ON HER FIRST DAY: Congresswoman Curses Out President Trump – Halachic Analysis

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Rep. Rashida Tlaib (right) is seen wearing a thobe, a traditional Palestinian gown, on Thursday, the day she was sworn into office and later used horrible profanity to describe President Trump

(By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for 5tjt.com)

It is a news story that most religious Jewish news sites and papers will want to ignore. Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, the first Palestinian and one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, just hours after being sworn into office, used a horribly disgusting name to refer to the President of the United States at an event. The story and video of the incident has gone viral, and is a lead story on most news websites around the country.

Speaking to a crowd of supporters Thursday night, the Democrat from liberal Detroit (Michigan’s 13th Congressional District) said Democrats were going to “impeach the ———–.”

“…Your son looks at you and says, ‘Momma, look you won. Bullies don’t win.’ And I said, ‘Baby, they don’t, because we’re gonna go in there and we’re gonna impeach the (EXPLETIVE REMOVED)”, she told the crowd.

She didn’t back down Friday, tweeting that “I will always speak truth to power.” She added the hashtag, ”#unapologeticallyMe.”

Most religiously observant parents and teachers are suppressing this story because of the element of Nibul Peh.  This author would like to suggest that, instead of suppressing it, we should use it as a teaching moment. Why shouldn’t we use contemporary events to demonstrate the ideals and values of Torah-true Judaism?

EVIL MATTER

The Midrash attests to this on the verse in Dvarim (23:10), “When you go out to war guard yourself from every evil matter.” How does the Midrash (VaYikra Rabbah 24:7) define evil matter? You guessed it – “cursing” referred to in Hebrew as “Nivul Peh.”

TORAH PROHIBITION

Indeed, the Midrash seems to indicate that it is a Biblically forbidden prohibition whether in war or not in war – it is just that it is more common in wartime or in the soldier’s barrack rather than in the typical social structure or setting to which the Torah generally speaks. In fact, the Machzor Vitri (424), one of the foremost students of Rashi, writes that the prohibition is biblical.

There may be a different source for a biblical prohibition, too. The Torah tells us (Dvarim 23:17), “Lo yireh becha ervas davar—There shall not be seen within you an unseemly thing…” Rabbi Shmuel bar Nachmani in VaYikra Rabbah (24:7) rereads the words to say “ervas dibur” instead of “ervas davar.” The verse now reads – “There shall not be seen within you an unseemly statement – namely “cursing.”

And so, the newly elected Muslim female congresswoman when she described our president in such horrible terms – certainly violated an “unseemly thing” and did something quite “evil” as the Midrash describes.

AVI AVOS HATUMAH

And it seems that it is not just an innocuous, harmless little activity. The Gemorah in Shabbos (33a) tells us that because of the sin of cursing great problems come to Israel. Harsh decrees are promulgated, the youth die young, orphans and widows cry out and are not answered. In other words, the repercussions are rather serious. The Shla (Osios Shin Shtika 24) writes that cursing is the Avi Avos HaTumah – the ultimate source of impurity.

The Neshama, or soul, reflects the divine aspects of mankind. In contrast, cursing reflects the Nefesh Habahamis—the animalistic aspect of mankind. Interestingly enough, scientists believe that there is also cursing in the animal kingdom. Frans de Waal, a professor of primate behavior at Emory University in Atlanta, explains that when chimpanzees are angry “they will grunt or spit or make an abrupt, upsweeping gesture that, if a human were to do it, you’d recognize it as aggressive.”

Such behaviors are threat gestures, and can be interpreted as a form of cursing.

The bottom line is that cursing emanates from and reflects the lowliest aspects of human behavior.

WHY WE HAVE FINGERS

The reason cursing is called “Avi Avos HaTumah by the Shla HaKadosh is that such activity undermines holiness, both of oneself and of others. In fact, the Gemorah in Kesuvos (5b) instructs the others just how they should react. The Gemorah states that fingers were created like straight tent pegs for a reason – so that someone who hears Nivul Peh can place his fingers in his ears to blot out the sound.

IN EGYPT, THE JEWS DID NOT CURSE

The Midrash tells us that the Jews in Egypt reached the 49th level of impurity, but even then, they did not succumb so low as to curse (Psikta Zuta Shmos 6:10). They did not change their language implies, according to the Midrash, that they did not change their manner of speech either. We see how serious such activity truly is.

It also reduces our pre-designated life spans. The Gemorah in Niddah (16b) states that even if one had a life span of seventy years, nivul peh can turn it around in the wink of an eye.

Surprisingly enough, however, Rabbi Dovid HaLevi, author of the TaZ, states (YD 124:1) that the reason the Gemorah uses the wording “one who removes curse words from his mouth” rather than “one who issues curse words from his mouth” is to show us that the prohibition is only when one does so intentionally and willfully. Otherwise, it may not be the most proper thing, but it does not violate the biblical prohibition.

Unfortunately, Rashid Tlaib seems to have done so purposefully.  Most likely, she did not even know the TaZ.

It is interesting to note that philosophers are sometimes at a loss in defining why exactly cursing is wrong. From a Torah perspective, of course, the issue is impurity. Man was created in the Divine Image and possesses a Chailek Elokah mimaal – a Divine section from Above. Cursing and the uttering of profane words darkens and sullies that Divine section from Above that we all possess.

The Mesilas Yesharim points out that this lesson about being careful in how we communicate our thoughts and words to others is found in the very beginning of Sefer Bereishis. Hashem instructs Noach to take both pure and impure animals to be placed in the ark. Yet when Hashem gives him these instructions, careful attention is given to make sure that the word “Tameh” is not used. Instead Hashem tells Noach to take the animal that is not pure. Apparently, just reciting the word “impure” has negative effects. Certainly this must be true for real curse words themselves. Many extra words are used by the Torah to teach us this very important lesson – not to sully our Neshamos by cursing.

There is an important take home lesson here.  We, as parents, should actively teach our children the Torah thinking against Nibul Peh – instead of just ignoring it.  We should also call upon the speaker of the house, Nancy Peolosi, to vociferously denounce the use of such language in discussing our president.

The author can be reached at yairhoffman2@gmail.com

(YWN World Headquarters – NYC)




39 COMMENTS

  1. Are you sure nivul peh refers to cursing? Based on the posuk that it comes from, it would seem to refer to inappropriate speech about arayos, like the gemara says about commenting why does a woman get married etc. EDITOR’S NOTE: THIS WAS INAPPROPRIATE SPEECH ABOUT ARAYOS..

  2. Trump has the filthiest mouth on earth. Why no article about him? Or does he have a free pass because he pardoned Rubashkin and claims he loves Israel?

  3. What’s the question? She’s a disgusting vile individual for many reasons. Ladies and gentlemen, this is your Democrat Party. is this what you want? This is not the Democratic party of 20 30 40 50 60 a hundred years ago. These are Uber leftist whackos!.

  4. FakeNews Alert,

    I’m truly trying to understand your point. I do recall President Obama using very colorful language also. In fact I recalled President Clinton …., na I won’t go there. What about President Kennedy? And you should have heard what Johnson had to say before signing the civil rights law in 1968! Lots of colorful words there too!

    So I’m not understanding your point about President Trump. Was your point that the Democcrats are any better? The answer to that clearly is that they aren’t!

  5. @Jersey Jew – My point is that Trump has said way worse. Why all of a sudden is Rabbi Hoffman writing this article? Is it because he hates this woman because she is a Democrat? I’m just pointing out the blatant bias by Rabbi Hoffman.

    Trump has made the most degrading horrible remarks about women. Where was that article?

    I agree. Why when Obama dropped a four letter word was there no article?
    What about George W Bush?

    They all swear like sailors.

    The point is that clearly Rabbi Hoffman has a special hatred towards this woman who made her remarks to a closed door celebration to her supporters, as opposed to Trump that degrades women and anyone else he chooses on his Twitter account to tens of millions of people.

    I voted Trump.

    Get a grip buddy.

  6. because of the element of Nibul Peh. Just as you can destroy the Shem Kodesh as well as Pesukim printed on literature from a missionary R’L, likewise the contemptuous words of this מבזה can be quoted in full, so as not to minimize/water down the full impact of her רשעות.
    BTW the totally out of acceptable behavior for the office of a senator, only fuels exponentially more votes for President Donald Trump in 2020.

  7. Before Trump, it was allowed for Jews to call the president every disgusting name.
    With Trump, absolute kavod malchus is demanded.
    Before Trump hakaros hatov for the presodent helping Jew’s/Israel was not required. Now , all jews must bow down to Trump for every tova.
    Hypocrisy permeates the current Republican party and the co-president’s at Fox news.
    When John Kerry lied about his medals in VN – his lack of Patriotism was a major factor in him being swift boated.
    Trump is a draft dodger but Republicans love him.
    The morality of a candidate used to be a basic requirement. Now as long you are Republican it does not make a difference.
    This is just another example where Trump is given a pass.

    It is also no surprise that white supremacists,racists, xenophobes and misogynists have found the Republican party very accommodating.

  8. Fake News Alert – Great Point. Spot on.

    Those who want to use current events as “teachable moments” have ample amounts of hashchasa and nivalah from Trump that can easily be used to teach children how not to act.

    Halachik Nivul Peh does not refer to cursing it refers to matters that are best kept private and not meant to be discussed in public. True nivul peh is what Trump boasts about in his book.

  9. America was warned when Obama was in office and they refused to man their borders or demand security for Americans by preventing the influx of millions of Muslims into America. Well, now America is going to suffer the consequences of their insanity. Now you will see what Muslim hatred is all about and the destruction and death it causes. For all you Jewish Democrats out there you are going to see what your stupidity has caused.

  10. This idiot Muslim has best be very careful with her speech….Threatening the President of the United States is a federal felony under United States Code Title 18, Section 871.[1][2][3][4] It consists of knowingly and willfully mailing or otherwise making “any threat to take the life of, to kidnap, or to inflict bodily harm upon the President of the United States”. This also includes presidential candidates and former Presidents. The United States Secret Service investigates suspected violations of this law and monitors those who have a history of threatening the President. Threatening the President is considered a political offense.[5] Immigrants who commit this crime can be deported.[6]

  11. i don’t recall trump cursing people out like this. He said some pretty bad stuff about women and Mexicans, but at the same time he had some decency about how he said it. (this is my opinion) Rashida Tlaib on her first day crossed a barrier of decency, and common sense, by using indecent language, not just saying something mean.
    Everyone curses once in a while, like FakeNewsAlert pointed out, but not right off the bat, and not just in a moment of anger, like the other pres. probably (I don’t know for sure) did. It looked like she wanted to get elected to have a platform to curse out trump

  12. It is to the credit of the Rav who wrote the article that he is unware that most of the goyim in America tend be rather “foul mouthed” most of the time (and it goes back well before Trump) and it has been getting steadily common over the few generations. When Jews who have spent their lives in frum “ghettoes” venture out among the goyim (e.g. a real job) it is among the first things they notice.

  13. EDITOR on the first comment: No, this speech was inappropriate, but it was NOT about arayos at all. See the open halocho that if you call someone a mamzer you need mechila from him but not from his mother, because nobody takes it literally so it’s no reflection on her.

    Kelila, she did not threaten him. Threatening anyone is a crime, but the definition of a threat is very narrow. Immigrants who are not citizens can be deported for any crime. Citizens (who obtained their citizenship legitimately) cannot lose it and cannot be deported no matter what they do.

    LOTR92, what on earth are you talking about? Everyone knows about Trump’s extremely vulgar language. It’s not possible that you don’t recall it. He never said anything bad about Mexicans, but how can you have forgotten his infamous boast about what certain women will allow any famous person to do to them, “Grab them וכו׳”?

    This Tlaib woman is an enemy of the Jews, and we should not be melamed zechus on her, but what she said is no worse than what the President said. Even a decent person like Dick Cheney famously used a bad name in a private conversation that was overheard. The person he used it of richly deserved it, but still.

  14. I look at her and my stomach turns! ICH!! And its not because of her nivul peh. Its because she is a hateful muslim. May they all rot soon.

  15. What is the Taz’ chiddush? Anoosim are always exempt. As for vulgar language used by Trump and other (e.g. James Baker say “—- the Jews”), at least they did not use these words at public events. Unfortunately some people cannot express themselves without using such language but most people can watch themselves in public. I will also say that in recent years coarse language has become almost de rigueur. One cannot even open up an academic book without seeing such words.

  16. As others have commented, this article is mistaken. The definition of nivul peh is not cursing. Cursing is certainly in the category of דבר מגונה but is not (at least most of the time) nivul peh.

  17. The problem here is not so much that she used nivul peh (dont get me wrong its definitley a terrible thing) but that she said something like this on the first day in office! Despicable!

  18. The fact that the congresswomen used profanity is not a problem as both she and Trump are gentiles. Also every other word out of the mouths of some gentiles is a profanity. This will not hurt her politically as she comes from a very strong democratic district, but will play apart in hindering the democratic party’s agenda. For example, this will not help resolve the government shut down or even get the president impeached. Next year will be a new election cycle and Trump will be running and he will be using her comments to show that the democrats wouldn’t let America be great again and are just harassing him. If he wins there is a good chance that the Republican will take back the house. The democrats must be able to show accomplishments and in order to pass a bill into law it must pass the house, the senate and be signed by the president or get a two thirds override in the senate to override a presidential veto. Eventually both parties will compromise in order to to resolve the shutdown.

  19. Doing a ‘halachic analysis’ on an irreligious person using foul language is like doing a ‘halachic analysis’ on an irreligious person eating breakfast.

  20. Regarding the obligation of bnei Noach:
    1. If foul language harms one’s divine image it would also apply to them.
    2. The Ran says that they are obligated in all mitzvot that have a rationale that humans can understand. Bnei Noach generally understand that such language is inappropriate in public and certainly contrary to the dignity of a public office. In the UK it cann be considered gross misconduct in the workplace and some countries even criminalize it. Even in the US censorship of broadcast profanity has been upheld (Federal Communications Commission v. Pacifica Foundation, 438 U.S. 726 (1978)). See the Wikipedia article entitled “Profanity”.

  21. the problem with most politicians nowadays is that they are more interested in hurting the opposing party rather than helping the citizens of this great country
    make politics great again
    (or at least better)

  22. Understatement of the year 2019: ‘Most likely, she did not even know the TaZ’.
    She does not deserve a reference to her in the same sentence as the Holy Taz ztz, no matter what the context is…..

  23. A lot of Muslim women, traditionally-dressed and otherwise, seem to enjoy yelling and cursing, especially when microphones are allowed. What a strange interpretation of religious womanhood.

  24. Her goal is to get attention and stay in the news. Publishing articles about her, even negative ones, rewards her for her behavior. She should be ignored.

  25. > Milhouse

    Calling someone a Mamzer is not technically accusing the target of any personal wrong doing. But the epithet in question in this article is designed specifically to accuse the target of arayos.

  26. In 2011 while running for president Trump called the Chinese M-_s (twice) while giving a campaign speech in Las Vegas. It’s not difficult to find this on YouTube.

  27. @Mommy10

    Yes it isa included in “shava mitzvos bni noach”, it is an isur of “aroyes” and the isur of aroyes includes everything related to it,
    Once heard from a ruv that has a group of goyem that has who keep the sheva mitzvos, and he told me that a bni noach has an issur to embarrass someone , as it is included in the issur of “shfichas dumim”…