Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Singing Verses of Tanach


I took voice lessons for a year and a half many years ago and I plan on going back to take more lessons in order to become a chazzan. Many times I have sung at chupahs. I know that it is forbidden to sing pesukim (verses of Tanach). However, at many weddings people want the person singing at the chupah to sing Im Eschacheych etc. but I have never sung it because of my concern that it may be forbidden. Is a person allowed to sing these words at a chupah since its forbidden to sing pesukim?
Thank you,

Dear Elazar,

In his responsum Yoreh Deah (II):142, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein discusses the prohibition of singing verses from Tanach. It is based upon a statement in the Talmud that suggests that using words of Torah as lyrics for a song is inappropriate and disrespectful to their sanctity.

However, at the end of his letter, Rabbi Feinstein indicates that the prohibition of singing verses of Tanach applies only when it is done for frivolous enjoyment ("l'zimra ulis-chok"). In cases where there the singing serves to highlight the meaning of the words for educational and/or other constructive purposes, it may not be problematic.

We can corroborate this interpretation from another angle. Rabbi Feinstein applies the restriction on singing to the Oral Torah as well. This means that we are not allowed to sing blessings, Talmudic passages, etc. Yet, the Talmud criticizes a person who is "Shoneh Belo Zimra", i.e., who studies without singing, since chanting the words we are learning helps us to remember them. It is clear, then, that this prohibition is only relevant in situations where the singing is frivolous, and where the verses are being "used" to enhance the singing. When, on the other hand, the singing is done to intensify our focus on the verses, it is permitted.

It is difficult to see how the recitation of "Im Eshkachech" at a wedding, which is done to help us recall the destruction of the Holy Temple, could possibly be construed as frivolous song. If anything, it is a solemn tribute which is further enhanced through the use of melody.

Much success in your pursuit of a career in Hazzanut!

Best Regards,

Rabbi Maroof


Anonymous said...

How about singers? Are they allowed to sing pesukim? I would assume they would not be allowed.

Anonymous said...

my name is maroof too and I am a muslim that tells me that we muslim are very similar to jewish faith..then can we live together like brothers? Please answer, I will be happy to read. What is the meaning of Maroof?

Haddock said...

Shoneh Belo Zimra?
We in Monaco have the finest choir..

Anonymous said...

I do believe that numerous verses from the Tehillim, not to mention various pesukim from Nevi'im and even Torah show up as zemirot at the Shabbat dinner tables of most Jewish families. Surely this is not l'zimra ulis-chok.

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