Monday, May 5, 2008

Sefirah Music

Do you listen to music during Sefirah?

I do listen to recorded music during Sefirah. I don't remember which Rav told me it was okay, but what can I say, I do. Apparently there is a halachic distinction between live and recorded music.

I don't consider that to be a ridiculous heter. It is similar to the idea that some hold that kol isha (a man not being allowed to listen to a woman singing) only applies to live singing, rather than recorded singing. Or to the idea that listening to a recording of a shofar blowing does not fulfill the mitzvah of listening to a need to hear a live person blowing an actual shofar.

And Sefirah is a different kind of mourning from the Three Weeks (during which I do not listen to any kind of music, recorded or otherwise). So I felt pretty comfortable in my musical heter.

But when my sister-in-law, who is lately my guide to all things Yeshivish, told me that, according to their yeshiva, my nephews are allowed to listen to a capella music only, I thought it was rather silly. Then I asked a halachically-oriented friend about this, and he explained to me that a voice alone is not considered "music;" music is defined by the playing of musical instruments.

Okay, that seems to make sense. But this a capella exception still strikes me as disingenuous. Why? Because in a capella singing, the singers go out of their way to try to make their voices sound just like instruments. And the talented a capella singers are incredibly good at it. Listen to any song done by Rockapella and you will be convinced.

I'm not sure what to do with this and sorta wish I hadn't started thinking about it. I feel like I just need to decide whether I do listen to music in Sefirah or not, and that includes recorded, a capella and anything else. This just strikes me as a prohibitive mitzvah that has been overrun with heters and we have lost sight of what it is really about. The thing is, I really, really like listening to music.



Nice Jewish Guy said...

I listen to recorded music. Remember, when these halachot/customs were instituted, there was no such thing as recorded music. Music had to be live. So if you say no recorded music, what about watching TV/movies, where there are musical scores, etc.? My father used to try and make me lower the volume during commercials because of the music. So where do you draw the line?

I understand that during sefirah we undertake many of the restrictions that are undertaken by mourners- not shaving, no haircuts, no public celebrations, weddings, etc. But I think we can all agree that it's not the same thing. It's more symbolic; not everyone does everything. For example, many people shave during sefirah, for professional reasons. I do. I don't get haircuts, though, or go to concerts. Also try not to go to movies.

An interesting discussion of the historical aspects of Sefirah helps to put it in perspective; looking at the mourning period as arising from real military and historical events of the era is highly enlightening. It demistyfies what we were taught as schoolchildren to believe was some mystical punishment wrought by heaven for lashon hara, and reframes it in the context of the military and historical events surrounding the rebellion by Judaea against Rome around 135 CE, and the political interplay between 'Bar Kochba' and Rabbi Akiva and his students. See below:

YM said...

I forgot about these halachos.

hesh said...

Hey I just wrote a cd review for AKA Pella which is all the craze in the yeshiva world- I took it from a comic standpoint.

Recorded music during sfira is assur according to everyone besides me- I give myself a heter because I would go clinically insane- especially because all you can get on the radio these days are right wing lunatic talk show hosts.