Is The Music at Frum Weddings Too Loud?
Jewish mysticism suggests that songs are the wings of the soul. They have the ability to lift our spirits to unprecedented heights. They allow us to fly, to soar to far-away places that are beyond mundane life and monotony.
Unfortunately, like any powerful force, music too – untamed and unfocused – can be hijacked and turned into a hedonistic vehicle of indulgence rather than transcendence; entertainment instead of inspiration. Nevertheless, at its heart, song has a hold on our souls because it is ultimately Divine language – the natural language of the soul.
The Talmud famously relates that rabbis danced exuberantly at weddings. Needless to say, they were caught up in the ecstasy of the music and the sacredness of the moment. It was a soul dance.
In every life experience, you have two options to choose from: to serve your own needs or to serve a higher cause. When “loud” music and dancing accompanies weddings today, is it in order to enrapture the soul and generate the same exuberance? Or is it to feed some self-gratifying pleasure? Each simcha should be its own judge and jury on that.
— Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet, popular Lubavitch
lecturer, rabbi of London’s Mill Hill Synagogue
* * * * *
According to the Deafness Research Foundation, about one in three cases of hearing loss in the United States is due to – not aging – but noise! And much of the noise is self-inflicted. We literally are making ourselves deaf!
Noise can cause permanent damage to our ears when it reaches about 85 decibels. A typical rock concert is around 120 decibels.
Music at “frum” weddings (and “non-frum” weddings!) tends to be excessively loud. The musicians think this is what people want – and many people do seem to want very loud music. They think it adds to the joy of the bride and groom. They don’t seem to mind that they are damaging their hearing and are making it difficult (impossible?) for people to carry on conversations.
At the wedding of one of our daughters, the band was playing overly loud music. We asked the band leader to lower the decibel level, but he said people wanted loud music. Fortunately, our in-laws agreed that the music was too loud, so our cousuegra (the Ladino equivalent of machatenesta) also asked the band leader to quiet down the music. He again refused. So she told him: If you want to get paid tonight, you’ll lower the music. He did!
It’s up to the hosts of the weddings to set the rules for the band – not to be victimized by “what everyone does” or “what everyone wants” and not to be coerced by the band leader.
One can have lively music for dancing and everyone can have a wonderful time – even when the music is at a moderate and healthy decibel level. During the meal itself, the music should be soft background music so that guests can actually speak to each other – and hear each other.
— Rabbi Marc D. Angel, director of the
Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals
* * * * *
To be kosher, music must fit the following guidelines: Music with lyrics that are immodest or not in accordance with Torah hashkafa is not kosher irrespective of who wrote the lyrics – Jew or non-Jew.
Music (even music with lyrics that are based on verses from Tanach or tefillah) whose beat, tempo, or volume creates a mood of wild abandon (hefkerus), or could accompany primitive natives dancing around a cauldron cooking a human being, is not kosher irrespective of who composed it or is playing it – be they non-Jews or religious Jews.
(We also find that excessive noise is considered a source of damage that halacha addresses in the halachos governing relations between neighbors.)
On the other hand, music that is uplifting, soothing, inspiring, and arousing to simcha – irrespective of who composed it – is kosher music. (If one can accept true ideas even from non-Jews – “kabel es ha’emes mimi she’amro” – surely good music can be accepted from any source, too.)
— Rabbi Zev Leff, rav of Moshav Matisyahu,
popular lecturer and educator
* * * * *
If personal preference would be the criterion for deciding how loud the music should be at frum weddings, my response would be to lower the sound. However, the obligation at a wedding is to make the bride and groom happy – not some of the guests – which leads to examining the question from a different perspective.
The replacement of slower wistful music at a seuda shlishit or kumsitz with fast music and loud electric instruments (on a weekday) appears to reflect the influence of rock and roll and non-Jewish culture. But much of chassidic and traditional Israeli music also reflects non-Jewish musical trends.
My intuitive impression is that music is an expression of cultural trends, and I have reservations about this youth culture. But I am hesitant to orchestrate a campaign against [the music currently played at weddings] since these reservations may come from a generational gap.
— Rabbi Yosef Blau, mashgiach ruchani at
YU’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary
* * * * *
Is the music played at weddings today too loud? Yes. Is the music played at weddings today often reflective of a broader cultural influence? Yes.
We must create our own culture. The imperativeness of doing so cannot be overstated. In previous generations it might have been a way of protecting ourselves from outside influences. Today, it’s a way of bringing up wholesome, happy, well-developed children.
I make it a practice to speak to educators on a regular basis, and I always ask them: What differences do you see between children today and children 10 years ago? The answer I get repeatedly is: lack of wholesomeness. Children have many more psychological issues and are just much more fragile than children in previous times were.
There’s no question that to a very large extent the society we live amongst greatly influences this. The world at large has gone off the deep edge. So, the more that we can do to shield ourselves and protect ourselves as a holy nation, the better off we are.
The music is just a tip of the iceberg. The much bigger-picture issues are iPhones, Internet access, and the constant influence of a world that has gone mad. Anything we can do, we must do.
— Rabbi Ben Zion Shafier, founder of The Shmuz