Finding Your Zivug (Mate)
From Building a Relationship to Planning a Simcha

























The midrash [Kohelless Raba, chapter one] identifies seven distinct and separate stages of life.

1. In the first year, a baby is called "king." Everyone jumps whenever he cries, everyone fusses about him, hugs and kisses him and jumps at his "command." He is a ruler over all and no one can rule him. 2. At the ages of two and three he is called "pig." He is happiest playing in mud, getting himself filthy, frolicking and having happy-go-lucky irresponsible fun. 3. At ten, the child "jumps like a young goat." 4. At twenty he is a horse, egocentric, preening and beautifying himself, yearning to get married and driven by physical, animal desires. He is visceral and lives from appetites and hormones, rather than intellect or soul 5. Upon marrying, the person becomes a donkey, a beast of burden. 6. Upon having children, the person becomes a brazen dog, in order to provide bread, seeking after livelihood. 7. When old, the unlearned person becomes a monkey, a babbling bent over fool; and the Torah sage becomes a king, saintly and majestic with his learning, wisdom, life experience, spiritual growth and shining face; having earned accomplishments, distinction and honor. As a baby, one is like a king because Hashem made him cute and adorable. This was a one-time gift. When elderly, after a lifetime of Torah, he is a king because he made himself glorious with Hashem's "system" for life and Hashem's purpose for His giving life.

Rabbi Yechezkel Levenstein z'l, former mashgiach [spiritual administrator] of Ponovezh Yeshiva in B'nei Brak in the post-war generation, said that in each of the seven stages in this midrash the person cannot see or understand the stage which is before or after it. His ability to understand, see or experience life is entirely colored, shaped and determined by the stage which a person is in.

In fact, the original Hebrew does not refer to "stages of life." Although the midrash indeed describes seven stages of life, the word used by the midrash is "olamos (worlds)." In other words, when in each stage, one perceives life as if that stage defines the world. That stage is all one knows at the time. It is the whole world to the person. All of one's ideas, wants, focus, priorities, interests, opinions and behavior are determined by the stage in life that one is at. Rabbi Levenstein specified that the stage of the single person, before marriage, the horse, is characterized by "blinders." Just as a horse with blinders only sees what is in front of him, in his immediate and narrow focus, the single person likewise goes with blinders, just like the horse, seeing a narrow focus and centered around himself.

Any stage, other than the life-stage that one is in, is alien to a person, even one stage away. You might ask, "Even the stage I just got out of - is that also alien?" Yes - even the stage previous to yours, even though you were just there - it is foreign and incomprehensible. You do not live in that "world" any more, your mind does not operate there. "Having been there" is not the same as actually being there. Therefore, if one marriage partner is in a different stage of emotional development from the other, they will not understand each other, relate well nor be able to communicate. This is particularly evident when I do marriage counseling and one is on a higher level of emotional or relational development than the other. The one less developed has no idea what the other is getting at or fussing about when demanding maturity, communication, understanding or mentshlach behavior. They say things like, "You're just too sensitive," "You're impossible to please" or "Stop playing with verbal toys." The person cannot see or understand "another world," does not want (or is not equipped) to care about another's feelings or condition.

We see a similar lesson from the holy Hebrew language itself. The word for bachelor is "revak." The letters of the root word are: resh vov kuf. In grammar, vov is a light consonant. As such, "revak" is related to the word whose root is the same, minus the vov in the middle. The Hebrew word composed of the remaining two consonants, resh and kuf, is "rock," which in Hebrew means "only." The unmarried person sees the world in terms of him or herself only. Regrettably, so does the immature married person.

People tend to behave subjectively. This is often wrong and harmful. Life presents constant shaalos (practical Torah law questions), conflicts and nisyonos (tests). One must act in each and every thing according to objective Torah law, and as a mentsch. It takes enormous introspection, character, honesty and work on oneself to get beyond one's subjectivity and self-interest, to factor other people adequately into one's decisions and behavior.

Subjective behavior stems from what people really want deep inside, from what their opinions and interests are, and from "where they're really at." The only way to assure proper and objective behavior is to consult the Torah (or a Torah authority) to determine what our actions and opinions must be.

People in any one of the seven stages of life totally operate in terms of that stage. They do not understand any stage before or after. Even if one intellectualizes stages before or after, it is detached or idealized abstraction. It is not truly felt, perceived, experienced or understood. And it is possible for people to remain at a given level in terms of maturation and development even after their age should have them at a higher level. In my marriage counseling work, I repeatedly see people whose emotional maturity level and chronological age have little or nothing to do with one another.

Therefore, to the extent that one's understandings, opinions, behaviors and drives operate at a given level, and one has not come to the level which life requires of him at the given time, one is not going to manage successfully - in human development, maturation and relationship terms. For example, a person is at the emotional development stage of the self-centered, self-adoring and self-impressed pre-marriage stage. He has entered into marriage because he is lonely or he is at the age where "it is expected." His chronological age is not going to be even with the requirements that life imposes on him after he steps out of the chupa. His years may be enough for marriage, but (S)HE as a person isn't enough for marriage! Yet, he says, and believes in his mind, that he is marriage material. His very motive of loneliness or social approval has a selfish basis. True marriage means making another person important and happy. Marriage means to become an unconditional provider of good to a spouse and children - with the atmosphere predominantly peaceful.

Once a person gets past the stages of babyhood, one progressively comes to greater and greater levels mental understanding and emotional maturity. Accordingly, one's level of responsibility for his behavior grows and his ability to function more and more wisely and responsibly should grow. But since people can get locked in stages that they don't grow beyond, they may not make it, in human development terms, through all the stages of development by the time they grow old.



We continue our discussion about seven distinct and separate stages of life.

Each stage is called an "olam [world]," teaching us that people are locked in to their opinions, wants and perceptions due to their life-stage, maturity level and subjectivity-level. So, it is probable that, more often than not, they will act and speak based on their internal "content" (or lack thereof!). Each person only sees and understands the world based on his stage. Therefore, life is, to him, the "world."

After twenty, the midrash stops referring to ages and, rather, refers to milestones or events at which new stages happen. This tells us that people can be locked in to stages and levels of maturation indefinitely, and might never proceed towards king at the end of the list - even if they live to be very old. In my marriage counseling work, I see people married for decades who have never left the stage of the immature, hormone-driven and egocentric horse.

As one grows and proceeds through life, one passes though progressive levels of added capacity for responsibility and giving to others.

Therefore, it is all the more vital to cultivate humility that enables one to go beyond his "blinders" that are part of his self-absorbed horse stage. The earlier that the trait of humility is assimilated, the sooner and more fully he absorbs fear of sin. This prompts him to learn Torah, to act in all things according to Torah law and to acquire a lifetime of wisdom and meaningful experience. Torah, at the bottom line, is not opinions. It is objectivity, it is life, it is what G-d says is mandatory and for the best. To make it from the stage of horse to the stage of marriage starts with humility that allows one to see beyond himself, to see another person there in real and substantive terms, and to see the Torah of G-d and its applicability to every moment, in every situation and at every stage of life.

When Avraham came to the land of the Plishtim [Philistines], he said that his wife Sara was his sister. The Torah says that she was very attractive. King Avimelech took her for a wife and G-d came to him in a dream and said not to touch Sara or else Avimelech would die. Avimelech ran to Avraham and asked why he said that Sara was his sister when she was actually his wife. Avraham replied that he feared he would be killed so that any man who would want her could take her because "There is no fear of G-d in this place [Genesis 20:11]." Malbim, in his famous commentary on the Torah, points out that Avimelech's country was relatively civilized. Nevertheless, it does not matter how sophisticated, philosophical or progressive a country or society is. When human beings want things, they can legislate, manipulate, or pervert any laws they wish. They can even pass a law that somehow allows a man, who wants someone else's wife, to kill the husband, take her and get away with it. Man-made laws cannot be trusted. Only G-d's law can be. Only when there is fear of G-d at the root of law and action is there a basis for trust and a standard upon which to consistently rely.

Only when there is fear of Hashem, and action that is only according to His law, can behavior be considered to be right, good and wise. In our context, lacking fear of Hashem causes the failure to behave according to one's stage in life, to its responsibilities and to what life objectively requires at each moment.

The Torah cites that one of the descendants of Noach was Yokton [Genesis 10:25], whose name is related to the Hebrew word koton (small). Rashi says that he made himself small to be humble. The Torah cites that Yokton had 13 sons, each of whom became a leader of a nation. Each son became accomplished and distinguished in his own right. Because Yokton was humble, he merited that all 13 of his children would become great and successful. Keeping the marriage context in mind, humility is crucial for the producing of good children - as well as progressing and maturing beyond the stage of horse.

The gemora [Avoda Zora 20b] teaches that humility leads to fear of sin, which leads to enduring wisdom [Pirkei Avos, chapter three]. Torah wisdom brings us through the stages of life, and brings us to functioning as mature and responsible adults throughout life. This is what brings one through the journey to old age, which is the stage at which we see what one has done with his life - who he really was, and what he made of himself as a Jew and human being. If he degenerates into a babbling monkey, then the culmination of his life is idiocy, filth and waste. That is the profit of investing in a life of egocentricism and this-worldliness. This is what King Solomon refers to as "hevel" [everything of this world is ultimately nothingness and futility; Ecclesiastes 1:2]. Keep in mind that the midrash above, upon which this series is based, and which reports the seven stages of life, is built from the book of Ecclesiastes writing the word "hevel" seven times. This is the basis for the seven life-stages, the seven "worlds" which one sees and passes through. If one passes through each stage according to his own devices and inclinations, the culmination of his life is the foolishness of a monkey. His life was empty and purposeless.

The conclusion of Ecclesiastes is that all that life amounts to is one's fear of Hashem and fulfillment of His mitzvos. If one passes through the seven "worlds" of earthly life with fear of Hashem and through Torah, he shines with the glory and majesty of a king.



We continue our discussion based on the midrash [Kohelless Raba, chapter one] which identifies seven distinct and separate stages of life. Let us briefly review.

1. In the first year, a baby is called "king." 2. At the ages of two and three he is called "pig." 3. At ten, the child "jumps like a young goat." 4. At twenty he is an egocentric and visceral horse, who lives from appetites and hormones, rather than intellect or soul. 5. Upon marrying, the person becomes a donkey. 6. Upon having children, the person becomes a brazen dog. 7. When old, the unlearned person becomes a monkey; and the Torah sage becomes a king. Each stage is called an "olam [world]," teaching that people perceive the world entirely from the perspective of their stage at any time. That stage is the person's entire world. We showed that maturity requires a progression from humility to fear of sin to Torah wisdom. The word "revak [bachelor]" is related to "rock [only]." The unmarried person thinks in terms of him or her self only.

Rabbi Yechezkel Levenstein, who taught the lesson from the midrash about the seven stages of life [that each stage is its own world], was once walking in the hall of the Ponovezh Yeshiva, accompanied by a grandson. An American came into the Yeshiva to visit. He was obviously a classic tourist. He had a camera, together with several lens attachments, hanging on a string around his neck. When he saw Rabbi Levenstein, the tourist couldn't decide whether or not to take a picture of him. So, he came over and asked, as if the answer would decide whether he was "worth" a picture, "Who are you and what do you do here?" Rabbi Levenstein answered quite simply, "I'm Chatzk'l the shamash [servant]."

After the tourist left, his grandson asked why the esteemed and venerable rabbi referred to himself by a casual nickname and as a servant. Rabbi Levenstein replied, "What is a mashgiach? I make sure the boys are alright and that they come to doven and learn. I'm just a shamash."

This grandson, now an esteemed scholar in his own right, said that we see, from this story of his grandfather, that great Torah people do not need praise and compliments. They are secure, ego-free and self-sufficient. To put it into our context, they are humble. Rabbi Levenstein had been through the progression of 1. humility to 2. fear of sin to 3. deep and enduring wisdom. Such a scholar has made himself into a king and is one from whom we stand to learn and gain.

Starting after the horse, the life stages are not determined by, nor limited to, any chronological age. Starting after the horse, the stages depend on levels of maturation, of life events or milestones and of human development. The gemora [Pesachim 113b] describes the characteristics of a horse - and they all are very non-complimentary, shameful and bodily-oriented (arrogant, promiscuous, ravenous appetite, etc.). A key crossroads for the journey through the stages of life is whether one gets past the stage of self-oriented, physical horse, and sees beyond the blinders which limit the vision of horses.

A young newliweded husband told his wife to make steak for supper. She made chop meat. He got angry. She said that he was in kolel, she was working two jobs to support them, she grew up in a poor family in which they could afford chop meat and they could not eat steak. Since he slept late, she felt he was lazy and unfit for staying in kolel. She felt resentment that he demanded steak and expected her to earn the money to feed his rich taste. She demanded to know what he was going to do to provide a livelihood. He said that his rich grandfather would arrange something. She demanded to know specifically what that meant. He repeated with indifference that his rich grandfather would arrange something for him. A fight followed. She demanded a divorce. He got "one up" on her by abandoning her and making her an agunah.

Before they were married, both of these people would have been certain that they were ready for marriage. The wife, although she had more grounding in matters of financial practicality and responsibility, was not a communicator. She did not discuss with him what she was going to buy or prepare, or why; she just acted on her own as she saw to be right. This was provocative and disrespectful of her husband. She challenged and provoked him about money in a way that escalated the tension and made for confrontation. He was "stuck on steak," to the point at which he would "declare war" on her over it. He was unrealistic, infantile and in utter denial about anything beyond his "horse blinders." It was as if he viewed her as being in his life as a steak dispenser, not as a wife or person. He had no sense of responsibility, of priorities nor of human relations. He never saw that verse of King Solomon's wisdom [Proverbs 15:17], "Better is a meal of a vegetable and love is there than a luxurious beef meal and hate is with it." What he was doing in kolel is beyond me, because he obviously had no connection to Torah. What he was doing in marriage is equally beyond me, because he obviously had no connection to any stage beyond the self-absorbed horse. They both had what to learn about relating to another person in "post-horse," "post-revak" life. Imagine if the above silly couple would have gone to a Torah counselor or posek to learn what to do, instead destroying their marriage over a portion of chop meat and a taking of rigid positions. I tell couples that their policy should be, "We don't have fights, we have shaalos." I ask them, "Would you rather be yourself or would you rather be effective?"

A young man married. Over the first year, the wife's health was not good. She cried to a friend of mine, "He told me that in the first year of our marriage I've been sick 58% of the time! He's been keeping records of when I'm unhealthy! He's complaining about how much he has to take care of me and that I'm not at his service!" The husband didn't understand that when he stepped out of the chupa, he had responsibility to care for her. Had he been sick, she would have cared for him. He was still a revak, as one alone and out for himself. He was still a horse.

At the stage of horse, a person shows whether he can humbly and objectively interchange with a spouse, children, fellow humans and the world outside of his skin; following, and growing in, fear of Hashem, Torah and mitzvos - every moment and under all circumstances for the rest of his or her life. How one proceeds from the crossroads at the horse stage determines whether one is headed towards completing and culminating his life as a monkey or a king.



There is a widening trend in contemporary frum society that is capable of being extremely damaging, in both worldly and spiritual terms. The harm can be severe, permanent, unrepairable and "life-impacting." PEOPLE GENERALLY DO NOT REALIZE THE DANGER TILL IT IS TOO LATE. As such, I am writing an eight part series to address the situation in cultural, physical/medical, halachic and moral terms; to make the public at-large aware; and to propose remedies.

As part of my research for these writings, I interviewed four otolaryngologists [Ear, Nose and Throat physicians], including one who is the head of the ear department at a Manhattan hospital, one who specializes only in ears, a frum doctor who knows how to learn Torah (and can apply the medical elements of this matter to Jewish society, culture and practice) and one who trains ear doctors and who himself is listed as being among the top physicians in the New York Metropolitan Area; a professor of audiology; four audiologists; a psychiatrist and psychologist who each specialize in the negative impact of ear-damage on personality, ability to function and quality of life; and eight rabonim; whose contributions to this work have been invaluable.

I must make special mention of Dr. Maurice H. Miller, audiology professor at New York University who also, for the New York City Department of Health, is both the Chief Audiologic consultant and the Chair of the Communicative Advisory Committee. Dr. Miller supplied me with copies of a dozen and a half professional journal articles and text-book chapters, furnishing much of the scientific and medical material brought in the section, "Taking Strong Steps Against Causing Damage." He also gave me numerous comments to make the manuscript more accurate, professional and substantive. I must also express special thanks to HoRav Dovid Feinstein, Shlita, Rosh Yeshiva of Tiferress Yerushalayim in New York City, and one of the leading halacha authorities of our generation, who, on a busy erev shabos, gave me guidance and da'as Torah on this subject. Both of these men gave of their time and expertise with kindness, patience and generosity. To both I owe special expressions of gratitude and recognition. I further owe appreciation to many members of the public who, in response to previously published articles on this subject, have sent supportive, kind and helpful communications about this subject.

I hear more and more people telling me that they can't understand - or take - the louder and louder so-called music at chasunas [weddings] or other simchas. This could include concerts, amplified speech at organizational dinners, public lectures or other functions as well. Amplification as loud as it has become in the frum community's events is DANGEROUS to the nerves and sensitive, delicate and fragile structures in people's ears. This can cause many seriously harmful effects, often with long-lasting or permanent and non-curable inner ear damage, including but not limited to, hearing loss, loud and constant ringing in the ears ("tinnitus," which comes from damaging sound-sensing hairs or nerve endings in the inner ear), dizziness (which comes from within the ear), pain felt constantly or upon hearing sounds. Add to this the CUMULATIVE EFFECTS of repeated attendance at simchas where dangerously loud music is played, pounding ears for several hours EACH TIME. By attending noisy affair after noisy affair, a person's delicate internal ear structures can be weakened. Even if noticeable damage is not yet done, damage may be coming gradually, or susceptibility to being seriously damaged increases EVERY TIME. If damage has been done, conditions can be made much worse EVERY TIME.

It is incomprehensible that the Torah community could sanction or tolerate this widespread destructively loud amplification. It can be so loud that if someone yells in your ear, you can hardly hear him. Tractate Bava Kama tells us that every Jew must be responsible for guarding against causing any damage, a person is always accountable if (s)he causes any damage ["odom muad le'olam"] and if a person wants to be religious (s)he must be expert in matters of not causing harm. Causing pain or deafness can be grounds for a case in bais din against the "mazik [causer of damage]."

A frum ear doctor I interviewed said to me he regularly has patients come in who have ringing in the ears, inner ear pain or hearing loss DUE TO HAVING BEEN TO A CHASUNA WHERE THE MUSIC WAS HORRIBLY LOUD. The doctor said that when he goes to a wedding, he wears ear plugs, only goes "once around" [the dancing circle] and then leaves. The music volume should be low enough to clearly hear another speak in a normal voice about ten feet [three meters] away. Otherwise, medically speaking, everyone should wear ear plugs, should stay for no more than one quick dance and should then rapidly get out of there. If you can, tell a host in a nice and non-insulting way, in advance (when you receive the invitation), that loud amplification is harmful and you can only come to his simcha if he is committed to limiting the amplification to a soft, non-dangerous level. It is not worth even a risk of a lifetime of inner ear damage, going from doctor to doctor, desperately spending thousands on medicines, suffering added impact from their side-effects, being required to wear ear plugs full time or under noisier circumstances, having elaborate uncomfortable treatments (e.g. M.R.I., audiology tests, blood tests, E.N.G. [electronic middle-ear balance testing], Auditory Brain Stem Response test, etc.) that generally don't help much or at all, and living a life of long-term or permanent suffering and heartache.

The Torah says, "Vi'nishmartem mi'od li'nafshosaychem [you will exceedingly guard your well-being," Deuteronomy 4:15]. It is the ONLY MITZVA IN THE TORAH which says to DO THE MITZVA "MI'OD," to do it exceedingly or very much. It doesn't say to keep the laws of shabos or kashruss or idolatry, or any other fundamental law of Torah, "mi'od." The Torah is extra strict that we be very careful to diligently guard all aspects of spiritual and physical health. Even for a doubtful risk of ONLY MAYBE HARMING EVEN ONE PERSON at a simcha, we must apply the halachic principle, "suffaik de'Oraisa lechumra [for a doubt in a matter from the Torah, we are to be stringent]." Since serious damage to people is becoming more and more widespread, and the magnitude and durability of the harm keeps getting worse, as volume at simchas gets louder and louder, this applies all the moreso.

There is an old joke about simchas, "If you want to insult someone, place him at the table next to the band." The updated version is, "If you want to DAMAGE someone, just plain invite him to a simcha." He can be anywhere in the hall. Nowadays, with room-filling, head-jolting amplification, it is no joke.

The one-man-bands and band leaders have a vested selfish interest in amplifying the music so much. Sometimes their ego or foolish "sense of art" is at stake. Some one-man-bands think they compensate with volume for not having a ten-man band. But, primarily the motive for noise is money. The young people are "poisoned" with the idea that "loud is laibedig [lively]." Youthful ears are more tolerant of the trauma of very loud noise volume. Young people will be making their own weddings and if they consider a musician or band "laibedig," the young attendees are more likely to remember and hire the loud-playing "noise source" [many are not even worthy of being called musicians]. Here, young people are controlling a sociological trend. Youth determining Jewish practice or culture is anti-Torah. It reminds me of the expression, "the inmates are running the asylum." But, let me present Torah sources to make the point.

Rabbi Yaakov Kaminetzky, z'l, said that the older a generation is, the more we honor them. The highest point in Jewish history was the stand at Mount Sinai to receive the Torah. The older a generation is, the closer to Sinai they are, and the more deserving they are of kavod [kavod]. Our "culture" should only be determined by the oldest, not the youngest, those who are most mature and learned in Torah to an advanced level.

One who learns from the young is comparable to one who eats unripe grapes and drinks wine right from the press [these are sour, impure, undeveloped and hurt your insides]. One who learns from the mature is comparable to one who eats completely grown grapes and drinks old wine [these are developed, sweet, pure and beneficial; Pirkei Avos, chapter four, with meforshim].

The gemora [Megila 31:b] tells us "If mature people say to you, 'Destroy,' and youth say to you, 'Build,' destroy and do NOT build, because destroying by the mature is building." Young people will be certain that destructive behaviors are valid. But when immature people think they are building, they can be totally destructive. It is only by accepting, internalizing and acting according to the constructive wisdom and experience of mature and learned people that they will behave properly...and truly be able to build. Jewish practice is only determined in accordance with mesorah [Torah tradition]. Any new questions about what the Torah wants us to do, in each generation, can be determined only by our mature and learned Torah sages [Deuteronomy 17:8-11]. True building is not directed by the young who demand insane and destructively loud amplification. Let the mature people say, "Destroy loud music." This will be true building.

I strongly recommend that readers print these eight articles out, save them, utilize them and apply the information, and inform other people about this subject matter [note: the material is written and Copyright 2001 by Rabbi Jeff Forsythe]. When you receive any invitation, send copies of this series to the hosts, musicians, bands, caterers and fellow-guests to warn them about the serious dangers of loud amplification. Send copies to roshay yeshiva, mashgichim and other educators so that they train the youth to know that loudness is damaging and that we are not allowed to harm each other.



The amplification of music at weddings and other simchas is getting louder and louder. It is becoming a widespread "culture." The loudness can be dangerous. It can damage structures and nerves in ears and cause suffering and hearing loss which is usually irreversible and incurable.

In halacha [practical Torah law], we see that harming makes one liable for damages, whether 1) through actively doing things that can cause damage, or 2) by neglecting to guard against things that can cause damage when not safeguarded. It is a Torah obligation to guard against anything that could possibly cause any kind of harm to another person or his/her property. One found guilty by bais din for damage can be liable for up to five kinds of compensation of the victim (damage, pain, medical care, time off from work and/or humiliation).

The halacha specifies means of injuring which make one liable. If a means is used that is different from the one in the Shulchan Aruch [e.g. electric amplification of sound] which effectively causes the same kind of damage as the means specified in halacha [e.g. resultant hearing loss or ear pain], even actions not specified by the Shulchan Aruch can bring liability, BECAUSE OF THE DAMAGES CAUSED. This article is not poskining shaalos [making decisions in practical Torah law questions]. Bring questions of your particular case to a trained, qualified and experienced rov or dayan.

Let us look at some of the basic relevant halachos, in Choshen Mishpot, the portion of the Shulchan Aruch [Code of Law] which has to do with damages, interpersonal obligations and bais din. Note that the halacha treats harming one's hearing somewhat like it does physically hitting and wounding him.

The Torah strictly prohibits hitting anyone. For certain crimes, the Torah requires and authorizes bais din to punish a proven criminal with lashes. There are rules which restrict how much bais din is to hit the guilty person for his crime. If the Torah is strict about bais din hitting a proven criminal, how much moreso is the Torah strict about plain people, who have no permission, hitting someone innocent! If one even raises a hand in anger without hitting, this person is called "evil." Even if the hit does not cause damage of consequence, the perpetrator is liable to lashes by bais din. One who hits is in "chairem [excommunication]" and cannot be included in a minyan [Choshen Mishpot 420:1]. If one wounds another, even in a manner other than hitting, such that a permanent loss, large or small, results to the victim's body, the perpetrator is obligated for damages [420:13]. If one shouts in a person's ear and makes him deaf, the perpetrator is exempt from the human bais din but is guilty in Heaven's bais din. If, instead of shouting, the perpetrator grabbed him by the ear or blasted an instrument into his ear or hit him in the ear and made him deaf, the perpetrator is obligated by bais din for all damages, which financially increase according to the victim's profession, because the higher his level of skill, the more the deafness makes him lose [420:25]. Ordinarily, if one person causes loss of a limb to another person, bais din evaluates reimbursement for the value of the limb. Ordinarily, if the victim loses time from work, he is reimbursed at the lowest level of wage in that society. However, when one makes another person deaf, bais din evaluates the value OF THE ENTIRE PERSON (not just loss of his ear) and his earnings loss is calculated at the victim's FULL EARNING LEVEL [Bava Kama 85b] because his ability to work is more completely damaged by deafness than by any other injury [Rashi].

For anything that can cause harm, pain or danger; it is obligatory to make excellent protections, to effectively safeguard and to be cautious. This fulfills the positive [to do] mitzva to protect against causing another harm, and the negative [to not do] mitzva to not spill blood [420:8].

If one's work does not contribute to the welfare of society, if a person will sin to earn his livelihood, if a person does not have derech eretz or if a person does not behave in correct ways, he can not be a valid witness (how much moreso if the person causes harm on a regular basis!). If a person is ignorant of Torah, he is presumed to behave in wrong ways and he cannot be a witness until he is proven to be trustworthy [34:16-17, Sanhedrin 24b]. Musicians who amplify music to a detrimental extent could be presumed to be ignorant and untrustworthy, presumed liable to behaving in ways the Torah considers to be wrong and could be invalid to testify in bais din. If they are ever taken to bais din for causing harm, they might not be eligible to testify in their own defense.

If one sees a Jew in danger and can save him, or can have others do something to save him, or knows of someone planning to do something harmful and he can convince him [the one who plans to cause harm] to refrain, he is obligated to do all he can [426:1]. If he does not act, he violates the Torah commandment, "Do not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor" [Leviticus 19:16]. If one witnesses, or knows of, something which can harm a Jew, he must act, or at least protest, to do all he can to save the Jew from harm. All who violate any matters pertaining to harming, endangering, injuring or refraining from protecting or rescuing a Jew; and says, "I have my own problems and misfortunes, what do I care about others in regard to this?" or tries to excuse himself by saying "I am not strict regarding this, for things done against myself," bais din is obliged to give this selfish, indifferent person lashes. The one who is cautious in all of these things will receive wonderful blessings from Heaven [427:10]."

Young people say that they want loud music. Jewish practice follows the mature, not the young. There is an additional halachic objection since the young people want the loud music. Since the music is played at dangerously loud levels, with the willing endorsement and active advocacy of the young, their requesting such loud music is characterized by Choshen Mishpot 421:12. The Shulchan Aruch says there that if person A tells person B, "Injure me, destroy an organ, cut off my limb, and I absolve you from all accountability," the halacha is that PERSON B IS FULLY ACCOUNTABLE for any damaging. B has absolutely NO PERMISSION to harm A, even if A begged B to do it! This is because no person with a normal mind would want to be harmed. The halacha is saying that to want something damaging done to oneself means the person is OUT OF HIS/HER MIND. Going to loud and/or visceral music is harmful to body and soul, the musicians are mazikim [damagers] and attendees who stay, or who want loudness, are viewed by halacha to be out of their minds. Both young members of the audience and the performers machshol [cause sin in] one another; with the musicians' greed, ego and advantage-taking probably bearing the most fault. Everyone present who stays is vulnerable to danger. One of our generation's greatest Roshay Yeshiva sums this up by saying that one who causes harm to himself is mentally ill, one who causes harm to others is evil.

Even if any given case does not have a technical requirement for taking musicians to bais din, the fact that halacha addresses these things shows the seriousness, reality and evil of the situation. The musician is still guilty of "grama" [causing harm in a way that might not be prosecuted by human court, but is prosecuted by Heavenly court]. A sin that is liable to prosecution by Heaven can be punished very severely. Whether being injured merits a bais din case or not, the whole insane business is just not worth it. One of the four ear doctors I interviewed for this series said that inner ear structures are very delicate, sensitive and easily damaged. Another doctor said that IT DOES NOT TAKE MUCH EAR DAMAGE TO CAUSE VERY HARMFUL, PERMANENT CONSEQUENCES.

We glorify noise, which is ultimately empty and destructive; while we erase halacha, which is real, of enduring value and fundamental to Jewish life. We make extreme loudness into something fancy and put it on a pedestal; while we sweep away "seder nezikin" [the section of the Talmud about damages] and Choshen Mishpot [the section of the Shulchan Aruch about damages, bais din and interpersonal laws]. It is like what the gemora [Bava Basra 10b] calls an "upside down world." King Solomon tells us in various parts of Proverbs that charm is false, beauty is futile and arrogance comes before a downfall.

The gemora [Shabos 31a] says that salvation from trouble is directly related to the subject of preventing damages. Harmful interpersonal failing is what caused our lengthy exile [Yoma 9b]. A generation guilty of widespread damage keeps us in galus [exile] and blocks the coming of ge'ula and Moshiach [redemption and Messiah]. Let us be humble and G-d fearing and do what the Torah calls, "Yoshor vitov [correct and good] in the eyes of Hashem [Deuteronomy 6:18]." As the Chazone Ish said, "The first step to being considered a Torah Jew is FULFILLING ALL OF HALACHA." We shall look at more specific halachic matters in parts four and seven. Naturally, when you have a practical halacha question, TAKE IT AS A SHAALOH [Torah question] TO A QUALIFIED, KNOWLEDGEABLE ROV WHO HAS YIRAS SHOMAYIM [FEAR OF HEAVEN].



Jewish society seems to have put a premium on becoming a noisy society. For example, Boro Park is one of the largest and most vibrant communities in the "frum world" today. On the busiest Avenues (e.g. Thirteenth or New Utrecht), or near any intersection when there is the slightest traffic back-up, or as soon as the light changes to green, the car horns blow like it is going out of style. Drivers have heavy hands and no patience. They have no consideration for the trauma they cause to ears of passers-by. Beggars on the street play annoying portable cassettes, thinking that blaring loud Jewish music will make you be more sympathetic or generous. Cars with loudspeakers drive by, roaring recorded local news or commercial announcements. Upstairs neighbors put in wooden floors so those beneath hear every child's stomping footstep. People in shul shout over who will lead the davening, whether to say Tachanun or whether to close a window. Between all the cacophony, pain and risk of inner ear damage; you have to constantly cover your ears or wear ear plugs in contemporary frum society. This generation brings new meaning to the term "rodaif" [pursuer, assailant]. We repeatedly attack each other with noise.

The most dangerous manifestation of this "culture" is that at simchas these days, music is amplified so loudly that people's ears can be seriously and incurably damaged, in ways that they might not realize until it is too late. Musicians intentionally and systematically amplify the volume to be deafeningly loud.

Torah law tells us that everything we do must be for the sake of Heaven and be a means of knowing G-d. Every Jew must learn Torah as much of the time as he is able, particularly since learning leads to action. If he does not learn regularly every day, he will diminish wisdom and goodness, come to theft, do stupid things, cause damage and create countless sins. One must always judge in advance what will come out of his actions so that the only outcome is service of his Creator. One who conducts himself this way is constantly serving G-d [Orech Chayim 231:1, with Bayur Halacha].

Let me share relevant knowledge from four ear doctors and four audiologists. High amplification can cause various kinds of long-term or permanent inner ear damage. Common examples include hearing loss, dizziness, pain and tinnitus (annoying ringing, squealing or roaring sound in the ears).

Tinnitus is heard, usually as a high pitch noise, within the head. The condition is often constant but the noise can, in some cases, be intermittent or varying. The damaged inner ear sends sound signals to the brain, regardless of whether or not sound enters the ear. The noise can be loud enough to disturb sleep, concentration, work, conversing with or relating to people. Severe cases can be torture (imagine having a screaming fire-engine siren glued inside your head with no "off switch"). It can be loud enough to cause people to have anxiety attacks and it has even been severe and unbearable enough to drive people to suicide. Such people might have to be kept by a doctor on tranquilizers non-stop to save them.

A damaged inner ear can be very sensitive. This can cause terrible stinging pain that can be felt steadily or that can be caused from hearing normal every-day sounds, high pitch sounds and/or louder-volume sounds. Dizziness can be disabling. Its frequency of occurrence and severity also varies with each individual. A person might perceive the room to be spinning around, or see objects as spinning around one another. These may cause a terrible nauseous feeling in conjunction with the dizziness. The dizziness typically requires the person to sit or lie still. If they don't, they can fall down. Hearing loss can cause sound to be heard at lower than normal volume, can cause sound to be muffled or unclear and/or can cause loss of ability to hear certain sound frequencies.

One may have to change what they ingest because certain foods and substances (e.g. caffeine, aspirin and salt) can promote or worsen bad inner ear symptoms. Sufferers from inner ear damage may require medicines with side-effects, vitamin and mineral regimens and/or uncomfortable medical tests, which might not help their case significantly. The effects of treatment can vary from person to person. The nature, intensity and steadiness of symptoms can vary; depending on such factors as the severity, duration and frequency of the cause(s) of damage; the person's age and the sensitivity-level of the individual's inner ear(s). An illness (such as a virus, anxiety or high blood pressure) can make an ear condition and its symptoms more severe, painful or intense; possibly irreversibly. For example, 1. a virus can cause tinnitus to get louder and hearing to get worse in a damaged ear; 2. tinnitus can cause anxiety, and anxiety (which raises blood pressure) worsens tinnitus. If not medically treated, this can become an ever-worsening tinnitus - anxiety - more tinnitus - more anxiety "cycle." Besides worsening tinnitus, high blood pressure is an overall danger to health. Inner ear structures and nerves, when damaged, often do not heal nor regenerate. Ear damage can be "life impacting" and even possibly "a matter of life and death."

These conditions require treatment and follow up by highly experienced and expert ear specialists and, in some cases neurologists. Since these conditions can be very difficult to treat, a patient may have to go to many doctors to find one who can help at all. And, yes it really happens: people are being injured frequently. It's happening more and more, the damage is getting worse and worse.

The Jewish community has to take a strong and unequivocal stand against loud amplification, which has no mekor or mesorah [Torah source or tradition] to justify it. Our society must forcefully, completely and immediately stop this unjustifiable and destructive blight. The best cure is to not let people get hurt in the first place! Our yeshivos teach the gemoras about not damaging [Seder Nezikin]. Let us practice the practical laws [halachos] of not damaging! The requirement of "nosay bi'ol chavairo [share your fellow Jew's burden]" requires invited guests to participate in a celebration but it moreso requires hosts and musicians to safeguard all who are present from even the slightest risk of any harm.

All parts of the body are for serving Hashem. Several mitzvos require hearing; for example: reading the Torah and the Megila, shofar blowing, learning Torah, responsive parts of prayer (e.g. Kedusha, Kaddish, Borchu, Hallel, answering "amen"), hearing oneself saying Birkas HaMazone [blessing after meals] and reading "Krias Shema," making peace, hearing mussar and tochacha [self-improvement and correction], hearing Kiddush and Havdala. Causing someone to lose some or all of his hearing, or causing someone to require a hearing aid, whether temporarily or permanently, makes him a "baal moom [defect, injured]" and nizik [victim of damage]; and these can deprive a person of mitzvos. The Steipler Gaon was hard of hearing and refused to wear a hearing aid because it could make him more dependent upon it and make him lose the rest of his hearing. Since hearing aids function somewhat as a microphone, they can be prohibited on shabos and yom tov. The Steipler DID NOT WANT TO LOSE HIS ABILITY TO HEAR KRIAS HATORAH ON SHABOS AND YOM TOV. Some people refrain from having a hearing aid, for reasons such as shame, cost or keeping their sense of dignity. They lose touch with the world. Rashi says that one who lives out of touch with the world is choshuv kimais [considered as dead]. Therefore, damaging hearing has an aspect of murder in it. Damaging hearing (or any of a person's functions) decreases mitzvos in the world and the one who causes such damage is responsible to Heaven for causing those spiritual losses in G-d's world, besides for the physical damage.

It is necessary to say "Shema" [required twice each day] loud enough to HEAR oneself saying it [Orech Chayim 62:3]. "Shema" means "hear." While saying the first verse, one must UNDERSTAND AND PAY ATTENTION to accepting the yolk of the Kingdom of Heaven [Mishna Brura 60:11]. Hearing is central to one's intellectual potential and ability to understand. The word "Shema" consists of the roshay taivos [initials] of the words "Ol Malchus Shomayim [yolk of the Kingdom of Heaven - ayin, mem, shin]" but in reverse order. This signals that we must obey the will of G-d even when OUR logic is the reverse of G-d's will.

Often the people in attendance at functions, whether guests or workers, DO NOT KNOW THAT THEY ARE SUBJECTING THEMSELVES TO GENUINE DANGER. Their hearing may be gradually deteriorating. The delicate structures in the ears may be getting weakened so that one time a loud noise may produce major injury. These people do not realize that they may be getting permanently damaged. So, they do not know to leave. And, who goes to a simcha for the purpose of leaving? People go in order to participate in the event. This creates a condition in which people who should stay have to go out and the people who go out are people who should stay. This is a contradiction. If people are wise enough to come wearing ear plugs to protect their ears, then no one can hear or talk to anyone. You have a crowd of people, yet they are all isolated. The music is loud to make people dance, and they plug their ears to not hear the extreme loudness. It's like needing to go into a bath or mikva and wearing a scuba diver's suit (which totally covers the person) in order to not make any contact with the water. The whole thing is completely crazy.

"Decibel" is the measure with which loudness is measured. If a human ear is exposed to a loudness of 100-110 decibels for a half hour, this already can do damage. If the volume is 120-130 decibels, the ears are overwhelmed. Their fragile structures can be traumatized and they can be severely damaged after even short exposure to high volume. To put "100-110 decibels" into layman language, if your home stereo were at full volume, if a subway train went by at full speed, or if your head were chained to an ambulance siren, sustained exposure to that level of sound for a short while can permanently damage your inner ears. Professional music amplification can be 20 decibels louder than this. If a guest stays at a simcha for two or three hours exposed to such enormous loudness, delicate inner ear structures or nerves can have serious and permanent trauma and damage. If musicians hear this loudness night after night, they can grow gradually hard of hearing and will play louder and louder because they are less and less able to hear how loud they are playing. Some musicians wear ear plugs to protect themselves and couldn't care less about harming the audience, which is pure cruelty and sadism. Workers at catering facilities hear dangerously loud amplification night after night also and their ears are repeatedly exposed to serious jeopardy, especially since harm, and susceptibility to harm, increase from each repeated exposure.

Questions of health and of causing harm are de'Oraisos [from the Torah]. If one wishes to say that only "maybe" someone will be damaged by loud noise at a simcha, this is a worthless excuse (and, probably, self-serving) because of the principle "suffaik de'Oraiso lechumra [in Torah questions in which there is doubt, we must be strict]." And, there is nothing religious in "erasing" Choshen Mishpot (or ignoring any part of halacha). Erasing halacha is "giving one's own Torah," and eliminating the Torah that Hashem gave. This is apikursus [apostasy] and MAKING ONESELF into an avoda zara [idolatry]. He worships himself. Such an arrogant person puts himself, in his mind, on a par with G-d as "authorized" to give law. Instead, we must incline to the side of guarding the Torah - and guarding THE PEOPLE of the Torah! We must never cause damage or danger to people. We are not even allowed to take a chance.

Hearing loss and ear damage can be either gradual and subtle or sudden and substantial. People can vary in this. I recommend that before you go to simchas, speak to an ear doctor (WHO KNOWS ABOUT CONTEMPORARY FRUM SIMCHA AMPLIFICATION) about the health of your ears, especially regarding exposure to sustained loud noise. Tell him clearly about the noise levels you are exposed to at simchas. If you cannot estimate the decibel level, describe the volume to him in simple terms, like how close people have to be to hear each other in conversation and whether this is with a normal voice or with shouting. Go for hearing tests periodically.

Rabbi Aharon Kotler, z'l, would not let his driver use a toll machine because it violates "kavod habrios" [human dignity] to reject the living toll collector. Even if we use toll machines today when we are on the roads, and are not on Reb Aharon's spiritual level, the obligation of kavod habrios still requires that we fully and actively acknowledge and value the honor of each human being. Since kavod habrios requires not rejecting the dignity of any person, kal vichomer [all the moreso] it requires not harming any person.

Since misguided, immature youth like loud amplification, thinking it "laibadig," adults (rebayim, family, etc.) should instruct youth on the seriously damaging nature of loud volume and Torah obligations to not cause damage. Let us train youth because they are responsible for fueling this trend. Youth must become informed and get their priorities straight. Let us teach the youth that loudness is an evil, it hurts people and that we should have contempt for any musician who would hurt hundreds of people ongoingly for money, ego-gratification or fame. We can take away incentive of musicians to appeal to youth (in their hope that the youth become future customers).

True Torah compassion includes shielding people in advance from troubles. The Torah Jew does not wait till after trouble comes upon another. TRUE "TORAH-DIK" COMPASSION REQUIRES HELPING BEFORE AS WELL, BY PREVENTING TROUBLE FROM COMING UPON HIM IN THE FIRST PLACE. This is the way of G-d [Tosfos Yeshanim, Rosh HaShana 17b] and it is our obligation to emulate G-d, as the Torah says, "And you will go in G-d's ways (Deuteronomy 28:9)." Rambam specifies that this requires imitating His traits [Hilchos Dayos 1:6]. THIS IS FUNDAMENTAL TO ACCEPTING THE YOLK OF THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN. Otherwise, you have things backwards - especially your idea of serving Hashem!



We have been exploring the widespread and worsening trend of harmfully loud amplification, which has become especially common at Jewish simchas, concerts and functions. This is a genuine danger and serious health hazard. We proceed in this installment with more relevant halacha. If you have practical questions, take them as a shaaloh [Torah question] to a qualified rov or dayan who has Yiras Shomayim [fear of Heaven].

The Torah says [Deuteronomy 6:18], "You shall do that which is correct and good in the eyes of G-d." The gemora [Bava Metzia 108a] says that this teaches that a Jew cannot allow another to lose an opportunity to gain a benefit that you can provide. This is brought in halacha [Choshen Mishpot 175:6], where the Shulchan Aruch says that one planning to sell land must offer it first to an adjoining neighbor and to give him priority even over a relative or talmid chochom (Torah scholar). Buying adjacent land is more value-adding than buying land which is not attached, because the buying neighbor's land is expanded. The meaning of the gain to the neighbor is significantly greater than to any one else. If we are required to not let another miss an opportunity to gain, we certainly may not make him lose or come to harm! There are many halachos for harchakas nezikin [preventing damage or distancing causes of damage]. For example, chapter 155 of Choshen Mishpot has 44 paragraphs of halachos obligating prevention or distancing of various kinds or causes of damage.

Rambam says that to keep oneself healthy and vigorous is a commandment from the Torah. We are obligated keep away from anything that damages or lessens the body. This is part of serving Hashem [Hilchos Dayos 4:1]. One does not have permission to harm himself, although one is exempt from paying damages if he does so [Choshen Mishpot 420:31]. The Chofetz Chayim [Likutai Amorim 13] says that this halacha shows that we are not our own "property," we BELONG TO HASHEM. Hillel made a point to keep himself clean and to eat adequately. When asked why, he said that the body is created in Hashem's image, it is for serving Him during one's fleeting lifetime and it is obligatory to take good care of the body [Vayikra Raba 34:3]. It is also significant that the section of halachos prohibiting causing physical harm to another is the LAST subject at the end of the Shulchan Aruch. This teaches that IT SHOULD BE THE FURTHEST THING FROM ANY JEW'S MIND TO HARM, OR TO ALLOW THE CAUSING OF HARM TO, ANOTHER PERSON! A thought of harming someone should be the LAST thing to occur to you.

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, z'l, was asked if a person can ask another who is smoking to leave a public place due to the smoke being bothersome. Rabbi Feinstein replied [Igros Moshe, Choshen Mishpot, section two, 18] that one can ask the person smoking the cigarette to leave a public place because the bother to other people is considered damage. It is forbidden for him to smoke where it pains, bothers or endangers another. In the gemora, Rabbi Yosi said that when one does a thing which is itself legitimate, but it causes damage as a consequence, the person is still liable for the damage. From this, Rabbi Tovi Ben Masna said that it is forbidden to cause indirect damage, or even damage for which the person cannot be made to pay. Examples include to stand a ladder on my land in a place where rodents can jump from it and kill my neighbor's birds on his property, to slaughter animals where birds will land and then track blood onto a neighbor's property, to have birds where their chirping noise will pain a neighbor, to cause an offensive odor that reaches a neighbor or to operate a business where adjacent residential neighbors will be disturbed by the people coming and going. Such things are prohibited, or the offender must distance such things far enough away that they cause no prospect of damage [Bava Basra 22b, Rambam Hilchos Sh'chainim 11:5]. Such things are indirect but they cause enough pain to be forbidden. Rabbi Feinstein concludes that smoking in a public place is worse because it is actively and directly harming. Since we forbid an indirect cause of harm, all the moreso, the smoker can be stopped or required to leave.

Chazay Hatnufa, a disciple of the Rosh [one of the halachic Rishonim], is quoted by the Chida. He says there is no assumption of validity for any significant cause of harm, even when people do not protest or fight it [ain chazaka binezek gadol]. Even if a cause of harm is done in a public place [reshus harabim] where the offender would have a right to be, even if it only bothers one person, even if it is a thing which has been done for years, the thing is forbidden and we are required to stop the offender. Whether the harm is against a group or individual, since the victim(s) can't stand that pain or damage, we have permission to remove the offender.

Since Rav Moshe, z'l, poskined that causing pain or harm directly and actively in a public place is forbidden, and noisy chirping birds are an example of an indirect cause of pain or harm THROUGH NOISE that can be forbidden, and a talmid of the Rosh basically delegitimitized any cause of socially accepted or ongoing cause of harm against even one person, even one time in all of history; kal vichomer [all the moreso], we must forbid the active and direct causing of pain and harm to multitudes repeatedly through loud amplification! On top of the many sources cited in parts two and four of this series, halacha specifically says that anything which a person cannot withstand that another person does, even if other people can withstand it, the victim can protest and stop that thing [Choshen Mishpot 155:41].

When one causes harm that requires financial compensation, even when bais din does not have the ability to force the payment, the offender is obligated to pay voluntarily. If he does not pay, he is a gazlan [thief, Ktzos (section one, note seven)]. Bais din is authorized to collect an injury victim's out-of-pocket costs [chisron kis] from the mazik [damager] for medical expenses and time off from work [Tur, Choshen Mishpot 420:44]. If the victim grabs the value due him from the mazik, he is allowed to keep the money, but not in excess of the amount due him. It is a machlokess [halachic dispute] whether this applies any time after the injury [Rosh] or only at the actual time of the injury [Rabainu Tam]. We rule that one can grab and keep the money even afterwards, but this is limited to the "value" of the injury. The victim would have to give back any excess money taken [Tshuvos Maharam Galanti, 108]. This suggests that if a musician's amplification causes pain or harm, it may be permitted to grab his instruments or electronic equipment to pay for damage-expenses caused, such as doctor bills, medical tests, prescriptions and time off from work. If what is taken exceeds the expenses, the excess money must be returned; if there is not of enough value, the victim could take more equipment for damage-expenses.

If something is liable to cause damage, and if there is no specific halacha governing how much we must distance this cause of harm from people, we must determine criteria to keep people safe. The Ramo [Choshen Mishpot 155:20] says that these criteria are to be determined by experts in the respective field of each kind of potential cause of harm. In our case, ear doctors can make such determinations. For example, one ear doctor told me that people in conversation ten feet apart should be able to speak in a normal tone and hear every word clearly and no one present should have any discomfort. This would be an example of setting a halachic boundary for amplification volume.

One host told a band leader that he wants the volume kept low. The band leader refused, saying that this will "mafsid momon [cause him to lose money]." Young people, who like volume to be loud, are potential future customers. They will only hire him if he plays loudly. This "frum sounding" claim of "mafsid momon" is false and invalid to the point of absurd and insulting to the intelligence. Hashem can choose to punish one through his body or property [Tikunay Zohar, quoted in Yom Kippur Machzor]. The Torah says that there is a punishment called tzora'as [leprosy-like disease] that comes onto one's house, clothes or body. Ramban [Nachmanides, Parshas Tazria] explains how Heaven's punishment is considered more severe and stringent as the tzora'as gets closer and closer to one's body. It is the smallest level of punishment when afflicting one's house, worse when on one's clothes and the worst is when it afflicts one's body. There is no comparison between an affliction of one's property and of one's "actual self." The latter is most serious.

The laws of Chol HaMoed [intermediate holidays] allow one to do work to save himself from losing something he has. One cannot do work to catch an opportunity to gain profit during Chol HaMoed, because he does not have it. He cannot consider a thing he does not have to be his or to be lost. Halacha says we cannot compare losing a thing that we have with wanting to increase profit.

This selfish, cruel musician thinks that he can compare the damage to people's bodies, which they already have and which they are required to maintain in good health, with his loss of (hoped for) property (profit) that he does not have or know if he will ever own. This is "davar shelo ba li'olam [presenting something that does NOT exist as if it does exist; Bava Metzia 33b]." He thinks he sounds "frum" by claiming "mafsid momon" while he has no concern that he causes mafsid [loss to] people's bodies. TO STOP ANYONE FROM CAUSING DAMAGE OR PAIN IS A MITZVA. There is no claim of "mafsid momon" when we stop someone from earning money by his "professionally damaging" people!



High levels of amplification at simchas and public functions is commonly made painfully and harmfully loud. Loudness is falsely perceived by the youth to be "laibedig [lively]" and commercial musicians want to cater to immature youth because they are a base of future customers. Validating loudness also sends the false and very un-Jewish message that we need loudness for happiness or joy. This destructive and widespread trend is fueled by immaturity and greed, and has no Torah justification for it. There is no basis in halacha [Torah law] nor mesorah [Torah tradition]. Jewish society must take strong measures to stop this trend and to protect our people from it.

I strongly recommend that the reader cut out, save and apply this article and all others in this series. Send copies from my column or website to hosts, musicians, educators, rabbis (who can influence their students or congregants), caterers and guests invited to events, to warn of the dangers. Educate people of all ages about noise-exposure and ear damage - by yourself, by sponsoring classes for adults and by promoting teaching about this to the children and youth in schools. Be creative. Find ways to spread the word.

Life and culture in America are becoming noisier and noisier. Thirty six million Americans have significant hearing loss, much of it premature and MUCH COULD HAVE BEEN PREVENTED. About fifty million have some kind of ear-damage symptoms [tinnitus - ringing in the ears, hyperacusis - pain from and sensitivity to sound, hearing unclearly, vertigo - dizziness, etc.] and other forms of harm DUE TO EXPOSURE TO NOISE. For example, tinnitus can be heard as so loud that it can drive people to distraction, drown out or distort normal sounds or conversation, prevent sleep and cause physical or psychological consequences [anxiety, high blood pressure, nervous tension, sleep and rest disruption, ulcers, depression, adverse affects on the cardiovascular system (heart and blood vessels), etc.]. Ear damage might come slowly, painlessly and imperceptibly; but one day the symptoms will be noticeable, life will be negatively impacted - and it will never be the same. In the past, hearing losses started creeping up on people between the ages of 40 and 50. Now, hearing loss in children is up due to noise [listening to stereos, noise-producing toys, etc.]. In the 1980's, 3% of grade school children had hearing dysfunction. It is up to about 13% for school children and worse for teenagers. Ears bring information in. Damaged ears might not pick up what is said or taught and learning will be disrupted. Quieter environments help learning and raising children. Noise in homes (loud stereo and appliances, shouting, hectic or fast-paced lifestyle, blaring traffic outside the home, etc.) has damaging effects on the intellectual, personality and social development of children, starting from the beginning of life. In families which have quiet, the adults listen more and relate better to their children, discipline is calm yet more effective, all have more peace, all have more capacity for introspection and personal growth, and the children grow up to be better achievers in learning and their chosen field. It is important to create an environment that encourages quiet. The World Health Organizations reported as early as 1973 that, "Noise must be recognized as a major threat to human well-being" and that noise has a significant negative impact on quality of life. The quality of all aspects of life can be negatively impacted upon e.g. work and academic performance, social interaction, recreation, communication, not hearing danger warnings, emotional state, stress, irritability, etc. In scientific tests, people were found to be less generous, kind, helpful, considerate, relaxed and patient; and more frustrated, annoyed and hostile; when subjected to noise of 70 decibels or more. In one test, people refused to help a person wearing a cast, in another people recommended lower salaries for hirees, compared to comparable situations under quiet conditions. This has serious implications for Torah Jews concerned with midos, mitzvos and interpersonal behavior obligations! People do not get used to noise. As long as the noise remains, the negative effects on emotions, health and ability to function do not subside. Noise is an invisible threat to hearing. Hearing loss from noise exposure can be painless, progressive and permanent. In the early nineties, scientists examined people living in primitive conditions in Sudan and discovered that there existed virtually no deterioration of hearing in elderly people! This tells us how much our inner ears are assaulted by the proliferation of noise in America; where we constantly hear loud music, machines [jackhammers, trains, airplanes, power tools, industrial and construction equipment, sirens, etc.], vehicle horns and engines in traffic, walkmans blaring right into one's ears, noisy crowds, cell phones ringing in public places, etc. Impact on ears can be affected by duration, level and frequency of the noise, as well as by the individual's sensitivity level [which varies a bit in different people]. Hearing loss can come from one extremely loud sound, or repeated exposures or close proximity to hazardous loudness levels. Long-lasting, high-pitch and high-volume sounds are the most damaging and annoying. Annoyance from noise can be sufficient to contribute to stress; cardiovascular, psychological, digestive and other health damage and physiological disorders; and can cause negative impact on social behavior, learning ability and career achievement. Noise annoyance is worse at night, having the impact of ten more decibels than the same loudness level would have during the day. Hearing impairment and inner ear damage from noise are on the increase in industrialized countries. The only hope is prevention.

Inside the ear are microscopic structures called cochlea [pronounced "kok-lee-a"]. These receive sound and transmit the sound to the nerves in the ear, bringing the sound to the brain, enabling the person to hear. Cochleas are extremely sensitive and fragile. When exposed to overly loud noise, the cochlea is traumatized and delicate hair-like hearing cells can be either gradually or immediately damaged and then destroyed. Damaged or dead tissue might be replaced by scar tissue, but the hair cells (in the cochleas) themselves, and their function, are gone forever. Their ability to bring sound from the air to the nerve, and therefore the brain, is destroyed. Hearing is diminished, according to how much cochlea damage occurs. If parents bring babies or children to chasunas, their delicate cochleas can be assaulted from the beginning of their lives, causing the baby discomfort and even pain during the simcha and damage ever after. Their ability to learn, communicate, socialize, work - to live a full life - can be jeopardized. Further, when cochleas are damaged, the remaining tissue may be irritated and send continual signals to the nerve and brain, causing the sensation of sound, independent of sound coming into the ear, resulting in the disorder called tinnitus; hearing loud, constant and disturbing sound inside the head [that isn't there outside of the person's head] because the ear and the connections to the brain are damaged and these keep sending sound-messages to the brain as if it is an auditory sensation that is experienced as hearing noise. On top of this, the nerve can be overwhelmed by real sound that comes into the ear, resulting in serious pain, called hyperacusis, from hearing some or all sounds. The cochleas "translate" sound, as it occurs in the air, to impulses that can be transmitted as sound in the inner ear nerves and to the brain. Cochleas are an essential part of the auditory system. They are the analyzing portion of the human hearing system and are inescapably necessary as an intermediary between sound from outside the ear and the inner ear nerves. When sound hits the nerves directly, without the cochlea receiving and processing it first, the sound can cause unbearable pain upon contact with the nerves. If the cause is dead cochlea, these conditions are irreversible. Losing a cochlea is like losing an arm - it doesn't grow back. The pain of sound hitting nerves directly will be like a non-healing wound that can get worse and worse from repeated trauma. Loudness-induced hearing loss is almost never curable or recoverable. Even if you do not feel your ears hurting, you can be getting damaged during noise exposure. People tend to be further damaged, and increasingly more susceptible to damage, by prolonged or repeated exposure.

Fifty-five decibels is the highest loudness that is universally safe. From 55 to 80 decibels, people are usually safe but this can vary due to such considerations as individual sensitivity, age, genetics, medical and noise-exposure history. The more often, prolonged, loud and high-pitched the noise is, the more damaging. Most people are safe with occasional exposure to 70 decibels. Above 80 decibels, possibly 75 in children, the ear is more predictably and universally subject to harm. The more one is exposed to loud noise, the more his inner ear structures are traumatized and damaged, the lower his safe decibel level gets and the more he needs protection from daily-life, street, social or work-place noises. He may, for example, require ear plugs, industrial ear muffs, keeping the stereo on low volume or avoidance of offending situations such as by walking the long way around a construction site - or not going to simchas!

Scientific and medical tests have established that sustained loud noise levels of 85 decibels or higher are hazardous. Waiters, musicians, caterers, hall management and personnel and any others in any noisy work environment are in repeated jeopardy. Experts are considering dropping the defined "safe" limit from 85 to 80 decibels in a work place, since damage can already be possible between 80 and 85 [85 is about the volume level of a rattling sink garbage disposal, mini-bike, vacuum cleaner or crowded school bus]. Small increases of decibel count can actually represent large increases in loudness. A three decibel increase represents a doubling of sound. Since decibel numbers increase logarithmically, like the Richter scale which measures the force of earthquakes, 130 decibel sound amplification at a wedding is about 1,000 times louder than a 50 decibel conversation with a normal speaking voice. As another example, a subway train's sound is 100 decibels [115 when screeching]. 110 decibels is ten times as loud as 100. Imagine you are standing on the local platform of an underground subway station and an express goes by at full speed. An increase of 10 decibels equals the noise level of ten express trains going by simultaneously and an increase of 20 decibels equals 100 express trains roaring by simultaneously. The more you increase the decibel count, the more enormous the increases in sound level are.

If you can't speak in a normal voice to be heard over a noise, the noise is too loud. If someone next to you can hear the music coming from your stereo headphone, it is too loud. Every time you add five decibels, the time needed to cause permanent damage decreases by half. At a typical chasuna, permanent damage can be done in less than a half hour, possibly in a matter of minutes. You might notice speech is muffled, sounds are confused or that you are asking people to repeat themselves.

The high intensity amplification of music at simchas commonly causes people damage and suffering. This danger is not restricted to simchas, either. This can apply at any function or in any manifestation where there is loud electronic sound amplification, for example: large scale lectures, concerts, organizational meetings, conventions, in restaurants, listening to music through head phones [with sound very close to the inner ear] above a soft level, home appliances such as hair dryers or blaring loud amplification in a motor vehicle. However, simchas, such as weddings, vorts [engagement parties] or bar mitzvas, are the most common examples of events in contemporary Jewish culture at which there is loud amplification. Even youth who want loudness do not have the right to want something dangerous or to be cruel to entire crowds of people. Except for the relatively young and immature - whose inner ears have not YET collapsed from loud noise trauma - people don't enjoy loud simchas...they are in pain!

I could put a hat on your head and you would not be damaged. If I put an 18 wheel truck on your head, you would be crushed as flat as a pancake. If I put conversational sound at about 55 decibels into your ear, you would not be damaged. If I put amplified sound at about 130 decibels into your ear, inner ear structures would be crushed like that pancake. The ear is only made to handle a limited range of sound intensities - for limited periods of time. When loudness levels exceed what G-d made the ear to handle, the ear is overwhelmed - with what can be permanent the ear AND the person's quality of life, health and ability to function. This "pancake" analogy tells us what happens to the inner ear at simchas with amplification levels around 130 decibels. Since many people do not know that they are subjecting themselves to harm and do not leave, they compound their danger every minute that they remain present.

Inner ear damage, for example tinnitus [ringing or squealing noise in the ears], hyperacusis [extreme sensitivity to environmental sounds, manifesting as discomfort or pain from hearing various sounds] or hearing loss, can require a team of health professionals to diagnose and address a patient's problem, since patients can experience problems in many aspects of life. Conditions can disturb sleep, conversation, concentration, learning, work, socializing and relating. The suffering, stress, anxiety, depression and disruption of normal activity from inner ear disorders can impair life or push people to disablement or suicide. Problems can be emotional as well as physical. Therefore, some cases require a holistic, multi-discipline approach. The patient's personal physician, an ENT [ear, nose and throat doctor], mental health practitioner [psychiatrist, psychologist or social worker], audiologist, neurologist, dietician or nutritionist or others may be necessary, as appropriate to each individual case. Each professional should know about what the others are doing to make sure their tests, diagnoses, therapies or prescriptions complement the others to maximize aid and compassion for the patient; and do not contradict each other so as to endanger the patient or duplicate any effort unnecessarily. The patient must know that inner ear damage baffles even the best physicians. They must be warned that some treatments, surgeries or prescriptions might help some people but not others and there can be ugly side effects. Besides treating symptoms and helping the patient cope, practitioners should speak to the patient about the impact of the condition on his life, research being done (and new impending developments relating to the patient, if any) and how others cope; to give the patients with difficult or incurable conditions hope and strength.

Loud amplification is truly dangerous. Our generation must see its intrusion into the Jewish community as serious and address it accordingly. We must view this as a matter of social and halachic responsibility and deal with it strongly. It is not a trite or silly question. It could help if qualified and respected rabonim, with expertise in related areas of Torah and who have influence on people, would confer with physicians who specialize in related areas of medicine, who have experience with the difficulties of treatment and with patients' long-term suffering in such cases; so the robonim will formulate takanos (Jewish law decrees) limiting amplification to levels that ensure the safety, comfort and protection of all who attend any Jewish function. Hosts must be pro-active from the beginning of planning of their events. There must be a contractual agreement IN ADVANCE OF THE EVENT - made IN ADVANCE OF SENDING INVITATIONS (so the host can guarantee safety to all guests before inviting anyone!) - that requires musicians to limit the loudness level. The advance-terms must ALSO require that if anyone is uncomfortable, volume will be lowered to accommodate him, even if ONE PERSON'S SAFETY OR COMFORT determines the volume limit for the entire affair. The musicians will NOT BE PAID if the volume limit is exceeded or if anyone uncomfortable is not promptly and fully accommodated. Put the terms in writing and state them firmly to the musicians in front of two or more kosher aidim [halachic witnesses]. Perhaps if rabonim would refuse to participate at functions at which there is no advance guarantee of safe volume levels throughout, that would effectively send a message. A rov of a shul, teacher in a yeshiva, the officiating rabbi (the wedding's "mesader kidushin" or the one who trains a bar mitzva boy) or anyone whose actions can impact a group, could require amplification limits, or not come to simchas made by his group. Perhaps, upon receiving an invitation, the rov, teacher, grandparent or any influential person should ask hosts to guarantee keeping amplification low. If a host does not commit in advance to limiting volume and protecting attendees, he can ask his group (congregation, chasidim, talmidim, relatives, etc.) to NOT come (or to only stay briefly, just enough to say "mazal tov"). This protects people AND fulfills the halachic obligations to warn and protest.

One tzadik comes to simchas with a bag full of ear plugs, which he hands out to attendees! Although this is extraordinarily nice, it does not get to the root of the problem - stopping harm and teaching people that we are obligated not to allow harm.

HoRav Dovid Feinstein said that strong effort should be put into prevailing upon musicians, catering people and baalai simcha to stop loudness which is at levels capable of causing damage. This translates into halachic obligation for everyone in the Jewish community to band together IN UNITY to do all we can and to exert all the pressure possible to seriously and diligently combat the causing of harm through amplification. If all the individuals who are bothered by noise - or who recognize its dangers - would unite, powerful protests and effective methods would be possible.

Contact Rabbinic or kosher-certification organizations. Try to have their board meet to publish warnings [e.g. if they have publications or newsletters, make special mailings or announce news at meetings of their constituents] and to legislate takanos [halacha enactments] to protect against damaging loudness. If you have contacts at any organization or with any community leadership, communicate the importance of takanos which limit loudness. For example, do you know someone affiliated with the administration of Agudath Israel, Orthodox Union, Young Israel, any branch of the Chasidic or Sefardic communities; can you promote lectures through any branch of Hatzola or Bikur Cholim or at a local Jewish community center; if your shul rents space for simchas or gatherings, can you legislate an amplification limit for those who rent your facilities; do you know any rosh yeshivos or teachers who can teach their students about how loudness is a serious danger to people and violation of many areas of Torah [e.g. damages, imitating non-Jewish culture, remembrance of the destruction of the Bais HaMikdosh] - and is not "laibedig" nor "kosher" - and over time impairs learning Torah!? Let rabbis teach their students and congregants the halachos in Choshen Mishpot and poskim about prohibiting and preventing damage, pain and injury. Have them make unmistakably clear the practical connection between these Torah law responsibilities and the destructive amplification at simchas. Let parents teach children at early ages that loud sounds damage hearing and hurt ears. Teach them when young to avoid loud toys, blaring car horns, construction sites, loud amplification, etc. Make clear that loudness can remove some or all ability to learn, communicate, enjoy music, feel comfortable and live a full, healthy life.

Let rabonim remove their hechsher from any hall or caterer who would permit painful loudness because IF WE CAN'T TRUST THEIR BUSINESS IN THE LAWS OF CHOSHEN MISHPOT [DAMAGES], WE CAN NOT TRUST THEM IN THE LAWS OF YORAH DAYAH [KOSHRUS]! Put pressure on rabonim to DECLARE FACILITIES "TRAIF" IF THE HALL OR CATERER WON'T KEEP THE ENTIRE SHULCHAN ARUCH! If a hall allowed immodest dress or mixed dancing, it would lose its hechsher. So should the kosher supervisor declare facilities traif if it allows damaging volume that endangers health. Rabbis might even begin certifying bands or musicians who adhere to volume standards that satisfy the requirements of both Torah law and prevailing local secular law; and who assure the comfort and safety of all guests and workers at the affair and even neighbors near the catering facility. These rabbis would not allow bands or musicians to work on the premises supervised by them for any affair unless the band or musician agrees to those standards in writing. The maximum level of decibels must be monitored at the affair, the same way the mashgiach watches for mixing meat with milk or for uncertified cooking ingredients. The Ramo [Choshen Mishpot 155:20] says that experts shall be utilized to determine halachic safety criteria to protect people from causes of harm. A comfort level for hearing people speak understandably [without shouting] ten feet [three meters] apart, or a decibel level limit medically determined to be audiologically safe and comfortable could be used as a halachic basis for declaring loudness to be "kosher" vs. "traif."

Make a strong "grass roots" effort. Be creative and aggressive. Talk the subject up. When invited to simchas, send copies of this series to the host, other guests, rabonim of the youth who will be coming, etc. Tell others to make strong protests (but without causing fights). Put copies of this series on shul bulletin boards and send copies to heads of yeshivos, schools, organizations and communities. Demand that educators train the youth that loudness is definitely a health hazard [and not "laibadig"], on the importance of protecting people from damage, to protest vigorously against loud amplification and to have contempt for musicians who medically endanger people. When invited to a simcha, have everyone you know who is also invited to prevail upon the host to demand from the band a firm and constant safe and comfortable volume limit.

Encourage people to have their ears periodically checked by an ear doctor or audiologist, especially if they frequently go to simchas, dinners or other events that subject them to loud noise. Even if your hearing is excellent, get a hearing test periodically. If your ears are damaged by a loud musician, your "before and after" hearing test reports will constitute proof for bais din that your hearing was once good and was damaged at the noisy simcha. Try to get a recommendation to a good specialist or you can phone the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association at 1-800-638-8255 for referral to an audiologist in your area. They can also send you material on dangers of noise exposure. People who are suffering from tinnitus (noise in the ear) or hyperacusis (pain in the ear or sensitivity to sound) they can contact the American Tinnitus Association for assistance and free literature at 1-800-634-8978. The League For Hard Of Hearing educates people about the dangers of noise, and coping with and the severity of hearing loss and ear dysfunction. The League offers literature and information. Call (888) NOISE88 [New York (917) 305-7700]. Their website address is Catering hall operators who really care about their community might hire a reputable, experienced and qualified occupational audiologist to devise means by which his hall will maintain safe standards in matters relating to ear-health, decreasing of noise, preventing of harm and guaranteeing the comfort and well-being of guests. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (noted above) can help make facilities safer for ears.

The Torah requires that remedies for damages accord with halacha. Aside from strict halacha, one must be concerned with never causing "chillul Hashem [profanation of G-d]," anger, animosity or fighting in the quest for a remedy against a fellow Jew. One must take practical questions to a qualified posaik or dayan with experience and Yiras Shomayim, for instruction.

Paying customers who hire bands have the power and responsibility to assure safe and comfortable conditions for the guests who they invite to their affairs. With hosts rests the greatest ability to assure the safety and comfort of guests. Tell a musician before hiring him, "I have requirements." Aside from serious danger, high noise levels make it impossible for guests to converse with each other or enjoy the event. Hosts should be encouraged to insist on smaller groups of musicians (who have derech eretz and kavod habrios [respect and dignity] for their audiences!), non-electric instruments and no electric amplification for any instrument and no instrument capable of a high-pitched piercing sound [high pitched sound can hurt ears, as can loud volume sounds] such as trumpet, drums or electric keyboards. There are plenty of acoustic instruments that can do a marvelous job making a simcha - without compromising the well-being of attendees; including the viola, clarinet, trombone, lower-range saxophones, etc. These limiting conditions must be treated as terms of doing business and written into a contract and/or stated in the presence of kosher aidim [halachically valid witnesses]. It must be clear that no amplifiers or loud-speakers for instruments nor electric instruments are permissible, including any keyboard or use of a mike for loud voice amplification. If any musician complains against the terms, remind him that he has no permission to make a living as a "professional damager," which is another way of saying "criminal." Let us make clear that we will not patronize criminals, even those substituting the name "musician," even those who play songs whose words are from Tehillim or are about newliweds. If I bash you on the head, but I use a gemora book to do it, am I off the hook for cracking your skull? If I give you food poisoning with kosher food, does that make the meal healthy? If I sing about Moshiach and the volume causes you permanent inner ear damage, pain and doctor bills, am I a tzadik [righteous person]? The worst yaitzer hora [evil inclination] is the one with payos! The Kotzker Rebbe says that the yaitzer hora has two aspects: one tells you to do evil and the second tells you that it is a mitzva to do it. One of the most fundamental forms of sin is to cause hezik [harm or damage] and we are obligated to prevent all forms of hezik and to save people from them.

If a person comes uninvited into another's domain, it is at the intruder's own risk. However, if he comes into another's domain with permission, the host is obligated to guard against any causing of harm to the visitor, whether to the visitor's property or body [Choshen Mishpot 378:6, 389:10 Ramo]. When one makes a simcha, he rents a hall, making it into his domain for the duration. It is a host's obligation to guard against any cause of harm to guests who were invited to the simcha. This ALL applies to a host being RESPONSIBLE TO NOT ALLOW DAMAGE TO THE EARS OR HEARING OF GUESTS at his simcha! By his invitation to a guest, the guest is there with permission and the host represents that the guest can presume and expect safety. The host cannot hide from the responsibility to see to it that there is no cause of harm to the guests invited to his simcha. Whether making an event at a hall (wedding, bar mitzva, organizational dinner, etc.) or at a private home (vort, sheva brachos, etc.), it is a contradiction to invite people into your domain and then damage them or to make them need to leave.

If this won't insult the host, you can gently say that you would not be able to come if there will be loud amplification. Describe to him the nature of the medical dangers or that you are under doctor's orders not to subject yourself to health risks from noise exposure. If applicable, you can tell hosts that you have a pre-existing condition [e.g. hearing loss, tinnitus or hyperacusis] and you cannot afford to sustain further damage. Maybe the host will agree to commit to a controlled and low volume. If you don't know the host closely enough to make coming conditional, just decline the invitation, gently giving the reason as the loud amplification and its power to damage. This serves the purpose of making the host aware that it can cause people serious harm. This can constructively register a protest and/or suggestion. Perhaps you can briefly show up (bringing ear plugs) for the chupa, or at a later time to just say "mazal tov." You must not speak to the host in a rude or angry manner. Your goal is protecting health and doing a mitzva, not fighting or insulting. Your tone must be sweet, gentle and peaceful. If many people ask the host to keep the volume down, demand (politely but firmly) an end to noise or if people leave affairs in droves, or refuse to come in the first place (if there is no commitment by the host in advance to maintain soft, comfortable, acceptable volume throughout the entire affair), maybe baal habatim and musicians will get the idea.

If a simcha is made on the host's condition that you expose yourself to loud amplification, your position should be that you will not come or stay. Say that you very much appreciate that the host thought enough of you to invite you and to want you at his or her simcha. Explain to the host in a nice way that the noise causes you pain, can harm people or some such, and that you cannot come, or that you cannot stay but briefly. Make it clear that the reason "is medical, not personal." You will be speaking truth and keeping the mitzva to protect your health and to advocate for the health of others. You are not responsible if the host feels insulted if you are protecting your health and you express yourself politely. The serious, permanent damage that can potentially be done by loudness is utterly pointless and unjustifiable. You don't have to suffer to protect the host's feelings.

Having studied some music, I personally believe that many musicians like the volume loud to mask their musical inadequacies and technical mediocrity. They take advantage of the fact that most in the frum community have never studied embouchure, harmony, counterpoint, orchestration, chords or other elements of fine music. Loudness helps musicians get away with playing anything and substituting noise for musical content and quality.

Cigarette and alcohol labels have warnings. Perhaps we should have hosts add warning notices to their invitations, in all languages that pertain to their group (Hebrew, English, Yiddish, Russian, etc.), that loud music amplification at their simcha can cause significant and permanent damage to ears. Let people clearly know that the damage can be irreversible, non-treatable medically and can cause a life of genuine suffering. Those whose ears may be bothered 1) should come very briefly and leave quickly, 2) should ask the host to have the band lower the volume, 3) should leave immediately if their ears start to hurt or ring or 4) should not come. Perhaps similar warning notices should be required at the actual simchas, perhaps on the cards with table numbers or on big signs near the hall's front door. In any event, strong and meaningful steps must be taken against the loudness trend, to establish audiological/medical criteria for halachic takanos and to take all steps necessary to protect people from it.

If a person at an event asks a musician to make the volume lower, the musicians generally either will not or they will turn it back up as soon as the person walks away. Since musicians usually are not sympathetic or cooperative on the merits of the issue, the attack must be against their pocket by the public and the rabonim. No one has a right to earn a livelihood by damaging anyone else. In the days of the Bais HaMikdosh, women had to bring a sacrifice to the Holy Temple for a miscarriage. If a woman had five miscarriages, she would have to bring five sacrifices. The merchants, who sold the birds necessary for the sacrifices, artificially raised the prices and poor women were not able to afford them. Raban Shimon Ben Gamliel legislated that a woman only had to bring one sacrifice for multiple miscarriages. Suppliers could not sell their wares and bird sales plummeted so that the price for a bird dropped to one fourth of the original price THE SAME DAY [Krisos 8a]. One time, European fish merchants raised their prices, knowing Jews require fish for sabbath meals. The rabonim made a takana (enactment) that no one buy fish. When the merchants were left with no business, they got the message. Let us learn from these lessens and take strong steps against deafeningly loud musicians. Perhaps we should universally adopt the "minhag Yerushalayim" [the custom of only hiring a drummer who is also a singer, as the only musician at a chasuna]. There would be NO AMPLIFIED INSTRUMENTS, yet enough dancing to make a simcha.

There is another alternative WITHOUT ANY amplified music that has proven successful when tried. Hire a choir of young men who know the traditional songs and who have "Yiddishe ruach [Jewish spirit]." Let them provide unamplified singing. True simcha comes from within. At a sheva brachos or bar mitzva on shabos, a crowd can be very lively and happy without instruments. We can achieve the same thing with the right spirit at a chasuna on a weekday. The singers can form a nucleus and impetus, and provide a "formula" for arousing spontaneity, and getting people together. A choir can replace a band and get everybody dancing.

Left to their own self-serving devices, commercial musicians often cannot be trusted or reasoned with. They want a room full of potential customers to "kvell" and "chalish" over their noise. Therefore, the mature parents who make the functions, the baal habatim who hire musicians, must demand low volume IN ADVANCE, as a non-negotiable condition of doing business. DEMAND COMPLETE AND CONSTANT CONTROL OVER THE SOUND VOLUME AT ALL TIMES THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE AFFAIR. Expect that the musicians will try to tell you that loudness is necessary for professional acoustics, instrumental balance or that everyone will love the affair if they play in their loud way. Accept no baloney from them; it is a self-serving and irresponsible "sales pitch" that ENTIRELY EVADES THE MEDICAL, HALACHIC AND MORAL REALITIES OF THE MATTER. If they show indifference to harming people, tell them you will not hire them and you will tell everyone you know to not use them. This is NOT lashon hora [slander] because there is to'elless [halachic constructive purpose] are guarding people from someone who wants to damage them for money. If musicians want your business, tell them, "Take it or leave it." Be firm and unequivocal with the musicians. Make payment to them clearly contingent on their satisfactory compliance. Get the loudness-limiting terms in writing in advance. Build the specific maximum allowable noise level into the contract. Specifically write that the payment is due "ONLY ON CONDITION" that you have complete control over volume. If you can, try to make objective standards that cannot be disputed or undefinable, by such terms as "all sound be below 80 decibels [or any level that is "universally comfortable/safe" or at a conversation-permitting level for people ten feet apart speaking at their normal voice volume] at all times" or "all people conversing at ten feet apart in their normal speaking voice shall hear every word of conversation clearly," and [this is VERY important] "any sound will be lowered to accommodate any person for whom the volume is uncomfortable, even if it means that the one person shall define the loudness limit for the entire affair." You can obtain a sound-level meter which measures loudness in decibels at an electronics or chain store. Bring the sound-level meter to each of your affairs. Consider it a moral and halachic obligation to monitor the sound level throughout, from beginning to end. Having one at your simcha will kill a musician's claim for payment when he violates the loudness-limiting terms. The sound-level meter can also be used as evidence that noise was the cause of ear damage that brought hearing loss, suffering, medical expenses, inability to work, etc.; for a bais din case against a musician or band. You can offer to "reward" a band by offering to promote it to other people if terms are complied with, people can converse over the music, no one complains or is hurt, etc.

Make it clear that you intend to enforce the comfort and safety of all attendees, including but not limited to, guests and workers. Word the contract so that, if the musicians violate the noise-limiting terms, they hold you harmless and they have made themselves exclusively and totally liable for all consequences. If possible, have two kosher witnesses present at the signing. IF THE MUSICIANS DON'T FOLLOW THE TERMS, YOU DON'T PAY THEM. They will have no case against you for not paying them a penny. If anyone is damaged, it will be the musicians, not you, who are taken to bais din.



The loud amplification of music at simchas commonly causes people harm and suffering. This danger is not restricted to simchas, either. This can apply at any function at which there is loud electronic sound amplification, for example: lectures, concerts, organizational meetings or conventions. However, simchas, such as weddings or bar mitzvas, are the most common examples of events in contemporary Jewish culture at which there is loud amplification.

Loud amplification at simchas and public gatherings can cause severe and incurable damage to the delicate and fragile mechanisms of the inner ear. Symptoms can include hearing loss, dizziness, tinnitus [constant loud ringing noise in the ears] and discomfort or stinging pain in the ear, either constantly or from hearing sounds. People often do not know what danger they are vulnerable to from loud noise exposure - until it is too late. To permanently damage people like this is cruel, callous, immoral and forbidden; it is unacceptable to the Torah.

Tzar baalay chayim [purposelessly causing pain to an animal] is forbidden and seriously punished. Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi [who compiled the Mishnah] once spoke harshly to a calf. Heaven decreed excruciating pain on him for thirteen years for this [Bava Metzia 85a]. Sefer Charaidim tells us a woman became unable to have children. She went to the Arizal to ask why. He said that Heaven decreed this because she blocked a chicken from its food and caused it discomfort. If causing suffering to an animal is so severely punished by Heaven, kal vichomer [how much moreso] if we are cruel, unconcerned or hurtful with our brothers and sisters! On the other hand, for "all who have compassion on G-d's creations, Heaven has compassion on him" [Shabos 151b].

The Torah [Exodus 22:21] tells us to never pain a widow or orphan. Rashi there tells us that a widow or orphan are only examples, and the verse is saying that we may NEVER HURT ANY ONE WITH ANY FORM OF VULNERABILITY OR WEAKNESS. At a simcha, a hall is filled with relatives, friends, neighbors and associates who feel socially obligated and compelled to stay for the duration. They are vulnerable to noise trauma from deafening loudness and are weak against the host or musician who refuses to lower amplification to a safe and comfortable level. This is no way to treat people. Not hurting attendees at simchas requires lower music volume. Doing so is a CHEEYUV DE'ORAISA [complete and inescapable Torah obligation]. The gemora tells us [Shabos 133b], "Be like G-d. Just as Hashem gives graciously and is compassionate, you shall give graciously and be compassionate." This is not optional idealism, this is a practical requirement, as the Torah says, "Acharay Hashem Elokaichem taylaychu [go in G-d's ways," Deuteronomy 13:5]. The gemora [Sota 14a] specifically ties this verse to our being obligated to behave with kindness and doing only good for others. Sending more and more people (including those closest to us!) to ear doctors and causing potentially life-long, serious and irreversible suffering and damage is not kindness. It is destruction. We are a nation of builders and we build with GENUINE AND PURE KINDNESS, as the verse tells us, "Olam chesed yiboneh [the world is built by lovingkindness," Psalm 89:3]. Let us fulfill, "VoChai bohem [live by the Torah's laws," Leviticus 18:5] "and not die by the Torah's laws" [Yoma 85b]. Participating at a simcha is a mitzva, but not if doing so is detrimental. Mitzvos are for doing good, not for harm.

One of our generation's greatest Roshai Yeshiva said that the war between the Greeks and the Jews was a war over whether man should determine morality or whether G-d should determine morality. The Chanuka story teaches us that morality can only be determined by G-d. For man to decide what is or isn't moral is idolatry and such a philosophy always eventually leads to downfall.

"Midas S'dom [the trait of Sodom]" is a particular way of being evil that G-d hates. Pirkei Avos [chapter five] applies the term to a person who sees separation between himself (and his property) and another (and the other's property) by saying "mine is mine and yours is yours." Rabbainu Yona [commentary to Avos], writes that a person can physically give to another person, but the giving can be devoid of thought about the receiver. When one doesn't care about the other, his heart draws barriers between himself and others. Even if the person gives, by his closing himself off to concern about others, he brings midas S'dom into his heart. The Bartenura [commentary to Avos, based on Bava Kama 20b] writes that midas S'dom applies to a person who wants that others not benefit from what he is able to give. Midas S'dom is to be cruel and insensitive, to see to it another derives no benefit, to neglect others' needs, to see yourself as losing by another having good, to want another's well-being to be separated from you. The evil and perverse trait of Sodom was despised by G-d, especially after it became widespread and legitimatized as a social principle that spread throughout the community. G-d's response was to destroy Sodom. The sages prohibit midas S'dom [Eruvin 49a, Kesubos 103a]. They tell us that people of S'dom have no share in the world to come and that they had arrogance that came directly from good that G-d had given them [Sanhedrin 109a]. When one becomes arrogant, cruel or indifferent from blessing that G-d gives, this is midas S'dom. Torah requires giving, benefitting and caring about others. When midas S'dom becomes widespread and legitimatized, it undermines society [Rambam's commentary on Pirkei Avos].

Midas S'dom is what is happening with a "culture" of unjustifiably and destructively loud amplification at simchas. This is promoted by musicians, youth and hosts at simchas. This is the opposite of Yiddishkeit. Harmfully noisy simchas are no mitzva. One must never do anything wrong to do a mitzva. G-D WILL PROVIDE PERMISSIBLE MEANS FOR DOING HIS WILL. IF G-D DOES NOT AVAIL A HALACHIC MEANS FOR DOING HIS WILL, WE ARE FREE FROM DOING THE MITZVA [Rabbi Shimshon Rafael Hirsch, commentary to Genesis 24:8]. The gemora [Sota 21b] calls someone who does damage through "religiosity" a "chosid shoteh [pious idiot]." He will let a woman drown because it is immodest to look at a woman. The Mishna [Sota 20a] says that a chosid shoteh can destroy the world. The world was created in ten utterances by G-d, to multiply punishment for those who destroy the world, and to multiply reward for those who build G-d's world [Pirkei Avos, chap. five]. Someone who wants to make a mitzva of bringing joy to a baal simcha by hurting participants at the affair is a chosid shoteh who has midas S'dom, is a destructive and perverse imbecile, is evil in the eyes of Hashem and constructs his thinking on false and invalid emotion-based reasoning which has no Torah mesorah [background/tradition] or makor [source].

An ignoramus cannot be sin-fearing or truly pious [Pirkei Avos, chap. two]. To be a truly pious person, one must learn and make himself a scholar, or, at least, attach himself to a pious and sin-fearing scholar for constant guidance in life questions. TORAH MUST ALWAYS APPLY TO "REAL LIFE."

The musicians have vested interest in playing loudly. The youth consider the loudness "laibedig" and are likely customers when they will make their own chasunas, if they are impressed with the noisy band. I once attended a bar mitzva and asked the musician to make the loud music lower. As soon as I walked away, HE MADE IT LOUD AGAIN. I asked him a second time. The instant I walked away, HE DID THE SAME THING AGAIN. I once was at a vort and asked the musician to make the volume lower. He simply refused and told me that I should keep away from the amplifier, as if that helped escape the room-filling electronic amplification. After a chasuna, I once told a "one man band" that his amplification was dangerously loud and could harm people. He thanked me for pointing this out and said he would keep his volume lower thereafter. Within a few months, I went to two chasunas at which he played - at the same deafening volume! The one time a musician made AND KEPT the volume low when I asked was at a sheva brachos. He was a teenage Lubavitcher, a bit over bar mitzva age, who was playing for the sincere sake of a mitzva, was not blinded by money or ego, and he personally had nice midos.

Everyone's earnings are decided by Heaven from Rosh HaShanah to Yom Kippur for the coming year [Baitza 16a]. A person must live within his means and be careful to not spend more than he earns [Rashi]. All ill-gotten gains, which do not come as a kosher GIFT FROM HASHEM, will be SEPARATED FROM THE PERSON. This can come through severe trouble (e.g. major doctor bills, robbery, business or investment losses) or premature death [Bamidbar Raba 22:7]. No one can exceed his decree from Heaven for parnossa [livelihood] and the decree ONLY applies to earnings that come through kosher means. If a musician earns money by hurting attendees at his jobs, he is earning money for doctors, stock brokers, creditors, thieves or the funeral parlor.



We call a happy event a "simcha." What does the word "simcha" actually mean? It is the QUIET AND CALM INNER HAPPINESS that a Jew feels at a Torah milestone or celebration. It is spiritual. Once "happiness" is visceral or agitated, such as when derived from "hyper-amplified" rhythmic noise, it is no longer spiritual. Therefore, it is not "simcha," as the Torah defines it. Simcha is not dependent upon external, never mind physical, stimulation. True joy comes from inner identification with the spiritual meaning of the happy "life milestone" event being celebrated. The classic sefer Orchos Tzadikim tells us that simcha comes from "ABUNDANT CALM IN THE HEART, WITH NO TROUBLESOME ELEMENT." Simcha is not defined or enhanced by loudness. Torah simcha is characterized by inner CALM.

The Mishna Brura [560:16] says that because of "zaicher lechorban [remembrance of the destruction]" we must minimize klee shir [musical instruments] and "ain lismo'ach biyoser [don't overdo it making simcha]." One who does not tone down a simcha, lacks sensitivity to the chorban and violates the halachic obligation to remember it in practical life.

We are a nation of builders. True building is directed only by the mature, who are wise in their approach to simcha. The sages make clear with the following analogy that where there is noise, there is no chochma [wisdom].

The gemora [Bava Metzia 85b] says that a jar with one pebble can make a lot of annoying noise when shaken. A packed jar, loaded tightly with pebbles, will not make any sound, no matter how much it is shaken. This is an analogy to wisdom. A person who makes noise is an empty person. A chochom [wise person] is one who acts regarding any issue with substance, quiet and calm; no matter how much he is "shaken."

The Maharal writes that the difference between things of the physical world and of the spiritual world is that the physical is in motion and the spiritual is at rest. Sound comes from energy waves that are in constant motion. Noise is entirely physical. If the essence of wedding music is to "shake and bake," it is of the physical world, and its source is not Torah. Branding it "laibedig" or using words from the siddur does not make it kosher, any more than putting payos on a pig makes it kosher. It makes the payos traif!

Much of the noise passing these days as "Jewish music" is putrid and non-Jewish in its origin. A hallmark of contemporary secular music is deafening loudness, obscene rhythm and physically stimulating beat. These are sometimes evident recently in much of the "frum" music, often during ensemble playing and particularly when soloists improvise. In my experience, most who are going about as musicians and chazonim are often hardly worthy of the titles and generally are unsophisticated in halacha learning, are selfish and/or arrogant. Many have no sense of, never mind education in, genuine fine music. Contemporary Jewish music modes follow the tasteless and deteriorating trend of the outside world, with lascivious and visceral foundations, and, worst of all, being presented as holy by the self-serving to the ignorant.

Therefore, one of the major halachic grounds for objecting to this insidious and intrusive abomination, wearing a phoney "mask" of "simcha" or "mitzva," is the Torah verse [Leviticus 18:3], "Uvichukosaihem lo saylaychu [do not go in the ways of non-Torah culture]." These turn one away from serving Hashem, and this includes to NOT GO IN THEIR WAYS IN THEATER OR ENTERTAINMENT, WHICH BRING TO INSANE BEHAVIOR [Sefer HaChinuch, #262]. One must guard himself to not act like the nations, for this will be like a trap [Midrash Sifri 81]. We may not emulate them in any way [Ramo, Yorah Daya 178:1].

You cannot find one qualified halacha [Torah-law] authority, who knows the cultural and medical implications of this trend, who will endorse deafening amplification on halachic or "mitzva" grounds. A mekubal [Torah mysticism authority] in B'nai Brak refers to the commercial "Jewish music industry" as traif, as a kilkul [spiritual deterioration] and as a sin for which our generation is punishable. I am not revealing the punishment, but it is severe and has widespread destructive implications for our entire population that has already started to happen.

The audience is probably empty of any sanctioned Jewish "culture" or serious education in music. How many ever heard a Cantor Yossel Rosenblatt recording or a Beethoven symphony? How many formally studied music composition or orchestration? How many have heard recordings of simcha music made before rock 'n roll (the music being milder, flowing and melodic in both ensemble and solo playing; the tie to spirituality much more clearly evident; all instrumentation being non-amplified)? Our generation does not know any better, "kvelling" over so-called "Jewish music," and not seeing the contradiction of this "Jewish music" being used as a genuine and effective "weapon." You just tell them it's Tehillim or Moshiach with an electric guitar or a Casio and they get excited. Worse, they get "frum excited." After all, "it's laibedig!" and "it's holy," right? Most people in the audiences mindlessly take what the musicians dish out. Besides damage, callouness to the chorban and emulating secular culture; this probably also contributes to violating the sins of bittul zman [wasting time], baal tashchis [destroying worldly resources], bittul momon [wasting money], bittul kavod habrios [negating human dignity] and, for men, bittul Torah [negating learning]. Going around in circles having inner ears blasted is no mitzva. It is a serious sin to cause - or permit yourself to receive - damage.

King Solomon says, "The wise person fears and turns from evil and the imbecile strengthens himself to do sin with confidence" [Proverbs 14:16]. No wise person will do anything for which he would get punished [Rashi] and the fool who sins will slip and fall [Targum Yonason]. A wise person will calculate everything he does, before ever acting, to see if any sin will come from it [Rabainu Yerucham, Da'as Torah]. "Who is wise? The one who foresees the outcome" [before deciding or doing a thing; Tamid 32a]. Only when fear of sin comes before chochma [wisdom] does chochma endure; and one should always weigh the pleasure of a sin against the cost of its punishment [Pirkei Avos]. The gemora [Suka 30a] tells us that THERE IS NO MITZVA IF IT COMES THROUGH A SIN. THE ACT REMAINS A TOTAL SIN. So-called "mitzvos" at simchas are actually contradictions if any one is ever injured through them. They are avairos [sins] that are erroneously called "mitzvos," and loud simchas can do serious and widespread damage. THOSE IN ATTENDANCE DON'T KNOW THE DAMAGE THEY ARE SUBJECTING THEMSELVES TO. Isn't it ironic that simchas can be sins and people coming to them, expecting to do mitzvos, get punished? It's like rain on Sukkos - Hashem is displeased with the level of our service. Our priorities, values and judgement have gotten warped. When society makes "simchas" that can harm attendees, and this has become a widespread and accepted custom, it is a case of what Avraham our father said to Avimelech [Beraishis 20:11], "There is no fear of G-d in this place."

The Torah has kedimos [clear orders of priorities]. If one cheats to have money to give charity, if one does kindness in the neighborhood and thereby neglects his or her own family, if one makes newliweds happy by dancing while harming people with amplified music, priorities are warped. There are basic, universal requirements [e.g. halacha, derech eretz and good midos] and there are "extras" [e.g. minhagim, segulos and chumros] for people who want to be extra stringent or pious. But, ONE MAY NOT DO "EXTRAS" AND LEAVE OUT OR VIOLATE TORAH BASICS. It is only legitimate to do extras when all of the basics of Torah are completely fulfilled. Then you can add something meritorious that is EXTRA. When extras cause one to omit, skip or violate basics; extras are not legitimate, and may be avairos [sins]. This is SUBSTITUTION FOR TORAH, NOT AUGMENTATION OF TORAH! Extra effort to make a simcha that violates Torah prohibitions against hurting or damaging, or neglecting to safeguard against hurting or damaging, is not service of Torah. If the extras are actual avairos, they are all the moreso illegitimate and evil. If Torah is flawed, it is not the Torah of G-d. This is only human shortcoming. "Toras Hashem temima [Tehillim 19:8, the Torah of Hashem is perfect]."

Yosef's brothers sold him into slavery and he later became Prince of Egypt. After Yaakov (their father) died, Yosef's brothers feared vengeance. He told them not to worry and that he understood his getting to Egypt had been G-d's plan. Rabainu Bachya [to Genesis 50:21] asks: if Yosef forgave his brothers, why were the "asara harugay malchus [ten martyred sages]" killed by the Romans to atone for the brothers' sale of Yosef? How could there have been such a tragedy? Since Yosef only comforted them, but did not express directly that he forgave them, Heaven considered the forgiveness to be insufficient. When one wrongs another, the victim must explicitly express forgiveness in order for Heaven to consider the forgiveness effective. If musicians hurt people hundreds of times each year, year after year of their "careers," since they never receive explicit forgiveness from EVERY person they ever hurt, they subject themselves to punishments from Heaven of frightening and tragic magnitude. In contrast, the Shulchan Aruch [Orech Chayim 231] says that if one intends everything he does for the sake of Heaven and if everything he does is the will of Heaven, he is doing service of G-d at every moment of his life.



In the first seven installments, we spoke of how amplified music at simchas has become widespread and gotten so loud in recent years that more and more people are being caused suffering and damage to their ears and hearing, being caused incurable and often permanent injury (e.g. "tinnitus" - loud ringing in the ears, dizziness or pain in the inner ears, etc.). We spoke of how it is a mitzva to protect health, how it is forbidden by halacha [Torah law] to cause hurt or damage and how it is an obligation in halacha to guard against causing hurt or damage. Caring for health is a Torah obligation that requires unusually extreme stringency and diligence, and taking no chances. We spoke of how causing damage to ears and hearing are strongly and specifically prohibited by halacha. We spoke of how the so-called music and loud amplification are of non-Jewish derivation and are physical in their essence with a false "mask" of spirituality, violating the Torah commandment never to go in non-Torah ways or culture, including modes of entertainment. We spoke of how this culture of noise serves musicians' self-interest because the immature in the audiences consider loudness "laibedig [lively]" and they hire bands who they remember as being "laibedig" when they make their chasunas subsequently. We spoke of how it is anti-Torah and destructive to let the immature determine cultural trends. We spoke of how we should train youth that loud amplification causes serious ear damage, that the Torah strongly prohibits causing harm and that they should have contempt for musicians who would harm people. The perpetrator of inner ear damage could be liable to suit in bais din and is punishable by Heaven. Even if a person asks the perpetrator to cause him damage, the perpetrator is fully guilty and responsible for harming, because halacha considers one who agrees to be damaged to be out of his mind (no one normal would want it). We brought the gemora showing that the more noise something has, the less wisdom there is to it and the more emptiness there is to it. We brought from the Maharal showing how the more a thing is in motion, the more a thing is physical (noise is vibration of sound waves - pure motion), and that the truly spiritual is at rest. We showed that true Torah simcha is never noisy, it is calm and spiritual. We showed that if a thing truly is Hashem's will, He will send halachicly permissible means to do it and that there is no mitzva that comes through a sin. We showed that if a thing bothers or hurts even one person, halacha prohibits it and the offender must be stopped. We showed that a host takes responsibility to see that his invited guests are safeguarded from harm and that a musician has a "weapon" in his amplifier from which the public must be protected. We showed that no one has a right to earn a living by damaging people. We showed that halacha requires having experts establish criteria for distancing any cause of harm from people. In our case, ear doctors in conjunction with rabonim would determine safe and comfortable volume level limitations for protecting people from noise trauma and amplification damage at Jewish functions.

"Tradition is a fence that safeguards the Torah" [Pirkei Avos, chapter three]. Mesorah tells us how we understand our texts and practice Torah. There is no source or tradition for unbearably loud amplified music as a way to celebrate or conduct any simcha. This eight-part series shows that this "culture" of harmfully loud amplification is non-Jewish in origin and VIOLATES halacha [Torah law] and mesorah [Torah tradition] in MANY WAYS. Since "There is nothing new under the sun" [Ecclesiastes 1:9], anything "new" must be suspected as not being a genuine "thing." Good and meaningful "things" are those which have been around for centuries, in the Torah. If a thing is valid, even "modern" things, the timeless holy Torah always at least alludes to it.

Here we have a situation in which laymen are crafting Jewish "culture." There is no halachic basis, origin or justification for inventing a commercial Jewish "music industry," especially since its deafening loudness and much of its physically stimulating rhythm is based on a tasteless secular "spiritually poisonous" music industry, and since it has potent and widespread power to cause serious medical damage to very many people, steadily and systematically, on occasion after occasion. Laymen; whether commercial musicians with self-interest, immature bachurim [youth], or baal habatim who don't know the Torah or medical implications of loud music; certainly cannot innovate for Jewish society. Only rabonim, the scholars who are our Torah leaders, can determine what conforms with the mesorah and what is acceptable to adopt into Jewish life and practice.

A traif and widespread trend was born, and brought in from, "outside." Youth consider loudness "laibedig [lively]" and commercial musicians cater to youth because the youth are a base of future customers. These are the same immature, silly and egocentric youth who substitute 1) "shtik" or "dancing in the middle," which they do at simchas in order to be thought of as great shiduchim [prospective marriage partners], for 2) becoming fine and mentshlach people who would genuinely make great, mature and responsible shiduchim.

The Torah has compassion on the property of a Jew [Yoma 39a] and "kal vichomer [all the moreso]" the Torah has compassion on the body of a Jew [Bartenura, Krisus 6:3]. The Torah commands "hashavas avaida [returning the lost property of a Jew;" Exodus 23:4, Deuteronomy 22:1-4]. Kal vichomer [all the moreso] YOU MAY NOT CAUSE A PERSON TO LOSE WHAT HE HAS (e.g. hearing, physical well-being)! Sefer HaChinuch [The Book of Mitzva Education] counts "hashavas avaida" as TWO of the 613 mitzvos: 1) to return the lost property [#538] and 2) not to hide yourself from the other person's loss [#539]. Sefer HaChinuch says this is mandatory for the maintenance of civil life. Musicians and hosts can not hide from their responsibility to not hurt people's bodies (especially since the damage and loss can be severe, painful and/or permanent) and to not cost them money (by sending them to doctors and pharmacies), etc. The musicians have TOO MUCH POWER TO DAMAGE CIVIL LIFE.

"Simcha" that does damage is not simcha - and is not an option. Jewish musicians and hosts should not want anything they do to be responsible for even a small risk of "even maybe" harming anyone. They must accept responsibility to safeguard anything they do from the slightest possibility of causing harm to anyone - beyond any doubt. For hundreds of years unamplified instruments and maturity made an event truly into a mitzva and a joy, with no "bad side effects." True joy is inside the Jewish soul, not in the amplifier. A "need" for noise is physical, not in the least spiritual. If one can't feel joy inside, and calmly, independently of outside stimulation, then the part of him that can know simcha is broken or undeveloped. He needs a therapist (or a lot of growing up), not noise.

If you want to argue that the angels serve G-d with ra'ash gadol [great noise; Ezekiel 3:12-13, Siddur "Yotzer Or"], and that we should emulate angels, be reminded that angels are spiritual and do not have fragile physical inner ear structures. All the noise they can make in Heaven won't cause damage. Noise made on earth can cause damage! SERVICE OF G-D DOES NOT DAMAGE, AND NO VIOLATION OF SHULCHAN ARUCH [Code Of Law] IS SERVICE OF G-D!

One of the ear doctors I interviewed about ear damage gave the measure of "how low" the volume must be. If two people are talking in a normal voice at a distance of ten feet apart [three meters], they should be able to hear EVERY WORD CLEARLY, AND, even with this, there must be no one present complaining of any ear discomfort in any way. If EVEN ONE PERSON [e.g. an older person, someone with sensitive ears, someone whose ears were injured from a previous simcha, etc.] has any discomfort, the volume MUST IMMEDIATELY be lowered to accommodate him or her. THE WEAKEST PERSON THERE DEFINES THE MEASURE (not "a majority," not the host, not a musician). If anyone has a question about their ears being hurt at an affair, they should immediately ask the baal hasimcha for lower volume or they should ask a rov or respected person who is present to speak to the baal hasimcha to have the volume lowered. Failing that, they should immediately go home. The human ear is not made for such loud volume. Inner ear damage is often painful, "life impacting" and irreversible. One must never expose an ear to more than it was made to take. Doing so is no mitzva, it is destruction.

Let us make our life milestones into true simchas and pure mitzvos, with no bad aspect. Let us get back to a sane manifestation of calm spiritual joy at our simchas. Instead of damaging an attendee's ability to be happy afterwards - due to chronic and incurable hearing loss or ear pain - let the only lasting impact of a wedding be a happy marriage for the new couple, and let the only remnant of a bar mitzva be a youth who is thereafter fulfilling the will of his Father in Heaven. That way, we all can be closer to that noble goal of truly fulfilling the will of Hashem with mitzvos that are genuinely and fully mitzvos.






All good that can be found in the human condition is SOURCED ENTIRELY IN A GOOD HEART. It therefore is basic that to have a good marriage, both partners 1. must choose eachother, first and foremost, on the basis of each having a good heart; and 2. must relate to the other's heart 3. from his/her heart. This is done primarily by each giving of themselves VOLUNTARILY WITH A SWEET, PLEASANT ATTITUDE for the good, well-being and happiness of the other; treating eachother with respect, patience, responsibility, concern, importance, gratitude and warmth; DOING ALL OF THIS WITH UNENDING CONSISTENCY which allows the other to TRUST THAT SUCH IS THE BASIS FOR RELATING TO EACHOTHER. When the heart provides the PRIMARY BASIS for men and women communicating, understanding and relating; happy, loving and peaceful marriage will be the universal and practical standard for Jewish couples. This series on trouble patterns that I've discerned through my marriage counseling work experience, therefore, must address "a good heart."

Among the serious troubles in shalom bayis in our times is in the domain of VALUES. To start with, people go to all kinds of lengths to make a lavish wedding, with "all the trimmings." They go into hock, beg or borrow. They and/or their children want what other people have at their weddings. They are driven by social pressure to conform with or beat what everyone else is doing to make a wedding fancy. Once upon a time, in the "old country," there was only a small gathering of close relatives at the chasuna, one violinist, the "fleishigs" was a watery soup, the photographer was cousin Feivel who took one black and white picture of the chupa and there was no week of catered sheva brachos. Now, people get lost in wedding arrangements and even have fights over them. Then, when the couple is married, instead of leaving them alone, parents and relatives often mix in. Young couples are impressionable and still can be molded by parents. After marriage, influencing in any way is generally detrimental to that marriage. Yet, meddling relatives are among the most marriage-breaking forces around today (as are bad midos, immaturity, selfishness, bad communication and psychological problems). Any spouse who is spoiled or egocentric will make unreasonable and unrealistic demands upon the other. A growing number of marriages, to an alarming extent, are over within a month to a year. We can't even think about helping many of these couples because they are too immature, selfish and rigid to see or work on anything which is not their way. They are not raised to view a marriage partner as SO IMPORTANT THAT ONE MUST BEND ONE'S WILL, BEHAVIOR AND FRAGILE FEELINGS ON BEHALF OF HIM/HER, OR ON BEHALF OF UNITY WITH THAT PERSON; SO THAT DIFFERENCES AND PRESSURES CAN BE MATURELY AND EFFECTIVELY HANDLED. It's "what can you do for me?" "What can I take, demand and expect from you?" "How are you worth my being married to?" "Will you provide support (so he can learn or she can revel in comfort)?" Because 1. divorce no longer carries its old stigma, 2. there is much more sanction and place in society for unmarried women, and 3. marriage has lost much of its sanctity; divorce has become a commodity these days and marriage has become optional and disposable; like a tin of peas which gets thrown out after serving its purpose.

When a marriage prioritizes or is based at all on externals, looks, a fun personality, societal status or approval, talent, mental brilliance, materialism - things which are nice if there but WHICH HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH LASTING TOGETHER FOR A LIFETIME - they are essentially ASKING FOR MARRIAGE TO SOONER OR LATER FAIL, OR TO BE MISERABLE TO MEDIOCRE AT BEST. In marriage, two people are to become tied as if two seperated halves are brought together to be one, a totality, a team. Through conducting themselves with gentleness, sacrificing, devotion, giving, and acceptance of imperfections; in other words: matters of the heart; a couple is able to build a holy and loving connection that withstands the tests and troubles of "real life." The Steipler said that you should select someone for marriage with good midos - who will apply them in practical every day living (e.g. taking good care when the other is sick, taking out the garbage when necessary without being asked and never hitting nor getting angry). A "frum" person without good midos, derech eretz, peacefulness, kind deeds and a good heart to others; especially to the person (s)he marries; IS A PHONEY SELF-SERVING HYPOCRITE WHO IS LIVING A LIE AND A CONTRADICTION. THE VALUES TODAY ARE BACKWARDS AND THE RESULTS THAT THEY PRODUCE ARE ALSO BACKWARDS. ONLY IF WE CAN RETURN TO FULLY PRIORITIZING AND LIVING FROM A GOOD HEART CAN WE STOP SUBSTITUTING IMPRESSIVE WEDDINGS FOR IMPRESSIVE MARRIAGES.



Chazal [gemora Taanis 26b] say the giving of the Torah was an analogy to marriage. Just as a bride and groom go under a chupa, the Jewish people were under Mount Sinai as if G-d were the groom and we were the bride, making a non-ending commitment to eachother. The Jewish people camped before the mountain [Exodus 19:2] and were ready with perfect unity to accept G-d's Torah. The midrash [Mechilta] says that they were AS ONE PERSON WITH ONE HEART. Unity, to the deepest of levels, the HEART, further symbolizes the essence of marriage.

King Solomon tells us quite straightforwardly, "There is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9)." Every essential thing of every description has been in the world and has continued as long as there has been time. That goes for the centrality of the heart and all that it includes and stands for.

Although the Torah never needs secular support or verification, it is nice to know that a scientific study, concluded in 1997, established that the brain is no longer to be considered the main or controlling organ of the body. The heart was found to produce one thousand times the measure of electrical energy and has the greatest control over the functioning of the body. The heart is the foundation of life, whether in Torah or biolgical terms.

Since the Torah knows how to speak for itself, let me share a small sampling of the several hundreds of life-defining statements from the Written Torah, Oral Torah and rabbinic tradition that teach us about the Jewish heart, which is central to life and to successful marriage.

Yosef comforted his brothers and he spoke to their HEART (Genesis 50:21).

[Exodus] And you will speak to all who have a wise HEART (28:3). All who have a generous HEART (35:5).

[Deuteronomy] And you will know today and place it into your HEART (4:39). And these words which I command you today are to be in your HEART (6:6). Then your HEART will grow haughty and you will forget the L-rd your G-d (8:14). And now, Israel, what does the L-rd your G-d ask of you except that you fear the L-rd your G-d, to go in all of His ways and to love Him and to serve the L-rd your G-d with all your HEART (10:12).

(Prophets) Man sees the the outer appearance and G-d sees the HEART (1 Samuel 16:7). And I will give you a new HEART and I will put a new spirit within you and I will remove your HEART of stone from your flesh and I will give to you a HEART of flesh (Yechezkel 36:26). They went in the counsels and scheming of their evil HEART, and they went backwards and not forwards" (Jeremiah 7:21-24).

(Psalms/Tehilim) Unify my HEART to fear Your name (86:11). Teach us to number our days and this will bring a HEART of wisdom (90:12).

(Proverbs/Mishlay) Never abandon lovingkindness and truth, tie them onto your neck and inscribe them onto the tablet of your HEART (3:3). Trust in G-d with all your HEART and do not rely on your own understanding (3:5). Of all things that you might guard, guard most your HEART for out of it comes all issues of life (4:23). The HEART knows its own bitterness (14:10). The happy HEART makes a face pleasant, and one's spirit is crushed with a depressed HEART (15:13). Life is a feast for all who have a happy HEART (15:15). A happy HEART is good medicine (17:22). A man's HEART is arrogant before a downfall and humility is before honor (18:12). Just as water reflects a face, so the HEART of a person replies to a HEART (27:19).

"You have comforted me and you have spoken to my HEART." (Ruth 2:13).

(Siddur) Put into our HEART the undertanding and intelligence to learn and to teach, to guard and do and fulfil all the words of the teaching of Your Torah with love, and enlighten our eyes with Your Torah and make our HEART attach to Your commandments and unify our HEART to love and fear Your name that we forever not be shamed (Ahava Raba). May He open our HEART to His Torah (Uva Litzion). And purify our HEART to serve You truthfully (Shabos and Yom Tov Shmoneh Esray).

(Gemora) Whether rich or poor, each has the same merit as long as he gives what he can with his HEART directed to Heaven (Brachos 5b). "And you will love the L-rd your G-d with all your HEARTS" [Deuteronomy 6:5]. What is HEARTS [i.e. plural]? With the two inclinations of the HEART. Love Him with your good inclination as well as your evil inclination [i.e. channel even your evil energies for mitzvos] (Brachos 54a). Any pain except the pain of the HEART (Shabos 11a). One must never speak one thing with the mouth and intend another thing in the HEART (Bava Metzia 49a). G-d wants the HEART (Sanhedrin 106b). All parts of a person are controlled by the HEART (Yerushalmi T'rumos, chapter 8).

A good HEART contains all good things and a bad HEART contains all bad things (Pirkei Avos chapter 2). This is because the heart controls all of the other powers and it is the source from which all actions are derived, in spite of the fact that each action is done with its particular limb. The force which arouses each action is the HEART and therefore it is the element which determines good and bad in life (Bartenura on this mishna).

(Avos DeRebi Noson) Til the age of forty Rabbi Akiva never learned Torah. At a spring he saw a stone engraved by the falling water. He reasoned, "If soft water can carve a hard stone, how much moreso can Torah carve into my HEART of flesh and blood!" Immediately he went to learn and he developed into a sage (chap. 6). Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakai asked the sages, "What is the proper way to live? Rabbi Elazar said, "A good HEART to Heaven and a good HEART to people" (chap. 14).

(Midrash) The evil are controlled by their HEART and the HEART of the righteous is in their control [Beraishis Raba]. Just as the hurting HEART feels hurt first, the happy HEART feels a person's happiness first; and in the future the Holy One Blessed Be He will comfort first the HEART [Shmos Raba]. [At Mount Sinai the Jewish people were united] as one person with one HEART [Mechilta]. "Do not hurt your fellow Jew and you shall fear your G-d [Leviticus 25:17]." Here the Torah warns about hurting with words, that one not annoy or pain another nor give advice which is not suitable or beneficial; and if you will ask who will know your bad intent, the Torah says here, "And you shall fear your G-d," Who knows every thought that is in the HEART [Toras Kohanim].

(Seforim) To make sad people happy, gladden the HEART by turning away the sadness from the HEART; and to make peace between quarreling friends or between husband and wife, turn away pain in their HEART (Rabainu Chananel [to Taanis 22a]). Fulfillment of Torah obligations is determined by the teachings of Torah revelation and knowing obligations of the HEART [Chovos HaLivovos]. Words which come out of the HEART enter into the HEART (Alshich). Joy comes from calm in the HEART with no bad feeling of wound (Orchos Tzadikim). The beginnings and foundations of true, desirable and beautiful saintliness are implanted in every honest person's HEART (Mesilas Yesharim). All 613 mitzvos depend upon the HEART...and one must humble one's HEART with great subjugation...and one must put into his HEART to guard, to do and to fulfill every good thing and to guard against every bad thing (Pela Yo'etz). To feel joy at every opportunity to do good for another person is to have a good HEART (Tiferes Yisroel).






In the old shtetl, only close relatives came to a wedding that took place in a wooden shul, with no flowers, noisy band, fancy caterer nor photographer. The cooking was done by close family. The wedding was more memorable, personal and happy. The parents were able to sleep at night. They didn't worry over how to beg, borrow and cope for years with debt to marry off one child (never mind many).

Today, weddings seem to be designed for the approval of society and for one to out-do the other. People have oversized guest lists, including many people who are not necessarily close. The invited must show up after a hard day so that the host will come when invited to the oversized chasunos that the guest will some day be making. People can be invited to several weddings in a week, which can cost hundreds of dollars in presents. If one does not dance for the couple, he violates the "five voices" of wedding celebration and has a shaala of gezel (possibility of being a theif) for eating the host's food. In some circles, each family is required to buy presents for every member of the other family. If your child gets engaged and that family has ten children, you have to buy presents for all twelve family members. That alone can break you.

When children claim they want their wedding to have fancy amenities (plus catered tanoyim and sheva brachos and expensive furniture for the apartment) like their friends, they make demands upon their parents. The fathers may have to go around to 100 shuls "shnorring" for "hachnosas kala" (wedding expenses). Imagine the embarrassment for the fathers who have to go around begging! This all violates kibud av ve'aim (honor and respect due parents). If the parent, on his own, decides to make a big and fancy chasuna that exceeds his means, he is making a facade to stroke his own ego and to impress "fair weather friends." He is crushing himself and also is endorsing everyone in his society crushing themselves (and him) when they will marry children off. G-d is left out of this. And the question arises for the people in the 100 shuls whom the beggars approach: are they obligated to subsidize all of these unnecessary and extravagant extras? The burdens should not be legitimized, multiplied and put upon society. Rebbes and gedolim have protested and tried to make takanos (rules), but the situation is still seriously out of hand.

You can make a wedding with a mesader kidushin (officiating rabbi), two witnesses and a minyan for sheva brachos. If Aunt Shprintza will never speak to you again for not inviting her to the wedding of her favorite neice, let's say OK and bring her. But 500 people and a six figure debt we don't need - and we have no Torah justification for it. It is phoney, cruel and perverse. The parents leave the wedding hall with high blood pressure and can be sick for years, over all their debt. Mass market meals are rushed by impersonal and racing waiters, who give you barely enough time to eat before they take each course away. Some photographers physically shove you out of their way to get the desired light or angle. It's inhuman. And even if you can afford it, is it worth the avairos, lashon hora and all the ayin horas (making others who can't afford it feel bad), when your flowers have more colors than Noach's rainbow, when your all-French menu has more courses than your shul has siddurim?

The musicians play so loudly that guests have damage done to the ear nerves. One Boro Park ear doctor I know TRULY HAS PATIENTS REGULARLY COMING WITH INNER-EAR NERVE INJURIES AND HEARING LOSS, OFTEN INCURABLE, BECAUSE THE AMPLIFICATION OF CHASUNAH MUSIC IS HARMFULLY LOUD! If the musicians, or the host, will not make excessive music volume lower, you have MEDICAL JUSTIFICATION TO PROTEST OR LEAVE, especially if your ears hurt. When you hire a musician or band, DEMAND that they COMMIT THEMSELVES IN WRITING NOT TO PLAY AT A HARMFUL VOLUME! The Boro Park ear doctor I interviewed said that harmful means: if the volume is too loud for two people at a distance of EIGHT FEET APART TO SPEAK AT A NORMAL LEVEL AND HEAR EACH WORD PERFECTLY CLEARLY or if the volume level HURTS THE EARS OF EVEN ONE PERSON PRESENT. Make clear to all musicians that this is a CONDITION FOR HAVING THE JOB. Host: realize that you bear some responsibility for harming people if you let the music volume be harmfully loud. Guests: bring ear plugs to events with amplified music and use them in order to protect your hearing; and save this article to show musicians and hosts!

There are fights: child vs. parent, his side vs. her side. The engagement stretches to give time for raising money and for extravagant preparations. Instead of getting the couple married, the system keeps them apart - a contradiction! Getting engaged should mean they get married - and soon. Rav Avrohom Asher Zimmerman, z'l, a gadol in halacha and yira, said that when two people make a commitment to marry each other, it is healthiest to marry as soon as possible - WITHIN SIX TO EIGHT WEEKS (not months!). Many involved in any given case might have a din (status) of a mazik (damager) and/or rodaif (assailant). The system is flawed, out of hand, warped and has backwards priorities; and is potentially systematically causing numerous avairos by the parents, children, guests and wedding-related businesses and workers.



Ask a seriously observant Jew if he has been to a Broadway show and he would gasp in horror at the thought. Why don't they gasp at the extravagant chasunah productions that they put on in their own neighborhood?

Current practice for making weddings puts significant trouble and imposition on many people, which is forbidden in Jewish law. In the laws of hashavas avaida (returning lost property), if you find something in a way that was obviously left in a place intentionally, such as when it is covered over or in a pile, it is not considered lost. It is forbidden to touch the article. This is because the halacha presumes the owner left it there on purpose temporarily and will come back for it. When it is not there because you moved it, you "matriach" (impose upon) him AND IT IS AGAINST JEWISH LAW TO IMPOSE UPON ANOTHER! It is forbidden to say your quiet Shmoneh Esray in shul out loud because the sound of your voice will trouble your neighbor who is trying to concentrate. HALACHA DOES NOT PERMIT US TO TROUBLE OR BOTHER ANOTHER. The Torah says that it is forbidden to hurt another person's feelings. Raban Gamliel died because he hurt the feelings of Rabbi Eliezer Ben Hurkenos. Raban Shimon Ben Gamliel died because he hurt the feelings of someone who came to ask him a shaalo, who the rabbi kept waiting. Note that a FATHER AND SON BOTH DIED BY HEAVEN'S HAND BECAUSE THEY HURT THE FEELINGS OF ANOTHER JEW. This also indicates that TRAITS CAN TEND TO CONTINUE IN FAMILIES. When traits are bad, harmful and punishable, this can be very serious. When a man gives kiddushin on a condition that is impossible to fulfill (e.g. "You are married to me if you walk by foot up to the top of the sky") the kiddushin is valid and the condition is not. The halacha presumes he only wants to annoy her AND AN ACT DONE TO ANNOY ANOTHER JEW HAS NO HALACHIC SUBSTANCE. If one pursues a Jew in a way that can bring harm, he is called a rodaif (assailant, pursuer). Halacha does not hold accountable one who harms a rodaif - it is deemed to be guarding and defending against one who would harm another (ask a rov if you have practical shaalos - you can't just start knifing people who irritate you!). We have principle after principle, law after law, that make clear that we are not allowed to have bad impact on another Jew. WEDDINGS CAN VIOLATE MANY HALACHOS!

The Thursday psalm (81) makes clear that people want things that are NOT good for them. This is relevant in shiduchim, weddings & marriage; as well as other aspects of earthly life. Let me paraphrase a selection from the psalm.

G-d is He who grants victory and joy to those who are crushed by suffering. Listen to Me and I will testify against you, Israel. If you would only discipline yourselves and obey Me! Let there be no forein god WITHIN you nor bow down to any strange power. I am the One Who brought you up from Egypt. Open your mouth so that I may fulfill the desire of those who obey Me. But My people do not listen to or submit to Me. And I let them go according to the dictates of their own heart, go in their own counsel. If only Israel would obey Me, if Israel would go in My ways. I would subjugate their enemies and turn My hand against their oppressors. I would provide miraculously for those who live undemanding lives, willing to sacrifice, do My will, be loyal to Me.

This psalm presents a frightening picture for the person who wants to follow his own desires and ideas. The greatest resulting punishment is that G-D LETS THE PERSON GO HIS OWN WAY AND HAVE WHAT HE WANTS! This can bring to CRUSHING TRAGEDY. I know a person who, when 18, prayed for a Chevy and actually got it! Three months later it was totalled in a crash. The gemora [Eruvin 13a] says that when one pushes for something, Heaven pushes him back. Some people "know" what they want in a shidduch (e.g. money, looks, yichus) or they pursue a certain person, and the marriage blows up in their face. They make extravagant weddings, and then miserable and vicious divorces, which are coming sooner and sooner after marriage these days. Focusing on desire and materialism is a foreign god within a person which alienates one from G-d.

We all think we know what is good. But, G-D HIMSELF TESTIFIES THAT TRUE GOOD IS DOING HIS WILL FOR HIS SAKE; HUMBLING OURSELVES; BEING HAPPY WITH OUR LOT IN LIFE; accepting the hardships and lessons of G-d's ways; and living a MODEST LIFE OF SPIRITUAL VALUES, PRIORITIES, ELEVATION AND REFINEMENT. G-d has the power to change nature, as He did when He took us from Egypt. He will even extract honey from a rock to provide sweetly for those who are devoted to Him.

A smaller, reasonable, warm chasunah; proportioned to the means and situation of the two families involved; will not only be more happy and memorable, but it will teach the couple good and healthy lessons in REAL interpersonal relating. It can be an excellent model for how to work nicely together. It will teach budgeting, prioritizing, responsibility, organization, compromise, communication, adaptability and that mature living requires limits and unselfishness. The most important purpose of a wedding is to start a married life. If a couple learns that life is a phoney superficial show, there is more likelihood the curtain will come down and the show will close on the stage of bais din. If the wedding is an example of heartfelt warmth, care, respect, co-operation, balance, giving and peace; it is more likely the marriage will start, AND REMAIN ONE ALSO! Isn't that what really counts?



Following the spirit embodied in the kol koreh [rabbinical statement], these guidelines were drafted and ratified by Gedolei Harabbonim and Roshei Yeshiva [leading rabbinical scholars]. Be'ezras Hashem it will help relieve the overburdening financial strain on many of our neighbors, friends and relatives.

As a prudent and sensible measure, the Vort [engagement] celebration should be discontinued. The L'chaim (held at the time that the engagement is announced) should also not turn into a vort. Hence, the L'chaim should preferably be held in the kalla's home with close family and a small number of close friends invited, without the services of a party planner or professional musicians, accompanied neither with hot dishes nor floral treatments.

The focus and primary celebration of the chassuna [wedding] should be the simchas chosson v'kalla [giving joy to the groom and bride] leaving the sit-down seuda [meal] for closest family and friends. With this in mind, only 400 invited guests may be seated at the chassuna seuda. This number includes relatives, friends (including the friends of the chosson and kalla), and business acquaintances. In exceptional circumstances, when the baalei simcha are blessed with very large families, a maximum total of 500 guests may be invited for the seuda. Children 17 years of age and under are not included in these figures.

The kalla's kabbolas panim smorgasbord should be limited to basic cakes, fruit platters, a modest buffet and the caterer's standard chicken or meat hot dishes. There are to be no carving stations. Accommodations of comparable food and drink should be made for those participating in the chosson's kabolas ponim, to avoid prohibited mingling at the smorgasbord. The menu for the seuda is limited to 3 courses followed by a regular dessert. There is to be no Viennese table and no bar. Wine and liquor may be placed on tables.

In reviewing these details, please note the number of guests and the amounts to be spent on various aspects of the simcha are not offered as norms. They are meant as ceilings.

A band may consist of a maximum of five musicians (one of the musicians may act as a vocalist) or four musicians and one additional vocalist. A one-man band is recommended.

Moreover, the choice of music and the nature of its rendition should conform to the joy and dignity associated with a Torah-imbued simcha. The spirit of simcha shel mitzva is not conveyed by 'street music' devoid of kedusha [holy] feeling. The joy of a Jewish wedding should be reflected by niggunim [melodies] and song having a distinct spiritual flavor. Similarly, the hosts should insist that the music amplification should respect the factors of health and good taste, and not detract from the essence of a Yiddishe chassuna.

Every effort should be made to keep these at a minimum. The total cost of these items for the entire wedding should not exceed $1,800. Centerpieces are to be limited to the women's tables. It is recommended that centerpieces and chupa decorations be rented or borrowed.

This becomes the primary celebration of the chassuna, and should be the point where more guests are invited to join the simcha. This may take place shortly after the chupa, or after the entire meal is served without undo interruption. A modest assortment of basic cake, fruit, drinks and hot dishes (no meat or fish) may be served to the additional guests. Alternatively, the smorgasbord menu may be served after the chupa provided that the kabbolas ponim is limited to cakes and fruits.

The process of taking the pictures and the time spent posing often becomes excessive and wasteful. Moreover, some of the "arranged" poses can be inconsistent with tznius [modesty] standards, and often prove embarrassing at a later time.

Momentos have gone from simple benchers to custom-made souvenirs to books or seforim specially printed for the occasion. They often create a new standard which others may feel the need to emulate.


These guidelines only address the wedding. The same sense of modesty and concomitant focus on inner values should be evident in all types of purchases and preparations for the chassuna - including the Aufruf, through the various sheva brachos. Special mention must also be made of exorbitant sums spent on the wedding gown and clothing for the mechutanim and immediate family, some of which are purchased, or made to order, for only one wearing.

This call for re-evaluation of how we celebrate our chassunos should apply to all other joyous occasions, such as Brissen, Bar Mitzvas and Sheva Brachos. Extravagant expenditures at these occasions should be substantially curtailed. Our lives are guided by the Torah value system, and important milestones must be informed by restraint and a sharper focus of the p'nim [inner essence] of each event.


These guidelines were drafted with the involvement of Rabbonim and dedicated laymen from many communities within the New York/New Jersey area, where they are to be implemented. It is their hope that other cities will seek to implement specific guidelines that will take into consideration the needs of each respective area.

These guidelines will take effect on Rosh Chodesh Nisan 5762 and will remain in effect for four years, at which time they will be reviewed. All couples, who are engaged prior to this date, are not required to conform to the specifics of the guidelines if the wedding arrangements are already in progress.

We the rabbinical signatories - barring familial obligations - and unusual and extraordinary circumstances - will not participate in or attend a wedding celebration that disregards these guidelines.

(Rabbinical Listing in formation)

Rabbi Shmuel Birnbaum
Rosh Hayeshiva, Mirer yeshiva

Rabbi Elya Svei
Rosh Hayeshiva, Yeshiva gedola of Philadelphia

Rabbi Aron Moshe Schechter
Rosh Hayeshiva, Yeshiva Chaim Berlin

Rabbi Shmuel Kaminetzky
Rosh Hayeshiva, Yeshiva Gedola of Philadelphia

Rabbi Yaakov Perlow
Novominsker Rebbi

Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Feigelstock
Rosh Hayeshiva, Yeshiva of Long Beach

Rabbi Moshe Wolfson
Mashgiach, Torah Vodaas

Rabbi Yosef Rosenblum
Rosh Hayeshiva, Yeshiva Shaarei Yosher

Rabbi Aryeh Malkiel Kotler
Rabbi Yisroel Tzvi Neuman
Rabbi Dovid Tzvi Schustal
Rabbi Yeruchem Olshin
Roshei Yeshiva, Beth Medrash Gevoha, Lakewood

Rabbi Mattisyahu Salamon
Mashgiach, Beth Medrash Gevoha, Lakewood

Rabbi Eli Simcha Schustal
Rosh Hayeshiva, Bais Binyomin, Stamford

Rabbi Elya Ber Wachtfogel
Rosh Hayeshiva, Yeshiva Gedolah of South Fallsburg

Rabbi Lipa Margulies
Rosh Hayeshiva, Yeshiva & Mesifta Torah Temimah



To make it apparent to all that the simcha conforms to the guidelines, a symbol has been prepared [with the Hebrew words "Simcha shel mitzva al pee Rabbosainu" with an image of two observant Jewish men dancing] that can be reduced and printed on one of the corners of the invitation. The hosts can ask their printer to get it for them. Or they can print a separate small card informing their invitees that their wedding is following the dictates of the Rabbanim.



One of the items addressed by the Rabbinical Simcha Guidelines is the music. One of the points address is that "the hosts should insist that the music amplification should respect the factors of health and good taste, and not detract from the essence of a Yiddishe chassuna."

This site has addressed this question at length [see the comprehensive and eclectic subsite on the "Dangers Of Loud Amplification At Simchas"]. We there discussed how, on the recommendation of an ear doctor, that the amplification be restricted so that two people speaking in a normal voice at a distance of ten feet will hear each other's every word. Another criteria could be a maximum volume of 70 decibels at the loudest point in the hall.

Rabbi Forsythe communicated with Rabbi Perlow. Amplification came to be referred to in the rabbinical simcha guidelines through Rabbi Forsythe's demonstrating to the Novominsker Rebbe the serious, life-impacting and often permanent medical damage inflicted by loudness on delicate ear, nerve and brain tissues and structures. For a chassuna to comply with these guidelines, the amplification must be kept at level that is safe and comfortable for all in attendance.



One of biggest sources of trouble once an engagement is made is arguments. These can be between the chosson and kalla, one of them and one or both parents, one side with the other side. There are many arrangements to be made and many pressures. Each person has their view, feelings and agenda. The fights might be over money or any number of things. It must be stressed that peace must reign at all times [for an extensive discussion on the mitzva of peace, see Rabbi Forsythe's section on peace in the Interpersonal subsite]. Whatever the issue, it is NEVER worth a fight. If you cannot resolve the question, take it as a shaalo [question] to a qualified rov.

For example, one family wanted a five piece band, the other family wanted a one-man band. They compromised with a three-piece band.

Never lose perspective. The priorities are to start the couple off on a new life and to give them as much joy, endearment and peace as is humanly possible. Anything which detracts from these goals misses the point and the person(s) responsible have the wrong perspective or a personality shortcoming. The couple should use this special, precious time to grow familiar with each other and learn how to be pleasing, understanding and respectful towards one another.

A main focus for the chosson and kalla between the time of engagement and the wedding is learning the important laws of taharas hamishpacha [family purity]. This focuses on how the couple must be apart during halachically required times. But, this does not mean to say that the couple must only learn to be apart. One of the troubles I often see in my counseling work is the couple's failure to learn how to be together appropriately and how to communicate. After all, marriage is a relationship. Both must know how deal positively, effectively and pleasantly with each other. To fight during engagement, or to fail to get to know each other, is a serious error that can have damaging consequences later on. From engagement till the end of the first year of marriage (if not longer), the couple must learn how to communicate, resolve differences and get along compatibly.

While making arrangements for the wedding, the chosson and kalla each must be sensitive to the feelings of the other. If one is making an irrational or excessive demand, communicate about it or ask a qualified and mature third party to help resolve the difference.

If the families (e.g. the two sets of parents) want to do something in different or mutually exclusive ways, neither should be stubborn or selfish. Again, it is better to ask a rov than to have a fight. Neither family is making the chassuna alone. The other family is involved in and impacted by all decisions and actions which, in turn, also effect the chosson, kalla and wedding arrangements.