Posted on | March 2, 2006 | By Rabbi Alter Klein | 75 Comments
This essay is not going to discuss the kabbalistic outlook on secular music or its effects. I leave that for others greater than I. I realize that the topic of listening to secular music is a very touchy topic with people. It can get heated. I am just going to share my own thoughts regarding the subject of listening to our past-music.
Going into Wal-Mart or Walgreen’s can be a trip down memory lane. I am guaranteed to hear some songs from my past. In fact, many of them I can still sing the words to, when I hear the music. What happens when a person hears music from their past? We know that the mind (our memory) keeps most things in storage. It is next to impossible to completely rid the memory of stored information. Forgetting something doesn’t mean it is erased, just misplaced or buried. As the music flows into our ears, the mind recalls the previous times when we heard that particular song. The music is a trigger for thoughts from the past. Whether it was a tznius time or not, kosher or treif. Granted, not every song we ever heard is associated with an “unkosher” time; however my personal jukebox doesn’t know how to differentiate between the two. This I see as one of the biggest problems with listening to secular music from the past.
The next major problem is more than obvious. The words and/or themes to most present music and probably past music would probably be considered “treif”. Whether they are curses or themes about sex, drugs and crime. Call me a prude; we are supposed to be an Am Kodesh. Neivel peyh(cursing) is considered terrible by Chazal. We can say well “I only listen to the music, not the words”, however the words are put into our memory banks and they will affect our subconscious as well as conscious. We can have all the cognitive dissonance about this nuance all we want. It is a fact. Radioactive waste pollutes the environment. No one wants to drink toxic water so why to we listen to toxic words and themes. Think about it, how many “religious” people who listen to secular music, would ever look at pornography or the like? Is it any different if it is set to nice music? Would we even have a thought to think it is permitted?
Now with all this said, I realize how hard it is to stop listening to secular music. For me, it was a very difficult task. I had been to many rock concerts in the past and I loved music. I still do. Baruch Hashem I found very good Jewish music that can stimulate me in the right ways.
I am not advocating that people should give up their musical instruments or their love for music. The opposite. Channel it into kedusha.
The question we need to always ask ourselves is: Does this action bring me closer to Hashem?