The power of a Woman’s voice?
Rinat Gutman is a rapper. based in Jerusalem, she’s a tireless performer, extremely talented, very entertaining and committed to her craft. She’s also a practicing Orthodox Jewess. In a field full of men, like Matisyahu, Y-Love and almost everyone associated with Shemspeed, she stands out as lone female voice sanctifying Judaism through rap. But there’s a problem and the problem is called Kol Isha, literally “the sound of a woman’s voice.”
Kol Isha is a religious Jewish prohibition against hearing a woman’s voice singing. Based on King Solomon’s Song of Songs (2:14) where he writes “let me hear your voice because your voice is pleasant and appearance attractive,” a thus prohibition against a man hearing a woman’s voice in song was established. The idea was that men would find such a sound alluring and it would distract them and lead them to think impure thoughts. The parameters of this prohibition are complicated and Rabbis often disagree with each other. For instance some hold that a woman singing into a microphone is permissible, whereas others hold that even hearing a woman singing on the radio is impermissible.
There has been a massive discussion on Y-Love’s Facebook profile about this issue, generating over 70 comments – about an incident that occurred when he was last in Israel a few weeks ago and had occasion to perform with Rinat at a jam in Mayanot, a Chabad run educational center. Rinat got up to rap and a few minutes later was asked (politely) to get off the stage by the supervising Rabbi. My comment in that thread is after the bump. Discuss!
Sigh. The divisiveness. I’m not going to weigh in on the miracle of the Haskalah and all the awesome stuff it’s done for the Jews. Lets just get to brass tacks.
I read the following opinion whereby a strongly restrictive position on Kol Isha was advocated – the microphone heter was dismissed out of hand and even listening to a woman’s voice on the radio was prohibited. The Rabbi in question concluded
“In todayâ€™s promiscuous society where outrageous behavior is deemed acceptable, a womanâ€™s singing voice appears innocuous. Moreover, the general culture views this prohibition offensive and demeaning to women. We are challenged to hold firm to our beliefs against the flow of the general cultural tide. This is one of the issues that we must part company with the rest of society, just as Avraham Avinu and Yitzchak Avinu parted with their two servants on the road to Akeidat Yitzchak. Rav Yehuda Amital told me that we should strictly observe the Kol Isha prohibition today precisely because of the deterioration of the moral standards of western society.”… See More
What this implies is that moral standards in Western society were higher in the past – a past that didn’t allow a woman to vote or to have her own bank account, a past whereby racism and antisemitism were institutionalized, a past where life was cheap and human rights were non existent. Do we really want to follow the societal standards that were prevalent in Poland in the 1700s? Are we incapable of incorporating societal norms that are not negative into Torah Judaism?
Even the most hard core Haredi lets his wife vote. Even the most hard core Haredi incorporates positive Western values into his or her daily life to one extent or another.
Kol Isha… “liberal” interpretations ought not be disparaged. I fully support Rinat’s rapping/singing – all the more so because I know her to be deeply soulful, modest, a practicing Orthodox Jewess and a great friend. I am also looking forward to her performance at the next Jewlicious Festival. I’ve heard her new stuff, including the aforementioned collaboration with Y-Love, and it’s both inspiring and just plain awesome.
If someone wants to be uh… machmir on this issue, I respect their right to hold that way. The most important thing is to not hate or quarrel. One love…
In any case, we fully plan, God willing, on having Rinat perform at the Jewlicious Festival. If you want to check it out, get your tickets today!