Music During the Year and The Three Weeks
By Rabbi Doniel Neustadt
Question: Is it permitted nowadays to listen to taped, contemporary
(or classical) Jewish music?
Discussion: After the Beis ha-Mikdash was destroyed, Chazal
restricted the playing of music to occasions of “simchah shel mitzvah.” They
felt that the level of joy brought about through the playing of musical
instruments is inappropriate as long as the Beis ha-Mikdash lies in ruins.
The Rishonim debate the extent of the prohibition in actual practice: Some
maintain that playing music is prohibited only at certain times and in
certain places, such as when going to sleep or waking up, or in bars or
party halls where wine is served. Others maintain that playing music is
prohibited anywhere and everywhere, except when associated with the
performance of a mitzvah. Both views are quoted in Shulchan Aruch,
1 and while many poskim rule stringently and prohibit music at
all times, 2 and it is appropriate to be stringent, 3
many people conduct themselves according to the more lenient view and play
and listen to music whenever they are so inclined. 4 There are a
number of other arguments for leniency.
• The Meiri5 writes that the prohibition was enacted only in
regard to music which “causes levity, does not praise Hashem... nor is
associated with any mitzvah... but any song which sings the praises of
Hashem and does not cause levity or immorality (peritzus) is permitted...
and this should be decided in each generation according to the rabbis of the
time and place...”
• Some poskim suggest that since taped music — as opposed to live — did not
exist in the days of Chazal, it was never included in the rabbinic
• Music, in many cases, eases people’s moods and frustrations, and helps
them cope with their problems. Chazal forbade only music which is played for
the sake of enjoyment, not music which is therapeutic and inspirational in
Question: Based on the above, may one be lenient and play music
during sefirah and the Three Weeks as well?
Discussion: None of the leniencies quoted above allow one to listen
to music during the days of sefirah or the Three Weeks. All music — taped or
live, inspirational or otherwise — is generally prohibited during those
periods on the Jewish calendar, which have been established by Chazal as
periods of mourning.
The reason that we may be lenient during the rest of the year and not
during these two periods is simple: The decree against playing music
throughout the year does not render the entire year a period of mourning; it
is but an attempt by Chazal to keep the calamity of churban Beis ha-Mikdash
firmly entrenched in our consciousness. Thus, when music is being played for
the sake of a mitzvah, or it is inspirational or therapeutic, we may argue
that it should be permitted, as stated above. But the time periods of
sefirah and the Three Weeks are periods of national mourning similar to the
mourning period of Shivah and Sheloshim after a relative’s passing. Thus,
playing or listening to all kinds of music during sefirah or the Three Weeks
is forbidden and none of the above arguments for leniency apply. 8
Question: Is it permitted to buy a major appliance (a refrigerator or
a washing machine, etc.) or expensive furniture (a couch or a bookcase,
etc.) from the Seventeenth of Tammuz until Rosh Chodesh Av?
Discussion: All shopping is permitted during the Three Weeks except
for those items upon whose purchase one recites the blessing of
shehecheyanu. Nowadays, most people no longer recite shehecheyanu even on
the purchase of major, expensive appliances and furniture. 9 It
is permitted, therefore, for them to make all such purchases until Rosh
If one customarily recites shehecheyanu when purchasing expensive
appliances, furniture or a car, etc., he should not take delivery of that
item during the Three Weeks if the item that he is buying is exclusively for
his personal use. [A chasan, therefore, should not give his kallah her
engagement ring during the Three Weeks, since she is required to recite a
shehecheyanu upon receiving it. 10 ] If, however, it is a type of
purchase that will be used by other people as well, e.g., his wife or
children, then it may be purchased during the Three Weeks. This is because
the proper blessing on an item which is shared with others is ha-tov
v’ha-meitiv, not shehecheyanu, 11 and it is permitted to recite
ha-tov v’ha-meitiv during the Three Weeks. 12
Question: Is it permitted to buy and wear new clothes from the
Seventeenth of Tammuz until Rosh Chodesh Av?
Discussion: As we mentioned yesterday concerning appliances, only the
type of clothes that require a shehecheyanu should not be bought during this
time. Thus, shoes, shirts, trousers and all undergarments may be purchased
and worn without restriction until Rosh Chodesh Av. One who never recites
shehecheyanu on clothes, even on expensive ones, 13 could also
purchase and wear expensive clothes during this time. Those who do recite
shehecheyanu when putting on new clothes may still buy and alter them until
Rosh Chodesh Av, but they may not be worn until after the Nine Days are
Mishnah Berurah 15 rules that on Shabbos during the Three Weeks
it is permitted to wear an item that requires shehecheyanu. 16
Other poskim are more stringent and do not permit wearing such clothes even
on Shabbos. 17
1. O.C. 560:3.
2. See Mishnah Berurah 560:13 quoting the Bach, which differs from the
lenient ruling of the Rama.
3. Igros Moshe, O.C. 1:166. See Igros Moshe, O.C. 3:87 who rules that we
do not censure those who are lenient.
4. See Teshuvos Kapei Aharon 52 and Teshuvos Maharshag 2:125. Based on the
above, listening to music when going to sleep or upon awakening is even more
restricted, since none of the Rishonim permit listening to music at those
times (Harav S.Z. Auerbach, Halichos Shelomo 1:13-18). Many camps, however,
wake the campers up by blaring music from the loudspeaker system;
apparently, they consider this as being “associated with a mitzvah,” since
it is an effective method to awaken the campers in time for Shacharis.
5. Gittin 7a.
6. Chelkas Yaakov 1:62.
7. See Shevet ha-Levi 6:69, 8:127; Lehoros Nasan 4:46 and Yechaveh Da’as
8. Igros Moshe, O.C. 1:166, 3:87; Y.D. 2:137, and agreed upon by all
poskim. Still, in honor of certain seudos mitzvah, e.g., a bar mitzvah or
hachnasas Sefer Torah, some poskim permit playing taped or live music. A rav
should be consulted.
9. Shulchan Aruch ha-Rav (Birkas ha-Nehenin 12:5); Kaf ha-Chayim 223:20;
Halichos Shelomo 23, note 23.
10. Harav Y.S. Elyashiv, quoted in Vezos ha-Berachah, chapter 18). See
also Igros Moshe, E.H. 4:84-2.
11. O.C. 223:5.
12. Igros Moshe, O.C. 3:80. Similarly, if the item is needed for one’s
business, it may be purchased, and the shehecheyanu is recited after the
Three Weeks are over; ibid.
13. See Teshuvos Maharshag, Y.D. 1:95
14. Mishnah Berurah 551:45; Kaf ha-Chayim 551:88; Harav S.Z. Auerbach
(Shalmei Moed, pg. 478)
15. Mishnah Berurah 551:45 and 98 and Sha’ar ha-Tziyun 48 and 99. See also
Kinyan Torah 1:109-5.
16. But only on Shabbos itself — it may not be worn for the Minchah
service on erev Shabbos; Bein Pesach l’Shavuos, pg. 293, quoting Teshuvos Riva.
17. Chayei Adam 133:14; Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 122:2; Aruch ha-Shulchan
551:18; Kaf ha-Chayim 551:205.
Weekly-Halacha, Text Copyright © 2013 by Rabbi Neustadt, Dr. Jeffrey Gross and Torah.org.
Rabbi Neustadt is the Yoshev Rosh of the Vaad Harabbonim of Detroit and the Av Beis Din of the Beis Din Tzedek of Detroit. He could be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org