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Singing the Aleph Beis

There is an approach to teaching children to read Hebrew, which utilizes songs for teaching the letters and nekudos, in combination with other strategies. If a female apecial education teacher has had success teaching children this way, and a boy between 10-12 years old who still cannot read, wants to get reading help from this female teacher, is it a problem of singing these alef-beis/nekudah songs in front of him? They are not real songs meant to make the singer sound beautiful….

Answer:

If, as you say, the tunes are not very tuneful, but more like the tunes with which pesukim are sung when they are taught to children, there is room to be lenient for the purpose of education. However, if the songs are ordinary songs, it would be prohibited.

Sources: Avnei Yashfei, vol. 2, no. 5 (concerning a woman teaching pesukim to children by singing them; although Avnei Yashfei thought to prohibit the practice, he quotes that Harav Elyashiv shlita ruled that it is permitted, because there is no “attraction” in singing the pesukim. The same would apply to singing aleph-beis songs. If the teaching technique involved regular songs, however, 10-12 is certainly chinuch age (according to the most lenient opinion the age is from nine years old, and most opinions maintain that chinuch begins at a younger age — see a previous post on this issue), and a male teacher/singer would need to be found.

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2 Comments

  1. As a side question: A child of this age(10-12), who still cannot read obviously has some serious issues, which need to be addressed. If a woman needs to be examined by a male doctor, who is a specialist, and there don’t seem to be any female doctors offering the same treatment, is that not permissible? Why would this situation much different? This boy needs to get help from a female “specialist” (which would include singing), but it is a hopefully-effective treatment not offered by a male counterpart?

    1. A woman is permitted to visit a male doctor because the examination does not involve any transgressions. This is because a medical examination does not involve any intimacy, and because a doctor who is “on the job” will not come to thoughts of intimacy (see Shach, YD 195:20). Therefore we find that Jewish doctors are fully permitted to examine women, for no prohibition is involved (though many authorities have written that it is preferable for women to attend female doctors, wherever possible). The same applies to a man visiting female doctor — wherever necessary, a man is permitted to visit a female doctor, because the visit and examination imply no intimacy.
      However, where a man requires some type of intimate connection with a woman for the purpose of his healing, the “treatment” is entirely prohibited (see Shach, YD 259:10, based on the Gemara which prohibits a man from being healed (in a case of pikuach nefesh!) even by looking at a woman or speaking with her, where these actions imply intimacy from the man’s point of view). It is prohibited for a man to hear a woman’s singing voice; a man requiring a woman’s singing voice for his “healing” can be compared to the case above in which a man is prohibitied from “treatment” that involves actual closeness to a woman — indeed, as mentioned, the Gemara (Sanhedrin 75a) states that a person may not be healed of his (love-)sickness even by speaking to a woman, when the speech involves intimacy.

      This is the difference between the cases of a woman’s singing to a man and a woman’s visit to the doctor’s. However, a case of true need with no alternative, for a child, must be taken to a rav for careful judgment on the basis of individual circumstances.

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