Music & Spirituality
From a traditional Jewish viewpoint, is it okay to listen to heavy metal music?
I love heavy metal music and as I have become more drawn to Torah and religion, I am wondering: Is it okay to listen to Black Sabbath?
The Aish Rabbi Replies
Music is a transcendent power. Music is a deep expression of the soul, used to articulate things that can't be expressed in words.
Because of its transcendent power, music can be used as a way of getting closer to God. For example, when offerings were brought at the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, a choir of Levites would accompany the service by singing the Psalms of King David.
Music is so powerful, that it was even known to inspire prophecy. In the Bible (2-Kings 3:1-15), the prophet Elisha became angry and called for a musician. After which it says "and the hand of God came upon him." Rashi points out that the music calmed him down and enabled him to attain prophecy. The specific use of music to attain prophecy is mentioned in many places in the Bible -- e.g. 1-Samuel 10:5, 2-Kings 9:11, 1-Chronicles 25:1, among others.
The Kabbalists explain that the Hebrew word for music "ZeMeR" is also related the word "to cut." Music helps banish extraneous thoughts and clear the mind. It cuts away the husks of impurity that envelop the soul and it allows a person to connect with the true Source of Good.
When you listen to music, some of what the artist was feeling when he sang the song goes into you.
The people who sing secular songs are often not of the most stable character nor particularly spiritual.
Do you really want these people's influence to enter your psyche?
To learn more about the deep spiritual power of music, read Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan's "Meditation and the Bible," and Rabbi S.R. Hirsch's commentary to Psalms 92 and 150.
I also recommend Rabbi Tzvi Gluckin's book, "Knee Deep in the Funk: Understanding the connection between spirituality and music."