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Ancient Jews Music 31: Mourning customs

The Mishna ruled that among the husband's duties to his wife was the concern for her burial, and "even a poor man in Israel, no less than two flute players (we used to be flute players) and a mourner (at least one)" (Mishna Ketubut 4:XNUMX)

Actress Yael Sharoni in the role of a mourner in the series "The Jews are Coming". Screenshot
Lamenting the death of King Herod in the series "The Jews are coming" season 6 episode 2. Screenshot

Mourning customs

In everything related to mourning chants, different to a certain extent from the joyous events, there is a fundamental and fundamental innovation between the Biblical period and the Second Temple period and onwards. And here we find new signs, with the exception of the Greek influence and the approach of sages who sought to establish frameworks for accepted social norms.

During the biblical period, mourning went through several stages: in the beginning it was a eulogy for an individual and gradually moved to eulogy for the whole, the public as well as the destruction of a city or country. Moreover, until the days of the prophet Jeremiah, mourning was a male profession, when the deceased was eulogized by his friends, his spouses, or those who were considered "knowing things" (Amos 16:XNUMX). During Jeremiah's time, mourning passed an important stage in that it became the property of women, women who mourned were professionals, just as the phenomenon was prominent among the neighboring nations.

During the Second Temple period, the musical side was emphasized more than the poetic side of the mourning ceremony. And already in the book of Zechariah we find clear signs of choral singing in the obituary for the deceased in antiphonal style.

The other major innovation in the period in question from the Second Temple onwards was the widespread use of musical instruments, especially flutes, whose sound had a somewhat sad tone, to accompany the lamentation and obituary. And it seems that we are not far from the truth if we assume that there was an influence here from the foreign, Greek and Hellenistic environment.

Another innovation was folded into the approach of the leaders of the generation, the one that was based on a accepted norm, that the lamentation of the deceased was no less important than his burial, according to the essay of Ben Sira, the poet and philosopher.

The women who were known as mentioned from the days of Jeremiah as being in charge of lamentation, continued in this position during the days of the Second Temple and the author of "The Words of Job" testified of two mourners - one playing a harp and the other playing a drum.

The women who took part in the ceremonies, some were "weavers". That is, slaps on the palm or on the thigh usually near the bed of the baby. Some of them - the "mourners", we were women who were hired for the purpose of the ceremony, to teach us about the stage of organization and organization on the basis of accepted customs that were widespread among the public for a long time, and would carry words of lamentation and song, and according to the definition of the Mishnah: "Lamentation - that one speaks and all respond after her" (from the Year of Moed Ketan, 9:XNUMX). And some of them are "torture", and as the definition of the Mishnah - "What kind of torture?" that they all (all the women) answer as one" (ibid.). Even the exit from the cemetery took the form of a procession.

These conditional definitions in the period after the destruction of the Second Temple, may help us to assume that the sages sought, in light of the common norm, to introduce a single pattern in the mourning ceremonies, examining a phase of the organization of the various practices. And it seems that the Berita of the Jerusalem Talmud alluded to the explosiveness of the practice of mourning by the group of mourners, by saying that, if someone heard the mourners bearing lamentation for an unknown deceased, then there is no better and more faithful testimony than this, and proof that that person has indeed died. And hence, not only about the explosiveness of the mourning phenomenon, but also about the degree of sanctity and seriousness of the mourning in the words of its subjects and authors.

As mentioned, the most common musical instrument in mourning ceremonies was the flute, and although Jeremiah already testified that this is the instrument capable of evoking sorrow and poverty, considering the evidence that originates, it seems, from a certain environmental influence, in the post-biblical period the flute became the most common instrument in mourning ceremonies, similar to the neighboring Hellenistic countries . And the many halakhots, of the Land of Israel, that arose from this issue in the mouth of the Sages, may tear open an important window for us, both in relation to the prevailing practice and regarding the approach of the sages in this matter.

The mishna ruled that among the husband's duties to his wife was the concern for her burial, and "even a poor man in Israel, no less than two flute players (we used to be flute players) and a mourner (at least one)" (Mishna Ketubut 4:XNUMX). The Sage's ruling discussed here indicates the granting of legal validity, a binding instruction, which is based on an accepted norm, in widespread practice.

This instruction was based on the practice of hiring professional flutists to examine a phenomenon which gave the mourning ceremony a special dimension and served as evidence of the organization and institutionalization of the phenomenon. The hiring of flute-players was alluded to in the New Testament, appeared in the writings of Yosef ben Matthew and was discussed in the Commentary as a common practice in the Mishnah.

This issue may clarify an interesting dimension in the above-mentioned requirement of sages in the law of the poor. The Jewish tradition was prominently concerned for the poor. If so, how did the Sages demand from the poor a financial expenditure for the purpose of hiring pipers and mourners?! Well, if such a claim arose, there must be something wrong with it. Sages for various reasons asked to organize and institutionalize the musical aspect of the mourning ceremonies as an integral part of the ceremonies in general. And knowing that the community in its own way would support the poor, they did not hesitate and did not exclude the poor from the general rule. All this to teach us about the extent of the deep recognition that spread among sages of the sound effect in mourning ceremonies out of respect for the dead.

Another interesting instruction is discussed in the Mishnah as follows: "A Gentile who brought flutes on Shabbat, Israel will not pay for them, unless they came from a nearby place" (Shabbat 4:XNUMX). It seems that at first the sages forbade playing a flute brought by a foreigner, especially on Shabbat. However, under the pressure of reality and illusion, the various permits will be imposed. This instruction may be interpreted against the background of Jews sitting in Gentile cities, or in settlements adjacent to Gentile cities, and since it is obligatory to play the flute at the eulogy, Sages drafted the above permission and provided that these musical instruments were brought from the Shabbat area.

The Tosefta brought up a situation that is the result of the development of the above Mishna: "A Gentile who brought flutes for Israel on Shabbat, Israel will not pay for them." But another Israel is permitted" (Tosefta Shabbat 14 - XNUMX XNUMX). After all, although they did not forbid playing a flute that was brought outside of Shabbat, under the pressure of reality, as it turns out, they asked in any case not to violate the laws of Shabbat on the one hand, and not to undermine the foundations of the obituary ceremony on the other hand. And the permission that came to make it easier for the Jews was only in the form of a compromise. It should also be noted that the entire image testifies, again and again, to the Sage's knowledge of the importance of the musical effect. Moreover, with these permits Chazal Kahari asked in many other cases, to maintain the normalization of the relationship between Jews and foreigners, and within this system, as evidence suggests, the channels through which foreign influence penetrated the customs of Judaism were widened. And as far as we are concerned - influences that sink into music.

Blasphemy of idolatry, it is forbidden to confess in them

Another instruction appeared in the appendix as follows: "The blasphemy of foreign worship, it is forbidden to pay homage to them. And if they were raising wages for the state, even though they were doing it for the purpose of foreign labor, it is permissible to pay for them..." (Addendum to foreign labor 1(XNUMX) XNUMX). The continuation of the section dealt with the same wording and the permit regarding "foreign work shops" and "foreign work gabain". In any case, the juxtaposition of the matter between the Mishnah and the Tosefta makes it clear that this is a certain permit in relation to "the blasphemy of foreign work", a result of the circumstances of the matter and more than that - the circumstances of the time on the one hand and the closeness between the two populations on the other.

The ambiguity of certain terms that appeared in this introduction made it quite difficult to clarify the case. That is, "flutes of foreign worship" - did these testify to a certain type of musical instruments that were used in foreign worship such as the "syrinx" (pan flute), or are we talking about the city, the citizens of the city, the one that weakened the surrounding rural territory.

I believe that these are professional flutists, and perhaps a musical guild, such as the Dionysian unions that appeared as a group recognized by the authorities and that hired themselves out for various events. Their recognition by the government required tax payments, and Sages, who sought to follow the regulations of the Roman administration and needed the services of the professional pipers, when the Sages' general approach to the issue of foreign labor was based on the reality of cooperation between the Jews and the residents of the Greek and Roman cities, To the extent, and only to the extent, that such cooperation did not entail a danger regarding the observance of Judaism's mitzvot and its laws, the Sages permitted various permits, as mentioned, under the necessity of the circumstances.

All these laws, and many others, helped us to assume that the flute occupied a very important place in the mourning ceremonies, and the Sages asked, in light of the reality that it had become a fixed custom, to give the flute normative-legal recognition to the point of imposing an obligation. And it should be noted that in this issue the influence of Greek society was at work, such that it was evident in many of the eulogies, and even a certain sophistication in relying on an allusion in the Bible.

Some also mourned with stringed instruments and in Babylon the practice of blowing the shofar took root. The playing of the flute as the aforementioned instruments was performed by men, and this in contrast to the lamentation which was the property of the women. However, the women defined themselves not only by mourning, but also by playing special instruments, such as percussion.

For example, the secondary testimony about the "Raviyat" - a musical instrument that was played by moving the rings in it and the "Raviyat Shalaliya (purple, pinch, opening, pinch and full shriek)" was the instrument played by the mourner. It should be noted that the lamented "eliyat" is derived from the Greek. Another tool that was used by women was the "eros" in terms of a drum or bell, whose name here also indicates its Greek-Hellenistic origin. Moreover, the bell as a flute took a place in foreign mourning ceremonies.

As mentioned, apart from mourning, the playing of certain instruments was also considered a woman's property. On the other hand, in biblical times, this role was intended for men. And it is interesting that even in Roman culture there were cases where men played the role of mourners. However, this is only about times of war, such as during the Roman revolts. That is, a situation similar to the biblical period. And here, in the mourning ceremonies, there is no doubt that there was a degree of influence from the foreign environment. However, the importance of the fact that ancient traditions have been associated with the woman since biblical times, and here, in the mourning ceremonies of the period in question, the woman found her special place. And perhaps even in the genealogical aspect - the woman is the one who brought about a situation of life in birth, and here, tragically, it is connected to the death of man.

And again, the traditions about women poets from the biblical period, return even in the Hellenistic period in the famous poem of Judith in her connection to the killing of Holofernes. However, these are very special circumstances associated with this event. In the chapters on temple poetry we have already tried to prove that there is no certainty in the version that there were poets in the temple. The attitude towards the women poets or musicians was basically negative, since they were suspected of moral intrusions similar to the sand poets in the neighboring cultures and foreign labor. And perhaps in this context we will bring the devious and despicable article of "Voice in a pubic woman", which causes farts to this day. And we should note that the one and only place where the woman found her place and position in the musical family and also in the spirit of Chazal, was in the mourning ceremonies. Forta comfort and maybe... in a penny...?!  

answering service

The Midrash alludes to a response song between the farmer and his friends and there is certainly a connection, perhaps even a close one, between the farmer's actions and his neighbors around him in order to increase motivation at work. In the Babylonian tradition, songs of ship pullers with ropes were mentioned (and we immediately remember the song of the Volga ships - "Ai och niim... in order to encourage the sailors in their work). Yes, the Babylonian Talmud attests to the songs of plowmen in terms of a phenomenon accepted among certain professions, who used different rhythmic songs to increase the pace of their work, such as tanners.

Also, during the period when Roman decrees were imposed on the Jews of the Land of Israel against the observance of the religious mitzvot, there were those who sought different ways to observe the mitzvot and to announce the place of their existence. One of the ways was the appearance of songs that announced the fulfillment of the mitzvot in a secret way, encrypted in "signals in the time of destruction" (Talmud Babyloni Sanhedrin 42 p. 2) and such as: "Kol Rihaim in Burni - the week of the son, the week of the son / the light of the candle in Burur Ha'il - a feast there, Banquet there" (ibid.). It will also be noted from the Roman Suetonius in connection with the days of Nero's emperorship about Syrian pipers (ambubaiae) who were permanent residents of circuses and used as escort-dancers.

In summary: It was said that the Jewish sand poetry during the Second Temple period, the Mishna and the Talmud was, naturally, influenced by the customs that prevailed and followed in Greek-Hellenistic-Roman society. This influence found its way into the hearts of the Jews even through the Greek, philosophical education, which was the domain of the aristocracy and the affluent stratum of the Jewish population. However, this influence was characterized by the interesting traditional Jewish contexts.

As for the Haul poetry, I focused on the events of joy and mourning under the influence of certain foreign symbols, highlighting the position of the woman in the mourning ceremonies and presenting elements that were in consideration of renewing the loom of biblical times.

And also, highlighting the fact that various customs that prevailed in Jewish society and norms that were naturalized in it were modified by the involvement of Sages. One that testified to attempts to bring the discussed issue to an organization and institutionalization. And even, even in an indirect way, to visit and monitor this issue. It should be noted that this involvement had no equal in the music of the neighboring cultures, and it is the one that gave, as in sacred music, a special and interesting dimension to the issue discussed in its entirety.

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