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Sister’s Singing

can an adopted girl sing in front of her biological brother…they havent grown up together

Answer:

The fact that the brother and sister did not grow up together does not bear on their halachic status of brother and sister. The question does not mention the age of the girl, so I will answer for all ages.

In general, the prohibition of hearing a girl’s singing voice (kol isha), which falls under the ervah category, begins either at the age of 3, 6, 9, or 11, depending on various opinions. Concerning sisters, it is customary in many places to permit kol isha altogether. Although some equate a sister with other girls, and it is praiseworthy to be stringent, one may certainly follow the most lenient opinion and permit the hearing of a sister’s singing up to 11 years old. It should be added that the general custom, in particular with regard to the singing of zemiros on Shabbos, is to be entirely lenient with regard to kol isha of sisters (see Avnei Yashfei vol II, :5:8, and Be’er Sarim vol I, 30:4, who are generally stringent concerning the singing of sisters over the age of 11, but is lenient concerning singing zemiros together — provided the girls sing in a gentle voice).

Sources: Concerning the age from which kol isha is prohibited, see Shulchan Shlomo, 75:3; Salmas Chaim 93; Rivevos Efraim 7:p. 246; Ishei Yisrael 55:note 99 — which present the more stringent opinion (3). Chazon Ish, OC 16:8 maintains that there is no set age, and everything depends on the girl looking like a mature girl. Ben Ish Chai (Bo 1:13), Oz Vehadar Levushah (p. 47), and Laws of Daily Living (1:pp. 84-85) give the age as 6, whereas Halichos Bas Yisrael (6:note 120) and Halichos Shlomo (Tefilla 20) mention the age of 9. Iggros Moshe (1:26) writes that in pressing situations one may be lenient up the age of 11.

Concerning the status of sisters, a number of authorities do not make any distinction between sisters and other girls (see Be’er Sarim 1:30:4; Halichos Bas Yisrael (p. 85) citing from Chazon Ish; Divrei Chachamim (p. 253) citing from Harav Yaakov Kamenetsky; Rivevos Efraim (vol. 7, p. 246); Orchos Rabbeinu (vol. 4, p. 156); among others). However, Avnei Yashfei (2:5:8) quotes from Harav Elyashiv shlita that with regard to sisters one may be lenient up to the age of 11, and a number of authorities quote the general custom to be lenient with regard to sisters (see Divrei Chachamim p. 253 quoting from Harav Moshe Feinstein; Hakatan Vehilshosav chap. 81, note 33; Taharas Am Yisrael p. 53. The questioner in Be’er Sarim (1:30:4), Rabbi Wagshal of Gateshead, quotes that the custom in Brisk was to be lenient with regard to kol ishah of sisters. However, as these authorities themselves point out, it is preferable to be stringent.

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4 Comments

  1. i understand there is room to be leneint with zemiros shabbos…but is there room to be lenient about regular singing after age of 11?
    what if I just hum a tune or even sing but there’s music playing in background?

    1. Concerning regular singing, it is certainly preferable to be stringent even with regard to sisters, although some authorities do not prohibit it. Of course, there is no room for leniency concerning anybody outside the direct family. If a tune is hummed gently, or sung gently with music in the background (such that the singing cannot be perceived on its own, but mingles with the music), some would maintain that there is no prohibition (based on a ruling of Rav Y. Y. Weinberg concerning singing of boys and girls together), but others prohibit it (see Tzitz Eliezer in several places).

  2. generally speaking, why is there an issue with singing in front of brothers if there is no erva btw brothers and sisters? as it says above “the prohibition of hearing a girl’s singing voice (kol isha), which falls under the ervah category”

    1. As mentioned in another post, although the principles of ervah do not generally apply between brothers and sisters, poskim are not ready to permit everything (such as revealing covered areas of the body for grown up brothers/sisters), and many are stringent even with regard to singing. However, as mentioned, the general custom is to be fairly lenient in the matter of singing.

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