And if he refuses to listen, he should be removed.

    CHRONOLOGY: The Rema was Rabbi Moshe Isserles, who was born in year 1520 of the Common Era and died in 1572 in Cracow, Poland.

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