Thursday, December 25, 2008

Making Music on Shabbat


Shalom Rabbi,
I am wondering why it isn't okay to use a drum or any other musical instrument on Shabbat if groups like Chabad and other Chassidim say the ban against this doesn't really apply today because nobody makes their own instruments now. They use this line of argument to justify clapping and dancing, but what about using a small hand drum or something similar which one (and most) has no idea how to create or fix if broken?
Andrew H.


Dear Andrew,

After reading my response, I would encourage you to address this question to someone who believes the ban on clapping and dancing is no longer applicable. You are correct in observing that this position seems inconsistent because it still upholds the prohibition on musical instruments despite the fact that some of them should be treated in the same way as hand clapping. It would be interesting to see how proponents of the Chassidic view explain their stance.

As you may know, most halakhic scholars disagree with the Chassidic practice and maintain that we don't have the ability to discount Rabbinic legislation simply because its original intent has become partially obsolete.

In this case in particular, the reality is that many musicians do indeed regularly and habitually tune their instruments, especially string players, so the prohibition makes perfect sense. (It is tuning, by the way, and not fashioning instruments, that is the reason for the rabbinic enactment - tuning an instrument is Biblically prohibited on Shabbat because it constitutes repairing or restoring the functionality of a vessel).

Distinguishing between different forms of instruments, hand clapping, etc., on a case by case basis is generally avoided in halakha because it becomes confusing and the average person is generally not well versed in the subtleties of the principles involved.

Best Regards,

Rabbi Maroof


Anonymous said...

Tosfos says it doesn't apply anymore, not just the chasidim.

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

Correct, but Tosafot are consistent, stating that both the prohibition against musical instruments and the prohibition against clapping are no longer applicable. The questioner was bothered by an intermediate position that apparently upholds the ban against musical instruments but permits other behaviors that should included in the injunction and forbidden as well.

DavidMLevin said...

Dear Rabbi
I want to learn more about this topic. Can you direct me to the sources you use as the basis for your understanding of "music" as prohibited activity on Shabbat?
Thank you and Shabbat Shalom.

David Robert said...

I have a case in which I am accused of going to a goy nightclub on Shabbat, and being in breach of my faith, since the goy play musical instruments. Is there a prohibition against listening to music or watching television?