Music in Sefirah

Can someone explain to me why it is totally frowned upon to listen to music during sefirah, yet acapella is ok?

I am sure many of you have heard of the awesome acapella Jewish group Six13. They are awesome singers who use no instruments other than their voices. The boys and I have their CDs as part of our pre-Shabbat mix-tape that motivates us to clean up before Shabbat, and we bop along to that just as much as to the 80s tracks on our mix tape. But them I can listen to in sefirah, but Madonna – no way.

Can someone explain?

(for GL because she asked so nicely)

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7 responses to “Music in Sefirah

  1. Music is/was forbidden because the only kind of music was live music (recordings did not exist), and to attend a concert was a sign of celebration.

    But nowadays, we have recordings, and listening to music is not a sign of celebration.

    Rabbi Soloveitchik said that there are people who will hold parties sans music, and will avoid listening to even recorded music. But Rabbi Soloveitchik said such people were either ignorant or hypocritical, and that according to the law, one really ought to feel free to listen to recorded music but not attend any parties at all, with or without music.

  2. I have always wondered how the acapella cd’s of today pass as music ok for sefirah. They use vocoders and other gadgets to digitally alter the voices so much that it really sounds like there are instruments being used. It doesn’t seem to fit in with the spirit of a period of mourning.

    • yeah chanie, there is a group called a.k.a.pella & their acapella cds sound more like music than real music but i still enjoy listening to them during sefira or whenever 😉
      i agree with michael makovi’s comment above, b/c when i asked my rabbi about music during sefira last year, i seem to recall him saying that you can listen to any tapes, cds music if it’s in the background, such as when driving or while doing work etc … i guess it really depends which rabbi you ask, b/c i know there are many rabbis who oppose to listening to any recorded music but that may be more of a chumrah…& back to the topic of madonna, many rabbis have issues with listening to secular music at any time of the year (& then again, some rabbanim have problems with jewish or even chassidic music such as Lipa Schmeltzer concert that was banned several years ago)…

  3. My understanding has always been that only single voice acapella was OK(and Shabbat table hymns). But admittedly minhag Beit E-l is a little more strict with the Omer.

  4. lady lock and load

    As someone said earlier, it depends on which rabbi you ask. I know some Rabbonim do not allow acapella during sefirah.
    I am in the year of mourning so I do not listen to music, and I don’t feel it is appropriate for me to listen to acapella, even if the Rabbi would say it is okay. I just don’t feel right about it.
    I could just see you and the four boys bopping along to some merry tunes, getting ready for shabbos…adorable! I yak on the phone while I am cleaning, cooking, and doing a zillion things at once. My hubby doesn’t know how I do that, he can only focus on one thing at a time, poor guy 🙂

  5. Although I understand what’s going on with the music thing, I get frustrated when it comes to not wanting music at Yom Haatzmaut celebrations.

    It happened during the Omer. You’d think something like that would trump these mourning practices…or at least, someone would figure out a way to deal with it that makes sense…

  6. mrsjessica, Yom Ha-atzmaut is a pretty new phenomenon on the scale of history and halachah. It is still being sorted out. Don’t forget that even Hanukah wasn’t established as a holyday immediately.

    As to music on Yom Ha-atzmaut, those places that think they’re really sure of their observance of the day as a complete rabbinic holyday often do have music. In our yeshiva we had full blown celebrations, yet I well recall that Rav Tzvi Yehudah Kook and Rav Shaul Yisraeli disagreed on the permissibility of haircuts and shaving for Yom Ha-atzmaut. For Rav Tzvi Yehudah it was almost a litmus test; for Rav Yisraeli it wasn’t allowed even though we say Hallel and celebrate.

    It will be at least another generation or two before a greater consensus begins to appear on those issues. Maybe longer. Maybe much longer.

    I think that Michael Makovi’s representation of Rav Soloveitchik’s position is pretty much how I’ve heard it reported. The initial restrictions instituted as minhag (and therefore likely to vary somewhat) had to do primarily with public gatherings and celebrations; not ‘music’ per se. As such, a simple social party might be forbidden as violation of the minhag; while listening to music in the car during one’s commute might not really be a principal problem.

    This is clearly an area where custom is the issue, and varies a bit from place to place. It seems that in most communities a fairly strict approach to music is the rule, though not necessarily clear and compelling. Nonetheless, custom is itself an important anchor of our culture, and not to be taken lightly.

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