"A nd I will take you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will save you from their labor…” (Shemos 6:6)

The Midrash (Yalkut Shimoni 247: 226) quotes Rav Huna in the name of Bar Kafra: “In the merit of four things, Bnei Yisrael were redeemed from Mitzrayim: They didn’t change their names, their language, there was no lashon hara among them, and they didn’t involve themselves in immorality.”

We know that our forefathers in Mitzrayim spoke lashon hakodesh. This doesn’t only mean that they spoke the language of the Jews. Rather, it’s praising them for speaking in a pure manner without coarse speech. This connects to the Rambam (Moreh Nevuchim 3:8), who asks: “Why is it called lashon hakodesh? Because there are no words in this language for things that should be discussed discreetly.” (Rav Pincus, Tiferes Shimshon)


I’m a riveting conversationalist. With myself. I walk around my house muttering directives and reminders.

The first Shabbos my son-in-law spent at our house found me dashing around Friday afternoon announcing: “Binyamin needs socks. Kugel’s done. Get Yitzi out of the shower.” I paused in the dining room to take stock and remind myself why I’d come in. Spotting Yehuda on the couch, I shrugged sheepishly. “I don’t know how much you checked out our family, but I talk to myself. It’s not a sign of insanity, it actually keeps me sane. Does your mother talk to herself?”

“I wouldn’t know.” He grinned. “I try not to listen to private conversations.”

There’s an added component to Klal Yisrael’s strength in maintaining pure speech, since Egypt was a land of great immorality where the boundaries of tzniyus were completely breached. Similarly, in our days, the modern world scorns the concept of tzniyus. So, one who guards his speech merits great success.

Pure speech isn’t just about refraining from speaking profanity. There are plenty of people who’d never use such language, but who use expressions and sharp words that are also improper.

It’s said of the Chofetz Chaim that even when he spoke against resha’im, his choice of words was not biting or mean.


Private conversations are one thing. The problem is when my soliloquies go public. Like when I’m in the car.

Anyone who’s driven in Israel knows that the roads were built for camels, not cars and buses. In order to get anywhere, one has to fight for his constitutional rights to part of the road. It’s survival of the fittest or fastest.

To release tension, I talk to the other drivers. I doubt any drivers hear me or even pay attention to my gesticulations and instructions. They’re too busy doing the same thing themselves.

Shlomo Hamelech writes in Koheles (6:7): “All a person’s toil is for his mouth.”

It’s comparable to a barrel of clean wine that has a dirty spout. All the wine poured from that spout will be unfit to drink. Similarly, even if a person is full of tefillah, Torah, and yiras Shamayim, if his mouth is stained with profanity, all the Torah and tefillos that come out from it will be dirty and worthless.

It’s frightening how small words we don’t even pay attention to have the power to corrupt everything.


The problem arises when I’ve got my kids in the back seat. Despite the noise they make, they manage to hear every comment of mine.

“C’mon, Buster Brown,” I begged the rusty tan van in front of me. “Getta move on. We’ve got a light to make.”

I’m not even aware of what I’m saying but, apparently, they are.

The other morning, Binyamin was trying to get Yitzi out the door. “C’mon, Buster Brown!” he yelled. “Getta move on. We’ve got a bell to make!”

“Listen, little one,” Avi told the baby, who was riding his toy car down the hall, “you don’t own this road. I do. I pay taxes.”

Hearing my comments coming out of their mouths makes me stop and take stock. Is there anything technically wrong with what I’m saying? Probably not. But do I want them talking to each other like that?

So the next time you’re driving in Israel, you may notice a woman the next lane over, waving her hands wildly and talking to herself. But if you eavesdrop, hopefully you’ll hear me saying something like: “Certainly, sir. If you’d like to cut me off, feel free. It’s a free country. But just be aware, you’re driving me cra— er … mildly insane.” (Originally featured in Family First, Issue 575)