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Because music is the quill of the heart and soul and has the intimate power to reach deep into a person, care must be taken which music to listen to. And this is not about how the music sounds -- whether it is light pop or heavy metal -- it is about the energy and the message invested into it by the composer. There are sublime songs composed by the classics that still carry non-sublime (impure, tumah) energy, and there are not such sublime songs composed by pure people, that carries kedusha, holiness.

This is the reason that emphasis is put on not listening to non-Jewish music, similar to non-Jewish philosophy. It has power and touches the intimate, and that's precisely why its can have such a powerful effect on us.

I must admit that this includes some songs in contemporary so-called "Jewish" music, that sometimes is just Jewish by virtue that it was sung by a Jew, but is anything but in its tone and tune. Especially strange are rock songs sung to Hebrew words and even psukim. Yet, consideration must be given also to the composer and singer or musician. In other words, it's not just the song that needs to be considered, but also the composer and singer, his/her state of mind, status, intentions etc.

So, you can have a very sublime song composed by a very non-sublime person and vice versa. Both elements affect the power of the song and its effect on us. This is also true in other areas of life, particularly ones that have power. Take sexuality, for instance. It is a most potent force that can be used in a very sanctified way toward the greatest heights, or it can be used in a most debased and destructive manner. Sometimes people who are far from sacred have a very powerful way of using their love, while purer people are not that developed in their love. This does not make the former more pure and the latter less pure. Its just part of, as you say, this chaotic world, where great strengths are sometimes found in the darkest places.

An important distinction must be made: once someone has listened to various types of music, they can elevate it, just like any form of teshuvah. Which explains the fact that you mention: music for many people today served as a deep spiritual experience, to the point that for some this was the catalyst for their return to Judaism. Because music -- all forms of it -- has deep spiritual sparks, which sometimes sink into low levels of tumah, but they can be elevated through teshuvah. However, as it is with such matters, if one has the initial choice, you try to experience the pure, and not venture into the impure.

Those of us with musical talent must use it to elevate the music to a sacred place. The same with any other artistic talent, art, photography, acting, dance etc.

The key is knowing that our goal is not to just entertain ourselves, but to use it (ultimately) for a higher purpose...


- Rabbi Simon Jacobson  www.meaningfullife.com

 from: Chassidic Insights into Music

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