HOW TO MAKE A KOSHER WEDDING

CHAPTER 18

After all the explanation that has been given in this book, we hope that the readers now understand the importance of taking care to ensure that the music played at a chareidi wedding is suitable for the occasion. It is now necessary to give practical advice how to do this.

1. First of all, anyone who takes this matter seriously should plan well in advance and take personal responsibility to make sure that there will be only kosher music played at the wedding. As soon as a date is fixed for the wedding, the parents should book a reliable band that can be trusted to play respectfully. This should be done, of course, with the agreement of both sides, and if one side does not care about the quality of the music, the other side should demand that they receive the right to order a kosher band. They can stress that it causes them great suffering to sit at a wedding where loud, treife goyishe music is played, and therefore they insist on being in charge of this.

If one side wants to hire a cheap band in order to save money, and a kosher band costs more, it is advisable that the other side should pay more than half or even all of the costs to ensure that the yetzer hora does not dance at their wedding.

If the other side objects to being different from everybody, and insists on taking a treife band, it is advisable for both sides to ask Daas Torah on this matter to make them understand how important it is for the chosson and kalloh not to have music of pritzus at their wedding. This should also be explained clearly to the chosson and kalloh themselves that their spiritual welfare depends on this, and just like they would not consider ordering treife food to be served at their wedding, they should also not hear treife music, and no matter what their friends think, it is most important to honour Hashem and their parents by having a proper Jewish simchah, instead of a disco wedding.

It is advisable to stress this matter clearly before completing a shidduch in order to prevent any arguments and misunderstandings later on.

2. Before booking a band it is advisable to first hear them playing at another wedding, or ask for a recording of a previous performance. Do not rely on the band leader if he claims that he plays in a proper Jewish way.

3. Always check which instruments are to be used. We have mentioned above that the electric guitar and the saxophone are not suitable to play any kind of Jewish music, and should preferably not be used. There are some musicians who do try to play these instruments in a respectable manner, but it is advisable to check them out well in advance.

4. Regarding the use of drums, if the drummer understands how to play with good taste, that is, not to play them louder than the other instruments, not to use any types of rock beats, and when not to play, then the drums will not spoil the music. However it is not very common to find responsible drummers in chareidi bands, and it is therefore preferable not to use the modern set of drums. Other percussion instruments can be used instead for the dancing if desired.

5. If an electric keyboard is being used, it is important to ensure that the musician is competent and knows how to play respectfully without loud noise, exaggerated bass sounds, and the prerecorded rock beats. There are many sounds in the organ that are meant for discotheque music, and if the musician does not realize this he can ruin the whole kedushah of the wedding, especially if he is a one-man band. The drum sounds in the organ must be played tastefully, and only during the dancing, and if the person playing does not have the ability to understand this, he should be asked to refrain from using all types of drum accompaniment.

6. The choice of songs to be played should be reviewed by the parents, and if they desire any particular songs to be played, they should tell the band before the wedding what they want to hear. Similarly the chosson and kalloh should request in advance any particular songs they want to hear at their wedding.

It should be known that most bands that are not told which songs to play, choose the latest “chassidic” pop songs that are most popular. The popularity of the songs is decided by the “religious” disc-jockeys from the “holy” radio stations, and these are the songs that we are forced to hear at weddings.

Anyone who does not have a specific list of kosher songs should demand that no recent songs should be played without the permission of the baalei hasimchah.

7. Before the wedding, a contract should be signed with the band, stating the type of music and volume expected from them, and that nobody besides the baalei hasimchah has the right to tell them what or how to play. If they do not keep to these conditions, they will not be paid.

Some bands demand payment before the wedding in order to avoid fighting with angry customers afterwards. People should not agree to do this, and they should warn the band beforehand that they will not be paid until the end, so that they will behave themselves.

8. Since the baalei hasimchah are usually too busy to pay attention to listen to the type of music being played, they should appoint a responsible person to supervise the band throughout the wedding. The band should be informed that this person is in charge of what is to be played, and it should be mentioned in the contract that they accept to listen to his instructions.

9. Many parents do not have enough understanding to distinguish between kosher and non-kosher music, and it is important for them to appoint someone who does understand clearly what is expected to be played in order to make the wedding a proper simchah shel mitzvah. It is even worth paying someone to come to supervise the music being played.

10. The volume of the music should be limited to a bearable level. The recommended healthy limit is 90 decibels. It is possible to install a special sound meter to measure and limit the noise level. Such a device is required to be used in all Israeli wedding halls, and all the halls now have them. When the noise exceeds the required limit for more than thirty seconds, this device automatically disconnects the power supply to the band.

This law will save a lot of people from great discomfort at weddings, but we should mention that this is only being enforced in all wedding halls, night clubs, and discotheques. However Yeshivos are still free to play their rock music as loud as they want in the Beis Hamedrash. We must therefore warn the Roshei Yeshivos to be extremely careful not to allow the over-amplification of the music being played in the Yeshivos at a Hachnossas Sefer Torah or Simchas Beis Hashoevah, since this will result in a great Chillul Hashem if the deafening noise level of the discotheque will continue to be heard in the Yeshivos, while even the real discotheques have their volume under control.

Unfortunately we find at present that there is a strong resistance by the bands to connect to the noise meter, therefore it is the responsibility of the baalei hasimchah to ensure that the band refrains from playing at ridiculously high volumes. Sometimes the band claims that they need to play louder so that the ladies can hear them clearly. They should be told that if they really care about this, they should place extra speakers on the other side of the mechitzah.

It should also be known that all musicians who play at very loud volumes use ear plugs to stop themselves from having their hearing seriously damaged. It should be written in the contract that they agree not to use ear plugs. If they dare to play too loud, they should be forced to suffer like everyone else.

One additional fact should also be known – that most sound men and musicians are partially deaf due to prolonged exposure to their own noise. Therefore we should not allow ourselves to rely on their judgement regarding the sound level. This is also the case with many Yeshiva bochurim who frequently attend weddings without protecting their ears, and if they complain that the music is not loud enough for them, they should be told to get their hearing tested.

11. It is important to request clearly from the band to play in an authentic Jewish style. Do not ask them to play Chassidic, as today this word means American rock and roll. Similarly to ask them to play Litvish means to play goyish. It is easier to explain to them what we don’t want to hear, for example they should be told that the guests do not want to hear anything modern, and give them a list of singers as examples of things that are off limits. Maybe they can understand if they are asked to play in an old Chassidic style.

For those who wish to give explicit details, the following should be demanded from the musicians:

  • Not to allow the drums to be as loud as the musical instruments.
  • Not to play them with a 2-4 beat, or any other rock or disco beat.
  • Not to add any strange electronic sounds, and not to distort the natural sounds of the instruments [including not to touch the “bender” key on the electric organ].
  • To refrain from over-amplification of the low bass notes, and to keep the volume at a bearable level.

The problem still remains how to teach the musicians to play the traditional Jewish songs in the same way they were originally played. It is not easy to explain to them in a few words to stop jazzing up the music, especially when they have forgotten how those songs used to be played. The easiest way to control the bands is to present them with the written music of the real versions of these songs, and tell them to play exactly what is written without adding any changes. In this way, it is easy to prove which bands are capable of playing in an authentic manner and which ones are incapable of doing so.

12. Regarding taking a singer to sing throughout the wedding, this is not advisable due to several reasons. Most singers try to copy the “chassidic” pop idols, adding the same feeling of chutzpah that the idols have forced into the world of modern Jewish music. It is also questionable according to halochah to sing songs to pesukim when the singer is not singing lesheim shomayim, which includes most singers who sing for money. The presence of a singer, especially when loud amplification is used, also prevents the guests from singing, and certainly the chosson receives more simchah from hearing his friends singing than a hired singer. Therefore it is preferable to let friends or relatives sing if they have good voices.

The practice of having a singer to sing throughout the wedding is a relatively new innovation, and today most band leaders do the singing or the band hires a singer. This was not done with the permission of any Rabbi, and Daas Torah should be consulted on this subject. Certainly the baalei hasimchah have full rights to tell the band leader that they do not want them to sing.

One other important point needs to be understood regarding the use of singers. Unfortunately most weddings today are given the appearance of a show or even a rock concert instead of a simchah shel mitzvah. The star of the show is the singer standing on stage with the microphone in his mouth, and his voice is deliberately amplified so loud that nobody else is given the possibility to sing with him – because it is impossible to hear one’s own voice. The result is that all the guests become spectators instead of being able to participate in the simchah. This problem can be easily controlled by taking the singer off the stage [or by making sure beforehand that there is no stage] and by enforcing the use of a noise meter to keep the volume under control. An easier way to take care of the problem is not to use a singer as was the practice at all weddings 20 years ago.

13. It is very important to request from the Rabbonim, Roshei Yeshivos and Mashgichim to take measures to control the situation of the music at weddings. Every Yeshiva should have a list of kosher bands that should be used, and kosher songs that can be played. If a chosson decides to take another band that is not approved by the Yeshiva, he should be warned that his Roshei Yeshiva will not attend his wedding, and the bochurim should also be forbidden from going to such a wedding for their own spiritual welfare.

It should also be stated very clearly by all Rabbis that there does not exist any custom that the chosson chooses the band. It is the responsibility of the parents to find a kosher band that knows how to play in a respectable manner.

14. Finally, it should be stressed that only the people who are paying for the band are entitled to demand from them to play the way they want to hear, and if the band does not agree to play as they have been told, even if they have not signed a written agreement, they are stealing from the baalei hasimchah. Similarly, if one of the guests tells the band what or how to play without permission from the baalei hasimchah, he is also stealing from them, and so is the band if they listen to him.

In order to save other people from having their weddings spoiled by dishonest bands who do not play as they are expected to, it is recommended to warn friends not to take these bands. This will also put pressure on many bands to improve the quality of their performance to make it sound more Jewish.

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