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As a woman, I am mindful of the need to avoid putting Jewish men in inevitable situations of kol isha (hearing a woman's singing voice). However, I have heard many interpretations of this law, and I don't know which one(s) people actually follow.

Are the majority of mainstream Orthodox men machmir about a) hearing groups of (3+) women; b) hearing women in recordings...or both, or neither? In the interests of avoiding the serious aveira of lifnei iver, should women always assume they are (or should be) machmir about both?

  • Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/18263 – msh210 Dec 13 '15 at 3:30
  • Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/29378/… – SAH Dec 13 '15 at 20:29
  • Big part of my question that has not been addressed (maybe needs to be asked separately): From a lifnei iver perspective, arguably it doesn't matter which interpretation he holds by...the question is whether I am (actually) making him sin. So, from this perspective, should I behave--with everyone--as though the strictest interpretation of the law were correct? – SAH Dec 14 '15 at 5:16
  • @SAH Making someone do something they don't want to do is still bad/mean/wrong. If I find peanut butter to be gross, it would be wrong of you to trick me into eating it, even if the peanut butter is kosher. – Double AA Dec 14 '15 at 15:43
  • @DoubleAA Yes, of course. And kal v'chomer if it is the halacha. So what do you think--should women be (universally) machmir on this? – SAH Dec 14 '15 at 17:59
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Depends where on the Orthodox spectrum.

I'd say the vast majority of college-educated men will be lenient on recorded music, at least if stuck in such a situation. (R' Ovadiah Yosef zt'l also explicitly ruled leniently on recorded music, unless it's someone you know personally.)

As for groups of women singing -- the Seridei Aish defended the practice that had been common in Berlin of women joining in with the singing of Zemiros at the shabbos table. If it was a group of only women singing (e.g. at a shabbos kallah), my impression is a lot more people would be uncomfortable with that.

Here's a very rough sociological rule of thumb among shomer shabbos men:

  • College degree? Probably okay with recorded kol isha.
  • Wears a wedding band all the time? Probably okay with women singing along at the shabbos table, or in shul.
  • Wife doesn't cover her hair? Probably okay going to musicals or the opera.
  • Thanks, this type of answer was exactly what I was looking for. With recorded music--does it matter if it's a singer that everyone knows/has seen? – SAH Dec 13 '15 at 19:57
  • Also--Your answer seems to imply(?) that there is somewhat more leniency with recordings than with 3+ women singing (alone) together. Is this correct? – SAH Dec 13 '15 at 19:58
  • Last thing (sorry to beleaguer you, but you seem to have good insight on this): what is your opinion on whether women who want to avoid lifnei iver should avoid putting any Jewish man, regardless of what they follow, near either a recording or a group situation? – SAH Dec 13 '15 at 20:00
  • Have you seen ROY's second responsum (in Yabia Omer) on the topic, where he adjusts the conclusion in his first one? – Double AA Dec 14 '15 at 0:06
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    @SAH Recorded - Rav Ovadiah says not a problem unless you know her personally. So Taylor Swift on the radio is okay (well vis-a-vis this halacha!), but a recording of my neighbor's wife is not. Groups - I'd say a large segment of MO Machmir and even Yeshivish Modern is more okay with radio than a group of real-live women [unless it's men singing davening or zemiros along]. Per last question: I'd always ask before singing in-person; I'd ask before turning on the radio if it's a man who won't shake a woman's hand in a business setting. – Shalom Dec 14 '15 at 0:40
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a) Rav Falk in Oz vehadar levusha says no difference between amount of women singing. I don't actually know any men who differentiate between amount of women singing b)I know of men who are meikel re recordings, but mainstream charedi is to be machmir and indeed cd's done by girls choirs/singers usually have a halachah warning saying only women should listen. point to be aware of:1. the problem of kol isha becomes even greater when you know how the lady singer looks like 2. most kol isha is anyway goyshe music so it's anyway problem of nivel peh usually anyway

For the record i live in a "derech eretz" community.

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    Rav Falk is describing a far-right perspective. Tradition, the journal of the relatively-centrist (or center-left, depending on your perspective) Rabbinical Council of America, published a piece from Rabbi Y H Henkin critiquing the book in rather serious terms. – Shalom Dec 13 '15 at 17:59
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    @lichvodshomayim Just out of curiosity, what is a "derech eretz" community? Does this mean balabatish? – SAH Dec 14 '15 at 19:21
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i think that in general you will find that people in "orthodox" circles follow the following rule in many situations: "Unless I specifically know it's permitted, it's prohibited." And i believe qol isha is one of those situations. So, as Shalom pointed out, many college educated Jews who looked into the halachoth regarding the issue will more than likely not frown upon hearing a group of 3+ women singing because at that point it becomes to impossible to distinguish which voice belongs to which girl, and therefore circumvents and sexual immorality. And there are many rulings that say that ANY recording of women is not considered a woman's voice, such as the ruling of Ovadia Yosef.

Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l rules (in his Responsa Yabia Omer, Volume 1, Chapter 6 and Volume 9, Chapter 108, Section 43) that according to the letter of the law, one may act leniently and listen to a woman singing over the radio and certainly in a recorded format from a while before. Additionally, this is especially true if one has never seen how the woman singing looks since one has never looked at her or her picture. Nevertheless, even if one has seen the woman singing, since this is not the woman’s actual voice, this is not prohibited.

However, Ovadia Yosef is a renowned Sephardi posek. Which means your typical "orthodox ashkenazi community" might not follow his ruling, or might have never even heard of it. Or they might follow their own Ashkenazi rulings that disregard Ovadia Yosef completely:

On the other hand, Hagaon Harav Eliezer Yehuda Waldenberg zt”l took issue with this ruling on Maran zt”l, for although even according to his opinion, hearing a woman’s voice over the radio is not prohibited, nevertheless, how is it that Maran zt”l ruled so leniently for the public (as a blanket ruling)? Certainly, listening to women singing would cause individuals to have improper thoughts which is a Torah prohibition itself! Thus, according to Rav Waldenberg, one must rule stringently and not allow room for leniency when there is cause for the public to stumble.

Source for both: http://halachayomit.co.il/en/ReadHalacha.aspx?HalachaID=3688

But i think the most likely situation you will find is people not really knowing what is permissible and what isn't, and so they might be opposed to hearing any woman sing because they aren't sure what the halacha is. And so even if you've checked all the halachot, studied them in depth, you might still find a large percentage of people who thinks you're making them sin by playing the radio.

And so if you are trying to "prevent" other men from sinning via qol isha, then this is a more complex subject that has to do more with "who are you with" rather than "what the halacha is." Because there are lots of very reputable halachic sources on these issues, and communities/individuals just kind of pick and choose between them, or are ignorant of them all and just say no to all female singing.

A side example would be the following: i follow the kashruth rulings of Rabbi Yitzchak Abadi, which means i can buy most of my food from any regular supermarket. However, MANY orthodox Jews won't buy anything that doesn't have a hecsher on the label. So when it comes to feeding Orthodox Jews in my house i have discovered that even though i could be feeding them completely kosher food, they might not consider it kosher. So what i do is i tell them in advance that i follow the rulings of Chacham Yitzchak Abadi, a famous Orthodox posek, to give them enough time to research him and come to a decision. And then if my guests are okay with that, i feed them.

  • "And so if you are trying to 'prevent' other men from sinning via qol isha, then this is a more complex subject that has to do more with 'who are you with' rather than 'what the halacha is." Right. So why did you waste all that space discussing what the Halacha is? – Double AA Dec 14 '15 at 1:31
  • @DoubleAA because that was part of her question. – Aaron Dec 14 '15 at 1:32
  • ??? I don't see that. She just asks which communities are or are not generally machmir about various details. – Double AA Dec 14 '15 at 1:33
  • @Aaron Thanks for this answer. I guess I kind of question the idea that that "if you are trying to 'prevent' other men from sinning via qol isha, then this is a more complex subject that has to do more with 'who are you with' rather than 'what the halacha is." Although I see what you're saying--that there are a lot of reasonable interpretations, so people just pick from those--is there any reason that I should not be machmir around everyone? (Not in case they too are machmir...but because being machmir is the only way to be sure not to cause sin) – SAH Dec 14 '15 at 6:32
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat. – Aaron Dec 14 '15 at 7:11

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