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  • Halacha
  • Songs and Music

Non-Jewish music in languages that you don’t understand


Rabbi David Sperling

Tishrei 25, 5778
Hi Rav Sperling, Is one is permitted to listen to music in a language s/he does not understand since it is possible that the lyrics may be inappropriate? I believe you wrote in a prior answer that there are major halachic discussions about this, so I was hoping that you could please expand on this to explain what the different opinions are and what the bottom line halacha is if there is one. Thank you very much,
Shalom, Thank you for your question. Listening to inappropriate words to songs is forbidden (as I have previously written). The Rambam writes that there are foolish people who judge a song by what language it is in, rather than the contents of the words. In the book "Ase Lecha Rav" (Rav Haim David HaLevi, zt”l) (volume 3, 4), he writes that if the contents of a song are inappropriate then even if it is in a foreign language, it is certainly forbidden to purchase it, for perhaps some individual will understand it. And even if no one understands it, it would still seem inappropriate as we need to be careful and worry about even an unlikely event. Based on this, if you were to know that the words to song you are listening to are crude – even if they are in a language you do not speak, you should avoid it. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, the mere knowledge that you are listening to a crude song, even without knowing the meaning, is harmful spiritually. Secondly, you are (in some small way) encouraging, or even perhaps financially supporting, crudity. Thirdly, there is a chance that someone who does understand the words will (eventually) listen to the song and be badly effected. However, you ask about a situation where you do not understand the song, and do not know what the words mean at all. In such a situation it would seem to me to be fine to listen to such music. One does not have to worry that -firstly the song is crude, and secondly, that someone who understands it will come to hear it. I hope this is of some help to you. Blessings.
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