Chief Sephardi Rabbi allows music for some, I am allowing for all who need it
Today’s news brings the story that The Chief Sephardi Rabbi, Yitzhak Yosef ruled on Monday that those on quarantine due to coronavirus, may listen to instrumental music during the traditional mourning period leading up to Tisha B’Av (which is now as Tisha B’Av is in 10 days).
I am going the rest of the way and in my understanding believe that most mourning practices are put on hold this year, as the coronavirus has already given most of us plenty to mourn without putting on any additional Rabbinic restrictions. First I will continue with his ruling and then explain why I give additional leniencies based on my learning.
Rabbi Yosef clarified that the leniency as he understands it, only applies if the music is recorded and the artist is not seen, even in a video. People in quarantine should only listen with headphones and not have other people who are not in the same mental state listen with them. Those in quarantine who feel the need to listen to instrumental music should listen to calm music and only listen to upbeat music if they need to. Those who do not need to hear music to feel at ease should not listen to music, he said.
Listening to instrumental music is usually prohibited during the mourning period leading up to Tisha B’Av, the day when the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed. Many more lenient Rabbis, however, allow recorded music in a normal year and only prohibit live music.
“This year, to our great sorrow, the coronavirus spread to all corners of the world, and many are in their homes in quarantine, bringing mental stress and depression and great sorrow to the point that they can’t stay closed in their rooms,” Yosef said. Since listening to calm songs would help those in quarantine deal with the situation and prevent them from going out and infecting others, “there is room to be lenient with them to listen to these songs,” he said.
If calm songs do not bring them comfort, further leniencies can be made to allow even upbeat music, Yosef said. He quoted the book Ben Yehoyada, which says: “In times of plague, one should be happy and reduce depression and mental stress, because this sorrow kills more souls than the plague itself.” Yosef clarified that the leniency only applies if the music is recorded and the artist is not seen, even in a video. People in quarantine should only listen with headphones and not have other people who are not in the same mental state listen with them. Those in quarantine who feel the need to listen to instrumental music should listen to calm music and only listen to upbeat music if they need to. Those who do not need to hear music to feel at ease should not listen to music, he said. Recorded children’s songs may be played for children in quarantine if there is no other way to keep them busy and calm,
So now we can move on to further leniencies, as I believe are allowed. Rabbi Yosef quotes Ben Yehoyada, which says: “In times of plague, one should be happy and reduce depression and mental stress, because this sorrow kills more souls than the plague itself. So the question of allowing leniencies, which is the primary job of a Rabbi, is a question of judgment. A Rabbi’s outlook will determine how lenient or strict he is in interpreting the Halacha (Jewish Law). Rabbi Yosef gives this leniency, I go much further. We are in an unprecedented time. I just received a text from my medical provider that I have to provide them the reason I want to make a medical appointment first before they see me, as they don’t want to expose themselves to any sick people! (HUH?). This is what we are dealing with, unprecedented times. I have taught in a previous posting that one doesn’t have to be more religious than G-d. The purpose of Jewish law according to the Torah is to live by the Torah, not to die for it.
Many people have kept Jewish law, including this restriction on listening to music during this traditional mourning period all of their lives. They hang onto their traditions and don’t give them up, even if the circumstances change. I feel, that for the first time in my 40 years of learning and studying, I have something original to say. We have 3500 years of Rabbis teaching the Jewish law in our books and nearly everything that could be said has been said. Now for the first time in my lifetime, we are faced with unique circumstances. As I have said many times, Halacha doesn’t change, but circumstances do, and a Rabbi has a right to interpret the Jewish law with the changed circumstances. Most Rabbis don’t see this opportunity and it is going to pass them by. I am grabbing it, and with the forum that the Times of Israel is giving me, I am helping people get through this horrible time, but letting them realize that we don’t have to take on any additional Rabbinic mourning when we are suffering every day. G-d isn’t happy about our suffering, but it is part of the divine plan. I am not happy at all about suffering, but I feel excited to be able to say something original at a time and place where maybe I make a difference.
Tomorrow is Rosh Hodesh Av. There are only 9 days left until Tis A’bov so I am giving this interpretation as quickly as possible and only wish that I could have said it before the beginning of the three weeks. My Hidish (insight) is that unless it gives you joy to take on additional Suffering, Don’t!
The Virus and the changes of life are on everyone’s mind 24 hours a day. One of my Rabbi’s has made himself so sick during this period, I don’t know if he will survive. This is lunacy. Stay strong, keep your faith in G-d strong, but you don’t have to be more Religious than G-d. The Jewish law now is to stay happy, doing the mitzvahs, but don’t be hard on yourself. Treat yourself like the King/Queen that you are.
Love Rabbi Yehuda Lave
Shmueli is Not the Best Listener
Little Shmueli Sapperstein wasn’t the best listener in his kindergarten class and today was no exception.
His teacher, Mrs. Millman, said to him, “Since you don’t want to listen, Shmueli, you sit at that table by yourself.”
After a few minutes, Shmueli’s friend Shloimie raised his hand and said, “Mrs. Millman, I don’t want to listen either. Can I sit over there with him?”