G-d tells Moshe to inform the Jewish People that He is going to take them out of Egypt. However, the Jewish People do not listen. G-d commands Moshe to go to Pharaoh and ask him to free the Jewish People. Although Aharon shows Pharaoh a sign by turning a staff into a snake, Pharaoh's magicians copy the sign, emboldening Pharaoh to refuse the request. G-d punishes the Egyptians and sends plagues of blood and frogs, but the magicians copy these miracles on a smaller scale, again encouraging Pharaoh to be obstinate. After the plague of lice, Pharaoh's magicians concede that only G-d could be performing these miracles. Only the Egyptians, and not the Jews in Goshen, suffer during the plagues. The onslaught continues with wild animals, pestilence, boils and fiery hail. However, despite Moshe's offers to end the plagues if Pharaoh will let the Jewish People leave, Pharaoh continues to harden his heart and refuses.
“I will take you out from under the burdens of Egypt; I shall rescue you from their service; I shall redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments” (1:1)
“Rav Huna said in the name of Bar Kapara: It was in the merit of four things that the Jewish People were redeemed from Egypt: They didn’t change their names; they didn’t change their language; slander and gossip was not found amongst them, and they maintained their moral standards.” (Yalkut Shimoni, Remez 226)
Hebrew is referred to as the “The Holy Tongue”. It’s holy not just because it was language with which G-d created Existence; it’s not just because it’s the language of the Torah; it’s not only because it was the language spoken by the holiest people who ever lived — Moshe, the Patriarchs and the Prophets.
It’s the only language in the world that has no ‘swear words’.
It cannot be mere coincidence that ‘comedians’ whose lexicon relies so heavily on the obscene and the tawdry rub shoulders with displays of indecency and lewdness.
Morality is the first casualty of a mouth filled with gossip and slander, however ‘funny’ it may be.
The Jewish People in Egypt guarded their mouths not just against foul language, but also against language with words that were as clean as fresh laundry — but their intent was the assassination of character and social standing.
This is what saved them from Egypt.
As it says in Kohelet, “Man’s entire labor is with his mouth.” (6:7)
Imagine you have a wine cask filled with fine vintage wine. Place a spout on it which is tainted with filth, and the finest wine becomes disgusting. So it is with man. Even someone who is full of Torah and good deeds and prayer, if his language is coarse, even if not obscene, all his virtues become tainted and perhaps worthless.
But even a wine of modest pedigree when cleansed of dross and lees becomes palatable and pleasant. Even if someone may not be a great tzaddik, but his manner of expression is pleasant, generous and gentle — he has the merit to escape the “exile of Egypt”.
- Sources: Rabbi Shimshon Pincus; Rambam, Moreh HaNevuchim Part 3, chapter 8