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What is the source for the prohibition against Nivul Peh (using foul language)? Is it Biblical? Rabbinic? "Asmachta" (based on a principle derived from the Torah but ultimately not considered a Biblical mandate, ie., not a Mitzvah)? And based on the answer to the above, how severe is the prohibition (when can it be overridden, what, if anything, is the penalty, etc.)?

  • Note that this is the first time I've used Lomdus (that I remember), and that I'm trying to use it in accordance with DoubleAA's scheme. – Seth J Aug 1 '12 at 17:24
  • Is my 'scheme' policy? – Double AA Aug 1 '12 at 17:31
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    related/answer judaism.stackexchange.com/a/14260/759 – Double AA Aug 1 '12 at 17:35
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    @DoubleAA, dunno. I was just pointing it out in case anyone saw it differently or questioned why I was tagging both lomdus and halachah-theory – Seth J Aug 1 '12 at 18:34
  • 2 add. sources: gemara pesachim about לשון נקייה, & Rambam's explanation of לשון הקודש – wfb Oct 25 '13 at 19:35
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Isaiah 9:17-

Therefore the Lord will take no pleasure in the young men, nor will he pity the fatherless and widows, for everyone is ungodly and wicked, every mouth speaks vileness. And for all this, his anger is not turned away, his hand is still upraised.

As @GershonGold pointed out, the Talmud (Shabbos 33a) derives from here that nivul peh is a very bad thing. It would seem strange that a Prophet would be decrying a certain behavior, especially in such terms, if it only went against a decree of the rabbinic courts, and not something defined as wrong by God himself. If we can't find an allusion to the wrongfulness of nivul peh in the Torah (i.e. the Pentateuch) then we should look harder. From textual context alone I don't think it makes sense to equate this with lighting Chanuka candles or muktza.

One suggestion: The Rambam understands the concept of refining ones character to be included in והלכת בדרכיו - the obligation to walk in the ways of God. I'd assume this could fall under that.

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    Kedoshim TiHyu? – Seth J Aug 1 '12 at 19:30
  • @SethJ Perhaps. – Dov F Aug 1 '12 at 19:32
  • @SethJ Note that Rashi's pshat on that is to keep far away from arayos; naval birshus hatorah is Ramban – b a Aug 2 '12 at 21:32
  • This does not fully answer the question with regard to law, but it may not be so cut and dry. – Seth J Oct 24 '12 at 22:19
  • Much of morality in general is not addressed by the Torah, and there is no reason to assume that it is d'orayta. Dividing the options for the source of a prophets exhortation into d'orayta and d'rabanan is therefore, IMHO, totally misleading. – mevaqesh Aug 11 '16 at 7:46
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Yerushalmi Terumoth (ch. 1):

ולא יראה בך ערות דבר (דברים כג): ערות דיבור זה - ניבול - פה

Also, see Mesilat Yesharim (ch. 11) about the severity of this sin, where he brings this and other sources.

  • So is it an asmachta or what? this does not answer the question. – mevaqesh Aug 11 '16 at 7:47
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שבת לג ע"א says that due to the sin of Nivul Peh many Tzaros and bad Gezeiros happen and young people pass away. So I guess it is Rabbinic in nature.

  • Maybe it falls into some biblical category... – mevaqesh Aug 11 '16 at 7:48
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I cannot find mention of nibbul peh in Rambam's Mishneh Torah, or in other lists of the mitsvot, such as Yereim, Semag, Semak, Ramban's addenda to Sefer Hamitsvot, etc. I therefore assume that according to Rambam, et al. it is not a Biblical prohibition and that the associated derashot are asmakhtot. I similarly find no mention if it in the major codes such as the Arba'ah Turim and the Shulhan Arukh. Their combined silence seems to imply that it is not a formal rabbinic prohibition either. That does not mean, however, that performing it is permissible, or even that doing so does not violate a rabbinic, or even biblical commandment. It just means that it is not its own legal category (in spite of its distinct name).

For example, cannibalism and public nudity can both be extremely problematic, even-though it is likely that neither is the subject of a discrete prohibition.

  • It appears that the commentless downvoter could think of nothing coherent to say. Probably just an emotional vulgar expression. Given the irony of such a response to this question he chose to vent his frustration into a commentless downvote. – mevaqesh Sep 11 '16 at 18:31
  • @sethj it appears that i answered What is the source for the prohibition against Nivul Peh (using foul language)? Is it Biblical? Rabbinic? "Asmachta" (based on a principle derived from the Torah but ultimately not considered a Biblical mandate, ie., not a Mitzvah)? Rendering how severe is the prohibition unanswerable since a non-technical prohibition has no measurable severity. Incidentally, mine is the only answer that brings evidence to whether the prohibition is biblical rabbinic or neither. Is something bothering you about the answer? – mevaqesh Sep 11 '16 at 18:34
  • @SethJ^^^^^^^^^^^ – mevaqesh Sep 12 '16 at 18:09

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