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Monday, May 1, 2017

Music, Mourning and Songs

Yesterday I saw a question on Facebook asking how, double-davka, during Sefira, when the Jewish People are forbidden joyous activities like live music, is there live music during many of the official Soldiers and Terror Victims Memorial Day ceremonies.

Shiloh's Soldiers and Terror Victims Memorial Day Ceremony, 5777, 2017

Shiloh's Soldiers and Terror Victims Memorial Day Ceremony, 5777, 2017
I remember the first time I came across live music during a time of mourning, it was at a memorial ceremony for a friend, during the first year of mourning when live music is forbidden for the children of the dead, when one of her children played a sad song on a musical instrument, which her dead mother had loved. I was surprised, but considering how little I know of Jewish Law, I figured that it must have been very important to the family and approved by the local rabbi.

At funerals for veterans of the Pre-State Jewish Undergrounds, Etzel and Lechi, we'd always sing Shir Betar and Chayalim Almonim, (Anonymous Fighters) by the grave in honor of the dead. The first time I experienced such a funeral, it was unexpected, but then I thought a bit about those two special songs and realized that they are more like prayers.

Except for the Shofar on Rosh Hashana, musical instruments are forbidden on Shabbat and Jewish Holidays, even though music can certainly add to the occasion. Music is voice and can express joy and sadness. That is certainly what the live music did last night at our memorial ceremony in Shiloh. There was nothing joyful in the music that was played, besides seeing the talents of our young neighbors.

And even more than that, the mournful sounds coming out of those instruments are what is needed at times when there are no words...


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