Monday, February 22, 2016

Drunk Homosexual Sex and Shabbos Zemiros

I recently read Marc Shapiro's recently published book "Changing the Immutable. It's a fantastic read, especially if you're interested in how history is often "shaded" in the Orthodox community.

In the section dealing with sex and modesty related censorship, he includes the following:
Let me conclude this chapter by returning to the subject of sex and pointing out that had it not been for an act of censorship, Israel Najara's (c.1555-c.1625) Ya-h ribon, would probably never have achieved popularity. R. Hayim Vital (1543-1620), in his Sefer hahezyonot, records that while drunk Najara engaged in homosexual acts. He also mentions that Najara had sexual relations with a non-Jewish woman. Because of this, Vital wrote that "the hymns that he has composed are in themselves good, but whoever speaks to him and whatever leaves his mouth is forbidden, because he always used foul language and was a drunkard his whole life."

In early editions of the book, Najara's name was deleted, and it is possible that it was even deleted from the manuscript used for the first edition. It was only with the 1954 publication of Sefer hahezyonot, from Vital's own autograph manuscript, that the report about Najara became known. Had this information been public knowledge in earlier years, it is unlikely that Najara's hymn would ever have been adopted, even though, as we have seen, Vital asserted that his hymns are without objection. Yet even after the publication of the uncensored Sefer hahezyonot, we should not be surprised that a 2002 edition of the work published by a Jerusalem yeshiva continues to omit Najara's name. To do so is a lot easier than explaining to people why such a man's hymns should still be sung.
The book is not really about music, but it's a fascinating read.

Amazon has it here: