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Permissale music

Rabbi David SperlingKislev 7, 5772
490
Question
I have heard that halachicly there is no problem with listening to secular music, provided that there is no heresy involved in the lyrics, and that it is not a love song. My question is: what exactly constitutes a love song? Let’s say there is a song where the artist is hinting that he loves a woman, but he never explicitly mentions the name of a women etc.. and i can interpert the song as if it’s speaking about something else, is that okay? also, if the artist simply mentions the words,"I love you", or something like that, does that disqualify the song, or perhaps only song that describe intimacy between the genders are problamatic?
Answer
Shalom, The prohibition to listen to inappropriate lyrics does not stem from the fact that they are put to music. Rather, there are two separate laws that relate to this issue. The first is "nivul peh" or dirtying one's mouth. Singing songs (or listening to songs) that have rude words, or inappropriate content, is in violation of this law. The second prohibition is that one is not allowed to excite their sexual urges (outside of the framework of one's relations with their wife or husband). The definition of what is "nivul peh", whilst open to some degree of change from place to place and generation to generation, can basically be defined as any speech that would not be used in polite society. The Talmud goes so far as to say that one should even go out of one's way to use a more combersome sentence, rather than use negative language - for example, in parshat Noach it talks about the "animals that are not pure" rather than just saying "the impure animals" because it is nicer not to mention "impurity". Even though one is not technically obligated to go to such lengths - it is certainly forbidden to use vulgar language. On the other hand, the definition of what "excites the sexual urge" differs from person to person. We find in Tanach and Talmud references to many and varied things that could, potentially, lead one astray in this area - and nonetheless they are mentioned. This is because we assume that a regular person learning Torah will turn their mind to holy thoughts, and not be inticed to lewdness. This being so, every case must be examined by itself, and in relation to each person. For example, when I was younger there was a famous song with the words "I wanna hold your hand". Obviously this was referring to a man who wanted to hold his aging mother's hand to give her comfort in her old age. As such, this song never led me astray to licentious thoughts. But I could imagine that there were those who misunderstood the meaning of the song and started thinking forbidden thoughts. Those people should have refrained from listening to this song. So, in answer to your question, if the song has no vulgar or inappropriate words, and the thoughts expressed in it do not lead you to improper thoughts, then it is permitted. However, this does not mean it is desirable. As one ascends towards a more holy life, one will find oneself wanting to immerse their whole being in G-dly pursuits. This will certainly influence what books they read, music they listen to, and places they frequent. I doubt that the music of the Beatles, even the ones with totally "kosher" content, such as "Yellow Submarine", would be considered good spiritual food for a tzaddik. On the other hand, one must remember that spiritual growth must be undertaken step by step, and for many people listening to "Yellow Submarine" is a step in the right direction - especially if it is in place of listening to vulgar songs, or even if it just lets them relax and "be normal". Blessings, D. Sperling
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