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! 

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to listen to shi'ure Tora, Israeli news and Jewish music from Israel's Radio ARUTZ SHEVA   (for English click here) 

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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to listen to shi'ure Tora, Israeli news and Jewish music from Israel's Radio ARUTZ SHEVA   (for English click here) 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Music during the three weeks

Yesterday we explained that during the three weeks between the 17th of Tamuz and the 9th of Ab we keep certain customs of mourning. We do not celebrate weddings, do not recite Sheheheyanu, we refrain from buying, building etc (see this).  

What about playing music or listening to music during these three weeks? In Jewish sources playing music is one of the highest expressions of happiness. When the people of Israel crossed the Sea of Reeds (aka the Red sea) and saw that they were finally free from their Egyptian masters,  Miriyam --Moshe's sister--led the people into singing and playing musical instruments expressing thus their joy and happiness . Music was played for the bride and groom and in many other joyous occasions since Talmudic times or earlier.  

The rabbis also referred to playing music in relation to mourning. A person who is in mourning for his father or his mother cannot play, listen to music or attend a celebration where music is played for a a whole year. A mourner might attend, for example, the religious celebration of a Bar Mtzva, but it will not be allowed to participate of the Bar Mitzva's party if music is played there. 

The rabbis of the Talmud also referred to music in regards to mourning for the Bet haMiqdash. in Mishne Tora ta'aniot 5:12-15 Maimonides enumerates a list of restrictions that the Rabbis established after the destruction of the second Bet haMiqdash. Among those restrictions, he says (5:14)    וכן גזרו שלא לנגן בכלי שיר וכל מיני זמר וכל משמיעי קול של שיר אסור לשמוח בהן ואסור לשמען מפני החורבן..." The Rabbis forbade playing musical instruments and any kind of music in remembrance of the destruction of the Bet haMiqdash.

With all these elements in mind we should now ask ourselves: since music is an (or "the") expression of happiness, and music is avoided in times of mourning, are we allowed to play or listen to music during these three weeks? 

There are several opinions. We will explore the viewpoints of two contemporary rabbis. Tomorrow B'H we will review the opinion of rabbi Eli'ezer Melamed. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Buying, building and renovating during the three weeks

Yesterday we explained some of the customs that are prevalent among Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews during the three weeks between the 17th of Tamuz and the 9th of Ab. We mentioned, for example, that according to the Shulhan 'arukh during the three weeks it is appropriate to refrain from reciting the blessing Sheheheyanu for a new fruit or a new garment. 

It is also customary to refrain from buying new clothing after the beginning of the month of Ab, except if the article will be more expensive after Tisha beAb. It is also appropriate to abstain from buying gold or any jewelry from Rosh Hodesh Ab. Except when done as an investment or as a business operation.  

For Sephardim it is permitted to buy, rent or move into a new house until Rosh Chodesh Ab.  Many Sephardim however, will not abstain from buying a new house even after the beginning of the month of Ab. Particularly when the buying or renting of a property is considered more a business deal than a joyous act. Why? Because what it is forbidden during this period of time is any form of superfluous purchasing, building or renovation, i.e., when is done for joy and pleasure. That is not permitted because we are in a time of mourning. But any purchase or operation that is done for a need or as a business it is permitted.  
If one is building his new home he can continue doing so and one does not have to discontinue his work (or the work of the company in charge of building his house) during the nine days. 

One may not paint his home or do any unnecessary renovations in his house or buy any unnecessary new furniture during the nine days. But one can do any reparations or fix anything which needs to be fixed in his house, etc. 

Purchasing something which is meant for a Mitzva is permitted. For example: buying Tefilin or a new book of Tora.   

It is also permitted to buy non-leather shoes to wear them on Tish'a beAb. 

More on the Ashkenazi customs of 
The Three Weeks 
by Rabbi Shraga Simmons, 
from Aish

Monday, July 1, 2013

THE THREE WEEKS: Mourning the destruction of the Bet haMiqdash

As we have previously explained (see here), on the 17th of Tamuz of the year 68 of the CE, after many months of siege, the walls of the city of Yerushalaim were destroyed by the Roman legions.   
During three week the invading army pillaged the holy city, and thousands of Jews were tortured, killed or taken as slaves.   The second Bet haMiqdash was destroyed and burned three weeks after the Romans enter the city: the 9th of Ab. More than 600 years earlier, --in 586 BCE-- the first Bet haMiqdash was destroyed also on the 9th of Ab.  

As we approach the 9th of Ab --the National day of Mourning for the Jewish People-- we observe certain restrictions associated with mourning. The restrictions are stricter as we get closer to the 9th of Ab. These customs differ from community to community.   

A few illustrations: 

WEDDINGS: The Rabbis of the Talmud (and Maimonides) did not mention any restrictions to be applied before the beginning of the month of Ab. For Sephardim it is not forbidden to have a wedding ceremony between the 17 of Tamuz and the beginning of the month of Ab. The Ashkenazi custom however, is to avoid wedding ceremonies from the 17th of Tamuz.  However,  and although technically permitted, the practical custom in our days is that Sephardic Jews do not celebrate weddings during the three weeks.  

SHEHEHEYANU: The Shulhan Arukh mentions that it is good to refrains ourselves from eating a new fruit that will require the recitation of the blessing Sheheheyanu during the three weeks. The custom in this case is to allow the recitation of Sheheheyanu in Shabbat (for Sephardim and Ashkenazim, penine halakha).  

HAIRCUT: For Sephardim it is permitted to get a haircut or shave until the week of Tisha beAb. The Ashkenazi tradition (and of some Moroccan Jews as well) is different: haircut or shaving is forbidden from the 17 of Tamuz. (Haircut restrictions do not apply to women).
More on the customs of 
The Three Weeks 
by Rabbi Shraga Simmons, 
from Aish