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Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Haber

Rabbi, Los Angeles, CA

What Not To Do During Sefirah – The Real Story

by | Apr 27, 2009 | 10 comments

What Not To Do during Sefirah – The Real Story

There seems to be a never ending stream of overly finessed minutiae as to what is or is not permitted during Sefirah. Let’s elucidate:

The Tur (OC 493) cites three things that were customarily refrained from during Sefirah:

1) getting married
2) getting a haircut
3) women abstaining from work after sundown

The Magen Avraham adds dancing to the list for a non mitzvah purpose. The Aruch Hashulchan writes that musical instruments are by nature more joy inducing than dancing and thus would be included in the Magen Avraham’s addition.

Although one can argue that the above would apply only to live music, the Poskim (Rav Moshe Feinstien, the Tzitz Eliezer, and Rav Ovadia Yosef) all extend the prohibition to recorded music as well.

The reasoning seems to be as follows: The Halacha is that music is always prohibited as it serves as a Zecher LeChurban, in mourning for the Beis Hamikdash. (There are some exceptions; I’ll save it for a future post). Although there are certain leniencies employed, such as recorded music, during times of national mourning such as Sefirah those leniencies are suspended and we prohibit all music.

Being as the prohibition is a relatively recent one, and only a minhag, there are some leniencies considered by the contemporary halachic authorities:

• Inadvertent listening (in a store, doctor office, elevator, etc.)
• Rhythm inducing exercise music
• Cantorial singing with musical accompaniment
• Children’s tapes, toys and mobiles (for the child’s benefit)
• If one is studying to play an instrument as a paid professional (according to some even if one is studying to play for his own pleasure).

A Capella music has become the latest Sefira fad, there is intense exhaustive discussion on the matter to be found here. The upshot is that if the human voice was modified to the extent that it sounds like music then it shouldn’t be listened to. The overarching theme is that the goal we are trying to accomplish is a spiritual/emotional one – to reduce joy. So a work around is self defeating.

Haircuts were pretty much covered here.

Women not doing work doesn’t seem to have caught on. (Perhaps because the men were traditionally the ones who studied the Law 🙂 ) The Mishna Berura says it would apply to men as well, at least until after they count Sefirah. The later Poskim discuss it and seem to concede that it’s not the Minhag and that that’s ok.

There are those who don’t make Shecheyanu or wear new clothes during Sefirah. This seems to be an idea that was borrowed (perhaps inadvertently) from the three weeks and has no solid Halachic basis.

By Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Haber

Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Haber is sought after by all who know him for his Halachic and practical advice. His keen ability to put complicated matters into a digestible perspective coupled with his ability to get the facts, make him the perfect blogger to help us all “Do It Right”.

10 Comments

  1. AL

    It would seem disingenuous to quote Reb Moshe Feinstein on the recorded music issue. It is true that he felt that – at the very least – we should refrain from music in Sefira, but that was only as an extension to his overarching opposition to recorded music. Inasmuch as Joe Frummie has not accepted Reb Moshe’s overarching ruling at all (even as a chumra), it seems unreasonable to quote him at all on this issue.

    Reply
  2. SAM

    AI –
    The overall ban on music is not something that was R’ Moshe’s creations it is a Tosfos in Meseches Gittin and it is “g’paskined” in Shulchan Aruch שולחן ערוך אורח חיים הלכות תשעה באב ושאר תעניות סימן תקס

    סעיף ג
    וכן גזרו (יא) שלא לנגן בכלי שיר וכל מיני זמר וכל משמיעי קול של שיר לשמח בהם; הגה: ויש אומרים דוקא מי שרגיל בהם, כגון המלכים שעומדים ושוכבים בכלי שיר (יב) ח או בבית המשתה (טור), ואסור לשומעם מפני החורבן; (יג) ואפילו שיר ט בפה על היין, אסורה שנאמר: בשיר לא ישתו יין (ישעיה כד, ט) וכבר נהגו כל ישראל לומר (יד) י דברי תשבחות או שיר של הודאות (טו) וזכרון חסדי הקדוש ברוך הוא, על היין. הגה: וכן לצורך מצוה, כגון, בבית יא <ה> חתן וכלה, (טז) הכל שרי (תוספות וסמ”ג והגהות מיימוני).

    Reply
  3. Al

    The fact remains that that a perusal of the Sugya of Zimra and the attendant poskim and of the sugya in Chelek does not necessarily lead to a ban on taped music in a non-alcohol setting. This was Reb Moshe’s understanding of the sugya but not shared by contemporary poskim. If there was no ban to begin with, their is no reason to be more machmir on it at certain times.

    Reply
  4. moshe

    “There are those who don’t make Shecheyanu or wear new clothes during Sefirah. This seems to be an idea that was borrowed (perhaps inadvertently) from the three weeks and has no solid Halachic basis.”

    See Yosef Ometz p. 186, and Sefer Minhag Tov siman 61.

    Reply
  5. marv

    Perhaps Rabbi Haber in the spirit of ddoing it right you can give us a plan as what to do during sefira,how to maxmize these days for growth?

    Reply
  6. TorahLab

    Marv,
    For that Rabbi Yaacov Haber wrote a great book called Sefiros, available from everywhere Jewish books are sold.

    Reply
  7. Yoni Isaacson

    It seems clear from his language and context that The Aruch haShulchan is only referring to dancing and musical instruments at a Seudah, which by definition is more of a happy occasion . The music then enhances the happy nature of the seudas mitzva or seudas reshus (which lacks the Mitzva justification of the seudas mitzva, hence the kal vachomer.) . It also has the added chumra of the gezeira of “beshir al yishtu yayin” acc to the shitos that this only applies to a seuda.

    As such, bringing this as a source for a general ban on listening to music in any setting other than a Seudah seem to tme completely unjustifiable.

    Gut Moed.
    Yoni Isaacson

    ערוך השולחן אורח חיים הלכות פסח סימן תצג

    סעיף ב
    ולפיכך נהגו כל ישראל מימות הגאונים שלא לישא אשה בין פסח לעצרת ולא חילקו בין נשואין דמצוה כגון מי שלא קיים עדיין פריה ורביה אם לאו ואע”ג דבאבלות גמורה יש חילוקים מ”מ בכאן החמירו על עצמן ומ”מ מי שקפץ וכנס אין עונשין אותו כיון שעשה מצוה וכ”ש כשראה שיכול השידוך להתבטל אבל לארס ולקדש שפיר דמי וכן אצלנו לעשות שידוכים ולכתוב תנאים מותר שמא יקדמנו אחר ומותר לעשות סעודה אך לא בריקודין ומחולות וכ”ש שאסור לזמר בכלי זמר וכן סעודת הרשות מותר כמו סעודות מריעות ובלבד בלא ריקודין ומחולות:

    Reply
  8. Tzvi Haber

    Yoni,
    You make a good point. The Magen Avraham, whom the Aruch Hashulchan is quoting, is also talking about in the context of the seudah.
    It can be understood differently: Generally music is forbidden, as I explained in the article, and more so in the comments. Even in a context which music is usually permitted, such as at a seudas mitzvah, the Magen Avraham is telling us not to dance due to sefira, and the Aruch Hashulchan is adding music. One can infer that in all other contexts, outside of a mitzvah its entirely forbidden.

    Reply
  9. Yoni Isaacson

    Tzvi:
    This logic only works if you assume that we Paskan like the Rambam and other Machmirim, like Rav Moshe does in theory (though he seems to admit noone else does.)

    According to the minhag haOlam, as per the famous Tzitz Eliezer, we rule like Rashi, tosfos, and the Rema that the Issur is Only “Al haYayin etc”- and in that context, the Aruch hashulchan and Magein Avrohom must be understood as being DAVKA at a Seuda.

    I think that one has to admit that there is really NO primary source for the common misconception that listening to music outside of a Seudah during Sefiro is Ossur, and more and more people today are beginning to realize and admit this.

    As kids in South Africa, we were even told not to go to movies- SUCH IGNORANCE- I tell students they can go to any movie that is MUTAR during the year (which may or may not be a NULL Set.)

    Reply

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