Join Rabbi Haber's mailing list:
Home What's New Blogs Store Dedications Weekly Parshah About TorahLab Contact Us Links


The Systems of the Jewish Year

What Not To Do During Sefirah - The Real Story

By Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Haber

What Not To Do during Sefirah – The Real Story

There seems to be a never ending stream of overly finessed minutiae as to what is or is not permitted during Sefirah. Let’s elucidate:

The Tur (OC 493) cites three things that were customarily refrained from during Sefirah:

1) getting married
2) getting a haircut
3) women abstaining from work after sundown

The Magen Avraham adds dancing to the list for a non mitzvah purpose. The Aruch Hashulchan writes that musical instruments are by nature more joy inducing than dancing and thus would be included in the Magen Avraham’s addition.

Although one can argue that the above would apply only to live music, the Poskim (Rav Moshe Feinstien, the Tzitz Eliezer, and Rav Ovadia Yosef) all extend the prohibition to recorded music as well.

The reasoning seems to be as follows: The Halacha is that music is always prohibited as it serves as a Zecher LeChurban, in mourning for the Beis Hamikdash. (There are some exceptions; I’ll save it for a future post).  Although there are certain leniencies employed, such as recorded music, during times of national mourning such as Sefirah those leniencies are suspended and we prohibit all music.

Being as the prohibition is a relatively recent one, and only a minhag, there are some leniencies considered by the contemporary halachic authorities:

• Inadvertent listening (in a store, doctor office, elevator, etc.)
• Rhythm inducing exercise music
• Cantorial singing with musical accompaniment
• Children’s tapes, toys and mobiles (for the child’s benefit)
• If one is studying to play an instrument as a paid professional (according to some even if one is studying to play for his own pleasure).

A Capella music has become the latest Sefira fad, there is intense exhaustive discussion on the matter to be found here. The upshot is that if the human voice was modified to the extent that it sounds like music then it shouldn’t be listened to. The overarching theme is that the goal we are trying to accomplish is a spiritual/emotional one – to reduce joy. So a work around is self defeating.

Haircuts were pretty much covered here.

Women not doing work doesn’t seem to have caught on. (Perhaps because the men were traditionally the ones who studied the Law smile ) The Mishna Berura says it would apply to men as well, at least until after they count Sefirah. The later Poskim discuss it and seem to concede that it’s not the Minhag and that that’s ok.

There are those who don’t make Shecheyanu or wear new clothes during Sefirah. This seems to be an idea that was borrowed (perhaps inadvertently) from the three weeks and has no solid Halachic basis.


View and leave comments • (10 comments so far)