Halacha for Monday 22 Iyar 5782 May 23 2022

Music and Song

Question: What is the significance of song and music? We know that a Jew must occupy himself with Torah and Mitzvot, so is there any value to music at all?

Answer: Our Sages taught (Arachin 11a): “What is service amid joy and a cheerful heart? This refers to song, for one can only sing from joy and a cheerful heart.” Our Sages use this to explain the verse (in the curses delineated in Parashat Ki Tavo), “Because you have not served Hashem, your G-d, with joy and goodness of heart.”

The Sages asked that perhaps when the Torah writes that we must serve Hashem “with joy and goodness of heart,” this refers to Torah study, for the Torah gladdens one’s heart as well, as the verse states, “The commandments of Hashem are just and gladden the heart”? The Sages answered that Torah indeed gladdens the heart, but “goodness of heart” can only come about through song.

We see from here the significance of song in our lives. Indeed, Elisha Ha’Navi needed to hear the playing of musical instruments in order for the presence of Hashem to rest on him, as the verse states in Melachim, “And it was when the musician played, the hand of Hashem was upon him.” Our Sages (Pesachim 66b) explained likewise.

Furthermore, the Midrash states: “Rabbi Levi said: One who reads the Torah in a pleasant melody fulfills the verse, ‘Honey and milk are under your tongue and the scent of your robes is like the scent of Lebanon.’”

The Gemara (Sanhedrin 98b) cites a disagreement between Rav and Shmuel (foremost sages of the Amoraim): "Rav said, the world was created for David, while Shmuel said, the world was created for Moshe.” Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l explains that King David was the pillar of song in this world, for he quenched Hashem with his songs and praises (see Berachot 7b). Moshe Rabbeinu was the pillar of Torah in this world. Indeed, both these opinions are correct, for the Midrash (in Otiyot De’Rabbi Akiva) states that this world would not have been created were it not for son, as the verse states, “I have created this nation for me, let them speak my praises.” Similarly, the world could not stand were it not for Torah, as the verse states, “If not for my covenant day and night, I would not have placed the rules of heaven and earth.”

Our Sages also taught that song is so great that through it, the sins of the Jewish nation are forgiven. Yalkut Shoftim states that every time the Jewish nation continued to sin throughout the generations, the verse states, “And the Jewish nation continued to do evil in the eyes of Hashem.” However, after Devorah’s song, even when they continued to sin, the verse states, “And they did evil in the eyes of Hashem.” The reason why the verse did not use the word “continued” is in order to teach us that Devorah’s song atoned for all the sins the Jewish nations had committed until that time.

Thus, although there was nothing that preoccupied Maran zt”l more in the entire world than delving in the Torah and Mitzvot, he nevertheless was fond of song and music. Indeed, he was extremely fluent in complicated songs and melodies like the greatest of Chazzanim. He would exclaim that in his youth, he drew his weekly dose of fear of Heaven from the “Bakashot” songs chanted on Shabbat night.

For this reason, Maran zt”l encouraged those who taught young students to incorporate teaching the songs of “Bakashot” and other holy songs, as is customary among Sephardic and Middle Eastern Jews.

Summary: Although everything has a time and place, nevertheless, in order to gain completion in the service of Hashem, one must listen to holy songs of praise to Hashem from time to time. May Hashem grant us the merit of witnessing the arrival of our righteous Mashiach, during which time we will hear the Levites chanting in the Bet Hamikdash using holy melodies bestowed only upon the few through prophecy and with instruments that we cannot even imagine. Amen!

Ask the Rabbi


8 Halachot Most Popular

Eating Meat Following Rosh Chodesh Av

The Mishnah in Masechet Ta’anit (26b) tells us that on Erev Tisha Be’av during the last meal one eats before the fast, one may not eat meat, drink wine, or eat two cooked foods, such as rice and an egg. Although the letter of the law dictates that the prohibition to eat meat only applies......

Read Halacha

Laws Pertaining to Tisha Be’av

There are five categories of abstinence which must be observed on Tisha Be’av: Eating and drinking, washing one’s self, rubbing one’s body with oils or lotions, wearing leather shoes, and marital relations. Our Sages also prohibited learning Torah on Tisha Be’av, for the word......

Read Halacha

Havdala on Motza’ei Shabbat Which Coincides with Tisha Be’av and the Laws of an Ill Individual Who Must Eat on Tisha Be’av

On years during which Tisha Be’av falls out on Motza’ei Shabbat, such as this year, 5782, there are three opinions among the Rishonim regarding how Havdala should be recited on a cup of wine on Motza’ei Shabbat. The first opinion is that of the Geonim who write that one should r......

Read Halacha

The Laws of Taking Haircuts During the “Three Weeks"- The Year 5782

The Customary Prohibition of Haircuts As a result of the mourning observed during the “Three Weeks,” the Ashkenazi custom is to abstain from shaving and taking haircuts beginning from the Seventeenth of Tammuz until the Tenth of Av. Nevertheless, the Sephardic custom is not as string......

Read Halacha


Those Who are Obligated and Exempt from the Fast of Tisha Be’av and their Status When Tisha Be’av Falls Out on Motza’ei Shabbat

Someone Ill with a Non-Life-Threatening Illness, An Elderly Person, and a Woman who has Recently Given Birth One who is ill (meaning when one is actually bedridden and the like, even if the illness is not life-threatening) is exempt from fasting on Tisha Be’av. When in doubt about one’s......

Read Halacha

Frying Fish in a Meat Pot, Baking Fish and Meat in the Same Oven, and Maran zt”l’s Custom

There is a well-known prohibition of eating fish and meat together, as discussed by the Gemara and Poskim. Cooking Fish in a Meat Pot Although it is prohibited to cook a dairy dish in a meat pot as we have discussed in a previous Halacha, nevertheless, Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l writ......

Read Halacha

When Av Begins, We Diminish Our Joy

This coming Friday will mark Rosh Chodesh Av. Next Shabbat will mark Tisha Be’av, however, since fast days are prohibited on Shabbat (besides for Yom Kippur), Tisha Be’av will be observed next Motza’ei Shabbat and Sunday. May Hashem soon switch this month to one of joy and celebrat......

Read Halacha

The Laws of the Last Meal Before the Fast of Tisha Be’av on Shabbat

On Erev Tisha Be’av, our Sages prohibited eating meat and drinking wine during the last meal before the onset of the fast of Tisha Be’av held after halachic midday. They likewise forbade eating two cooked foods during this meal.  Nevertheless, this year, 5782, since the fast of T......

Read Halacha