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Ancient Jewish music 26: Discoveries of Jewish secular music

In the Jewish music after the fall of the second temple, signs of Greek-Hellenistic and Roman influence were embedded, and from it, various aspects arise because of the involvement of the Sages

Wooden figures depicting a klezmer band in Krakow, Poland. Illustration:
Wooden figures depicting a klezmer band in Krakow, Poland. Illustration:

Discoveries of Jewish secular music

In principle, as I tried to emphasize here and there, there was no sharp essential difference between the events of Jewish joy in the period in question, and the one that preceded it in the biblical period. The only difference was founded on the basis of a new period in which signs of Greek-Hellenistic and Roman influence were embedded, and from which various aspects arise as a result of the involvement of sages

The joy of marriage -

This joy, which was also known in its Talmudic nomenclature as "Mazmots of the bridegroom and bride" (Talmud Babli Hagiga 1 p. 60), as an allusion to the sounds emanating at these events, included songs that were pleasant to the happy couple. The sources say that the bride, on her way from her parents' house to her husband's house, "departs in Hinuma" (from the book of Ketubut XNUMX:XNUMX). In the Talmud, this word was interpreted as the veil on which the bride was married (and perhaps this is where the phrase "marriage" comes from?). However, would it be far from assuming that we are talking about a type of song, when the Bible alludes to the song in which they blessed the bride who went out to her husband's house - Genesis XNUMX:XNUMX: "...our sister, you will be blessed by thousands, and your seed will inherit the gate of his enemies." And this, back to our subject, by the way of the influence of the Hellenistic custom, since "hinoma" may be interpreted as possible letters from the Greek phrase - "hymenos", i.e. a Shabbat song, or from "omnaia", considering the songs of rejoicing in marriage ceremonies. And by the way, it is appropriate to say that the phenomenon of being able to derive letters from Greek and Latin terms was common among sages. It will also be said that the Sages used many times the remembrance of the "hymn" that Israel sang to God as was the custom of the Gentiles.

The songs were accompanied by various musical instruments such as wind instruments, some of which have a Greek and Hellenistic influence and even percussion. And in this context, it is interesting what is quoted from the Mishnah: "In Vespasian's polemic he (Sages) ruled on the crowns of bridegrooms and the betrothal" (Talmud Babili Shabbat ki p. 73). We are talking about the Roman decrees passed after the suppression of the great rebellion (70-XNUMX CE). The "Eros" was a kind of bell or drum, considering the term derived from Greek and Latin.

The episode in question took on a special dimension in light of the fact that the Sages repeatedly emphasized that singing and playing in the marriage ceremony were only part of the mitzvah, to teach us about their important recognition of the power of music not only as a means of praising and glorifying the married couple, and especially the bride, but also as an important social means, as The one that was the foundation of the music in the Temple and the Synagogue, since the ceremony of the canopy and the Kiddoshin was in many ways an important public event in the life of the community.

Also, this encouragement of sages might have been interpreted as giving important legitimacy to a common practice, to the practice of musical effects as the joy of marriage. And it should be noted that these effects were very vague and had a shaky historical basis, when it came to the biblical period. This was not the case in the post-biblical period and especially in the period of the Mishna and the Talmud, and hence - a kind of novelty.

2) Shared meals

The prophet Isaiah's cry in the Bible is famous: "O you who rise in the morning, reward will pursue you. Late at the ball, wine will light you up. And there was a violin and a harp, a drum and a pipe and wine from both. And they will not look at the work of the Lord, and they will not see the works of his hands" (Isaiah 12:11-XNUMX). This cry was based on the rapprochement of the members of the Jewish aristocracy with their foreign counterparts. This rapprochement gave rise not only to acts of trespass from a moral point of view, but mainly to grazing in foreign fields, in the fields of foreign idols.

This picture did not change later in the period, from the Second Temple onwards. However, not only did the attitude of the leaders of the generation change, but also the attitude of the Jewish aristocracy. In contrast to the Biblical period, the pleasures of the high Jewish society, from the Hellenistic era onward, became an accepted norm, one that settled in the Hellenistic signs, and we are mainly talking about external signs.

An example of this norm was found in the Kohelet book written, as mentioned, in the Hellenistic period. In one of his pictures, the author described the wealth of a typical Jewish nobleman of the period in question who confessed that "I have also brought in silver and gold and the virtue of kings and states, I have made me ministers and servants and human pleasures" (Kohelat 2:XNUMX). Before us is a description of the hedonistic life of the high society, the one that was even steeped in courtly music, examining its "goldsmiths' note".

The composition of Ben Sira (180-200 BC) served as an expression of the pleasures of the society of abundance. The author was without a doubt familiar with the manners of the high Jewish society in Jerusalem, as pure as the foreign urban aristocracy. In the mouth of Ben Sira words of praise and praise for feast and banquet songs, considering the songs that accompanied him, for the most part. themselves playing the harp flute.

The owner of "The Words of Job" who appeared as a Jewish nobleman who possessed six harps and a violin and who took care of a group of widows and the poor who dined at his table and who played in front of them the aforementioned musical instruments in his possession so that they would praise Jehovah. It seems that the author of the essay wants to make it clear that the musical instruments in his possession were not only intended for sand singing, for bad people's parties, but also for holy and even philanthropic purposes.

The singing and music at joyous events also arose from the testimonies of Joseph ben Matthieu, such as - "the sound of songs and music and other musical instruments that make happy those who are brought to the table of kings" (Kadamoniot Ha-Jewidis 274, 358 and ibid., XNUMX). This image did not change even in the late Roman period. As the Midrash on Kohalat says about "Zamrin and Zamarin" and "dimusiats (gymnasiums, or midod houses) and baths" (Midrash Megilat Kohlat Zota, XNUMX:XNUMX), which revealed a touch of the life of the high, hedonistic Jewish society, the one that was influenced by the corresponding Roman society.

An interesting case in itself highlighted one of the sages, Elisha ben Abuya, a son of a wealthy family in Jerusalem, who adhered to Greek culture and neglected the tradition of Israel, and in an exhaustive sentence the Talmud described him as such that "a Greek singer did not cease from his mouth" (Talmud Babylon, Hagiga XNUMX XNUMX p. b). These customs came to him from Abba's house, and on this the midrash expanded the canvas and told about a party that was held in his house and the great men of Jerusalem and its top sages were invited there. During the meal, the former sang psalms arranged according to the order of the Bible, and the latter sang psalms for nothing. A midrashic counterpart reversed the order, and thus the sages sang "Elephantrin", that is, psalms that are weighted and measured according to the order of the Bible, and later they sang verses from the Bible with great enthusiasm.

It is possible that such midrash were used as a platform to allude to a kind of singing competitions during joint feasts and parties. And even if we ignore for a moment the trending element that was embedded in the midrash about the victory of the sages' poetry in the above source, then we can assume that in joyous occasions among the sages vocal music took hold, the one borrowed from biblical verses, but probably seasoned with foreign symbols as well, Such as the aforementioned "Elephantrine", a significant place.

This last assumption took on a special meaning during Passover. And so the Mishna ruled that "and there is no meftirin after the Passover afikoman" (Pesachim 8:XNUMX). The Jerusalem Talmud raised a polemic among sages, is "Afikoman" a "mini singer" or a "mini methika"? (Yerushalmi Pesachim chapter XNUMX XNUMX p. XNUMX). This term, the "Afikomen" was borrowed from the Greek: "Afikomion", which was rooted in a Greek custom, that a festive feast of guests ended with a procession, especially among young people, from group to group, to share in their joy, when both this procession and the joy of the groups were accompanied by songs and playing musical instruments, Mainly flutes, in the best of the ancient Greek tradition.

The above-mentioned conditional halacha intended to say that one does not end the holiday meal by walking from group to group, but each person stays at the party of his family and guests. However, it seems that this is not a prohibition, but rather comes to teach about a widespread practice, that the young people would end the Passover meal in this Greek-Hellenistic custom, and this was not at all in the spirit of the sages, and therefore they asked for its exclusion and exclusion.

And perhaps in the style of the 30s/50s in Israel as they came up with the name "Trask Guys". And in general, it is interesting, or not, to which custom the concept of "Afikoman" evolved, known in our places as half the matzah that was hidden and in return for finding it by the small children they would receive some kind of gift. And maybe-maybe so that they don't run amok in the streets. who knows?!

Another term called "endurance" that appeared in the appendix, in connection with Jewish "members of the group" at Passover, may be clarified and clarified against the background of its derivation from the Greek, i.e. "sombula", or from the Latin - "symbolum", which means a feast in a group saturated with gaiety and joy.

It is similar, in my humble opinion, that the Sages sought to hedge against a foreign custom only on Passover due to the holiness of the special night, but normally the Sages allowed the use of the flute in the "Beit Mishta" and the "Beit HaSimcha" according to the custom. And here, without a doubt, we are talking about a degree of foreign influence, because in that, in the foreign society, the Carthian Greeks, music was given a respectable place and the phenomenon of the "musician band" was common in it (Midrash Tehilim 6:4, or Shir al-Shirim Rabbah XNUMX:XNUMX).

It is interesting to examine the Sage's approach to the discussed sand poetry, an examination of the Jewish-Israeli one and the Jewish-Babylonian one. The sages of Babylon came out, most of them all, in a massive attack against the poetry of the sand, and the prophet as an example the words of Raba who attacked the poetry in rhymed teaching, and therefore it was all the more stinging: "Singing in Betha, ruin in Sipa" (Talmud Babyloni Sota XNUMX p. XNUMX). The reason for this probably lies in a common phenomenon, that the extent of sand singing among Babylonian Jewry was so great that it could lead to violations of the sacred and even moral violations, according to the words of Rabbi Yosef of Babylon: "Male singers and poor female singers - fritza; A female singer and a male singer - head in youth" (Sota, ibid.) That is, mixed singing between women and men at joyous parties can probably cause moral promiscuity.

This case was tied to a conditional testimony with the help of which the differences in attitudes between the Land of Israel and Babylon can be asserted. In the Mishna we read that "the Sanhedrin is abolished, the song is canceled from the House of Mishtaot, as it is said - 'In a song they shall not drink wine' (Isaiah 9:1)" (Mishnath Sota 60:XNUMX). Namely - since they stopped discussing the laws of souls, a few years before the destruction of the Second Temple (the XNUMXs of the first century CE). So the Sages ruled against participating in a feast, either as a sign and symbol of general mourning or due to the fact that singing in the feast symbolized to a certain extent the foreign government, the Roman, the one who forbade the Sanhedrin to discuss the laws of souls, and thus violated the principles of Jewish law.

The Babylonian Rabbi Hasda hastened to explain the above-mentioned issue in his own way, which has some allusion to the customs that prevailed at the time among Babylonian Jewry, saying: "In the beginning, the Sanhedrin was afraid of them, and they would not say vulgar things in a song. But now, that there is no Sanhedrin warning about them, they will say the words of a bastard in song" (Talmud Yerushalmi Sota Chapter XNUMX, XNUMX, p. XNUMX).

On the other hand, Rabbi Yossi B. Rabbi Boon, a member of the fifth generation, explained on his behalf as follows: "In the beginning, every trouble that came upon the public would have Puskin happy against it, and if it was canceled, the Sanhedrin would cancel the song from the House of Wonders" (ibid.). In other words, the practice in the Land of Israel, whether as a result of Sanhedrin legitimation, or by direct Sanhedrin instruction, was that the Jewish leadership in the land promoted any public trouble in the way of "sweetening the bitter pill" - to encourage expressions of joy among the public. However, since the power of the Sanhedrin had waned, there was no one to issue orders from above and the suffering public did not know, by its own power, to behave as required. It is possible that there was a degree of hyperbole in the words of this speaker, but there is no doubt that the trend in the Land of Israel was much more moderate than the Babylonian one. And this trend was nothing but a response to a different reality between the two countries. And maybe the "Fuskin" box has no instruction - we decide, but we stop and then we will not be suspected of exaggeration on the part of the said person. However, even then the contrast between Israel and Babylon stands out: while the first did not involve the taste in moral hacks, the second tasted explicitly that it was a moral hack in the context of music.

Either way, it would not be accurate to say that all the sages of the Land of Israel welcomed the "song in the House of Wonders." And for the evidence that three generations before Rabbi Yossi B. Rabbi Bon opposed this, Rabbi Yochanan bar Nafcha, one of the greatest of the generation, following the above testimony. However, if we set against his objection his explicit teaching about the obligation to read the Torah and the Mishnah with pleasure on the one hand and carefully examine his above objection which did not explicitly attack poetry but only vaguely, i.e. if the drinking at the musical wine parties, which was the one that bothered him the most on the other hand, then again The attitude of the Land of Israel, which was more moderate than the aggressive one in Babylon, becomes clear.

Two additional sources may help us the most in clarifying the above picture. The Tosefta stated that "he who shakes his voice in the Song of Songs, in the House of Wonders, and does it as a kind of singer, has no part in the world to come" (Tosefta Sanhedrin 10:XNUMX). And Barita from Eretz Israel who immerses herself in the Babylonian Talmud brought up a pictorial-symbolic picture in this regard. All this, it seems, comes to teach us that the resistance in the Land of Israel was directed towards special cases. Sages therefore, for understandable reasons, asked to prohibit the use of biblical verses in the "House of Wonders" in the form of a sand singer under the influence of the foreign sand song. They objected to the hanging of Buki-Seriki in the sacred song.

From this it can be concluded that the Sages did not in principle forbid poetry in the "Beit Mishtaot", and to the extent that they attacked it, it was only on the basis, a similar advantage, of the use of qualified biblical verses in the foreign, Greek-Hellenistic version.

Indeed, one of the conditions went to the trouble of emphasizing at the end of the passage in question that in contrast to the aforementioned special prohibition, "everyone who reads (and I mean - reads with pleasure) a verse in his time brings good to the world."

We will note in conclusion that similar to the songs sung before the bride and groom, they used to sing similar songs also in the ordination ceremony of sages, which was a social-public event of the first degree. And this shows how much positive sensitivity there was in relation to important events among the Jewish community in the Land of Israel, on the one hand and on the other hand to note the great, deep and sometimes mystical importance of the musical performance, both vocal and instrumental.

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