Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Nine Days [II] – Music and Celebrations (not including Bris Milah)

Yesterday I wrote about the rules of laundering clothing during the Nine Days.

Today, our topic focuses on an important aspect of diminishing "simcha" – joy – during this nine-day period.

Let us begin with the Shulchan Arukh – again from Chapter 551 (תקנא)

1 – When [the month of] Av begins, we minimalize our rejoicing…

2 – From Rosh Chodesh until the fast we minimize business practices, and building things that give us pleasure, such as a new home for his son getting married, or a work of art. Or planting something that gives joy… If one's wall is going to fall, even though building brings joy to build, it is permissible [to fix]. For the sake of a mitzvah [all of these activities] are permitted. There are no weddings during this period, and we don't make meals celebrating betrothal (Eirusin). However, one may commit to a betrothal without a celebratory meal – even on 9 Av one may make such a commitment, to avoid someone else stepping in and possible taking the match you are looking to marry.
Ram'a – the custom is to be stringent and not to marry from the 17th of Tammuz through 9 Av.

10 – For a meal associated with a mitzvah: Milah (AB's note - not our topic), Pidyon Haben, the completion of a Masechet (siyim), or a meal of betrothal, it is permitted for those who are relevant to the meal to eat meat and drink wine. But the crowd should be moderated and not too big.

On this last point, the Ta"z recommends that those who participate be relatives of the family.

Fair point.

But let us examine what is discussed here in general. It seems that the restrictions on rejoicing are generally on meat and wine consumption (which is also mentioned in chapters I did not cite here), and on having parties that can easily wait a few days, such as a betrothal meal and a wedding. Where do we get the carte blanc prohibition on live music (not to take away from a-capella groups)?

On the betrothal meal note, we have an inherent contradiction. In paragraph 2, the Shulchan Arukh says we do not have betrothal meals, while in paragraph 10, he writes that a betrothal meal may feature meat and wine (though with a limited guest list). Which one is it? Prohibited? Or permitted even with meat and wine?

The Magen Avraham gives two answers:
  1. The case in chapter 2 is talking about a party not at the time of the betrothal. In other words, it is not celebrating the moment of joy, but it is a post-facto celebration that the couple will be getting married. The case in chapter 10, however, refers to when they actually announce their betrothal, which is clearly permitted during the Nine Days, and is even permitted during on Tisha B'Av itself (though the meal on 9 Av would be kind of sketchy).

  2. The words "Seudat Eirusin" should be removed from paragraph 10, where it was placed by some editor or the like.
I am not sure about either answer, but at least the first one makes sense.
Let's move on.
The source for no live music is actually the Mishneh Brurah 16, who says:

One may betroth because Eirusin without a meal is not a joyous occasion [it is neutral]. Certainly one can make a commitment through the writing of Tenaim (conditions), but a meal is still prohibited – even without dancing and music. Even on Shabbos it is prohibited to make a meal to celebrate such an occasion. To eat a few grocery items when they're writing the Tenaim is not considered a celebratory meal. It is prohibited to make dances and music from the 17th of Tammuz and on, even without betrothal. (Eliyahu Rabba)

Well, there you have it. It is the Eliyahu Rabba who says music and dancing is prohibited during this time period. Which makes sense of course, because if one wants to minimize one's joy, one should certainly refrain from those activities.

I just find it fascinating that the Shulchan Arukh doesn't mention it straight out, leaving us open to thinking that music isn't necessarily a joy-bringer. Or, to put it another way, if the music is the kind that doesn't lead to dancing - such as on the radio or on a cd or ipod, or incidentally in a department store or in the background of a film - it is perhaps in a different category.

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