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1564 – Brachos and Tefilos – (Klal 4 Siman 6) – Kol 9 – Close Relatives 5 – Zemiros 4

D'var Halacha
D'var Halacha
1564 - Brachos and Tefilos - (Klal 4 Siman 6) - Kol 9 - Close Relatives 5 - Zemiros 4


We are continuing in siman 6, discussing the halachos of kol. Specifically, we are discussing the halachos of a woman or women singing zemiros in the presence of men. 


There are four scenarios where this question applies:

  1. A family singing, so the question regards close relatives (brother/sister, mother/son, father/daughter). We have learned that there is no issur to hear those close relatives sing, as the yetzer hara is not strong for close relatives. The question is specifically regarding reciting devarim shebikedusha when women are singing, as we have learned that even when there is no issur of hearing the woman sing, it is still assur to hear her voice when reciting devarim shebikedusha. We also discussed whether there is a difference between different types of zemiros (see shiur 1561).
  2. A husband and wife when the wife is a niddah. We need to discuss whether the husband is allowed to hear her sing in general at that time, and whether there is any leniency regarding zemiros.
  3. A group of men and women in which some or all of the participants are not related to each other. We need to discuss whether the general issur of kol ish applies to this scenario, and whether there is a specific issue regarding zemiros as being devarim shebikedusha. 
  4. The Mishnah Berurah paskened that there is no issue of kol isha regarding a girl under the age of 11 who is unmarried. We need to clarify whether this heter is limited to the general issur of kol isha, or to devarim shebikedusha as well.


It can be argued that the heter we have learned that there is no issur of kol isha regarding close relatives is analogous to the heter of the Mishnah Berurah regarding a girl under the age of 11 (see shiur 1559). In the Mishnah Berurah’s case, the girl does not have the status of ervah; regarding close relatives, the woman is an ervah but there is no issur in this regard, so it effectively has the same halachic status. Even though it is generally muttar to hear a girl under age 11, the Mishnah Berurah writes that it is assur to hear her sing when one is davening (ie, when engaged in devarim shebikedusha), which we would extend in our analogy to close relatives as well. If so, if zemiros are considered as devarim shebikedusha, it would be assur to hear close relatives when singing zemiros. 

We mentioned the possible heter of trei koli lo mishta’mai (shiur 1562), but that it is questionable to rely on it. 

It is important to point out that, regarding trei koli lo mishta’mai, the Gemara already says that when the sound is beloved to the individual (the example of the Gemara being Megillas Esther), one is able to focus on one specific sound. The assumption of many poskim is that the voice of a woman is inherently beloved to a person, so the heter could never be applied. On the other hand, one could argue that since one does not have a desire towards close relatives, trei koli lo mishta’mai could still be applied at least to situations of close relatives. 


Rabbeinu Yonah writes that the issur enacted by Chazal not to recite devarim shebikedusha while hearing kol isha is only if a person is focusing on the voice of the woman. Neither the Shulchan Aruch nor the Mishnah Berurah pasken in accordance with Rabbeinu Yonah. However, there is such an opinion, and, arguably, since the issur is derabanan, one has what to rely upon. This would explain the minhag of those who are meikil regarding zemiros. If a person has no standing minhag, they should ask their rav whether they can rely upon an opinion not brought down in the Shulchan Aruch or Mishnah Berurah. 

The Mishnah Berurah does bring this opinion down regarding a specific scenario of a person living amongst non-Jews who is constantly hearing non-Jewish women singing. Especially during the summer, when people kept their windows open, if one did not live in a Jewish neighborhood, it was possible that they would hear non-Jewish women singing all day and would never be able to learn or daven. The Mordechai writes that eis laasos laHashem, the pasuk in Tehillim teaches us that at a moment of necessity we try to find leniencies, and paskens that if a person is able to distract themselves to not focus on the womens’ voices, they can rely on the opinion of Rabbeinu Yonah in order to daven and learn. We see that the Mishnah Berurah does mention this opinion, but only in a situation in which it would otherwise be impossible to daven or learn, so it is hard to extract from it to other situations. If one has a standing minhag, they have what to rely upon, but otherwise one must discuss it with their rav. 


We will continue to clarify these points in the upcoming shiurim, be’ezras Hashem.. 



One who has a standing minhag to sing zemiros with close family members of both genders has what to rely upon, but if one does not have such a minhag, they may not begin to practice it without first consulting their rav. 


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