Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I Love You, Period. Question Mark?

Hirhurim posts about the use of the melody Erev Shel Shoshanim for kedusha. He's uncomfortable with it because it's a love song. He cites a responsa from R. Yehudah Henkin (Bnei Banim 3:35:10:
It is forbidden to use Non-Jewish songs -- even if they are not love songs or Hebrew folk songs -- as tunes for prayer if the congregation recognizes the songs and will think about the secular words during prayer time.
His conclusion:
Since in my circles I'm probably the only one who knows the words to Israeli love songs, I guess the current practice is permissible according to R. Henkin and I'm out of luck.
Be sure to read the comments to the post as well.

In Yechave Da'as II:5, Rav Ovadya Yosef responds to the question of whether its permissible to set kaddish/kedusha to the melodies of shirei agavim (romantic songs). He quotes the Sefer Chassidim (768) "Viyizaher mi sheyesh lo kol na'im shelo yizamer nigunim nochrim ki aveirah hi, velakach nivra kolo, leshabeach bor'o, velo l'aveira." Rav Yosef quotes Shu'T Rif, Rema, Radvaz, Kol Bo, and Orchos Chayim that this is only referring to the words, and not to the melody.

He points out that although the Ma'aseh Rokeach holds that it's assur and quotes Maharam Di Lunzano as supporting his position, the Chida has noted that Maharam Di Lunzano himself wrote words and set them to Arab melodies.

Rav Yosef rules that it is mutar to do this, and mentions many "Geonei Yisrael" who wrote such songs. They include the author of Shu"T Beit Dino Shel Shlomo, R' Avraham Antebi - the Yosheiv Ohalim, The Nochach Hashulchan, and others.

Rav Yosef then quotes the Sefer Chassidim (148) that when you're davening, you should choose "nigun hana'im vehamatok sheb'aynecha." He connects this to the Rambam in Hilchos Lulav who writes: "kol hamoneya atzmo misimchas mitzvah zos, ra'uy lipara mimenu, tachas asher lo avadita es Hashem Elokecha besimcha u'vetuv levav merov kol.

He also cites the Krach Shel Romi that in Eretz Yisrael the practice was to use Arab tunes, and in Turkey, the practice was to use Turkish melodies. the Kaf Hachaim didn't approve of the use of secular tunes, but those cited above disagree.

Rav Yosef then quotes R Eliyahu Chazzan (Shu"T Ta'alumos Halev): "kol halacha shehi rofefes biyadecha, tzey ur'ey ma hatzibur nohagim unehog ken."

In a footnote to this teshuvah, Rav Yosef adds that all things being equal, ideally it's preferable to use shirei kodesh. He mentions that the Arugos Habosem supports the Kaf Hachaim's position because while the chazzan is singing foreign nigunnim, the hamon am will be thinking of the words to the song instead of the tefilah. So, even though he doesn't hold its prohibited due to this "din", the Arugas Habosem would still be opposed becauses it interferes with kavanah.

Incidentally, the song Erev Shel Shoshanim has become known as Yarus in Arub countries where it is sung with Armenian lyrics. It has been immensely popular among belly dancers for many years as a beautiful song to use for doing veil work.

Suggestion to R' Gil. Buy this disc:

It has different lyrics for the melody, in Arabic, to associate with the tune when the chazzan sings it. And, since I presume R' Gil doesn't speak Arabic, it'll solve the problem of singing kedusha to a romantic song.

You can hear a clip of the Arabic version at the Amazon page linked above. It's the third audio sample titled "Every Morning." Piamenta fans should check out the fourth track, "My Love", as well.