Sound Sleep!

The Torah in this week’s portion introduces us to the laws of vows. Taking a vow, whether to do something or not to do something, is a binding statement, and has the efficacy of a Torah law. If one disobeys or does not fulfill his vow, he has sinned.

If one made a vow and wishes to annul it, he can do so under certain conditions.

The Torah tells us that if one’s wife made a vow that would negatively affect their relationship or a vow that would bring her distress, the husband can annul it from the time he heard about the vow until sundown. If that time has lapsed and he did not annul the vow her vow remains in place.

I came across an interesting question; if a wife vows not to sing, dance or listen to music, is that considered a vow that brings her discomfort and enabling her husband to annul the vow?

The Mahram of Rottenberg ruled that it is indeed a type of vow that brings distress to a woman and may be annulled by her husband.

Why is singing, dancing or listening to music considered discomfort for women in particular? Rabbi Volf Zicherman explains as follows: In the Talmud the question is asked, “Why are the voices of women pleasant, and the voices of men are not?” The answer given is, “The Torah tells us that man (Adam) was created from the earth while the woman (Eve) was created – from Adam’s bone.’ The great commentator, Rashi, explains; ‘When one takes a bone and bangs it, certain sounds emerge. However, when one pounds on earth there is no sound.’ Since the first woman created was formed from a bone – therefore it follows that a female has a pleasant voice since they were originally formed from the ‘musical’ bone.

Reb Volf explains this may be the reason why women in particular enjoy and are drawn to beautiful music. Therefore, a vow not to sing or listen to music falls into the category of things that are difficult for a wife, and may be annulled.

Once we are on the subject of music…I came across a very interesting suggestion to explain why one’s sleep towards morning feels sweeter than sleep at night.

Our tradition tells us that when we are asleep a part of our Neshama – soul – ascends to heaven and gives a reckoning of the day. In fact, the Talmud tells us that sleep is 1/60 of death. One reason that we wash our hands with a cup alternately three times upon awakening, is to wash away a residue of bad spirit that rests upon our fingers and nails as a result of sleep. (This is similar to why we wash our hands when leaving a cemetery.)

During the morning blessings that we recite from our Siddur, we make a blessing on G-d restoring the souls of the dead. This is a reference to our waking from our sleep.

As the morning star appears, the part of our soul that is in Heaven while sleeping, begins to hear the angels in heaven singing their song in honor of G-d. These angelic songs are soothing to one’s soul and make one’s sleep at that time more peaceful and enjoyable.

Rabbi Shlomo Alkabitz, the author of the well-known poem, Lecha Dodi Likras Kalah – which we sing as we usher the Shabbos into our lives Friday night, explains that a person is drawn to song and music because their souls are used to hearing it from the angels when they are asleep.

Here is something beautiful that we could all relate to. Why is it that when one sings to infants they are drawn to fall asleep? Song is sweet to infants because their souls are used to the sweet songs of the angels that they had recently heard before they entered the world!

The law is that mourners are to refrain from listening to music because music has the ability to raise a person’s spirit. During the mourning period for a loved one, the mourner is to be focused on the loss, and music has the capacity to distract him.

This coming Shabbos is Rosh Chodesh Av which marks the beginning of the ‘Nine Days’ that culminate with the mournful fast day of Tisha B’Av, which marks the anniversary of the day when both our Temples in Jerusalem were destroyed. During this time of year – music is not listened to. It sets the ‘tone’ for us in some way to feel the loss of our Temples – which had lively and beautiful music played by the Levites every single day of the year. May these days turn to happy ones – as our prophets foretell will happen when the third and everlasting Temple will be rebuilt!