Monday, October 18, 2010


Musical Monday – Jewish with a Beat

Every now and then we (religious Jewish society) goes through a question of “what is Jewish music”?  Though Judaism and the Jewish people are thousands of years old, there is also no doubt that Jewish society is affected by the cultures of the nations it has passed through.

For example (relative to music) some chassidic niggunim are similar to some Russian and Ukranian peasant songs.  Others have brought convincing proof that some common Ashkenazi high holiday tunes bear some inspiration and influence from some church music of hundreds of years ago.

And while I’m no expert on Arabic music, Sephardi and Mizrachi music clearly carry very distinctive tune patterns that seem (to my untrained ear) similar.

So it’s not a surprise to find, for those of us with a little grey in the beard (or maybe more than a little) some religious Jewish rock music.  And for those to whom some grey in the beard is still a few decades away, some religious Jewish hip hop music.

No surprise at all, a product of outside influence mixed with Jewish religious content.  Is it Jewish?  While we may call that 300 year old high holiday tune originally derived from a peasant song or church tune “traditional Jewish music” today, back then it was an innovation and a cultural influence.  What do you call a Jewish hard rock song or a Jewish hip-hop song?

Perhaps the answer is just…Jewish, elevating the sparks from the nations...

Clip 1 – Piamenta live in Israel singing Kol HaMesamayach, a pasuk from the Gemora describing the heavenly blessing on those who come to gladden the bride and groom…

Clip 2 - Prodezra Beats & Nosson Zand sing Tree of Life, a music video by 24-6 films.  Prodezra adapts chassidic niggunim to a hip-hop beat and adds traditional religious Jewish lyrics in a rap pattern…

The musicians in both videos are chassidic ultra-orthodox religious Jews.


  1. how could they be observant when they obvoiusly sing infront of women and men together

  2. The Shulchar Aruch forbids women from singing in front of does NOT assur the opposite. According to halacha men are allowed to sing or perform in front of women!

    So why do you think otherwise? Because the Litvish gedolim (who speak only for their community) have added a community guideline (for their community) that what is allowed shouldn't be permitted. While they didn't explicitly say why we can speculate it's because maybe the women might dance and the performing men see it (that would be a assur) or maybe women are too sensitive and shouldn't be excited by things line music.

    We see a similar move now by Rav Amnon Yitzchok who is trying to declare ALL modern Jewish music assur, ALL Jewish music concerts or performances assur (with the exception of a Jewish wedding), and all CD's and music stores assur (and published a kol kore with the signatures of the Litvish gedolim).

    So maybe in a few years you'll be able to ask "they're performing music so obviously they're not religious Jews". But even so, there simply is NO halachic source for it (beyond their concern for social barriers for their community).

    It's worth noting Rav Amnon Yitzchok performs in front of a mixed crowd (but doesn't sing).

  3. If it has Jewish lyrics, it's a Jewish song


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