I'm a BT and have gotten my bachelor's and master's in percussion performance. I started becoming observant during my master's and now I'm wondering how the future will be playing music and being a Torah-observant Jew. I know there are even questions about playing music at all, especially for not simchas, but what is the halacha about a woman playing an instrument in front of a man? Is this assur? Is it not tznius? Thank you in advance.
1I would say it really boils down to what the crowd's like– TrustMeI'mARabbiJun 22, 2017 at 3:56
But I would check out what the gig is like and if there are any questions, to be sure CYLOR– TrustMeI'mARabbiJun 22, 2017 at 3:57
4Welcome to Mi Yodeya Yael! Hopefully you have a successful career! There are a few things you should know about the the site and how it is different from some others. Consider reading this useful short Beginners' Guide about that. One vital point is that this site does not purport to present individualised authoritative guidance. It is important to address practical questions to a competent authority. Even citations to sources you see in an answer may or may not be relevant to your individual set of circumstances.– mevaqeshJun 22, 2017 at 6:38
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The Aruch Hashulchan (75:8) discusses the prohibition of a man hearing a woman singing, which is based on the statement of Shmuel in the Talmud (Berachot 24a)1:
קול באשה ערוה שנא' (שיר השירים ב, יד) כי קולך ערב ומראך נאוה
A woman’s [singing] voice is considered nakedness, [which he derives from the praise accorded a woman’s voice,] as it is stated: “Sweet is your voice and your countenance is alluring” (Song of Songs 2:14).
(Translation and elucidation from the William Davidson Talmud)
The Aruch Hashulchan concludes the discussion of this prohibition by saying that it does not apply to instrumental music:
ונראה דדוקא כשמשוררות בפיהן הוה איסור, ולא כשמנגנות על הכלי, דבזה לא שייך הרהור וערוה.
And it seems that it's specifically when [women] are singing with their mouths that there's a prohibition, but not when they are playing music with an instrument, as there, improper thoughts and nakedness are not involved.
1. Or perhaps Talmud Yerushalmi, Challa 12b, which cites a different Biblical prooftext. (Hat-tip: DoubleAA)
According to Rabbi Pesach Falk in Oz v'Hadar Lavusha (pg. 470, C5), there is no prohibition involved if the man cannot see her. Hearing her play a musical instrument involves no prohibition.
C-5. Women Doing Jobs That Attract Male Spectators: A man may hear music produced with musical instruments by a woman or a group of women. Since no female voice is involved, the issur of קול באשה ערוה does not apply (Aruch HaShulchan 75:8).
This also follows the view found in Halichos Bas Yisroel, vol. 1, pg.99, chap. 6:13
However, according to Rabbi Falk, there is a prohibition on the man to watch a woman play a musical instrument.
It is, however, ossur for men to observe women playing musical instruments because there is a general issur for women to exercise special skills in front of men as they thereby attract attention to their movements - see Teshuvas HaRadvaz 2:770 and Responsa Mishnah Halachos 6:25.
He bases this upon two sources. First, a responsum of Radvaz, (vol. 2, letter 770), which discusses the prohibition of a man walking behind a woman and explains that the reason for the prohibition is that seeing the woman's motion could lead to improper thoughts by the man.
Second, on the responsum of Rabbi Menashe Klein, the Ungvar Rebbe, who says there are two reasons for this prohibition. The first being based upon Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 560:3 which discusses the restrictions associated with remembering that the Temple in Jerusalem remains destroyed. And the second reason is that brought from the Radvaz above.
According to the Radvaz, the prohibition he discussed is not dependent upon whether the women are dressed modestly or not and is applicable in all places. It is only related to whether men are able to see and discern the actual movement of the women.
So, if some mechitza arrangement were made, it would not be a problem.
1I don't have the sefer, but what's the connection between a woman moving her body while walking and a women moving her arms (let's say) when playing an instrument?– robevJun 22, 2017 at 12:39
3@robev as usual the connection is likely Rav Falk's imagination, though here he's basically summarizing משנה הלכות 6:25, not that that responsum is any more convincing (that responsum even thinks (against Rav Elyashiv) that listening to one's Tehora wife play piano is forbidden!). Jun 22, 2017 at 12:50
2Ignored of course is the Terumat HaDeshen which argues on that Radvaz, and that the Tzitz Eliezer and R Shlomo Zalman Aurebach tend to agree with the former. blog.webyeshiva.org/applying-old-halachot-to-new-conditions Jun 22, 2017 at 13:18
1"there are two reasons for this prohibition. The first being based upon Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 560:3 which discusses the restrictions associated with remembering that the Temple in Jerusalem remains destroyed." Huh? Which prohibition are there two reasons for? That Halakha about remembering the Temple applies to all music. Nothing to do with the gender of the listener or the musician. Jun 22, 2017 at 15:37
1"there is a general issur for women to..." This is of course false (and absurd), since the Radbaz wasn't discussing a prohibition on women walking. Jun 22, 2017 at 15:42