No Music During the Three Weeks? Forget It!

Originally posted on

Bein ha-Metzarim is the period between the 17th of Tammuz and Tisha B’Av. It’s a time of mourning for the loss of the Temple and the exile of the Jews from Israel. And during this time, you’re not supposed to shave, get a haircut, get married, or listen to music.

Wait…no music? No way dude. I’m not into it. This “Three Weeks” thing isn’t my scene.

It’s not that I’m irreligious. Hardly. I probably read the Torah and Talmud every day. It’s an occupational hazard of working for PunkTorah. My problem really stems from the faulty logic that surrounds The Three Weeks.

I really hate the idea of Tradition-Becomes-Law, and clearly that’s what The Three Weeks are about. Prohibitions about what kinds of prayers you can say, kinds of meat you can eat, how hot your bath water should be…these are all made up by rabbis just to torture you. These cultural traditions get codified over time, which is odd given that the G-d explicitly says not to add or take away anything from the Torah (Deut. 4:2, 12:32). Since I’m not Ashkenazic (or Sephardic, for that matter) I have a hard time believing that I should follow the laws of a culture I do not belong to, especially if they are passed off as law when they clearly are not.

Secondly, I don’t think that the Jews being scattered through the Diaspora is worth three weeks without your ipod. I’m of the opinion that Jews are in the Diaspora because G-d wants us to “take it to the streets”, as you might say. For me, the Temple is a metaphor for hiding, of locking ourselves away from the rest of the world. Now it’s time to leave the Temple-in-our-minds-and-hearts and be with other nations, so that we can share our values and wisdom with the world, as well as learn from others. I don’t think this is an idea worth mourning; I think it’s worth honoring.

I’ll go to a Tisha B’Av service. I’ll be a part of community. I’ll reflect on what it means to be a people without a Temple. I’ll do all of it, because I love it and I live it. But, in the words of Charelton Heston, I’ll give you my ipod when you take it out of my “cold, dead hands.” And he was Moses, so it doesn’t get more legit than that.

  • Shaun

    Great, Patrick!. I rushed to get my haircut, last night, and I will abide by most of the “laws” for the Three Weeks, but music is not just for celebration. Music helps us remember events and mourn a loss (which is really what this time of the year is all about, right?). I will shave, I will listen to music, and I will wear clean clothes, but I will pray every day (with selichot) and I will mourn the loss of our temples.

  • Anon.E.Mous

    I agree. I’m Ashkenazi myself and I fast on the 17 of Tammuz and Tisha B’Av but I listen to music. Oh well.



  • Laura

    Yes! Now I don’t feel so bad.

    G-d explicitly says not to add or take away anything from the Torah (Deut. 4:2, 12:32)

    Yeah…I wish more people would get that memo…

  • RebbetzinRachel

    I think you’re missing the whole point of the 3 weeks.

    You are supposed to be mourning the loss and destruction of the Temple and you are supposed to be mourning the exile we’re now in. You’re supposed to be reflecting on the sad sin of sinas chinam and actively working to correct it.

    I think if you could truly get into these attitudes, then you wouldn’t even WANT to listen to music. If you really knew what you were missing… (And sadly we can now only imagine the miracles and that constant feeling of closeness to G-d.)

    The fact is, if listening to music is that hard for you to give up, then maybe it’s a sign that you SHOULD give it up. Even if you don’t want to do it because the rabbis said so (and not all rabbis say so, although you really shouldn’t go “rabbi shopping”), you should probably do it for yourself. Most of modern society is addicted to sound and distraction and it sounds to me like you’re one of them. The disconnection is probably a good thing for you, not just spiritually, but emotionally and mentally, too. I’d recommend you give it a try.

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    Its not a matter of chosing what you want and what you don’t want these weeks are much more than just not shaving look at the bigger picture.when you die at 127 and g-d asks why’d you shave what will you answer that Judaism means so little to you that you cant bear not listening to music for 3weeks? This is a test the harder it is the more reward g-d doesn’t give you tests you cant pass you’ll regret Kt one day but if your strong enough you wont ever regret it think about it and all the others who are following be your own person do what you want to do base it on your beliefs how strong is your trust?