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Why can't a male listen to a female singer?

Why can't a male listen to a female singer?

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The singing voice of a woman is considered sensual and possibly stimulating to males. It is therefore forbidden for a man to hear a woman other than his immediate family sing and it is prohibited to pray or study Torah in that environment.

Several halachic (Jewish law) authorities are of the opinion that a recording or a radio transmitted singing voice of a woman who one does not personally know would not be actually prohibited. It is the custom however in most orthodox circles for men to refrain from hearing a woman sing in any format through any medium.

I know that in today's time this might seem severe, but the Torah puts such enormous value on the bond between a husband and wife that it does not allow for any potential damage to a man's undivided and unequivocal devotion and attraction to his one and only partner in life. Imagine how beautiful that is!

Click here for more on this subject.

Chana Weisberg for Chabad.org

P.S. While the above is the general rule, there are exceptions and certain leniencies. For example: The “Sridei Eish” (Rabbi Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg (1885-1966)) opines that it is permitted for women to sing along with other men. There are also those who are of the view that the restriction against men hearing women singing doesn’t apply to women who are singing in a group, since no individual is calling attention to herself.

Chana Weisberg is the editor of TheJewishWoman.org. She lectures internationally on issues relating to women, relationships, meaning, self-esteem and the Jewish soul. She is the author of five popular books.
All names of persons and locations or other identifying features referenced in these questions have been omitted or changed to preserve the anonymity of the questioners.
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Discussion (17)
September 29, 2013
Re: Women's sensuality
Liz, you present a cogent argument. You propose that instead of women controlling themselves, that burden should be placed on men. Women should be able to dress however they like in ways that will express to all their physical and sexual attractiveness, and men should remain faithful husbands to the wife to whom they have committed by constantly overriding their natural impulses. This, you argue, is preferable to asking women to practice modesty in public.

Both options are demanding. That's because human beings are social animals, and living in a society creates demands on the individual. The question is whether both are workable.

It seems to me that both alternatives have been tested, and the results are quite dramatic. When female modesty is thrown out the window, men reap all the benefits and women get shafted. When both men and women are provided guidelines of modesty, yes, it's hard, but the resulting community is far more stable, and both men and especially women benefit in many ways—especially in self-esteem.

Yes, the rules of modesty can't be stifling, and they must be taught and encouraged in pleasant ways. But the high road is rarely the easy road.
Tzvi Freeman
September 8, 2013
Women's sensuality
I agree that many women have beautiful voices, and many women have beautiful hair and figures. Shouldn't men take responsibility and exercise self-discipline if and when they become aroused? Why are women punished by having to wear a sheitl in the heat of summer, covering their bodies from head to toe and never to sing or dance in shul, or in public?

Women's sensuality goes a lot further than hair and voice. There's still quite a bit that men, other than husbands are not offered the privilege of seeing.

Men are 'in charge', and yet they are not asked to use self-control when they're aroused? Women and girls must remain hidden and silent?

Old, familiar and traditional is not always good. An update to these punitive rules would be welcome.
Liz
Los Angeles, CA
February 25, 2013
This probably will be moderated out anyway...
No offence to anyone here, but honestly, reading things like this reminds me why I am so glad I am not part of any religion. Hearing a woman sing is a beautiful thing. I can't imagine going my entire life without hearing it. And it isn't always sensual; in fact, it is rarely sensual unless intended to be so. Emotional yes,often, but not necessarily sensual.
Anonymous
usa
February 18, 2013
To Beth
Indeed, there the restriction is upon men's hearing a woman's singing voice. And different communities, different schools, have their own policies on it, and their own principles on how they adhere to this. In this particular case, it's not only about what the halacha says, it's about a school's rules that were being flaunted by a student.

Whether or not I agree with a particular rule or law, if I'm in an organization or school or work place that has certain rules in place, my 'membership' there implies that I will adhere to its rules. If those rules are broken, there are consequences.

I fully support any girl's choice to do as she sees fit for herself; however I do understand that if the school established for its students a system of expectations, then they have the right, as well, to enforce those rules.

I hope this is helpful; let me know if there's anything further you'd like to discuss.
Bronya Shaffer
February 11, 2013
If the restriction is on the men not to listen to a woman sing, why was Ofir Ben Sheetrit suspended from her school for singing on Israel's Got Talent? Why not punish the men who listened? Are women never to sing, for fear that a man might be listening and they could be punished for another's actions, as Ms. Sheetrit is being? I find all of this very hypocritical. Also, could you give us a citation for the law regarding men not listening to women sing?
Beth
Cherry Hill, NJ
February 8, 2013
To be a female musician or singer
I am an orthodox Jewish author composer vocalist...I find this issue to be quite a gender problem that shoundn't be..If you could save another jew or make him do teshuva from music...should you? Can a non-jewish man hear your voice..? If you convert from writing songs and experience the highest elevation you could have done as a human being ...should you be hidden and refrain from sharing it or explaining it in a language that any jew could understand ( no pictures of you)...clearly to me it is a gender issue..I find it hard to be a female because that is my gift..I have to deal with that everyday and I just can't stop making music.
Anonymous
January 13, 2012
To Alejandro
Hair is sensuous, and by covering it, a Jewish married woman reserves this side of herself for her husband. Covering the hair is not meant to conceal a woman's beauty - she can cover her hair with lovely hair coverings - but rather to channel this aspect of herself into her relationship.

While many wigs nowadays are indeed lovely, the woman who wears it knows that she's wearing it, and it makes a difference to her. Notwithstanding the beauty of her wig, she reserves her sensuality for her husband, as it should be.

For more on hair covering, see here.
Rochel Chein for chabad.org
January 12, 2012
I do not always understand some of the rules men impose on themselves. But it is their choice to live this way. They should be allowed their choice to not to listen, as we are allowed our choice to listen.

Keep in mind that the Jews are to remain a separate people.
That also means that there will always be places in the world where the songs of women will be heard.

Time, patience and goodwill towards your brother have of way of naturally working themselves out to everyone's better acceptance. Who knows? Maybe someday in the future, these men will think otherwise? Maybe not.

But until then, there is no use in forcing this on them.
Bonnie
January 11, 2012
But they can wear beautiful wigs!
I am shocked about some rules of our holy texts. A women can´t sing in front of a men, and a women can't show her own hair, but you can wear a beautiful wig probably nicer that actually your real hair. How do you explain that? thanks
Alejandro
BsAs, AR
November 8, 2011
women singing
It is embarrassing at the least to think that Jewish men have so little control that singing can arouse them and dangerous at the worst. All discrimination even that, that begins with religious edicts is still discrimination. Remember the Bible was used to condone slavery. If a woman can't show her legs or voice, can burkas and house arrest be far behind?
Anonymous
garden city, ny
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