By: Rabbi Ari Enkin / Although there is no direct mention of a prohibition on listening to music during Sefira in any of the primary halachic works, it has become a widespread custom to refrain from doing so. While all authorities agree that it is forbidden to enjoy live music during Sefira, there is a difference of opinion whether or not this extends to recorded music, as well. Most authorities rule that there is no...

Music During Sefira

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By: Rabbi Ari Enkin

Although there is no direct mention of a prohibition on listening to music during Sefira in any of the primary halachic works, it has become a widespread custom[1] to refrain from doing so.[2] While all authorities agree that it is forbidden to enjoy live music during Sefira, there is a difference of opinion whether or not this extends to recorded music, as well. Most authorities rule that there is no difference between live music and recorded music and both are forbidden to be enjoyed during Sefira.[3] In fact, many such authorities even forbid listening to acapella music.[4] 

Other authorities argue that a device which did not exist at the time when the ban on listening to music was made, such as a radio or CD player, is not included in the ban on music.[5] Even the more stringent authorities permit one to listen to recorded music in private if not being able to do so would result in being sad or depressed.[6] It is permitted to play children’s music for their enjoyment.[7] One whose entire income revolves around live music is permitted to perform during sefira.[8] 

In order to properly understand the difference of opinion regarding the issue of listening to recorded music during Sefira some background is in order. The entire issue regarding whether or not music is permitted during Sefira derives from the Magen Avraham who writes that one may not dance during Sefira. Many authorities have interpreted or extended this ruling to include listening to any music, since dancing is closely associated with music.[9] Others limit the ban on listening to music during Sefira to music which leads to dancing. Therefore, for example, since listening to background music when driving cannot possibly lead to dancing a number of authorities permit one to do so.[10] 

Rabbi Mordechai Willig is of the opinion that since there is no early source to indicate a specific prohibition on listening to music during the Sefira period there should be nothing inherently wrong with doing so. He argues that while it is true that one may not engage in excessively joyous activities (such as dancing), listening to music does not convey the same sense of excitement and joy that dancing does. Therefore, he rules that listening to recorded music is permissible.[11]

Be sure to see Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz for more on music in general and during Sefira in particular: http://www.bknw.org/library/articles/miscellaneous/Music%20during%20Sefirah.pdf

 


[1] Igrot Moshe, OC 2:137; Minhag Yisrael Torah, OC 493:8.

[2] Aruch Hashulchan, OC 493:2, Igrot Moshe, OC 1:166.

[3] Az Nidberu 8:58; Igrot Moshe, OC 1:167; Tzitz Eliezer15:33.

[4] Shevet Halevi 8:127, Salmat Chaim 4:21.

[5] Chelkat Yaakov 1:62, cited at: http://www.bknw.org/library/articles/miscellaneous/Music%20during%20Sefirah.pdf

[6] Hilchot Chag B’chag p.63, Halichot Shlomo, Moadim 2:11:14.

[7] Halichot Shlomo;Moadim 2:11 note 53.

[8] Igrot Moshe, OC 3:87.

[9] Aruch Hashulchan, OC 493:2, Igrot Moshe, OC 1:166, Yechave Da’at  3:30.

[10] Eleh Hem Moadai, Sefirat Ha’omer p. 402 – 424; Mekadesh Yisrael 65.

About Ari Enkin

Rabbi Ari N. Enkin, a resident of Ramat Beit Shemesh, is a researcher and writer of contemporary halachic issues. He is the author of the “Dalet Amot of Halacha” series (8 volumes), Rabbinic Director of United with Israel and a RA"M at a number of yeshivot. www.rabbienkin.com

40 comments

  1. There is a problem with what R’ Lebowitz writes. He suggests that the mechaber forbids music “even during times of the year not directly associated with mourning” (??), but the section of the Shulchan Arukh that he quotes is speaking about Tisha B’Av.

  2. Apologies: I stand corrected. I am most surprised now that I see this halakha in context.

  3. Shimon,

    OC 560:3 refers to all year long.

    Ari Enkin

  4. R’AE,
    any comment on the halachic process that leads to listening to music all year long (r’al quotes later “explanations”-any history of psak that supports these as fact rather than conjecture? any parallels in other halachot?)
    KT

  5. Sorry Joel… Got nothing good on it.

    Ari Enkin

  6. misunderstood

    I love how there is a footnote for everything in the article except for this statement:
    “While all authorities agree that it is forbidden to enjoy live music during Sefira”

  7. AH 493:2 doesn’t forbid listening to music. It forbids live music at a seuda/party.

  8. See Tradition 41:4 for the discussion of R. Soloveitchik’s view on music during sefira.

  9. Skeptic-

    ….would love to get a summary and sources!!! (dont have Tradition)

    Ari Enkin

  10. Rafael Araujo

    Matzav.com recently published Rabbi Belsky’s view on acapella music during sefirah. Quite an interesting teshuvah!

  11. Shalom Rosenfeld

    R’ Joel,

    If I recall correctly from Rabbi Hershel Welcher, Rav Moshe Feinstein prohibited music year-round; Rabbi Welcher said that this (and occasionally other chumras of Rav Moshe) became something treated as “g’zeira sh’ein hatzibur yachol la’amod bo”, though we try and keep it during Sefira and 3 Weeks.

  12. From Tradition:

    “In that context, the Rav further noted that the prohibition of the twelve month period is not one of “engaging in joy”, or “listening to music” qua music, but rather it is formulated in the technical category of simhat me-re’iut—enjoyment of a joyous party or gathering. Activities, such as listening to music in a private setting like one’s home or car, or going to the movies with one’s spouse, do not fall under that rubric and thus are not forbidden per se.”

  13. …many thanks!

    Ari Enkin

  14. It is my understanding that the Magen Avrohon prohibits just “simcha berabim.”

  15. MiMedinat HaYam

    also an opinion that only certain musical instruments are considered musical instruments (based on their being mentioned in the gemarah, other (early) sources) and those not specifically considered musical instruments are “allowed”. (need source)

    2. any diff’s between sefirah and 3 weeks / 9 days? (i presume a meat prohibition would be too close to certain other group’s practices. besides “g’zeira sh’ein hatzibur yachol la’amod bo”. but dont tell this to the machmir club.)

  16. R’SR,
    I had heard something like that but I don’t understand the mechanism of ein hatzibbur-assumedly the tzibbur did accept it at some time (or are there examples where the S”A codified other “gzeirot” that were not practiced) so how and when did this one get reversed and by what mechanism.
    KT

  17. There is a nice teshuva by rav nachum rabinowitz in Siach Nachum, permitting music during sefira.

  18. misunderstood

    You can’t permit something which isn’t assur. The velt is noheg not to listen to music. It isn’t an issur. The absurdity astounds the mind. Take this whopper-“One whose entire income revolves around live music is permitted to perform during sefira.” If there was actually an issur, this wouldn’t be permitted. If so, you’d have the parallel for chefs-“One whose entire income revolves around basar b’chalav is permitted to prepare it…” The irony is that for most Jewish musicians whose “income revolves around live music”, that income comes from playing…wait for it…weddings! Which are a far stronger “issur” (barely) during sefira than live music, since it’s actually mentioned in the Shulchan Aruch and earlier.

  19. aryeh lebowitz

    R’ Enkin – thanks for the link!

  20. this subject is a perfect and well documented example of expanding ‘chumraization’. While some of the expansion has an identifiable and understandable basis(pogroms), i am not sure what has fueled the rest.

  21. i think there’s an assumption that those who play music professionally aren’t doing it for enjoyment. there is discussion about music lessons, which i presume is based on a similar premise.

  22. why does Rav Belsky say that pure choir singing is ok, yet non-digitally modified a capella is not ok? Shouldn’t his reasoning also apply to choir singing that makes you happy?

    http://matzav.com/p%E2%80%99sak-from-rav-yisroel-belsky-and-rav-shlomo-miller-on-acappella-music-during-sefirah-2

  23. Regarding listening to Chazanus or classical music during Sefirah, Rav Auerbach, zt”l permitted this (Halichot Shlomo, Moadim)
    Rav Chiam Pinchas Scheinberg is meikil regarding classical music
    The Garzen, Rav Zalman Nechemiah Goldberg, is meikil regarding classical music during Sefirah (Binyan Ariel)
    Rav Shabtai Rappaport quotes his grandfather, Rav M. Feinstein, zt”l as permitting background music such as classical music while working, driving, studying,etc. during Sefirah and even during the 3 weeks (bain hametzorim).

  24. It is good to keep in mind that the Rav’s approach to basing Issurim and practices of Sefirah and the Three Weeks lead to various chumrot and kulot compared to what is commonly considered normative practice. For instance, he allowed music as pointed out in the above article in Tradition, but many of his Talmidim do not allow large gatherings even without music for other kinds of celebrations, a good example being having a Bar Mitzvah in Sefirah with A Cappella singing, which would be totally unacceptable. I am curious to know how this discussion affects things like attending baseball games, where one could argue that part of the experience has to do with the communal aspect of the stadium. Obviously, at Citifield and Shea before it since 2007, there is no problem.
    As a musician, I am fortunate not to rely exclusively on Jewish Weddings, and play at thyings like secular college graduations. As an historical note, when I first started, in the early 80’s, there would be almost no performances between Pesach and Shavuot, except on Lag B’Omer itself. Then people started making smachot between Lag B’Omer and Shavuot. Now, there are s’machot from Pesach to Rosh Chodesh, then a week later Yom Ha’atzmaut, then Lag B’O,mer, then a few smachot between Lag B’Omer and Shavuot. Minhag is adjusting before our eyes, and is being driven by economic and calendar factors not exclusively of Torah origin. Camp and school schedules have a great deal to do with how families make decisions.

  25. Yosef lewinson

    “Rav Shabtai Rappaport quotes his grandfather, Rav M. Feinstein, zt”l as permitting background music such as classical music while working, driving, studying,etc. during Sefirah and even during the 3 weeks (bain hametzorim).”

    how is it possible that rav Moshe ossured music the whole year, but permitted it during sefira and the 3 weeks?

  26. I think this article’s message, along with the pronouncements by the big names in recent years that toilet bowl cleaners and Styrofoam do not need KFP certification, are important developments.

    They are healthy signs of how Chareidi and RWMO communities and poskim can throw out the bathwater of unsound practices; practices that had evolved against common sense and everyone’s wishes and generated ridicule from within and without.

    And the good news is that this can be done without throwing away the baby of real mesora.

  27. Yehupitz-there is so much more bathwater that needs to be thrown out. The things you are talking about should never have become issues. The “big names” you are speaking of should have been embarrassed that they even needed to make such pronouncements, but the am haartzus of supposedly frum Jews required them to do so.

  28. Ouch.
    Why “supposedly frum”? They are frum. But by simply grading on a curve, the masses will always be amaratzim. Therefore there are also times when the line between reasonable minhag and chnyoky practice is sometimes hard to draw for some. I know of “supposedly frum Jews” who complain about, wish for the demise of, and even violate some basic Shas-based halachos and universally adopted minhagim, the “baby” in my metaphor, that don’t meet their standard of sensibility.

    There have also always been practices, both overly strict and overly lenient, that have been rejected by mainstream poskim. It’s just nice to see that happening in these two cases I brought up, which I hopefully referred to as developments and signs. This means that I hope to see more of it.

  29. MiMedinat HaYam

    “Rav Chiam Pinchas Scheinberg is meikil regarding classical music”

    but was he “meikil” regarding baseball games? (i would expect (or not expect) classical music per his (former) rosh yeshiva, rav hutner.)

    2. not discussed — those who’se minhag does not allow (during certain parts of sfirah) yet attend events where they do allow.

  30. Am I the only person who regrets the the conflation of “Sefira” and mourning customs?

    Ask kids today what Sefiras HaOmer is and they will say ‘you count every night and you can’t have a haircut or listen to music’, as though there were some relationship. I doubt one kid in a hundred will mention barley.

  31. I think that there is much confusion about this because of the wide practices that occur during the 12 months of mourning. There are variant Hanhogos that people have for these 12 months, some of which extend beyond the letter of the law. They have nothing to do with Charedim. When my grandmother passed away, as children, we never turned the TV on in the house or turned the radio on, because we knew this would upset my father. Was it Halacha? I am sure it wasn’t.

    Fast forward to Sefira. I think the Hergesh (feeling) is one that is born out of the general Hanhogos of the people involved. Clearly, those who have ear buds in their ears all year and constantly listen to music do not derive the same joy as those who aren’t allowed to own an iPod and whose excitement is often limited to hearing a (pathetic) one man band perform at a Simcha.

    Poskim, I would suggest, would deal with the letter of the law. In this instance, they are hardly going to start imposing Hergeshim on people, except for the Rav of a particular (closed) community. R’ Moshe’s general Psak on music was a letter of the law Psak based on his question on the Gemara which suggested that the Mechaber was correct. Others reconcile the Gemara with the Ramo.

  32. Yosef Lewinson wrote:
    how is it possible that rav Moshe ossured music the whole year, but permitted it during sefira and the 3 weeks?

    Background music is different.

  33. I don’t regret it. Despite their different origins, many in the minhag yisrael torah hee/hashgacha pratis community appreciate the providential connection between the period leading to Matan Torah and the same period during which Talmidei Rabbi Akiva died and the reason the Gemara offers for their deaths.

    In addition, I believe the Ramban refers to the period of Sefiras Haomer as a conceptual Chol Hamoed period bridging Pesach and Shavuos as a form of Yom-Tov Rishon and Yom-Tov Acharon. The basic minhagim of sefira, refraining from haircutting and weddings, reflect that in practice.

  34. Tangentally: As far as I’m aware, the only known Jewish music that is even close to the timeframe of the Rema — slightly later and in Italy — Salamone Rossi. An a cappella rendition of his Al Na’harot Bavel can be heard at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0XcjQLW1a98.

    Perhaps a knowledgable reader can educate us to what would have constituted “music” in the mid-16th century to the Mechaber in Turkey/E”Y; or the Rema in Krakow.

  35. Shalom Rosenfeld 5/3 9:50
    An uncle (a talmid of R’M) doesn’t listen to music all year(although his didn’t impose it on his family).

  36. during most days, when i am happy, i hear music in my head all the time. no rabbi can turn that off. when i am driving in my car, i play music all the time. no rabbi can turn that off. who the heck gave a rabbi the right to tell me what to listen to, what to hear, how to conduct my musical day? i will be sad when i want to be sad. i will be glad when i want to be glad. i will listen to music when i wish.

  37. Dear Anony-

    I am not sure what point your comment serves. Although everyone in this forum has differences of opinion – we all accept the authority of halacha. It seems that you dont.

    …but thank you for taking the time to contribute.

    Ari Enkin

  38. Shouldn’t all these opinions parallel into opinions about kitniyot? We have the ‘Wasn’t around at the time of the gezeira’ ‘[A certain application] doesn’t make sense in the modern context’ and ‘That’s the current minhag so deal with it.’
    It seems like people tend to be meikil here but machmir by kitniyot. Interesting….

  39. @Adam: re “Machmir by kitniyot”: No less a gadol than Reb Moshe permitted peanuts and peanut oil on Pesach. Yet rov poskim (Ashkenaz) rule against him for no good reason that I can tell…

    As for music, I think music gets people in a place nothing, even kitniyos, can touch. Much as I like corn and rice, music is visceral. I think people are struggling to hold onto that, but I also believe, having been an aveil, that NOT listening to music is a valid spiritual practice (almost a type of fast) and for that reason I personally don’t particularly look for heteirim during sefirah.

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