Tuesday, June 24, 2008

George Carlin, Seven Dirty Words and Our Living Soul

The the passing away of comedian George Carlin conjures up certain childhood memories. I remember when my brother bought the album "Class Clown". We laughed hysterically. I don't think that our parents liked the album too much. The "Seven Dirty Words" clearly upset them, but they were powerless to do anything about it. I have no doubt that the amount of dirty words in my everyday speech skyrocketed as a result of listening to Carlin's clowning.

As I mentioned we laughed hysterically. Unfortunately I did not know then what I know now. Profane language pollutes one's soul. It is bad to hear it, and it is even worse to speak it.

It is well known that the faculty of speech is one of the things that separates man from the rest of the animal kingdom. "Then the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul (Genesis 2:7). The words for living soul in Hebrew is "Nefesh Chaya". Targum Onkelos translates this into Aramaic as "Ru'ach Memalela", a speaking spirit. This extra vitality that is in man is expressed by his speech, for better or worse.

The Torah requires us to guard our tongues. Dirty language, tale bearing, slander, etc. are out of bounds. Old habits may be hard to break, but it is worth it. When a person cleans up his speech he immediately feels that he has ascended to a higher level. Indeed he has.

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