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Is there any issue with listening to non-Jewish music?

Is there any issue with listening to non-Jewish music?

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Music has far more power than most of us realize. I'm sure you've noticed how profound an effect music can have on your mood. In truth, its effects reach even deeper.

There are two issues regarding non-Jewish music: the lyrics, and the music itself. Maimonides, a noted medieval codifier of Jewish law, discusses the issue of lyrics. If the content of a song is either heretical, immodest, or in some way negates Jewish values, it may not be listened to. This is the halachic perspective.

On a more Kabbalistic plane, the fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that a composer of music invests his or her very self into the work. The music is an expression of the composer's soul, and listening to music connects the listener's soul to that of the composer. In light of this, do you really want to give yourself a soul-connection to just anyone? Especially if the composer is an individual whose spirituality and values are suspect at best?

There's another interesting point about listening to non-Jewish music. Following the destruction of the Holy Temple, listening to music was prohibited as a sign of mourning. It only became permissible again due to its profound ability to inspire people in their service of G‑d. After all, that is music's ultimate purpose.

Click here to see a few articles on the effects of music as well as its place in Judaism.

Malkie Janowski for Chabad.org

Malkie Janowski is an accomplished educator who lives in Coral Springs, Florida. Mrs. Janowski is also a responder on Chabad.org's Ask the Rabbi team.
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 (6)
January 29, 2014
Connecting to the Composer's Soul
I found a similar quote in the talks of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak of Lubavitch, in Likutei Diburim vol. 1, in the Sicha of 20 Kislev 5694 (Chapter 5)
Baruch Shalom
June 16, 2011
Thanks for a well-written article.
You have 3 very interesting points here, and it would be so nice if the sources were indicated and cited as well.
Mushka
Brooklyn, NY
October 31, 2010
In response
I hear your point...

However, I think a distinction can be made between non-Jewish music that has heretical content and that which has no content whatsoever. Classical music, for example, has no content whatsoever. According to the more Kabbalistic explanation, we probably should not listen to any non-Jewish music - however, that should put into question then a lot of our own Jewish music that found its origins in non-Jewish sources.

I think that it is correct that as Jews we should be careful what goes into our ears and into our minds (especially with today's disgusting music) but I think to say that all non-Jewish music is forbidden without nuance is still not clear to me to be true.
Herschel Hartz
New York, NY
October 30, 2010
Maimonides discusses lyrics in his commentary on the Mishna, 1:17.
Halachic works from the Talmud through the Shulchan Aruch, Code of Jewish Law, speak of our obligation to distance ourselves from any ideas that negate Jewish values. Here Maimonides relates this to music.
Malkie Janowski for Chabad.org
October 26, 2010
The halachic perspective
Yes I agree with Anonymous posting, I would also like to see the "halachic perspective" - it is easy to say that there is a halachic prohibition to something without quoting the source. So Ms. Janowski, where is the source?
Herschel Hartz
New York, NY
December 19, 2008
what is the source in the rambam?
this is very interesting i never knew there was an actual prohibition in halacha, I'd like to see the source so I can show my friends
Anonymous
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