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I understand that for many people, this is almost impossible to do - as long as you go shopping anywhere outside a Jewish neighborhood, or if you turn on the television, you will be exposed to Christmas music. Similarly, if you work in an office and someone puts on the easy listening station for people to listen to, you will be exposed to a LOT of Christmas music.

Assuming you're able to avoid actively seeking out such music (for example, not shopping at Macy's Department Store during this time of the year), are there any other halachic things a person should be aware of if there is the potential for being exposed to Christmas music? For example, are we enjoined not to watch a television show if there is the possibility of some Christmas music being featured?

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I cannot vouch for the accuracy of this document's content or anything else about the Web site it's on, but torahleadership.org/categories/04pamphlet_1.doc (MS Word format) discusses the permissibility of listening to such music, so tracking down the sources it cites may be worthwhile. –  msh210 Dec 2 '11 at 15:20
    
kind of related: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/2151/… –  Menachem Dec 2 '11 at 15:24
    
Not sure if this is relevant, but almost all of the popular Christmas music was composed by Jews. (Seriously.) See tabletmag.com/arts-and-culture/music/22910/… and interfaithfamily.com/arts_and_entertainment/popular_culture/… –  Shmuel Dec 4 '11 at 9:36
    
This question could (should?) be abstracted to all non-Jewish music with religious content\overtones. Which makes it a possible duplicate: Sources For Listening To/Not Listening to Non-Jewish Music –  Shmuel Dec 4 '11 at 10:10
    
Related: Going to Non-Jewish Concert –  Shmuel Dec 4 '11 at 10:33
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2 Answers 2

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein in Igrot Moshe Yore Deah vol 2 no 111 states:

  1. Music (with or without words) performed to honor a religious diety is prohibited.
  2. Music with words of religous praise are prohibited even when performed in a secular setting. No distinction is made regarding language or comprehension.
  3. Religious music without words of praise in a secular setting (aside from any problems associated with music in general) is permitted but R. Feinstein calls it a "davar mechuar" - an ugly/disgusting thing. The instruments used cannot be instruments generally used for religious purposes.

In addition, in responsa #56, R' Feinstein prohibits listening to Christian religious music.

(Source: http://ottmall.com/mj_ht_arch/v9/mj_v9i98.html#CWQ )


The Mishnah Berurah (53 s.k. 82), based on the Bach (Shu"t Bach haYeshanim 127), says it is permissible to listen to the song unless it was composed for\is primarily sung in Christian religious services.

Please see the responsa inside for details, and ask your LOR for an actual p'sak.


With regards to the possible influence this music could have if you're exposed to it, a writer on Chabad.org states that

On a more Kabbalistic plane, the fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that a composer of music invests his or her very self into the work. The music is an expression of the composer's soul, and listening to music connects the listener's soul to that of the composer.

Another website quotes the Mishna Berura (560 note 25 in Shaar HaTziyun, Laws of Tisha b'Av), who says in the name of the Shelah that non-Jewish tunes can have a negative influence on one's neshama, even if they don't understand the words. (This idea is also mentioned on AskMoses.com and on Ohr Sameach's website.)

The Chabad article continues

In light of this, do you really want to give yourself a soul-connection to just anyone? Especially if the composer is an individual whose spirituality and values are suspect at best?

(However, this sentiment should be tempered by the fact that almost all of the popular Christmas music was composed by Jews. See these articles for details.)


See also:

Halachipedia - Listening to Music (especially the "links" section) for the Halachot of listening to music in general.

Rambam's Commentary on the Mishna, Avot 1:17. Loosely translated and explicated here: http://www.torah.org/learning/pirkei-avos/chapter1-17.html

[The Halakhic portion of this answer is cross posted here.]

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I have not confirmed these sources (yet). I highly recommend that you look up the originals instead of relying on my comments. –  Shmuel Dec 5 '11 at 0:22
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Since exposure to Christmas music is just-about unavoidable, I’ve made sure to learn parodies of the more overtly-religious songs; what goes through my mind when I hear the melody is then letzeinusa d’avodah zarah and would presumably therefore be permitted. (Fans of the H. P. Lovecraft monster stories are a particularly good source of such parodies.)

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