Listening to female singers when men are in the car
Rabbanit Surale Rosen
She'elaI like listening to religious music in the car, featuring a female singer. When I decide to stop for a male passenger in need of a ride – should I turn off the music out of sensibility that he may not want to listen to recorded female voices? I’ve gone back and forth on this one – mostly turning it off but then my ride would be much less pleasant and I may in the long run be less likely to pick up religious men because I will not be able to relax and continue listening.
Your question bears both a Halakhic aspect together with a wider inquiry as to how much should we give up on our needs and conveniences when doing גמילות חסדים. I would like to open with the differing opinions regarding women singing on the radio and then expound on the general attitude towards Chesed.
Rav Ovadya Yosef (Yabiah Omer, Orach Chayim 6) concludes that the prohibition of Kol Isha does not apply when listening to a woman singing on the radio if the man is not acquainted with the singer. The Mishne Halakhot (4:86), quoting the Gemarah in Sanhedrin “Rabba says: It is learned as a tradition that the evil inclination controls only that which one’s eyes see” also concludes that there isn’t, what he calls, ‘a complete’ Issur listening to an unknown woman singing on the radio. None the less his recommendation is to abstain from doing so. Rav Eliezer Yehudah Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer 5:2) adds two other important considerations: a) the voice we hear coming out of a radio isn’t the woman’s actual voice since it’s transmitted by waves, and b) quoting the Sdei Chemed, there is a distinction between a woman singing popular love songs and one singing religious songs expressing gratitude to the Creator.
There are, of course, other prominent Poskim, that deem any type of singing forbidden (Igrot Moshe, Chelkat Ya’akov, Divrey Yatziv) and this is where your question lies – what if you give a ride to a man who follows this Psak? Are you allowed to leave the music on thus causing him to do what he thinks is a prohibition? Is it a situation of לפני עיור לא תיתן מכשול (placing a stumbling block before the blind)?
I think not, for the following reason – Lifnei Iver is a situation where a person doesn’t know in advance what he/she is going in for. In your case, the music is clearly on when you stop to offer a ride and the people standing outside can hear it before deciding to get into the car. It is up to them to decide whether they will keep on waiting or join you while listening to the radio.
Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Minchat Shlomo 1:44) discussing Lifnei Iver, brings the Gemarah in Avodah Zarah 7a: “Rabbi Yehoshua ben Korha says: if the uncertainty exists with regard to rabbinic law, follow the one who rules leniently”. Rav Shlomo Zalman points out that even the Chacham that rules stringently has to instruct the inquirer to follow the lenient opinion since Rabbi Yehoshua ben Korha’s saying is a כללא – ‘general rule’ and was accepted להלכה.
Since many Poskim rule that Kol Isha is a rabbinic prohibition (see Divrei Yatziv, Shevet Halevi, Rav Ovadya Yosef) then our case is one where, according to the Minchat Shlomo, we should instruct the passengers to abide by the lenient ruling and there is, therefore, no fear of Lifnei Iver.
None the less you mentioned that you feel a kind of tension while driving with the music on even when the uneasy feeling doesn’t originate from the passengers. That is to say, you feel uncomfortable as long as you don’t know how they feel about the situation and you are not driving as relaxed as you were hoping to. These recurring instances cause a certain hesitance as far as offering rides to people who need them and you feel both sorry about doing less גמילות חסד but also about not having a pleasant, relaxed drive back home.
So how much should we go out of our way to help others?
The Mitzvah of loving the other like yourself (Leviticus 19:18) was understood by Chazal to be the mitzvah of doing acts of kindness. The Rambam understands these acts to be limitless:
“There is a positive commandment of rabbinic origin to visit the sick, comfort the mourner, to take out the deceased, to bring in the bride, to escort guests… and to bury – and also to gladden a bride and groom and provide for them all their needs. These are the acts of “chesed” done personally which have no limit. Even though all these mitzvot are of rabbinic origin, they are included in the commandment “You shall love your fellow as yourself” – everything you wish others to do for you, you should do for your brother…” (Hilkhot Avel 14:1)
In other words, Chazal defined how we keep the Mitzvah of ואהבת לרעך כמוך but did not determine how much of our time should be dedicated to these deeds. It is up to every individual to find the type of Chesed and the time to do it amongst all the other activities and responsibilities we hold.
I would like to share with you a sound advice of Rav Adin Steinzaltz. When asked what should a person invest in most in their Avodat Hashem, he answered with the Mishnah in Avot 1:2 “Shimon the Righteous was one of the last of the men of the great assembly. He used to say: the world stands upon three things: the Torah, the Temple service, and the practice of acts of piety” (The temple service, of course, is replaced by 3 daily prayers). Shimon the Righteous teaches us to divide our time between all these fundamental values in our service of Hashem since the world stands on all three. We can maneuver between them, sometimes investing more time and effort in one over the other, using different strengths and abilities we have at the time. Perhaps giving rides to men at this point in time is challenging for you since you feel you can’t listen to relaxing music and you should choose some other means of doingגמילות חסד . A value no less important in our Avodat Hashem is keeping Mitzvot, doing Chesed, with joy and willingness.