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Monday, April 27, 2009

What Not To Do During Sefirah - The Real Story

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.

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Meet Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Haber

Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch HaberRabbi Tzvi Hirsch Haber is sought after by all who know him for his Halachic and practical advice. His keen ability to put complicated matters into a digestible perspective coupled with his ability to get the facts, make him the perfect blogger to help us all “Do It Right”.

A native of Buffalo, NY, Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Haber spent his childhood globetrotting with his family. His pioneering spirit first surfaced in Melbourne, Australia, where he was excited to be a member of the opening class of Mesivta Bnei Torah. From Australia the Haber family settled down in Monsey, NY. Ever the maverick, Tzvi promptly left home to study in Yeshiva Ohr Hameir in Peekskill, where he became a mainstay of the Yeshiva, and inspired his younger brothers as well as several friends from the Mesivta in Melbourne to follow him. He then joined his chaburah in Jerusalem, first at the Mir Yeshiva and then at the Bais Medrash of Rav Dovid Soloveitchik, a senior scion of the famed Brisk dynasty. As his globetrotting family returned to Jerusalem, Tzvi returned to the US, to freeze in the famed, yet comparatively chilled Beth Medrash Govoha of Lakewood.

 In 2004 he met his wife, Suzanne Schor, a native of the warmer Los Angeles climate, and the couple settled in Lakewood, where he focused his pioneering and independent strengths on the study of Halacha, or Jewish law. His innovative spirit and innate ability to help others seeking to clarify the finer points of Judaism and integrate them into their daily lives inspired his decision to commute daily from Lakewood to the Lower East Side of Manhattan in order to bask in the day to day exposure to the world renowned Posek, HaRav David Feinstein. The daily commute was more than compensated for when he received Semicha from Rav Feinstien and the Kollel L’Torah U’lhorah (a division of Mesivta Tifereth Jerusalem) in Tamuz 5768, June 2008.

In August 2009, the Habers moved west, heading toward Los Angeles where Rabbi Haber joined the LINK-LA Kollel. After being an active member of the Kollel for several years, he joined the business world, however he is still actively involved in teaching and learning in LA.

Actively involved in all aspects of TorahLab, Tzvi has taken upon himself a quasi-role as administrator of quality control and has effectively improved and upgraded many of the smaller yet vital details involved in our site. His advice is eagerly sought and gracefully given.

Rabbi Haber is now living in the La Brea section of Los Angeles with his wonderful family. He can be contacted at tzvi@torahlab.org