Wednesday, April 26, 2006

From the mailbag...

TTC writes:
I don't have anything against the idea of having a musician as a social commentator. I do however have a problem with the idea of this as a suitable informational workshop for high school seniors on their way to potential "flippin out"
Michael Huye writes:
There are those of us that love Hashem too, but don't speak the beautiful Hebrew language. Thank you for responding. I am going to get the cd and perhaps a Rabbi can help me.
Shmuel writes:
One quick correction; That is not Yosis. When Lipa's part of the concert came, these guys replaced the Yosis Orchestra. They are Monroe Power, led by drummer Avrumi Schreiber.
J. writes:
this would make for an interesting thread on your forum, what musicians think of Neginah.......
Yitz writes:
You asked about the source for instrumental vs. vocal music during Sefira. On the same Life-of-Rubin post that you linked to, I commented:

>>Interesting that the Shulchan Aruch, Rama, Rav Shulchan Aruch, & Mishna Brura all ONLY mention rikudim u'mecholos [aren't both of these DANCE?]. It's only in the Aruch HaShulchan that he mentions, v'kol shekein she'assur l'zamer b'klei zemer. The Aruch HaShulchan is in Orach Chaim, Siman 493, s'if Beis - and the Kol Shekain he's referring to is dancing [rikudim u'mecholos]. That is, if dancing is prohibited, certainly the use of musical instruments is assur.

How this somewhat obscure Halacha became extended to listening to the radio or to music tapes or CDs, is somewhat beyond me. Personally, I listen to vocal tapes with or without a minimal musical accompaniment, & try to avoid purely instrumental music, even if recorded. And THAT too I consider a chumra, but within the spirit of what Chazal appeared to be promulgating.
Perhaps I need to clarify the question. I and many of my colleagues make a living trading on the fact that most people recognize a distinction between live and recorded music and are willing to pay significant money to have live music at their event, instead of just playing CD's. As Yitz acknowledges, it seems a stretch to include recordings in the prohibition, especially since the technology wasn't around at the time the minhag was instituted. If one is going to argue for extending the prohibition to cover recorded music as well -- something that is by no means clear and in part what I am requesting sources on -- then why should there be a distinction for recorded vocal music, especially, if the recorded vocal music *sounds* like instrumental music.?

The Gemara addresses the permissibility of listening to music nowadays in two locations.

One place is Sotah 48A which isn't directly relevant on this point. The second Gemara is in Gittin 7A. The Gemara says: "sholchu lei l'Mar Ukva, Zimra mina lan d'assur? Sirtait v'kasav lahu "Al tismach Yisrael el gil ba'amim'. V'lishlach lahu meihacha 'B'shir lo yishtu yayin'? Iy mehahee, hava amina hani mini zimra dimana, aval zimra dipuma shari, ka mashma lan.' The Gemara explicitly rules out distinguishing between vocal music as opposed to instrumental music. In other words, in this case, when music is prohibited, it includes all music, vocal and instrumental.

Note: the question of how to understand the Gemara and its practical application is complex and off-topic for this post. If there is interest, I will post a summary of how various Rishonim and Acharonim interpret and apply this text.

The only source I am aware of that distinguishes between recorded vocal and instrumental music is Rav Moshe Feinstein in Iggeros Moshe, Orach Chaim 166, who holds that listening to vocal music on the radio is muttar, but instrumental music is prohibited. (Rav Moshe is of the opinion that listening to music nowadays is generally prohibited.)

Yitz continues:
Of course, live music is somewhat different. I was, however, somewhat puzzled that a close friend, who made a Bar Mitzva for his son last night, had live music. None of the very-Chassidish people their, Chabad and others, seemed to object or even mind it. Any clue? Is it because of Nisan?
There are different minhagim with regard to observing the avelus of Sefirah. Some start at the beginning and keep it through Lag BaOmer. Others start at Rosh Chodesh and keep it until the shloshes yemei hagbalah. Finally, some follow the Minhag Ari and observe avelus throughout sefirah. There are many teshovos on this SOURCE

Yitz also challenges me:
Regarding my [on ASJ] Pasternak quote, you say:

The first Pasternak quote strikes me as wishful thinking because there are many cases where unaltered melodies were adopted.

I hereby challenge you to provide us a list. And I don't mean contemporary "Ghengis- Khan-becoming-Yidden" music. Chabad's "Shamil" might be one, but do you know how the actual original tune was? Ditto "Napoleon's March". Only if you have an exact original to compare to the niggun can you make such a statement.

Now you might say the Lubavitcher Rebbe Zt"l's adaptation of the Marseillese to HaAderes v'Emuna -- but I'm not sure that everyone would call that a niggun.
Here are a few quickly, off the top of my head that have been adopted by Chassidim.

1 ) Mustapha - a Greek Melody adopted by the Chassidim. I've played this song with Greek specialists and it's identical.
2) Abu's Khatzer. In fact, many of the tunes in the Meron klezer repertoire are adopted.
3) The Marseillese, as Yitz acknowledged. Chabad chassidim still sing this one.
4) Szol a Kokosh Mar - a Hungarian folk song adopted by the Kalever Rebbe, I believe.
5) There's a chassidic march some call Toska (its played in Chaim Berlin on Purim) that is actually a Russian Folk song called "Longing for Home." An elderly Russian man once came over while I was playing it and identified it.
6) Miserlou
7) Chayav Inish - The well-known version of Chayav Inish sung on Purim is actually a Hungarian folk song called "Czép Aszonynak Kurezálok." The melody is identical, although the form is somewhat altered.
8) I believe Chabad's "Nyet, Nyet" might also be borrowed.
9) Shamil's Nigun, which you mentioned, is attributed to a Ukrainian Robin Hood, Shamil.

I also see no reason to challenge the provenance of songs like Shamil's Nigun or Napoleon's March. Chassidim widely view those songs as being secular in origin. In short, they acknowledge the possibility that secular tunes may be borrowed in full under the right circumstances.