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What is the status of a-capella music during the three weeks?

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I've heard (but don't remember where) that the music that is prohibited during the three weeks is one or both of: music with instruments, recorded music. I've heard conflicting things about a capella music.

What is the status of a capella music? Does it matter if it is live or recorded? Does it matter if it is one singer or a group? Does the nature of the music itself matter (maybe it's ok to sing mournful songs but not joyous ones?)? Does it matter how many people are listening (maybe singing for a few friends, or a group practicing for a later performance, is different from giving a public concert)?

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3 comments

My general understanding is that it is "anything with instruments", generally considered to include recorded music but not a capella. However, my Rabbi this year stated (publicly, I sent it to the Shul list): In light of the unique challenges that so many of us are experiencing due to COVID-19, it is reasonable to listen to recorded music during the three weeks. It would be appropriate to refrain from doing so once the Nine Days begins, or at least the week upon which Tisha B'Av falls. manassehkatz 24 days ago

On the other hand, another local (two blocks away) Orthodox Rabbi, sent in his Shul email: It is the custom to abstain from listening to any music; whether live or reproduced - including acapella. and included exceptions for certain things but not any general permission. YMMV manassehkatz 24 days ago

@manassehkatz thanks for the data points. I hope someone will be able to bring sources for the various positions in an answer. Monica Cellio 24 days ago

1 answer

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Leket Yosher (pg. 106) writes that his teacher (the Terumat Hadeshen) would not say Zemirot during the three weeks, which would indicate that he held that a-capella music is forbidden during this time.

Yosef Ometz (A book on customs of Frankfurt am Main) writes (601) that the Zemirot should be said softly, or in a tune which doesn't bring joy. This would indicate that it would be permitted (at least on Shabbos) provided that it doesn't bring to joy.

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To take the opposing viewpoint, in my Shul (well, until COVID-19 changed everything so that now we don't have singing any week), singing Lecha Dodi, etc. is permitted during Shabbos davening in the 3 weeks, though not a "Ruach Minyan" (aka Carlebach). manassehkatz 17 days ago

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