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Other rabbis take a much harsher line.
Technically, “listening to music is forbidden…all year,” writes Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz of Yeshiva University. And while one can be lenient about music most of the year, “there is strong reason to argue that we should never be lenient during the [T]hree [W]eeks” because of our mourning for the destruction of the temples.
Lebowitz adds that “the overwhelming majority of the [authorities] assume that recorded music has the same status as live music.”
In other words: Don’t play that Pandora God Bless America playlist. Turn off the Hendrix. And forget about Bruce and the Boston Pops, whether or not you’re really going for the fireworks.
Rabbi J. David Bleich, also of Y.U., noted that authorities differ as to whether recorded music was banned, but thought there was good reason to avoid fireworks either way: You could be doing something productive with your time rather than sitting on the roof watching siss, boom and bah.
“It’s bittul Torah [time not spent studying],” he explained.
Lebowitz did mention an important exception to the music ban: singing during a meal in celebration of a joyous occasion may be permitted. Brackman, too, said toasting a recently engaged couple is an exception to the general ban on celebrations — “we don’t want to discourage people getting engaged,” he said.
When asked if we want to discourage life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, Rabbi Brackman, who grew up in London, hedged. He declined to see the analogy between getting engaged to be married and declarations of American independence.
Still, the rabbi conceded he might go to see the fireworks, anyway. After all, it’s the Fourth of July.
Doni Bloomfield, a student at the University of Chicago, is a Forward summer fellow. Contact him at email@example.com