I have always loved to sing, especially Jewish prayers, and I'd love to lead the singing of the Friday night prayers at my synagogue. I know that this is not
traditionally approved of, and it makes me feel a little like a modern day Yentl....
However aren't there women in the Torah that sing, such as Deborah and Miriam? I want to honor the Jewish tradition, but at the same time there are no men in our synagogue who can sing with the same effect upon the congregation.
As human nature stands today, the reasoning of the sages of the Talmud is still
very apparent: Men listening to a woman's voice -- especially a woman that they know
and can see -- are not necessarily carried to spiritual heights, but unfortunately
often in the opposite direction. Women don't seem to understand this -- they seem
to have very high opinions of us. But even at the time of the splitting of the Red Sea,
when all the people were at a great spiritual high, even then, Miriam took the women
aside to sing separately from the men.
In a society where relations between the sexes is unbounded and extra-marital
relationships are the norm, in such a context a woman singing in shul may not
stand out. But in a society where marriage is holy and jealously guarded,
a woman singing in public is a precarious crack in the dam.
Perhaps you know this Halacha already: Even though Judaism celebrates the
love between parents and children, you're not supposed to hug and kiss your kids
in shul. The reason? Because the shul is a place
for love of G-d and any other expression of love will distract from this.
I have to admit that I, personally, would not be able to pray with
proper concentration in a situation where a woman is singing with a beautiful
voice. If you will excuse my bluntness, there isn't room in the heart
for both G-d and the other feelings that that would arouse.
My daughter loves to sing and so do her friends. They get together
and sing nigunim (Chassidic melodies) for hours. They make concerts on occasion for women only. It is beautiful to see teenage girls getting together without
the competition over who is impressing the guys. To them, it is purely
a spiritual affair with music.
Soon will be the days of Moshiach when G-d will remove all that is negative
and base from the heart of man and we will all sing together a new song.