Friday, July 5, 2013

Music during the three weeks

 Yesterday we reviewed the opinion of Rabbi Eli'ezer Melamed regarding playing or listening to music during the three weeks. The thrust of his opinion is that what should avoid is happy or celebratory music (see this).  

 The primary source for this criteria is Maimonides' (Ta'anit 5:14) words that in perpetual remembrance of the Bet haMiqdash "...vekhol mashmi'e qol shel shir asur lismoah bahem...  " is forbidden to rejoice with musical songs". Therefore, when music is not intended for joy and rejoicing, it is not forbidden.    

In the same text, Maimonides also said: "vekhen gazru shelo lenagen bikhle shir..." "The Rabbis forbade playing musical instruments ". Rabbi Obadya Yosef explains that what makes music a source of happiness is not its content or categorization, as rabbi Melamed claims, but the fact that is played with instruments.  This is why Rabbi Yosef would indicate that playing or listening to  songs a cappella, i.e., without musical instruments is authorized until Rosh Hodesh Ab, even if the music is of a celebratory nature. 

This is a good example of how two or more opinions among rabbis are formed even when both are analyzing the same source (=Maimonides). In this case, the two rabbis understand differently the nature of 'celebratory music'. For Rabbi Melamed is about the content and nature of music (melancholic, happy, etc.) while for Rabbi Yosef, is about the way it is played, i.e., a cappella or with musical instruments. 

Although the subject of playing or listening to music during the three weeks is not mentioned explicitly in the shulhan 'arukh or Mishne Tora, every year I receive many questions on this custom.  As the reader can see there is no one single view on this matter.  There is a third opinion, for example, followed in some Sephardic communities, that one should avoid listening to live instrumental music from the 17 of Tamuz and avoid all kind of music (including electronic music) during the week of Tish'a beAb.

Every person should follow his or her community and family customs. 

Shabbat Shalom! 

Candle lighting in NYC:    8.10 pm
Shabbat ends in NYC:       9.10 pm 

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