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I'm looking for sources for the ideas that either a singer, composer or style of music can infuse a spiritual influence in a song, which would then influence the listener.

The only sources that I am currently familiar with are Rabbi Nachman in Likutei Maran, and the Gemarah crediting the fact that Achar would constantly sing Greek songs as a reason for him becoming a heretic.

I personally don't see any proof from the Gemarah as Greek songs were likely actually infused with Greek philosophy in their lyrics and that could be what the Gemarah meant.

Does anyone have any other sources?

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  • My understanding of that Gemara is that Acher would sing the songs of those who destroyed the Beis Hamikdash and massacred the Jews. Just like many Jews nowadays don't listen to Wagner because of his association with Nazis.
    – N.T.
    Dec 12, 2021 at 2:35
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    Do we really need a proof that music can influence people. It seems fairly obvious to me.
    – N.T.
    Dec 12, 2021 at 2:36
  • I agree it's obvious that music can influence people. Music with lyrics can convey any kind of message and music obviously can affect the listener's mood. However, I don't find it obvious that the composer/singer/style itself can put some sort of spiritual influence in the song that will affect the listener. Dec 12, 2021 at 4:07
  • Welcome to MiYodeya Binyamin and thanks for this first question. Great to have you learn with us!
    – mbloch
    Dec 12, 2021 at 4:21
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2 Answers 2

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For another source that directly touches on your question about the the spiritual influence of music, see the fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe, R. Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn (1880-1950). In his Likkutei Dibburim (vol. 1, ch. 4, Kislev 20, no. 5), he extends a concept from the Yerushalmi to get to music composition, writing:

״האומר שמועה בשם אומרה יראה כאילו בעל השמועה עומד לעדו״

כשחוזרים על דבר תורה מתאחדים עם הנפש־רוח־נשמה של בעל השמועה וכשמענים ניגון של בעל השמועה מתאחדים עם החיה־יחידה של בעל השמועה

"Anybody who quotes somebody should consider it as if the author of the quote stood before him" (Yerushalmi, Shab. 1:2) When one repeats a Dvar Torah, one unites with the nefesh-ruach-neshama soul of the scholar. Likewise, when one sings a melody, they unite with the chaya-yechida soul of the composer.

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We find in Kings that music can bring someone to a state of prophecy:

וְעַתָּ֖ה קְחוּ־לִ֣י מְנַגֵּ֑ן וְהָיָה֙ כְּנַגֵּ֣ן הַֽמְנַגֵּ֔ן וַתְּהִ֥י עָלָ֖יו יַד־יְהוָֽה׃
But now bring me a minstrel. And it came to pass, when the minstrel played, that the hand of the Lord came upon him.

The Talmud interprets this to mean that music can bring one to a state of happiness, and happiness is necessary to prophecy.

We also find by King Saul that music can bring one out of an unhealthy state of mind:

וְהָיָ֗ה בִּֽהְי֤וֹת רֽוּחַ־אֱלֹהִים֙ אֶל־שָׁא֔וּל וְלָקַ֥ח דָּוִ֛ד אֶת־הַכִּנּ֖וֹר וְנִגֵּ֣ן בְּיָד֑וֹ וְרָוַ֤ח לְשָׁאוּל֙ וְט֣וֹב ל֔וֹ וְסָ֥רָה מֵעָלָ֖יו ר֥וּחַ הָרָעָֽה׃
And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Sha᾽ul, that David took a lyre, and played with his hand: so Sha᾽ul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him.

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    Neither of these sources are about the composer/singer/style having an influence. Dec 12, 2021 at 4:12
  • As far as I know, the Bible doesn't deal with musical styles.
    – N.T.
    Dec 12, 2021 at 5:19
  • How is it רוח אלהים is translated as a bad spirit? At first glance you would think it to be a holy spirit?
    – larry909
    Dec 12, 2021 at 7:25
  • @larry909 See the context
    – N.T.
    Dec 12, 2021 at 11:02
  • @N.T. why in the beginning of the verse it uses the term Ruach Elokim and later on Roach Ra'ah?
    – larry909
    Dec 12, 2021 at 14:54

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