Rabbi Benzion Mutzafi
Rabbi Benzion MutzafiYonatan Sindel/Flash90

Rabbi Benzion Mutzafi, one of the greatest poskim (decisors of Jewish law) in the Sephardi world, has sharply attacked the practice of holding musical Selichot events and called for them to be stopped.

Selichot are penitential prayers recited in the days prior to Rosh Hashanah, asking G-d for forgiveness in advance of the Day of Judgment.

Rabbi Mutzafi's statements were made in response to a question posed by someone who asked what his mother, a mourner, was permitted to do given that mourners are not allowed to hear music. "My mother is in her year of mourning [for a parent] and she wants to know if it is permissible to listen to the Selichot sung with musical accompaniment?" the person asked.

In his response (published on the haredi website Kikar Hashabbat), Rabbi Mutzafi wrote: "Selichot with musical accompaniment is like eating milk and meat together [a Biblical prohibition], because the practice of reciting Selichot was instituted in order to arouse Heavenly mercy upon us, and not in order to listen to music with concerts and entertainment. It is a disgrace that there are people who exploit the Selichot in this way in order to bring themselves fame and renown. As for the question itself, your mother is not permitted to listen to music during her year of mourning."

On another occasion, a person asked Rabbi Mutzafi whether it is permissible to recite the Selichot to musical accompaniment, to which he replied, "This is absolutely crazy. People should be shedding tears at Selichot as they entreat [for Heavenly mercy]."

On a similar note, last Friday several Lithuanian-haredi rabbis published a letter opposing the practice of holding Selichot events with musical accompaniment. In their words, those organizing such events want to "alter the holy nature of the Selichot prayers and turn them into cultural entertainment events with singers and bands, whether in synagogues or in outside areas..."