Thursday, July 4, 2013

What music is allowed during he three weeks?

Yesterday we examined the matter of listening to or playing music during the three weeks: we showed that music represents an expression of happiness and that there are Halakhic precedents forbidden listening music in times of mourning (seethis). 

Still, when the shulhan 'arukh mentions the customs and restrictions of these three weeks, and particularly the restrictions after the month of Ab begins, it does not indicate anything explicit about listening or playing music.  This is one of the reasons why we will find different contemporary Halakhic opinions redefining the type of music that might be allowed or forbidden during these days. 

Rabbi Eliezer Melamed (Penine Halakha, Zemanim, 141-146) explains that not all music should be banned during these days.

In his opinion the original rabbinic restriction (which theoretically should be applied beyond these three weeks) forbids playing music in remembrance of the destruction of the Bet haMiqdash whenever music is played in an environment of celebration, and/or when music invites to dancing (weddings, Bar Mitzva, etc.), or at a live concert. 

But, he explains, not all music is celebratory music. Classical, inspirational music or background music in a shopping mall is not related to "celebration" or to "happiness".  The same could be said about music lessons or a National Anthem, etc.

Besides non-celebratory music there is also melancholic music. The Talmud relates that in ancient Israel sad or melancholic music was played in funerals with a type of flute which brought peoples' minds into a mood of grief (Shabbat 151a).

Based on the distinction of the three types of music Rabbi Melamed says: 

 One should avoid listening to celebratory music during the three weeks.  Until the beginning of the month of Ab, one could listen to inspirational or non-celebratory music, and then, from that day until the 9th of Ab, only melancholic Jewish music should be allowed. 

This is, by the way, the criteria that the Israeli religious radio station Arutz Sheva follows during these days.   

Tomorrow, B'H, we will review the opinion of Rabbi Obadya Yosef on this subject. 

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