Is it permitted for Bnei Torah to go to a classical music concert?

  • What music? Handel's "Messiah" (l'havdil) would probably be different from a program of Salamone Rossi. Vocal or instrumental? Dec 21, 2014 at 22:17
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    Is there a reason you suspect "Bnei Torah" are different from regular Jews?
    – Double AA
    Dec 22, 2014 at 1:55

6 Answers 6


I know this should be posted as a comment on Yirmiyahu's answer but 1. there is not enough room and 2. I believe this requires real hora'ah for clarification:

I question the Feldheim translation of "s'hok" as amusement based on the fact that the "Batei Tiatros" (theaters) and "kikusaos" (circuses) were of a certain ilk. The ancient circus (and maybe the modern one as well) devaluated human life through risky and sometimes downright deadly performances. The ancient theater was essentialy a place of gathering to witness re-enactments of legends of pagan mythology which were full of immoral and degrading behavior. It is easy to see how they can fit into the category of "Moshav Leitzim". A classical music concert is in no way making light of anything important. Si'hok means laughter and in this context, laughter of leitzanus. I think this is an example of a question which requires real hora'ah from a poseik.


Yirmiyahu has presented (in my opinion) a conclusive case that Feldheim's translation of the Mishna Berurah is in keeping with the intent and usage of the original. He has also presented the Seridei Aish's opinion. Barry has presented room for other approaches to understanding Hazal based on Rishonim. We have heard, albeit not in writing, that Rav Scheinberg disagrees with the MB and SA. We do not know who asked him and in what context.

We need to investigate if there are any "contemporaries" of the MB or SA that argued (barring reports of Gedolim having season passes in their youth, since, yes, it could be they did so (gasp!) against halacha and then such reports could fall into the category of Lashon Horah on the dead without toeles, which is under a ban by the Rema).

If there are no contemporaries that argue we get into the (sticky) question of whether the MB is accepted as the Poseik Aharon on this matter.

  • The Seridei Eish even spoke about having a classical music concert in a synagogue (when Germany banned Jews from attending concert houses). Another issue is if there are female vocalists; while Rabbi Isaac Hutner had a season subscription to the Berlin opera, the Gemara says a woman's singing voice can be immodest (might depend on circumstances ...)
    – Shalom
    May 4, 2010 at 19:01
  • I fail to see how you can question the translation without providing sources for your claims. Contemporary Poskim apply this issur to modern theaters and sports arenas.
    – Yirmeyahu
    May 5, 2010 at 2:43
  • Again, I think we have differing views of "Contemporary Poskim." I believe you're only hearing the more machmir opinions. Not much more to debate; have to leave it at that.
    – Shalom
    May 5, 2010 at 5:18
  • There isn't anything to debate unless you can bring opposing sources. Like I've said, I would love to see them.
    – Yirmeyahu
    May 5, 2010 at 5:42
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    Shalom, what is your source for that tidbit about Rav Hutner?
    – Yahu
    May 6, 2010 at 17:40

There are a couple of issues that must be taken into consideration, whether music is permitted and "moshav leitzim":

Regarding the first issue see Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 561:3 which discusses the prohibition against listing to musical instruments in remembrance of the destruction of the Beis HaMikdosh. The Rema brings a number of qualifications to this, and the Mechaber himself notes that the custom is to be lenient regarding singing praises of Hashem while drinking wine. The Seridei Eish seems to understand the prohibition against musical instruments as being the main opinion all though he notes that in Germany this wasn't really on the radar, he nevertheless prohibits holding a secular concert in shul (Seridei Eish O.C. 16:20). Rav Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe O.C. 1:166) seems to favor being strict but notes a number of considerations for leniency, though not all would apply to secular music.

While the most obvious issue, perhaps, is the issue of instruments there is another issue. Concerts are highly problematic because of the prohibition of Moshav Leitzim, but ask your Rav:

Mishneh Berurah 307:59 (Translation from the Feldheim Edition)

“Because of the prohibition against participation in a gathering of scoffers.” One certainly transgress this prohibition if he goes to theaters and circuses [which are places of amusement [שְׂחוֹק] as stated in Avodah Zarah, 18b] or participates in other pastimes.

It is clear that Moshav Leitzim is a seperate prohibition from bitul Torah (which is why it is called by a different name) but they are related. The Gemara in Avodah Zara 18b says that events and activities which are "moshav leitzim" bring one to bittul Torah. See also Rashi on Tehillim 1:1 and Igros Moshe Y.D. 4 simon 11.

Moshav Leitzim, we can see from the poskim, does not require that the entertainers engage in leitzanus per se. This can be illustrated by the well known piece from Pirkei Avos (3:3) about people sitting together without divrei Torah, it is called moshav leitzim without any qualification on what IS spoken about. Rebbinu Yonah, as I understand it, comments that their neglecting to do so makes a "mockery" of limud haTorah.

The application of this to contemporary events is not, basicly, a disputed ruling:

“And this is the ruling for one who goes to theaters and circuses which are places of amusement and pastime.” (Aruch HaShulchan 307:9)

See also the Magen Avraham 307:22 and Chayei Adam Hilchos T’fillah u’Brachos 63:17.

From these sources we see that the prohibition applies even to Jewish events (M.A.224:3, Be'er Heitev 224:2, M.B. 224:3). From this, and the Gemara in AZ 18b itself we can infer that these events a problematic even when there isn't avodah zara or violence.

Indeed we see this prohibition brought down by various contemporary authorities regarding to current entertainment events, see Igros Moshe O.C. 2:95, Shemiras Shabbos K'Hilchasa 16 footnote 25. While other activities including books and games can fall under the category of moshav leitzim, the dynamic at work with circus and theaters, and by extension concerts, seems to be one of passive entertainment in a group setting. This, even with my expansion, is not exhaustive in explaining the issues, but I think it is clear that one should not make decisions about what constitutes "kosher" relaxation based of of speculative "explanations" about what constitutes moshav leitzim. And while it has been noted that Rav Chaim Pincus Sheinberg shlita has given a lenient p'sak it is very difficult to reconcile it with the Poskim (Divrei Chachamim 5:42) nor is it clear that every form of contemporary entertainment would come under this heter, although presumably .

We should not make the mistake of ignoring the explicit rulings in halachah in favor of, at times dubious, stories about Rabbis doing this or that (especially when young):

איו למדין הלכה לא מפני למוד ולט מפי מעשה עד שיאמרו לו הלכה למעשה -בבא בתרא קל:ב

A warning which should also serve to remind us not to render decisions based on what we read here but rather to consult a Rav.

A range of classic and contemporary sources which discuss Moshav Leitzim and entertainment

Any lenient sources are more than welcome but it has been my observation that individuals trying to present their own line of reasoning about this topic end of permitting that which the poskim have prohibited.

  • See Yahu's response: mi.yodeya.com/questions/1352/going-to-non-jewish-concert/…
    – Isaac Moses
    May 4, 2010 at 18:52
  • A concert is not a Moshav Leitzim. There is no scoffing or any other talking for that matter. Everyone simply sits and enjoys the music. Perhaps it is Bittul Torah, but that is highly dependent on each individual, their abilities, their patience, their nerves and a host of other factors. The instrumental music issue you raised is valid, but I would not characterize it as highly problematic, as you did.
    – Barry
    May 4, 2010 at 21:53
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    Barry, my answer was meant to be sharp but it sounds more personal than it was intended, I apologize if it came/comes across that way to you. My point is simply that this isn't simply a matter of personal opinion, it is a halachic issue.
    – Yirmeyahu
    May 5, 2010 at 5:27
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    Yirmiyahu, you raise good points and have brought sources to back your position up as mainstream. Since we do not have a Sanhedrin and there are those (such as Rav Scheinberg) who dissent, I still suggest one ask his poseik.
    – Yahu
    May 5, 2010 at 17:17
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    "I still suggest one ask his poseik" And I did as well prior to bringing any sources.
    – Yirmeyahu
    May 6, 2010 at 2:56

Based on anecdotal evidence, yes, one is permitted to attend not only a classical music concert, but also an opera with singing.

As noted in Hillel Goldberg's From Berlin to Jerusalem, Rabbis Yitzchak Hutner and Joseph Soloveitchik attended operas and concerts. In fact, according to Rabbi Rakeffet-Rothkoff, Rav Hutner even had a subscription to the opera in Berlin.

Rabbi Soloveitchik held that the prohibition of kol isha applied only in situations that would engender improper thoughts. Indeed, Rabbi Soloveitchik attended the opera, and considered it to be “advanced culture”, and that far from being prohibited (for containing kol isha), that its attendance was actually to be encouraged. (Source: http://www.jewishideas.org/articles/new-hearing-kol-ishah near the bottom)

Re "...reports of Gedolim having season passes in their youth, since, yes, it could be they did so (gasp!) against halacha and then such reports could fall into the category of Lashon Horah..."

  1. As mentioned above, the Rabbis who attended the opera did not think it was against Halakha to do so.
  2. Rabbi Rakeffet-Rothkoff is a highly respected Rosh Yeshiva.
  3. For additional reasons why attending the opera does not violate kol isha, please see http://www.aishdas.org/avodah/vol23/v23n106.shtml#01
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    anecdotal evidence for Halacha is an interesting approach is that a standard for psak? Nov 29, 2011 at 5:37
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    @simchashatorah, no one should be taking p'sak from this Web site, anyway.
    – msh210
    Nov 29, 2011 at 9:23
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    @simchastorah It is a standard method for psak. It's usually called מעשה רב.
    – Double AA
    May 26, 2014 at 3:50
  • How does this answer the question?
    – Double AA
    Dec 22, 2014 at 1:58

Is one allowed to listen to non-jewish music altogether? According to R' Ovadia Yosef in Abia Omer one can. However, many say that since the non-Jew who wrote the music imparts his soul into the music, it shouldn't be listened to. (If you look up R' Yosef's tshuva, you will notice that he gives the hetter based on the fact that many great kabbalists listened to non-Jewish music. Perhaps one can answer that since they were so holy, they weren't affected, while normal people would be).

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    Where is this Teshuva exactly? Sep 30, 2012 at 16:45

Yirmiyahu: No offense taken. You brought valid and relevant sources, while I haven't.

The plain meaning of Moshav Leitzim is the company of scoffers, see Radak on Tehillim (1,1). The mishna in Avos you quote isn't meant to contradict this meaning, rather it is derived from further on in that chapter, where it states "Only in the Torah of Hashem is his desire". So the root of the issue in that Mishna is Bittul Torah. If the gathering isn't Bittul Torah, say because it provides a way to relax after a stressful week, and it doesn't stray into Leitzonus or other prohibitions, such as a classical music concert, it is not a Moshav Leitzim.

See also Avodah Zara (18b) and Tosefta (ch. 2) where theaters and circuses are described as a Moshav Leitzim, specifically becuase of the Bittul Torah involved. Once again, if the Bittul Torah aspect is addressed, there's no Moshav Leitzim.

Essentially, I am arguing against a position that "there is no such thing as kosher entertainment". There is Bittul Torah at one extreme, there is Limud HaTorah at the other extreme, and there are a range of activites that lie in between.

  • Just adding quickly: the OP was asking about a "Ben Torah". I assume he means someone who is accustomed to using all his free time learning. For such a person, barring special circumstances, going to a classical music concert would constitute Bittul Torah, and therefore meets the definition of a Moshav Leitzim.
    – Barry
    May 5, 2010 at 17:21
  • See also SH"A Harav, Talmud Torah (3,6) who also explains that Moshav Leitzim is predicated on Bittul Torah. See also there (O"C 307 2) that if one enjoys idle talk it is permitted in moderation, but too much would be considered Moshav Leitzim. Clearly there is room for spending time relaxing or being entertained without it crossing into Bittul Torah. Every person must judge for himself, with the advice of a Rav, what constitutes Bittul Torah for him personally.
    – Barry
    May 5, 2010 at 17:28
  • R. Barry, moshav leitzim (it would seem) is related but in a way distinct from bittul Torah (for example it applies to ladies as well). The problem is that not only is it bittul Torah but it LEADS to more bittul Torah. The common thread I've seen, relevant to our case, is that passive entertainment in a group setting "raises issues" of moshav leitzim. Other entertainment, such as reading, can be moshav leitzim (it would seem) even individually, but it requires other issues (such as being habit forming, etc.). There is kosher entertainment but that doesn't mean much of it isn't problematic.
    – Yirmeyahu
    May 6, 2010 at 3:21
  • it would seem then, even Jewish concerts are not kosher according to this.
    – shoshana
    May 30, 2011 at 19:42

Another point which nobody has mentioned here yet:

Very often, classical music concerts also feature an operatic performance which often involves the prohibition of kol ishah. That would make it off limits for any Jewish male, even if not a ben Torah.

See Is it o.k. to watch "American Idol" during the Omer and the Three Weeks? for some relevant points.

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    While classical music does at times have vocals I think it was picked in the question specifically to avoid issues such as content and/or kol isha
    – Yirmeyahu
    May 6, 2010 at 2:58
  • Aren't all Jewish males considered B'nei Torah? Apr 25, 2012 at 19:32

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