You’ll Pardon Me, I Hope

You’ll pardon me, but in just the last few days, I have heard the word ‘crap’ used in public as a synonym for feces by the host of a popular television show, by an official of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, and by a CNN news anchor, to name just three.  I am not going to squander your time bemoaning the coarsening of the culture; we all know it is happening.  Many of us understand why.

And it is not only the word ‘crap’.  There is another four letter synonym for excrement which is just as popular though the self-anointed cultural elites have ridiculously decreed that ‘crap’ can be used on America’s airwaves but not the alternative word for the same human byproduct.  Expect that to change soon.

Why this particular form of human waste?  Why don’t people say, “He needs the ear-wax beaten out of him”? Or, how about, “The breaching whale scared the saliva out of the kayaker”?  Or why not, “I’ve never heard anyone speaking such nasal mucus”?  I have never heard any driver say, “Oh urine! I took a wrong turn!”  Of all human body waste, why does only excrement enjoy such common usage in ordinary conversation today?

Ancient Jewish wisdom offers a clue by informing us that the most compelling form of idolatry is worship of Peor, mentioned several times in the Torah.  Furthermore, it shocks us with the information that worship of Peor involves excrement.  Apparently, somehow, men foolishly seek to send a meaningful message through involvement with body waste even if today that means no more than evoking it constantly many times a day.

Your eyes have seen what the Lord did at Baal Peor, for every man who went after Baal Peor,
the Lord your God has exterminated from your midst.
But you who cleave to the Lord your God are alive, all of you, this day. 

(Deuteronomy 4:3-4)

What was this worship of Peor which resulted in the deaths of 24,000 Israelites?  It happened back in the Book of Numbers.

Israel became attached to Baal Peor, and the anger of the Lord flared against Israel.
(Numbers 25:3)

The idolatry of Peor is viewed as more grievous even than the betrayal of the Golden Calf which resulted in the deaths of only 3,000 Israelites.  (Exodus 32:28) Peor is obviously something quite dreadful, yet Moses began his final teaching of the Torah citing Beth Peor (Deuteronomy 3:29) and after he died, he was buried opposite Beth Peor.

And He buried him (Moses) in the valley, in the land of Moab, opposite Beth Pe’or.
And no person knows the place of his burial, unto this day. 

(Deuteronomy 34:6)

Ancient Jewish wisdom highlights that Peor represents the opposite of Moses whose distinguishing characteristic was as a speaker and teacher.  In fact, in Hebrew, he is usually referred to as “Mosheh Rabeinu”—Moses our teacher.  Speech is as spiritual as we humans get.  Speaking to ourselves, to one another, or to our Creator uses the capacity of speech that He granted exclusively to humans.  When we speak, we convert the biological processes of life into the Godly sound of speech and prayer.

Nasal mucus is just a byproduct of our breathing apparatus.  There’s nothing uniquely human there.  All animals breathe.  Saliva is a byproduct of eating which, again, is something all animals do. Earwax and urine are linked to hearing and drinking;  nothing special about humans.  However human mouths are used not only for eating but also for speaking, and the latter is one of the chief ways in which God uniquely created us in His image.  Our mouths allow us to express lofty thoughts that emphasize our souls, not our bodies.

That long tube making up our gastrointestinal system starts with the mouth and terminates with the anus.  One might say that the mouth, the organ through which we can most practice rectitude, ends with the rectum.  What emerges from that orifice is the very opposite of what emerges from the mouth.

Though western society correctly discourages public nose-picking, ear-probing, spitting, and urinating, it is defecation for which people most insist on privacy.  On some deep level we are more embarrassed by that particular natural biological function than any other.  For animals, defecation is merely ejecting waste from food; for humans the act carries greater significance because we don’t just use our mouths for eating, we also use them for speech.

Those four other byproducts of our biology are just that and so they possess little power to impart to conversation.  But excrement is entirely different.  Brandishing synonyms for excrement is a way of publicly disassociating ourselves from God and His spiritual truths.  Using ‘crap’ and other similar words in conversation broadcasts the conviction that we are no more than any other animal.

4 thoughts on “You’ll Pardon Me, I Hope”

  1. As I read about Baal Peor it hit me how strikingly the act of worship to that god reminded me of some information that was conveyed to me about a homosexual act. I believe that somehow that spirit has invaded the human race even now and it is claimed that they were born that way. God does not impute false acts . Not does He turn a blind eye to it. Folks don’t know what spirit they are of! So We need the Holy Spirit to baptize us to keep false spirits
    away and out. There are many false spirits and only one Holy Spirit. Amen
    Kathy Reb

  2. Like Allisun, I have allowed a ‘knee jerk reaction’ of my mouth to spout off the ‘c’ word (thinking that was the lesser of the evils) when frustrated or faced with a disappointment. The Lord has been gracious in recently pointing out my sin and lack of self control over the gift of my speech. He just reiterated that point for me while reading your teaching.
    I am always grateful for the wisdom you share. Thank you!

  3. Happy Rosh HaShanah, Rabbi. I had been using the “c” word, thinking and insisting to others that it was a harmless, dialed-down expletive. However, my position has changed after reading your post. I don’t use vulgar language regularly, but thought this one was harmless. I will begin working to create a new habit and remove this particular word from my vernacular. Thank you for all your thought tools.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Hello Allisun–a steady drip of water can wear away a hard rock so even what appear to be ‘dialed down expletives’ can corrode the soul eventually. I think that your habit adjustment program is a great idea! Blessings~ RDL

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