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I was watching the Macabeats D'ror Yikra where they use cups as instruments to keep the beat and enhance the way the song sounds. Obviously this was not filmed on Shabbos (Duh!) but I was curious if there were any aspects of the way they sing the song and keep time and enhance the sound with their hands and cups that would be forbidden to do on Shabbos.

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Both answers are really good and reflect what we see in halacha vs. practice in the real world. However I think everyone agrees that it's preferable not to do this on Shabbos but not assur if you do. –  eramm Feb 11 at 12:53
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up vote 6 down vote accepted

The Mishna in Beitza 5:2 teaches that one may not clap their hands or slap their thigh, lest they come to make or fix instruments (Rashi to Beitza 36a - keeping the beat this way will lead to simcha and song [which will lead to music and instruments]).

ולא מספקין, ולא מרקדין, ולא מטפחין.

The Shulchan Aruch O.C. 339:3 extends this to banging with nuts, meaning even beyond musical instruments.

The Rama there cites Tos. in Beitza 30a who says that today we don't know how to fix instruments, so the concern does not apply. The Mishna Berura 339:10 says not to rely on this.

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What does clapping one's hands have to do with fixing an instrument? Also, it seems to me that chassidim often clap their hands during negunim. Do they have a different tradition? –  Bruce James Feb 10 at 19:31
    
Clapping will lead to a "jovial" atmosphere which will lead to dancing and playing music. Chassidim may follow the opinion of Tosefos that since we don't know how to make them, it's ok. I can't really speak for Chassidim. –  YEZ Feb 10 at 19:32
    
@BruceJames I edited in the explanation of how it leads to making an instrument –  YEZ Feb 10 at 19:35
    
Thanks for the explanation. I'm not sure I see the logic, but now I know I might have to bring it up with Rashi in the next world. It seems to me that an expansion of Tosafos is logical today, in that today many people don't have access to musical instruments or are skilled in playing one. –  Bruce James Feb 10 at 19:43
    
@BruceJames Rashi is just explaining the Gemara, which says explicitly the reason of coming to fix/make instruments. You may not appreciate the logic for exactly the reason Tos' mentions - we don't do this so much today. Rashi does not necessarily argue with Tos' about today - Rashi was only explaining the Gemara as it appears. –  YEZ Feb 10 at 19:45
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Rabbi Daniel Mann discusses this question and concludes that it is better not to use cups as instruments, however there are are those that would permit it.

Back to your cups. Cups are not a musical instrument. Are cups on a table worse than hands on a table, considering that, either way, the table is a makeshift drum? (Unlike most drums, a bongo drum is played by hands on an instrument). They might be slightly worse, as hands hitting many things, including each other, produce noise, so hands on a table may be compared to clapping, while cups on a table more closely resemble a makeshift musical instrument (see Shulchan Aruch, OC 339:3). Importantly, the lenient practice is regarding hands, not instruments, on the table (Bnei Banim I:12). However, since some rabbis would permit the cups and most rabbis do not protest when people do something similar (i.e., banging with hands), any step you might take to avoid confusion is, perhaps laudable, but not mandated.

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