Is listening to rap or heavy metal music appropriate?
In truth, my experience with these genres of noise (music it is not) is waiting at traffic lights with the windows down hearing cacophonous sounds emanating from another car. I have been tempted to drive through the red light to escape, but I confess I never have.
Music should uplift. Writing as a levi, I know that one of the levi’im’s primary tasks in the Beit HaMikdash was to accompany the avodah with singing and instrumental music. That music touched the soul.
Rap and heavy metal are usually vulgar, boorish, crude, and abnormally loud. Earsplitting noise, combined with lyrics that should make a sailor blush, appeals to the worst of our instincts. It is often prurient, degrades women, and offends the sensibilities of anyone with the slightest inclination towards sensitivity, decency, and kavod habriyot.
I have yet to see its redeeming value nor have I detected much talent among the noisemakers. Mozart and Beethoven it is not, and even mild exposure to it makes me long for Avraham Fried and Mordechai ben David.
In a generation that is oddly proud of its degenerate cultural offerings that do little more than debase the citizenry and dishonor the species, rap and heavy metal are particularly offensive. Profane, offensive words set to deafening and shrill noise is just air pollution. It is not my cup of tea (I confess to being locked into ‘70s music) nor that – one would hope – of any cultured person.
Jews especially should look to be inspired by music, and its words and sounds, that speaks to the higher part of our nature. That’s our mission as a wise and understanding people, a light unto the nations. Turn the noise off!
— Rabbi Steven Pruzansky is the Israel regional
vice president for the Coalition for Jewish Values
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It’s important to remember that music possesses great power to arouse emotions. Positive melodies arouse joy and noble emotions, while negative melodies can bring listeners to act in a degrading manner.
Music can give expression to sensitive and uplifting feelings or, Heaven forbid, pollute a person’s inner being. Music is not something external – it derives from the soul of its creator and enters the soul of the listener.
Each morning, we say, “My G-d, the soul that You placed within me is pure.” Is it sensible for me to allow any and all musicians to influence my soul? Certainly not. Rather, it only makes sense to permit access to a person imbued with holiness who will take my soul and raise it to the heights.
When deciding what music to hear, a person must consider how it will influence his or her psyche and soul, for there are songs that arouse the evil inclination just by their melodies alone. Other songs trigger inner tension or depression.
We need to increase positive feelings of mental wellbeing, hope, strength, happiness, and relaxation, as we say in the Shabbat Mincha Amidah, “A perfect rest with which You are pleased.”
In my opinion, listening to rap and heavy metal rock is definitely forbidden. These kinds of music create feelings that are the very opposite of inner peace. Hashem wants us to feel inwardly tranquil, secure, and happy – not to blow out our minds.
— Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, chief rabbi of Tzefas
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I don’t listen to them, so I can’t judge. I have listened to other types of music attacked in their time, and the question comes down to two elements: 1) value and 2) balancing of pluses and minuses.
The first issue is whether any activity outside of studying Torah and performing mitzvot has positive value. Isn’t it a waste of time? Whatever the answer to this question, it can possibly be applied to rap or heavy metal music.
Not until we consider the negatives, however. The language or ideas in a song, painting, movie, book, etc., may be problematic. For example, R. Aharon Lichtenstein, zt”l, was unusually vehement about not reading Ayn Rand because she pushed for a society lacking the generosity of spirit that the mitzvah of tzedakah aims to teach us.
Art, music, and literature can also have cultural associations that are problematic. So if rap or heavy metal devotees, for example, tend to be the kinds of people who hold values contradictory to those of the Torah, we might be advised to stay away so as not to absorb their culture, even if the specific value in a particular work is fine.
Sometimes a piece of music, a work of art, or a book is easily separated from its creator and his or her culture, making it easier to enjoy without worrying about its origins. But often it is not.
In conclusion: The propriety of listening to rap and heavy metal music is part of a larger, longstanding question: Are there more positives than negatives in enjoying a particular version of non-Jewish culture, and does it advance our service of G-d overall such that it would justify the time spent on, and the ideas we get from it?
— Rabbi Dr. Gidon Rothstein, author, regular
contributor to www.Torahmusings.com
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The question can be broadened to include all types of non-Jewish music. The general consensus is that we should refrain from singing or listening to music that has inappropriate words or themes such as immorality, heresy, idolatry, and sexual stimulation.
Even tunes sans their lyrics are problematic if they remind a person of their inappropriate nature (Divrei Chaim 2:17, Piskei Teshuvos 53:27). (There is a difference of opinions regarding tunes whose lyrics have been lost to memory.)
In Sefer Chassidim, Rabbi Yehuda HaChassid writes (section 768): “It is a sin to sing songs of the gentiles.” Among other reasons, singing or listening to such music creates a bad nature within a person and ignites his inclination toward sin (see Reishis Chachmah, Shaar Ha’ahavah 10, Maamar Mordechai 560:2, Shaar Hatziyon 560:25, Kaf Hachaim 560:29).
Music that doesn’t contain inappropriate words or forbidden messages or lyrics may be sung or listened to (if no kol isha problem exists). Nonetheless, G-d-fearing Jews don’t sing or listen to even permitted songs of gentiles since by singing or listening to such songs, a person attaches his soul to the soul of the composer, which could negatively influence his character.
If this applies to gentile music in general, how much more so does it apply to rap and heavy metal music, which are known for their aggressive, and even violent, sounds and lyrics.
As in all such matters, especially taking into account different possible circumstances (e.g., the situation of a professional musician or one working in musical venues), it is best to consult one’s trusted rabbinic authority on this issue.
— Rabbi Simon Jacobson, renowned
Lubavitch author and lecturer