Saturday, December 20, 2008

Hilchos Siblings Kol Isha

First off I would like to thank you for continuing to read and comment on my posts even though I haven’t been reading and commenting on yours lately. After finals, after Tuesday, I will IY”H get back to reading and commenting. Thanks for hanging in there. It feels a bit weird to only be taking and not being able to give.


Now, looking at the results from the poll it looks like most of you think it’s permitted for a brother to hear a sister sing. Most of you didn’t even think it was a question, Like of course brothers can hear their sisters sing. I had thought the same way, I knew there was a problem of Kol Isha for anyone out of the immediate family, but I never knew brothers were included in that prohibition.

Now I never felt restricted at all from not being able to sing or dance in public, since I don’t feel I’m good at either one. But there are times at home when you just feel like singing. Then comes the brother’s voice “shhhh!”. I would get this annoyed feeling, and I would feel frustrated. There are some emotions that get expressed through singing, and sometimes you just have a song in your head and feel like singing. My brother would assure me that it’s not meant as an insult, that if anything it shows that my singing may be nice.

Then there’s benching by the shabbos table, I used to always bench out loud cause it would bring back memories of how we used to bench in elementary school, and it made it more enjoyable and meaningful. Even on R’ Elbaz’s Tefillah slideshow, he said that you should bench out loud cause you have a greater kavanah that way.

I’ve been to friend’s houses when I was younger, and I remember the sister’s would all sing by shalosh seudos, I thought that was a nice thing. The large family, with 9 girls and 2 boys, the older boy is 15, yet I always hear them singing shabbos zemiros. Even when they’re in their succah outside, I hear the girl’s singing. I guess because the girl’s are a bigger ratio than the boys they get to do what they want, and their brother can’t stop them. But yet, they’re a yeshivish family, and the brother never tries to stop them, he’ll be there listening to them sing with no problem.

Now, I know some people hold that zemiros is in a different category, and isn’t counted as singing. That would be nice, but yet my brother doesn’t believe in that, so I can’t bench out loud.

I had always imagined that when I would be a mother I would sing to my kids shema and modeh ani and other songs. I would imagine it being a way of showing love to my children and it would build a connection. Edit: Deleted

Now about the actual poll and the correct answer. The answer is “Yes, under the age of 11”. I had been upset when my brother told me I can’t sing anymore, and I didn’t believe that brothers can’t hear their sisters sing, so I made him ask a Rav. He asked a Chassidish Rav, and I said that doesn’t count. So then he asked a different Rav, and the Rav answered that sisters over the age of 11 can’t sing in front of their brothers.

My little sister was 11 years old at the time, so in a way I was happy that I wasn’t the only one that couldn’t sing. So when she would sing, my brother told her to “shhh!” too, and he would say it’s “Kol Isha”. So she figured out that a girl’s voice is “Kol Isha”. But she didn’t realize that it was only forbidden for boys. So when it was only us girls home, and the boys were in shul, and I would finally get to sing, she would tell me “Kol Isha!”. It made me laugh at first. I tried to explain, that it’s ok for girl’s to hear each other sing, but I still don’t think she gets it.

Edit: Deleted


Moshe said...

It doesn't matter who the majority is, as long as at least 2 women are singing, by themselves or with men, it's not kol isha anymore. Everything else is just humras and plain ignorance.

Your brother needs to open a book and learn some halocha. Also, remind him what it says in gemora about a person who follows the humras of both Beis Hiller and Beis Shamai.

Josh S said...

You should tell your brother that you really don't care. If he wants to be all holy, he can go eat where there are only men around, suggests a nice Bais Medrash where he can be all happy and holy, send along some nice crusty bread.

Mikeinmidwood said...

Does your brother know about your blog? Maybe you dont want him reading this.

Moshe said...

Maybe he should be reading this.
Maybe he'll learn something.

Off the Derech said...

Don't listen to your brother. He's just being a jerk.
Don't take his s---

Shorty said...

I blogged. You are a wise young lady. I don't think you should ever be silent.

The Babysitter said...

Moshe: right, but that only applies when you can't recognize the individual voices, when you can't put a face to them. Also, even with that, it would still make it forbidden for me to sing alone.

I wasn't aware that Hillel had chumras, I thought only Shamai was strict. But that would be an interesting gemara to look at.

Josh S: yea, so sometimes I tell him that if he doesn't want to hear me sing then he should go somewhere else, after all it's on him that he can't listen to me, not that I can't sing in front of him. So he does go away sometimes, or uses ear plugs.

MikeInMidwood: He doesn't know about the blog, he doesn't have a computer to find out about it anyways.

I didn't mean for the post to come out making him sound so bad. At first I was just going to write about the Halacha and that's it, then somehow it came out sounding more personal.

Moshe: I don't think he'll learn anything from reading this. Plus after all he is the one that is right here, seems like he has Halachic proof, so I just have to deal with it.

Off The Derech: he's really not that bad, he can be annoying sometimes, but here he's in the right.

Shorty: Thanx!

I saw what you wrote, and I will get back to it later. I have what to say on that.

Moshe said...

"but that only applies when you can't recognize the individual voices, when you can't put a face to them"
Not true. Where are you getting this from?
Both have chumras and gemora calls the person who follows both chumras a fool.

Just because he seems to have halachic proof, doesn't mean he actually does.

The Babysitter said...

Moshe: that's what I remember learning, that you can be lenient if it's a group because of that. Like by camp, the head director would be there in the dining room and would hear us singing, but it was ok cause he couldn't see who we were and that it was too many voices, that you can't recognize a voice.

Ok, that makes sense.

So unless I have Halachic proof and a Rabbi to back me up, then he's got it. It's like "Asor until proven mutar"

Moshe said...

Did they just tell you that or bring a source?

The Babysitter said...

Moshe: I'm not sure, I never paid attention to sources.

tembow said...

I had a Halacha teacher who told us that if our brothers ever say they can't listen to us sing, then they can't eat cholent on shabbos. cuz it's the same person who is matir both. lol :)

Shorty said...

Ok so here's a question - during Tefillah, i learned, we need to be "loud enough" to hear's too loud as to not "offend"?

Moshe said...

Too loud is when your not Jewish neighbors call the police because they think you're doing animal, or human, sacrifices.

The Babysitter said...

Tembow: I like your answer! :-)

Shorty: I always learned that you have to daven by moving your lips and actually saying the words, and not just reading the davening. When I picture "loud enough" I would imagine it would mean that you yourself can hear it, and it's possible that when you whisper to yourself you so to speak hear the words, without even making a sound. During Shemona Esrei it can be very disturbing to hear people's loud whispering. Picture wearing headphones, it should be loud enough that you hear it, without others hearing it.

Moshe: funny, that would sound like a loud scream

Shorty said...

I was just "hung up" on, on a remain nameless, ask a rabbi type of site...i was told that if i wanted to say my Shabbat Zmirot or B. Hamazon out loud, i can go to another room. I was told that men need to be protected from out voices, they are too vulnerable. Really? Guys?

I don't know, i've been to some reform bat mitvahs, and various services, some even run by a woman Rabbi. I can't say that i ever saw the men ever run into some crazed uncontrolled frenzy.

My Grandfather, bless his soul, seemed to be ok when my grandma, bless her soul, prayer along side him at the Shabbat table.

As a matter of fact, the Rabbi leading the Shabbat dinners i attend, and his wife practices covered head etc, has no issues with the mixed men and women singing Shabbat Zmirot etc either. In fact, i don't think i've seen any of the men lose control.

and i assure you, the women are plenty loud, including the Rabbi's wife.

The Babysitter said...

Shorty: Thanx for sharing the information you got.

So I think the whole protection of guys control, is as a precaution, a fence. Not that every guy litteraly would go crazy at hearing a woman's voice. But rather we don't want to take chances.

Plus the Yeshivish men, who are strict in a lot of stuff, barely come in contact with woman, so for them The singing can have an effect on them. For those that became desensitized and are used to woman, wouldn't loose control from hearing the voice of a woman.

There are different types of groups of Jews, with different ways of leading their life. It's a more "modern" way to have both men and woman singing zemiros together.

The Machmir Yeshivish people, wouldn't have it that way. Not to say that one way is bad or good, it's just different. According to one the other one seems crazy and visa versa.

Shorty said...

in this blog

he explains how the onus is on men to avoid hearing a woman if you are in your home and you sing, its up to your bro to go deal with it (in theory anyway)

i also found an interesting lecture (its linked in my blog post)

frumskeptic said...

Seriously, your brother is insane!

From what I learned way back in HS, is that a guy cannot walk infront of two woman, because they may both be a nidda, and its like impure or s/t.

If that is true, there should be *NO* reason why a brother cannot walk in between his mom and sister. Its like how he can still hug/kiss you guys. Its not nidda in that way.

Similarly with singing. It takes a sick individual to find his sisters singing so untznius that he wants to grab her...

frumskeptic said...

i meant inbetween two woman, not infront!

harry-er than them all said...

fake halacha strikes again!
in judaism the question is why should it be assur, not why is it muttar.
please do the world a favor and sing to your hearts content.
and as R' Nachman Mi'Breslov said: two people talking at the same time is the most irritating sound. but two people singing can make the most beautiful harmonies!

The Babysitter said...

Shorty: Thanks so much for sharing the Link It looks like he understands Halacha and woman which is perfect.

"There is no obligation for a woman to refrain from singing and no expectation that a woman should stifle her need to sing: sometimes, a man will have to make himself scarce."

That made me so happy! That is exactly how I felt, that I was being stifled.

"In a desensitised world, kol ishah seems quaint, almost absurd. Yet it enables us to understand just how delicate our level of awareness should be. It is a tragedy that most men today claim to find nothing erotic in a woman’s singing voice, something that is natural and healthy. Observing kol ishah is one way to rekindle lost sensitivities, enabling us in turn to invest more of ourselves in our special relationships."

That's how I feel too! I was always taught how it's good to have sensitivities.

The Babysitter said...

FrumSkeptic: lol, he's really not that bad!

yea, so I forgot the reasons for it. But that makes sense.

About the hugging and kissing part though, I once learned in Seminary about which relatives you can hug and kiss. Brothers are allowed, but it says that you shouldn't, cause if you do, then it would be foolish. I have a whole sheet in Hebrew about this, also in it was the concept of shaking hands. If some important person sticks out their hand for you to shake...

With singing, he showed me from the Mishnah Brurah that it says a man can't hear a nidah sing. He interprets that to mean any female, even a sister. He said a sister even more so, because they are one of the Arayos that you can't have relations with.

The Babysitter said...

Harry-er than them all: yea, I know, I was kind of joking when I said that before.

Thanx, I wish it was so easy. But now that I have sources and proof that it's not my obligation not to sing, then perhaps I can sing after all.

Nice quote.

Thanx for stopping by.

nmf #7 said...

If you're interested- I once looked up this very topic in Halichos Bas Yisroel- and in R' Falk's book- there are varying minhagim on how to interpret the halacha. (But people gave such wonderful answers here I feel like my 2 cents aren't really needed!)

Lion of Zion said...

there are certainly sources to permit women singing זמירות. a good overview (of both sides) is

also, iirc hakham ovadia yosef explained that when the שכינה is present (such as when singing זמירות) we don't have to worry about being aroused. or something like that? i would look it up now to double check, but i won't because

a) your brother does come out looking pretty bad and you should probably take down this post

b) i doubt you're brother would care about any sources that disagree as he has his own to the contrary. (although i don't see how these sources let him be so chutzpadik to your mother. i guess whatever concerns he has about קול אשה trumps כבוד אם)

The Babysitter said...

NMF#7: I would be interested to know what it says there, thanx! More input is always welcome.

LionOfZion: Thanx for the Link

It says in there what I was saying before to Moshe:

"...Therefore listening to a female vocalist is forbidden only when the listener can see or is acquainted with her."

and Yea, I see that part about when words are holy and not meant for singing then you don't focus on the voice and then it's permitted. It said that also in the article shorty linked too.

It also says in there that R' Moshe Feinstein says that it applies to over the age of 11.

But again no mention of siblings anywhere, only the part of the woman being an erva and niddah.

a)maybe I'll edit it then, cause I don't mean for it to come out bad.

b)your right about that. I agree.

Shorty: about the davening and hearing yourself. I went to a shiur today, and he spoke about it, I'll put it in a new post for you.

Anonymous said... looks like your brother is taking the rule too literally. Next time he shushes you, maybe tell him that

The Babysitter said...

KT: yea, but I don't think he would listen.

Actually this Shabbos, for the first time I stuck up for my little sister when she wanted to sing, and I told my little brother that he can't tell her not to sing, but rather he should just go away if he doesn't want to hear.

As time goes on and I've read more sources on this all, I don't really mind it so much.

Anonymous said...

Good for you for sticking up for your sis!!

The Babysitter said...

KT: Thanx!

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