Is there a law against saying obscenities? If yes, what is considered obscene? Does it apply to any language or only to Hebrew?

  • Why do you care about law? Why don't you ask your intrinsic feeling, your conscience what is actually right or wrong? Law is never perfect and never will be.
    – Tomas
    Oct 14, 2011 at 22:27
  • 5
    @Tomas, this site is targeted at those who base their lives on Jewish law and tradition. The prescriptive power of God-given law is an underlying assumption for many or most questions here.
    – Isaac Moses
    Oct 16, 2011 at 3:35

2 Answers 2


The Talmud (Shabbos 33a) states (using Is. 9:16 as a prooftext) that obscene speech causes various national troubles, G-d forbid. It then goes on to say:

"Rabbi Chanan bar Rava says: Everyone knows why a bride enters the bridal chamber. Nevertheless, if one speaks obscenely about it, even if there was a Divine decree that he enjoy seventy years [the average human lifespan] of goodness, it can thereby be turned into bad."

So there may not be a formal black-letter law against obscene speech, but we see from this passage that it is definitely something to be avoided. To the best of my knowledge, there is no difference in this regard what language is used. As for "what is considered obscene," perhaps we might best adopt Justice Potter Stewart's definition: "I know it when I see it."

  • Do any halachic works codify this statement?
    – Curiouser
    Oct 17, 2011 at 13:12
  • @Curiouser: not that I've found. However, Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 53:25) says that a chazzan who speaks obscenely should be reprimanded, and if he persists he should be fired.
    – Alex
    Oct 17, 2011 at 17:01

As a punishment for obscenity, troubles multiply, cruel decrees are proclaimed afresh, the youth of Israel's enemies. (Shabbat 33a)

All know for what purpose a bride enters the bridal canopy, yet against whomsoever who speaks obscenely [thereof], even if a sentence of seventy years' happiness had been sealed for him, it is reversed for evil.(Shabbat 33a)

Even a superfluous conversation between a man and his own wife is mentioned to him at the time of his death. (Chagiga 5b)

Therefore the Lord shall have no joy in their young men, neither shall He have compassion on their fatherless and widows; for every one is ungodly and an evil-doer, and every mouth speaketh wantonness. For all this His anger is not turned away, but His hand is stretched out still. (Isaias 9:16)

(from messilat yesharim)

  • Sounds like mostly a repeat of the preexisting answer.
    – msh210
    Nov 23, 2012 at 4:24

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