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Music at Funerals or Why the Chief Rabbi is Irrelevant

Israel News 1 has an article (Heb.) (hat tip) that describes criticism by Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger of Hanan Porat’s funeral. The funeral included some songs that were sung by his children. Metzger did not like this and is quoted as saying:

Rabbi Amar and myself looked at each other and didn’t understand what was going on-a band, guitars, children singing…It’s possible to think that people came to a wedding! This was a funeral! I am not familiar with this as a way [to mourn], not in Israel, not in Europe, and I am sure not in Yemen. We never heard of and never saw such a thing as this.

I assume that Rabbi Metzger is familiar with some Mishnah, so maybe he missed this one: (Ketubbot 4:4)

רַבִּי יְהוּדָה אוֹמֵר, אֲפִלּוּ עָנִי שֶׁבְּיִשְׂרָאֵל, לֹא יִפְחוֹת מִשְּׁנֵי חֲלִילִים וּמְקוֹנֶנֶת

R. Judah says, “Even the poorest man in Israel should not hire fewer than two flutes and one professional wailing woman [for a funeral].”

The classical work on mourning, Kol Bo al Aveilut, admits that during the Talmudic period music was part of the funeral, but rejects its reintroduction because it would be as a result of non-Jewish influence. (here)

Kolboalaveilut98

Apparently in 19th c. Egypt non-Jewish musicians were even hired to perform at Jewish funerals. To say the least, some rabbis were upset, not at the music, but that non-Jews were hired. See the following from Rabbi Raphael Aharon ibn Shimshon’s Nahar Mitzrayim.

Naharmitzrahimaveilut

Also see here.

The use of music at a funeral did fall in the disuse in many Jewish communities, especially among Ashkenazim, but it does have deep roots in Jewish tradition. In order not to discriminate, read here about how the other Chief Rabbi just couldn’t respect someone else’s ruling. Can someone just get rid of these Chief Rabbis already?

As far as music at funerals go, although it was not surprising that at Ehud Manor’s funeral there was music, I can’t think of a better way to have eulogized him. (Those who don’t listen to any type of music during the Omer are welcome to skip the following video.)

For a discussion of music at funeral’s see Shmuel Glick’s book אור נגה עליהם: הזיקה שבין מנהגי נישואין למנהגי אבלות במסורת ישראל, pp. 71-74, where the above sources are taken from.

4 Responses to “Music at Funerals or Why the Chief Rabbi is Irrelevant”

  1. 1
    Benny:

    see here also: http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-4221397,00.html

  2. 2
    abba's rantings:

    “admits that during the Talmudic period music was part of the funeral, but rejects its reintroduction because it would be as a result of non-Jewish influence”

    interesting

    re. manor, what a loss. baruch dayan emes.

  3. 3
    Menachem Mendel:

    Benny,

    Thanks for the link.

    Abba’s Rantings,

    Manor died a few years ago, but I thought that it was a good example of how music was in essence a eulogy.

  4. 4
    DF:

    Interesting post. There is always a tension between new innovations (or, return to previous practices) and conservatism. Its subjective where to draw the line. Apparently R. Metzger thinks it was wrong to include music. Reasonable people can differ. But unlike other atempted innovations (feminsim comes to mind, or homosexual lobbying) its hard to see much harm coming from this. More to the point, rabbi Metzger did not try to forbid it, he just expressed his negative opinion with it, and there aint nothing wrong with that.

    Re the Chief Rabbi – I like the idea of having a chief rabbi, but not of having a chief rabbinate (like in every city.) The former is symbolic, and very much appropriate. The latter is beuracratic, and intrudes upon people’s right to live life the way they want.

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