#ThrowbackTuesday — “Currently Not Listening (well, sort of)”

Because I missed yet another Throwback Thursday, here’s a [very] brief explanation of the current time of the Jewish calendar year and an equally brief rundown of some of the various customs observed at this time.

This post was originally published here on The Boylan Blog, in the weekly “Currently Listening” feature section, in April of 2013.


Currently Not Listening (well, sort of)


As you may or may not know, this is a time of year when many types of religious Jews do not listen to music.

The reasons for this are various and sundry, and nobody agrees on anything because this is Judaism and that’s just not how it works, but the most basic custom is that during Sefirat HaOmer (also known shorthand as “sefira”), which is the time between the second day of Passover and the next Jewish calendar holiday of Shavuot, or Pentacost, certain customs of mourning are observed to varying degrees. Or at least until the 33rd day of sefira, or Lag BaOmer, at which point most mourning customs end.

Again, reasons range from “a famous rabbi’s students were killed in a plague way back when” to “those students were actually fighting in a failed uprising known as the Bar Kochba Revolt” to “actually maybe it’s because lots of Jews were massacred by Christians throughout the ages at this time of year because of our wonderful reputation as Christ-killers” — pick whichever one you like, it doesn’t make much of a difference to the actual observance. Point is, we get emo for a bit.

This is expressed in various ways, most commonly by restrictions surrounding music. Some people just don’t go to live music events like concerts. Others don’t listen on their iPods. Others stop watching Glee (although most won’t admit they watched it in the first place).

In my circles, the most common custom is to avoid live music, and all recorded music that is not acapella. Jewish acapella music sales have always spiked at this time of year — many groups come out with acapella albums specifically at this time because they know that people will be dying for something to listen to. Of course, in the age of YouTube and iTunes, there is a wealth of acapella music available across all genres, and getting your music fix is easier than it’s ever been.

Because the quality of acapella music these days is so good, some people choose not to listen to it because it’s a conflict of spirit of the law vs. letter of the law…But that’s another argument for another time.

~Sarah Meira Rosenberg

Video Source: http://youtu.be/gEYKaXzCIio




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3 thoughts on “#ThrowbackTuesday — “Currently Not Listening (well, sort of)””

  1. I’ve actually changed my approach to this. I decided that the whole Mourning During Sefirah thing is trumped up, and probably connects to a revolt that was ill conceived in the first place, and I now listen to music. Still won’t do the other things, but I felt the need to push back just a little.

    1. I know a bunch of people who go according to the Rav’s opinion that listening to music on your own is just fine; it’s group activities that are problematic, according to him — concerts, ballgames, movies in theaters, plays, etc. I personally have never listened to music at this time of year, and I keep this for the same reason I keep shabbos, kashrut, and fast days — self discipline.

      And the Bar Kochba revolt was probably not the main reason the mourning customs stuck around through the centuries; it was the frequent pogroms around Easter time that most likely got things set more deeply. Crusades, etc. And I have no problem commemorating that.

      1. I agree about the real reason, but at the same time Jewish history is so replete with horrible pogroms and worse that you could argue “hey, let’s never stop mourning!” My overall feeling on this is, find a middle ground. And find one that suits you. (I have never done well with communal mourning. Ask me about Tisha B’Av.)

        I just wish that instead of being taught a load of nonsense about “oh, Rabbi Akiva had 24,000 students who hated each other” as a mussar lesson, we were taught the truth.

        BTW, how are you on resuming movie watching during sefirah? Is a group of five too big?

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