What Makes Jewish Music Jewish?

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    Can we all at least agree that listening to “Arba Bavot” does not evoke the same feelings as, l’havdil(?), listening to “Ya’a’lili?” 😉

    I think we can assume that there are numerous feelings that might be evoked by Jewish music, and even multiple songs by one musician(Eminem too) may evoke very different emotions.

    One can argue, however, that some emotions are traditionally never

    expressed in Jewish music, such as anger, even righteous anger.


    1. Read the lyrics to “Jerusalem is Not for Sale” and

    ask yourself, “Are these lyrics righteously angry?”

    2. Listen to the song, and ask yourself “If I didn’t

    speak English, would I think this was an angry song?”

    Bonus Q: How well would an aggressive style of music fit the lyrics?)


    Re: Yossi Green

    I highly doubt “Simply Jewish music is music written by a Jewish person” is valid from a musicological point of view, and I likewise doubt anyone holds that as a specific level in their hashkafic hakpados against certain music. It does not seem to have any use.

    The term “Chasidic music” has no connection to Chasidus, which is annoying but here’s the real issue with his definition:

    In the end, whether something brings you closer to G-d cannot be determined except through ruach hakodesh. One can only ask (or) assume about the intention. And even if you say your intentions are good, someone can claim that your music is not, and what can you say in your defense?


    Re: Yossi Green

    Here’s what A 600 Kilo Bear, the late great Creedmoorer Roov,

    had to say, about what I assume was that interview, in 2008:

    Yossi Green as a composer is no more of an authority on music than a butcher is on hilchos schechita. Or should I respect


    Nishtdayngesheft, I really don’t think that was called for.

    What he said sounded like this: After his Christian friends

    pointed out a few pesukim to him, he looked into it

    more on his own. Readers, here’s the original post:


    ☕ DaasYochid ☕

    What DaasYochid meant to say was: “There is, in fact, music which can be categorized as Jewish, even if I can’t link to it on hebrewbooks. You are confusing proof with being right.”

    Excellent tzu shtell. I don’t need to know what olfactory receptor neurons are to know that a rose and rotten eggs do not have the same aroma.


    Com link.

    I guess we will have to let the readers decide.


    “Not many frum people play anything except Keyboard, Guitar or Drums”

    You must not know very many frum musicians. I am sitting less than 10 feet from a frum trumpeteer, violinist and cellist.


    There is no genre of Jewish music except maybe klezmer and cantorials. The Rebbes who sang or made Niggunim those were usually in the category of European folk music. So what makes a Hasidic niggun Jewish music? If it’s a European folk tune ? The answer to that is because it was made by the Rebbe and it has a warm yiddish hergish so a tune that was made by a erlich yid that has yiddish hergeishim of simcha or dveykus etc.. is jewish music


    You must not know very many frum musicians. I am sitting less than 10 feet from a frum trumpeteer, violinist and cellist. </em?

    Its rare nowdays, not invisible.


    Not many frum people play anything except Keyboard, Guitar or Drums – really?!

    I know people who play flute, piano (which is not even remotely similar to keyboard) cello, saxophone, harp, violin, electric guitar (don’t know if that’s what you meant by guitar), piano accordion…..


    I know this is not The Chassidishe World, but…

    The books of Kabbalah explain that all the tunes in the world originate in the Palace of Melody in heaven.

    The Other Side- impurity – knows no melodies, nor knows the taste

    of joy, since it is itself the source of melancholy. Only through

    the sin of Adam did certain stray sparks fall into the unholy domain of the Other Side, and the task of the tzaddik is to

    elevate those sparks of melody that have gone astray.

    -Rabbi Shlomo Yosef Zevin in Sippurei Chassidim (attached to Bereishis 47:14)

    [translation by Uri Kaploun for Hillel Press/Mesorah Publications]


    To answer haifagirl’s original question:

    No, there are no specific tones, intervals or notes that are intrinsically Jewish; no more so than there are specific, isolated ingredients that are intrinsically one culture’s food. It’s what is done with the musical ingredients that make the dish.

    Jewish music usually morphs over time to resemble the music of its surrounding cultures, with the one key difference being that the goal of the song is historically either D’veykus or Simcha. As someone pointed out above, there may be Jewish songs whose lyrics are angry, but the music itself is usually still upbeat.

    In other words: the “Jewish” aspect of Jewish music is the product, not the ingredients. So, to ask if, say, an A-minor is a Jewish note is like asking if a kernel of corn is Mexican food.


    There are specific, isolated ingredients that are intrinsically one culture’s food.


    Yeah, it’s not a perfect metaphor, but the basic idea is intact. Jewish music is the sum of its parts.


    the presence of trumpets

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