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During the period of Sefirat Ha'Omer Jews are prohibited from listening to music.

If one is working in an office and find it more pleasurable (or perhaps just less dull) to listen to music as he works, is there a heter to listen to music in such a scenario?

I remember seeing a heter but I am not sure about the particulars and the criteria.

  • IIRC, there is a related M.Y. question regarding listening to music during the 9 Days to help the baby sleep. There, an answer stated that the main problem w/ listening to music had to do with gainig pleasure from it, where that was prohibited, but otherwise, it was OK. Sounds like a similar situation for sefirah. Here, you're trying to gain pleasure from listening to the music (indirectly, but just slightly). Offhand, it seems like this would be problematic. – DanF Apr 13 '15 at 17:53
  • IIRC the Bach writes a heter for oar-pushers (or whatever they are called) who work to a rhythm. I think this was for the general prohibition of music, cf. Gittin 7a, but I imagine this would be comparable. – mevaqesh Apr 13 '15 at 18:07
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The allowance you reffer to is mentioned as a hetter concerning the acceptance not to sing as a zecher lichurban. Ever. There are specific instances where it applies and where it does not. See Shulchan Aruch o'ch 560 siff 3 and mishna berurah 13. Seemingly working in an office would be more comparable to a sheppard singing, or a woman doing her housework, which would not be allowed, only situations like the dockworkers and cattle workers was allowed in the gemara, as their singing actually helped them work and it was not just for pleasure.

To apply any of these laws to Sefira, and the three weeks for that matter, is a chidush, but it seems the minhag of most people is to only keep those laws about music during these two periods. There may be proof for this 'minhag' found in hilchos sefira siman 493 m.b. #3, where he mentions that during Sefira 'certainly one should not engage in dancing for pleasure'. This statement is hard to understand unless we assume as we did that the music laws were misappropriated from being a general constant law, and taken to apply only during certain times. But note that in the Shar Hatzion he brings a Pri Migadim who is unsure if one can engage in such behavior during the entire Sefira, not just the half he keeps! Not like what the minhag seems to be. So the minhag to apply the issur to music is a confused and confusing one.

The issur for music during sefira is not clear, but it is practiced. The hetter you mention probably would not apply to your case. However as noted you might not need a hetter:)

This is the info. Now take this to your L.O.R. and see what he has to say. Don't forget to let the community here know.

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I asked Rav Chizkiyahu Nevenzahl shlit"a current Chief Rabbi of the old city in Jerusalem this very question. He answered that it is permitted to listen to classical music in the background to facilitate the work your area doing. He also made a point of mentioning that listening to Accapela is forbidden and is considered worse than classical music despite it being comprised of actual instruments.

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    How do you define classical music? Any music with instruments but no vocals? – Ani Yodea Jul 7 '15 at 14:42

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