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October 23, 2014 / 29 Tishri, 5775
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Problems At Simchas


Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

In last week’s column I published two letters regarding simchas (joyous occasions). One was from a grandmother and the other from a gentleman who had just made his daughter’s wedding – the first simcha in his family.

The grandmother expressed concern at the high decibel level of the music at these functions, which she felt could be injurious to people’s hearing, especially infants who are often brought along by their parents. She also expressed annoyance that the loudness of the music prevents people from holding conversations and often forces them to go into the lobby in order to communicate with friends and family.

The second letter-writer related that he had put his “all” into his daughter’s wedding and was very disappointed by the many people who responded affirmatively but departed after the chuppah, leaving half-empty tables and a tremendous bill that amounted to thrown-out money. In addition, the half-empty tables made guests feel lonely and abandoned.

Since both letters focused on simchas, I felt it appropriate to combine them and respond to both as one. Admittedly, they deal with different aspects of a wedding, but nevertheless there is a common denominator that unites them – namely, lack of consideration for others.

I am not a physician, nor am I knowledgeable about audiological problems, so I will leave comment on those areas to professionals. But I do feel it is important to comment on the lack of derech eretz – respect for the feelings of others.

Since the publication of these letters I have been deluged with e-mails from readers who agreed with the grandmother and the gentleman who wrote, for they too have experienced the same problems.

Many professionals have written confirming the grandmother’s point about the high decibel levels. Most often, this problem is generational. By and large it is young people who favor this cacophonous, loud music – while mature adults, the elderly, and toddlers and infants find it unbearable.

Innumerable grandparents have confided to me that they anticipate family simchas with delight so that they can get together with relatives and friends and reconnect with them, and that they are especially pleased when they are all seated at the same table. To their dismay, however, they also discover that the very loud music inhibits them from making conversation.

Not only does this type of music give them a headache, it actually forces them out of the simcha room, consigning them to an often drafty, uncomfortable hallway. On the other hand, should they choose to remain seated at their table and attempt to talk, they have to deal with yet another problem – their vocal chords can become strained by the effort it takes to talk over the music.

There is yet a third option to which wedding guests can resort, and that is to smile, nod their heads, and pretend they hear their neighbors. Obviously, not one of these choices is acceptable.

So, first and foremost, yasher koach to the grandmother who took the time to write and bring this problem to the fore. Perhaps we should trace the roots of this bombastic music. Certainly our zeides and bubbies never indulged in it. The music at their simchas was joyous and elevating, but never reached the offensive decibel levels so popular in our day. This sort of music has roots in a culture that is not Jewish and does not reflect our way. You might of course argue that years ago they did not have the technology to amplify music as we do today, but to make noise you don’t need technology!

Early Indian tribes, with a primitive culture and lifestyle, found ways to create loud music through which they believed they banished “evil spirits.” Could it be that contemporary man, in trying to escape reality, resorts to this very loud music in order to shut out the real questions of life: Who are you? What do you represent? What are your goals in life?

Could it be that we, like the Indians of yesterday, are attempting to banish the insanity in our society and have forgotten the sweet sounds of the music that was once reflective of our simchas?

I must add that this intolerable noise is not limited to weddings or bar mitzvahs but assails us everywhere. It can come from a car in a parallel lane in which the driver believes he has license to inflict his obsessions on others. Many of our young people have become so addicted to this music that they are never without the technological gadgets that saturate them with this sound.

Perhaps the time has come for parents to tell their children that at simchas they have a responsibility to consider the needs of their grandparents and other guests. Perhaps the time has come for young people not only to be concerned by what they want, but by what is right and comfortable for others.

As for the father who expressed his annoyance and outrage at people’s lack of concern for someone else’s money and for the hurt feelings at seeing half-empty tables or being placed at such tables, I will, b’ezrat Hashem, address that in a future column.

In the interim, I hope and pray that the day may speedily come when we will hear the joyous music of chassan and kallah that emanates from Yerushalayim and brings gladness to all hearts.

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