# 2539 A Song in Your Heart


Q. I recently became interested in becoming a baal tshuva. I was invited by some religious friends from college, to come and join them in the learning of Torah at a close by yeshiva. It was my first time and I was very surprised to watch the students sway back and forth, and sing aloud while they were studying the books. Is it really correct to learn the Holy Torah while singing or carrying a tune? It seems to me so sacrilegious and irreverent!”
A. We indeed find contradicting statements in regard to Torah and music. The Talmud (Sotah 35a) teaches that King David was castigated because he named the words of the Torah “zemiros” or songs, as the verse reads “Zemiros hoyu li chukecho,” “Your statutes were like songs to me.” (Tehilim 119: 54). Yet we find that the Talmud (Megilla 32a) also asserts that the one that reads the Torah without a tune and learns it without a song, is considered as having been given “statutes that were not good.” (Yechezkel 20: 25). Moreover, even the Torah calls itself a “Shirah” or song, as the last of all mitzvos reads: “Write for yourselves this song.”
We do find extensively the use and importance of music and songs especially in the Beis Hamikdash. The Leviim would sing songs, accompanied by instrumental music, during the service. Therefore, we must try to understand the basic meaning and significance of songs and music. Firstly, we must clarify the following; does the Torah consider the essence and good value of music, as something that can effect and incite good feelings and thoughts in people, and is necessary mainly because of the results it creates. Or maybe, songs and music are intrinsically and fundamentally propitious and auspicious. It is important by itself. When the Shulchan Aruch rules that a baal tefilah directing the services should preferably have a good voice, is it because of its own inherent and elemental value and importance or because of the awakening and arousal of spiritual intentions in the ones who listen to him?
P’aas Hashulchan in his introduction quoting the Vilner Gaon, explains the inherent greatness and power that music has. He mentions that most of the secrets of the Torah and the Zohar, cannot be understood without comprehending the wisdom of music. Music is a most basic and important pillar and part of the Seven Branches of Wisdom, and imparts understanding to all of them.
Meforshim explain the difference between zemer or music and shira which is music accompanied by words. (See Rav Shimshon R. Hirsh in parshas Beshalach, Pachad Yitzchak – Shavuos 18). It is possible that Dovid Hamelech was punished because he called the Torah just a “zemer.” He did not grant then the Torah the full power of zemer, the ultimate extent and possibility of “shira” and song.
Rabbi A. Bartfeld


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