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Listening to Music
Is there a rabbinic prohibition of listening to music in commemoration of the destruction of the temple, and, if so, how does it apply?
- The Gemara in Gittin 7a states that after the Churban Bayit, Mar Ukva forbade singing, playing, and listening to music. That applies whether the music comes from people singing or whether it comes from musical instruments. The Mishna in Sotah 48a also says that after the dissolution of the Sanhedrin, singing songs became forbidden at parties.
Dispute of the Rishonim
- Rashi (Gittin 7a D”H Zimra) and Tosfot (Gittin 7a D”H Zimra) understand that the prohibition of Mar Ukva only includes music at feasts or parties as in the Mishna above. Tosfot adds that one should be strict to cases similar to that of the Yerushalmi (Megillah 5:3) of a person who goes to sleep and wakes up to music. Many Rishonim including: the Smag (Tisha BeAv pg 123b), Chiddushei HaRan (Gittin 7a), Tosfot HaRosh (Gittin 7a), Hagahot Mordechai (beginning of Gittin), and Meiri (pg 20) agree with Rashi and Tosfot.
- On the other hand, the Rambam (Taniot 5:14) writes that it’s forbidden to play musical instruments in any case, and singing is only forbidden at a feast with wine. Tur 560:3 quotes the Sh”t HaRambam 370 who forbids listening to music whether it comes through instruments or people singing and whether it’s at a feast or not.
Understanding behind the dispute
- Rabbi Aharon Kahn (RJJ journal #14 (pg 7-48)) suggests that the Rambam understood the prohibition as a way of refraining from joy after the destruction of the temple. This is clear from the language of the Rambam. [This is also reflected in the placement of this Halacha by the Rambam in Hilchot Taniot and Tur and S”A in the Siman of Zecher LeMikdash.] However, Tosfot (see Meiri (Gittin 7a)) understood that the prohibition was enacted because of vulgar songs and ths is was only applicable after the Sanhedrin lost it’s authority because it was then that people lost respect for the rabbis, and began to sing improper songs at weddings.
- Shulchan Aruch 560:3 rules like the Rambam in Yad Chazakah (Taniot 5:14). Rama 560:3 brings the opinion of Tosfot as the Halacha (the prohibition of music is limited to a party or feast with wine.) Additionally, it applies to someone who regularly listens to music when going to sleep and waking up as is the practice of kings.
- The Bach 560:3 holds that all music is forbidden whether it’s sung by people, played on instruments, is at a feast or isn't at a feast as the Sh”t HaRambam (see above) holds. Furthermore, the Bach explains that this is also what the Rambam meant in his Yad Chazakah. This stringent opinion is brought as halacha by some achronim including: Magan Avraham 560:8, Shlah (Tanit pg 60d), Bear Sheva (Sotah 49a), Mishna Brurah 560:13, and Sh”t Az Nidabru 8:58(1). Sh”t Igrot Moshe 1:166 writes that a righteous individual should be strict for the Bach, and Sh”t Az Nidbaru 8:58(1) holds that the minhag to rely on the Rama is a weak minhag.
- Some Achronim side with the Rama, such as: Sh”t Igrot Moshe (1:166) (but he does add that a Bal Nefesh (one who cares for his soul) should preferably be strict in accordance with the Bach), Rabbi Moshe Karp (Hilchot Uminhagei Ben HaMesarim pg 24), and Sh”t Tzitz Eliezer (15:33) (who says that the minhag shouldn’t be questioned). [The Sh”t Sheilat Shlomo (7:59-60) mentions that even though many Achronim follow the Bach, the Mishna Brurah doesn’t bring up any objections against the Rama, so one can surely rely on the Rama. However, this is difficult to understand because the Mishna Brurah 560:13 (also Bear Hetiev 560:6) quotes the objection of the Bach in reference to the Rama.]
- Rambam (Taniot 5:14) adds that the minhag is to be lenient about listening to songs that include praise to Hashem. This leniency is based on the Rif (Brachot 21b, fifth perek) in the name of Rav Hai Gaon who writes that whereas singing songs of romance is forbidden, songs praising Hashem are permitted, even at parties. This is brought down by: Rosh (Brachot 5:1), Ramban (Hilchot Avel Yishana pg 89a), Sefer HaEshkol (1 pg 23), Sefer HaMeorot (Brachot 31a), Ravyah (Brachot Siman 91), Chiddushei HaRan (Gittin 7a), Ritva (Gittin 7a), Rabbenu Yerucham (pg 186c), Kaftor VePerach (6 pg 110), and Orchot Chaim (Hilchot Tisha BeAv 14).See Ish Matzliach's comment on Mishna Brurah holds like the Orchot Chaim.
- The Meiri (Gittin 7a) and Otzer Geonim (Gittin 7a Siman 18) both permit songs of praise with musical instruments. However, the Orchot Chaim (Tisha BeAv 14) limits the leniency of songs of praise to people singing without musical instruments. Most Achronim hold like the Meiri including: the Maharikash (560e), Tzafnat Paneach (Devarim pg 156c), Sh”t Shoel VeNishal (O”C 6:45), Shemen HaMishcha (Tanit 560), Sh”t Sharei Tzion HaCohen (O”C 38), and Chazon Ovadyah (Arba Taniot pg 434).
- Even songs of Torah and thanks to Hashem must be sung with the proper attitude and seriousness. Similarly, the Magen Avraham 560:10 writes that the Torah weeps before Hashem when Jews make a mockery of it by singing its verses. See Piskei Teshuvot and Ish Matzliach on Mishna Brurah who write that the Magan Avraham only forbids one who doesn’t have pure intent.
- Halichot Shlomo (pg 412) quotes Rav Shlomo Zalman who permits listening to music that doesn’t lead to (or accompany) dancing (whether it’s sung or played by an instrument). For example, classical music would fall into this category. It’s proper not to listen to such music during the three weeks as a sign of mourning. Similarly, Rabbi Shlomo Dechovsky (Techumin, Vol 21 pg 67) quotes Rav Moshe Feinstein as permitting listening to classical music as one works because it’s unrelated to dancing (the primary prohibition of simcha is dancing, as in Magen Avraham 551:10). Others including: Rabbi Yosef B. Soloveitchik (quoted in RJJ Journal vol 14 pg 34) and Aseh Lecha Rav (3 pg 16). Lastly, Peninei Halacha (pg 145) permits songs that don’t lead to or involve simcha and, all the more so, sad songs. [Sh”t Shelat Shlomo 7:60 says that classical music should depend on the dispute between Rashi and Rambam.]
- Tosfot (Gittin 7a D”H Zimra) writes that for a Tzorech Mitzvah, such as to make the Chatan and Kallah happy, one may certainly play songs with musical instruments. This is brought by many rishonim including: Meiri, Chiddushei HaRan, Tosfot HaRosh, Smag, Hagahot Mordechai, Hagahot Maimon (Taniot 5). The Rama 560:3 also brings this down. This is brought down for Sephardim as well in Sh”t Yachave Daat 1:45. Sh”t Igrot Moshe O”C 168 permits all types of festivities of mitzvah and says that perhaps even a tzadeka banquet can be included. Similarly, Sh”t Yachave Daat 1:45 includes: a Brit Milah, a Pidyon HaBen, a Siyum, a Purim Seuda, and Chol HaMoed Dancing.
Weddings in Yerushalayim
- There is an old gezerah that the rabbis of the second half of the nineteenth century established, declaring that there should be no music from musical instruments played at weddings in Yerushalayim. Rav Elyashiv in Bet Chatanim (pg 160) says that the gezerah was restricted to the Old City, while the Torat Chesed held that it applies even outside the Old City. See RJJ journal #14 pg 23, Shalmat Chayyim 1:77, 4:34, 5:40, Sh”t Shevet HaLevi 6:69 and Sh”t Tzitz Eliezer 15:33.
Listening to the radio
- According to Sh”t Igrot Moshe 1:166 and Sh”t Tzitz Eliezer 15:33:2, listening to music through a radio or tape-recorder is considered by most to be the same as listening to the music live. The same goes for recorded music of instruments. ***However, Sh”t Chelkat Yacov 62:2 (also quoted by Sh”t Yachave Daat 1:45, 6:34) argues that since the music comes from an instrument that didn’t exist in the time of Chazal, it should be considered forbidden under the gezera of Chazal***(check citation for clarification) However, Sh”t Az Nidabru 8:58 and Sh”t Shevet HaLevi 8:127 argue that recorded music is always considered music from musical instruments even if it was recorded from people singing. He explains that it emanates from an instrument and produces an artificial sound. [See Shalmei Moed who quotes Rav Elyashiv as agreeing with the Igrot Moshe.]
Sefirah and three weeks
- Many Achronim (Aruch HaShulchan 493:2, Sh”t Igrot Moshe 1:166, 5:87. 6:21:4, Sh”t Yacheve Daat 6:34, Sh”t Kapei Aharon Epstein 52, Yalkut Yosef Moadim pg 434, Maamer Mordechai of Rav Mordechai Eliyahu Sefirat HaOmer #40 and Torat HaMoadim 5:2) write that even those who are lenient to listen to music during the rest of the year should refrain from listening during the Sefirah and three weeks. The Igrot Moshe 1:166 and Sh”t Yachava Daat 6:34 hold that only instrumental music is forbidden during the Sefira, while Sh”t Shevet HaLevi 8:127, and Sh”t Tzitz Eliezer 15:33 forbid even recorded vocal music.
- According to Ashkenazim, some say that it is permitted to listen to music year-round except at a feast with wine.  According to Sephardim, however, many hold that it is forbidden to listen to musical instruments anytime, and even vocal songs are prohibited at a feast with wine. Nonetheless, many Sephardim are lenient to listen to recorded music or music over the radio. 
- Many authorities hold that classical music is not included in this prohibition. 
- Listening to music to prevent depression is permissible but this leniency should be used restrictively and preferably only after consulting a local Rabbi. 
- It is permitted to listen to music while driving late at night to prevent one from falling asleep. 
- A person should refrain from waking up everyday to music (even if that’s the alarm). However, if that’s the only that a person wakes up, there is what to be rely on. 
- If the singer of a recorded song is a wicked person it is forbidden to listen to his music. 
- If a certain singer was religious and then rejected religion, it is forbidden to listen to his music that he produced when he was religious unless the singer’s name is removed from that music and it’s not recognizable that it’s from that singer. 
Sefira and Three Weeks
- During sefirat ha’omer and the three weeks, many poskim hold that it is forbidden to listen to music. Some permit listening to “a capella” music during these times. 
- The minhag is to be lenient regarding playing and listening to music during Chol HaMoed for simchat HaChag. 
Wedding and Sheva Brachot
- One is allowed to play and listen to music at a wedding. 
- Some permit playing music at a Sheva Brachot meal during the three weeks, while some forbid. 
- Rabbi Chaim Jachter
- Rabbi Eliezer Melamed
- Rabbi Aharon Kahn
- Rabbi Baruch Simon
- Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz
- Rabbi Sobolofsky
- The Gemara in Gittin 7a learns from Pesukim in Nach that it is forbidden to sing songs or play musical instruments. Tosfot (Gittin 7a D”H Zimra) understand that the prohibition includes only music at feasts of wine, as in the Mishna Sotah 48a. Tosfot add that one should be strict in cases similar to that of the Yerushalmi of a person who goes to sleep and wakes up to music. The Rambam (Taaniyot 5:14), by contrast, writes that it’s forbidden to play musical instruments in all cases, and mere singing is forbidden only at a feast with wine. Strangely, the Rambam in his responsa (# 224) seems to forbid listening to music whether it comes through instruments or people singing and whether it’s at a feast or not.
- Shulchan Aruch 560:3 rules like the Rambam in Yad Chazakah. The Rama 560:3, though, quotes the opinion of Tosfot as normative, while the Bach 560 holds like the Sh”t HaRambam. Many acharonim, including the Magen Avraham 560:9, Mishna Brurah 560:13, Kaf HaChaim 560:26, and Sh”t Az Nidbaru 8:58 cite the Bach and seem to hold like him. Kitzur S”A 126:3 clearly holds like the Bach. Sh”t Igrot Moshe 1:166 rules like S”A but adds that a righteous individual should be strict for the Bach.
- On the other hand, Sh”t Tzitz Eliezer 15:33, Rav Belsky in Shulchan HaLevi 16:2, Hilchot Chag BeChag (p. 24), and Sh”t Sheilat Shlomo 7:59 accept the position of the Rama.
- * According to Sh”t Igrot Moshe 1:166 and Sh”t Tzitz Eliezer 15:33:2, listening to music through a radio or tape-recorder is considered to be the same as listening to the music live. Sh”t Chelkat Yaakov 64:2 argues that since the music comes from an instrument that didn’t exist in the time of Chazal, it should not be forbidden under Chazal’s prohibition. On the other extreme, Sh”t Az Nidabru 8:58:3 and Sh”t Sheivet HaLevi 2:57 hold that recorded music is always considered music from musical instruments, even if it was recorded as “a capella”, because it emanates from an instrument (i.e. the music player).
- Rav Ovadyah in Sh”t Yachava Daat 1:45 rules like the S”A. He is lenient, though, to listen to recorded music of holy content, based on the Chelkat Yaakov. Rav Chaim Dovid HaLevi (Aseh Lecha Rav vol 3 p. 16) seems to agree. Or Letzion (vol 3 30:3) even writes that although it’s proper to follow the S”A, the Sephardic minhag is lenient like the Rama.
- Rabbi Chaim Jachter (Gray Matter vol 3 p. 5) quotes Rav Soloveitchik as saying that classical music was not included in the prohibition of Chazal altogether. Sheilat Shlomo 7:60 agrees. Similarly, Rav Shlomo Zalman (Halichot Shlomo 11:14 and 14:3) permits listening to music that does not lead to dancing, even if it contains musical instruments, even during the three weeks and sefirat ha’omer. He adds, though, that for the three weeks, it is proper to be strict. See also Rabbi Dichovsky’s essay (Techumin Vol 21 p. 67) where he quotes Rav Moshe Feinstein as permitting listening to background music as one works, learns, or drives during the three weeks because such music is unrelated to dancing.
- Sh”t Shevet HaLevi 6:69 permits listening to music so as to prevent a person from becoming depressed. Sh”t Maharshag 2:155, Chelkat Yaakov 1:62, Sh”t Mishna Halachot 6:106, and Sh”t Az Nidabru 5:58:2 also permit music to prevent depression, however, Sh”t Az Nidabru warns not to use this leniency too loosely because it could lead to uprooting the entire Halacha of listening to music; therefore, a person should ask a local Rabbi about their situation.
- Kovetz Hilchot Leyemeh Ben Hametsarim (pg 95) writes that one can listen to vocal music while driving to prevent falling asleep and Nechmat Yisrael (pg 34 note 30) says that seemingly even musical instruments should be permitted.
- For background on the issue, see above notes.
- Gemara Gittin 7a states that after the Churban Bayit, Mar Ukva forbad singing, playing, or listening to music whether the music comes from people singing or if it comes from musical instruments. Tosfot Gittin 7a limits this to music at a party/feast and music played for kings who go to sleep and wake up to music. Tosfot explains that it’s forbidden because they have an aspect of added pleasure from music. Rama 560:3 brings this Tosfot as Halacha. Even if the music is a recording it still the status of played music (see above from Sh”t Igrot Moshe 1:166, Sh”t Tzitz Eliezer 15:33:2).
- Halichot Shlomo (Tefilah 13:18) in name of Rav Shlomo Zalman and Torat HaYeshiva 1:7 rule that yeshiva students who wake up to music is included in the prohibition of chazal. See Kuntres Halichot VeHanhagot in name of Rav Eliyashiv.
- Reasons to be lenient: (a) However, Torat HaYeshivot 1:7 says that a person won’t get up with another way, one can be lenient because one’s intention isn’t in order to get pleasure but rather to facilitate waking up. Torat HaYeshivot also quotes Rav Chaim Kanievsky in Shilhei DeKaytah who agrees. This leniency is similar to the leniency of classical music (see above).
- (b) Additionally, Torah HaYeshivot argues that perhaps the prohibition only applies if one goes to sleep and wakes up but waking up alone might not be an issue. [The Pri Megadim says that one should protest against those who eat a meal everyday next to those who play music. Mishna Brurah 560:12 brings this as Halacha. It’s very clear from the language of the Pri Megadim and Mishna Brurah are discussing is that of having music of a feast, but regarding having music regularly isn’t an issue. This is even more explicit in the Shaar HaTzion 560:23 who says that one shouldn’t protest since they have the Hagahot Mordechai to rely on who says that a music at a meal only an issue of a meal of only wine or wine before eating, however drink together with a meal isn’t an issue. Accordingly, it seems that the Mishna Brurah holds that listening to music daily at midday isn’t forbidden unless there’s an issue of a feast. Similarly, the Sh”t Shevet HaLevi 6:69 writes that those who listen to music on the radio morning, at a meal, and night are definitely violating an isser, implying that regularly listening music means multiple times a day. However, Sh”t Az Nidabru 8:58:4 writes that to him it seems that listening everyday at lunch is considered listening to music regularly like the listening of the kings, nonetheless, regarding protesting others who should be lenient (like the Mishna Brurah). Sh”t Az Nidabru concludes that this issue of listening regularly depends on the minhag. Accordingly, someone who just wakes up to music has what to rely on in that it’s that it’s not called listening regularly.]
- Sh”t Mishna Halachot 6:108. See also Chabad.org.
- Sh”t Mishna Halachot 6:108
- Magen Avraham 493:1 writes that the minhag is not to dance during sefirat ha’omer. Aruch HaShulchan 493:2 writes that if dancing is forbidden, then certainly playing music with a musical instrument is forbidden. Kapei Aharon 52 contends that although listening to music certainly is forbidden during sefirat ha’omer, the three weeks, and the 12 months of mourning for a parent, it was never mentioned by Shulchan Aruch or the commentaries because it is forbidden to listen to music all year round. Minchat Yitzchak 1:111 adds that even if there is no proof for this ruling, the minhag is to be strict. Igrot Moshe 1:166, Mishneh Halachot 8:118, Yachava Daat 6:34, Rav Mordechai Eliyahu (Maamar Mordechai 20:40), and Hilchot Chag BeChag (p. 67) agree that during sefirat ha’omer, it is forbidden to listen to musical instruments even for those who normally follow the Rama.
- On the other hand, Rav Mordechai Willig (quoted by Rav Aryeh Lebowitz in “Music during Sefira”) expresses a doubt regarding the Aruch HaShulchan’s proof given that nowadays music inspires less simcha than dancing. Similarly, Rabbi Jachter (Gray Matter vol 3 p. 5) quotes Rav Aharon Lichtenstein, who in turn cited Rav Soloveitchik as saying that music wasn’t prohibited at all during sefirat ha’omer or the three weeks, but most poskim do not accept this position.
- Sh”t Igrot Moshe 4:21:4 writes that the three weeks is the same as sefirat ha’omer during which it is forbidden to listen to musical instruments. Kapei Aharon 52, Minchat Yitzchak 1:111, Yachava Daat 6:34, and Nitai Gavriel 15:1 agree.
- Sh”t Igrot Moshe 1:166 and Sh”t Yachava Daat 6:34, who forbid only instrumental music during sefirat ha’omer and consider recorded music as equivalent to or more lenient than live music, would seem to permit “a capella” music during sefirat ha’omer. Rav Belsky in Shulchan HaLevi 13:6 differentiates, forbidding “a capella” that sounds like instrumental music but permits it if it merely sounds like people singing.
- Sh”t Shevet HaLevi 2:57, however, considers recorded vocal music like a musical instrument, which he says is forbidden all year round. Additionally, Sh”t Tzitz Eliezer 15:33 writes that even though he considers recorded vocal music like vocal music, it is forbidden during the three weeks and sefirat ha’omer based on the minhag not to dance. Nitai Gavriel 15:1 agrees.
- Sh”t Mishna Halachot 8:188 leaves it in a tzarich iyun. Az nidabru 10 :23:2 says it’s clearly permissible as does Sh”T Yachave Daat 1:45.
- Tosfot (Gittin 7a D”H Zimra) writes that for a Tzorech Mitzvah such as to make the Chatan and Kallah happy, one may lechatchila play songs with musical instruments. This is brought by many rishonim including Meiri, Chiddushei HaRan, Tosfot HaRosh, Smag, Hagahot Mordechai, Hagahot Maimon (Taniot 5) and ruled into Halacha by Rama 560:3, and even Sephardic achronim including Sh”t Yachave Daat 1:45.
- Torat HaMoadim 5:4 writes that a simcha of Sheva Brachot would permit music during the three weeks. (It seems that Sh”t Igrot Moshe 166 and Sh”t Yechave Daat 1:45 would agree.) However, Rav Vosner in Sh”t Shevet HaLevi 3:157 writes explicitly that for a simcha of Sheva Brachot music and dancing are forbidden.