Halacha for Sunday 30 Shevat 5777 February 26 2017

Listening to the Music of a Musician Who is Not G-d-Fearing

Question: Is it permissible to listen to recordings of Jewish singers that are not Torah and Mitzvot observant?

Answer: Rabbeinu Yehuda Ha’Chassid writes in his Sefer Chassidim that one who has a pleasant voice should be careful not to sing non-Jewish songs, for this is a sin and the only reason Hashem gives one a pleasant voice is to sing the praises of one’s Creator and surely not to sin. What he means to say is that one who sings the non-Jewish songs along with their impure words is surely a prohibition. This is comparable to a person whom Hashem has granted wisdom and this individual and uses the wisdom for improper means; surely this is a grave sin, for the more goodness Hashem bestows upon a person, the more the person is obligated to show “goodness,” so-to-speak, to Hashem. Certainly, one must not use one’s special talents against Hashem. Thus, one who merits such a special talent as a pleasant singing voice must use it for the sake of Heaven and if he uses it for unsuitable purposes, it is a severe sin. Additionally, the Rif (Rabbeinu Yitzchak Alfasi, teacher of Rabbeinu Yosef Halevi Migash, teacher of the Rambam) writes in one of his responsa: “A chazan who sings songs of the Ishmaelites and utters vulgarity from his mouth should be removed from his post; about him does the verse state, ‘She has used her voice against me, therefore I hate her.’” This opinion is quoted by the Rama (Orach Chaim Chapter 53).

Nevertheless, using just the tune for holy purposes, for instance, adding holy words to such a tune, is not prohibited. On the contrary, the addition of holy words elevates the tune to a lofty level. Regarding listening to a non-Jewish tune alone (without the words, of course), according to the Mekubalim it is not proper to do so; nevertheless, it is not prohibited.

Based on this, those singers who sing to crowds mixed with men and women seated together which, as experience has shown, can cause serious spiritual harm, even when singing only holy songs, these singers will have to answer to Hashem for their actions, for they are using their special gift of having a pleasant voice to cause Jewish men and women to sin. (We should point out that there are situations which allow for singing in front of family and the like even when there is mixed seating, however, we cannot discuss this at length in this forum.)

Regarding listening to the recordings of these singers after such performances occur, Hagaon Harav Moshe Feinstein zt”l was asked a similar question about a famous singer in America who was originally a student of Hagaon Harav Aharon Kotler zt”l and was known for his Torah knowledge and fear of Heaven and later began to corrupt his ways by gathering boys and girls together for concerts and stories about Torah and fear of Heaven. Hagaon Harav Moshe Feinstein writes that although the actions of this singer are absolutely forbidden, nevertheless, there is no prohibition to listen to recordings of his songs or to play them at weddings and the like, for this is not considered establishing a name for the wicked or any other sin for that matter.

Thus, halachically speaking, although it is prohibited for singers to perform in a setting that could cause spiritual harm, such as by performing in mixed concerts, there is nevertheless no prohibition to listen to their songs.

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