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Going to the Theater

Category: // By Rabbi: הרב עופר עוזרי // Answer date: 15.01.2021

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Question:

My wife and I love going to see Broadway plays an shows. Since we have started becoming more religious I have stopped going because there are women singing. Is it appropriate for my wife to go?

Answer:

It is better that she not go to these things. There is a machloket whether she is allowed. Even if she is allowed the values presented in these shows are abysmal Goyishe values and you want to try to separate yourselves from that.
The Sages taught: With regard to one who goes to stadiums [le’itztadinin] where people are killed in contests with gladiators or beasts, or to a camp of besiegers [ulkharkom] where different forms of entertainment are provided for the besieging army, and he sees there the acts of the diviners and those who cast spells, or the acts of the clowns known as bukiyon, or mukiyon, or muliyon, or luliyon, or belurin, or salgurin, this is categorized as “the Moshav Leitzim”; and with regard to such places the verse states: “Happy is the man that has not walked in the council of the wicked, nor stood in the way of sinners, nor sat in the Moshav Leitzim. But his delight is in the Torah of the Lord” (Psalms 1:1–2). You learn from here that these matters bring a person to dereliction of the study of Torah, since had he not sat in “the Moshav Leitzim,” he would delight in the study of Torah.
And the Gemara raises a contradiction from another baraita: One is permitted to go to stadiums, because he can scream and save the life of a Jew who would otherwise be killed there; and it is permitted to go to a camp of besiegers, because at times one can provide for the public welfare by petitioning the besiegers and saving the residents of the town, provided that he is not counted as one of them; but if he is counted as one of them, it is prohibited. This is difficult, as there is a contradiction between the statement about attending stadiums in the first baraita and the statement about attending stadiums in the second baraita, and is similarly difficult as there is a contradiction between the statement about a camp of besiegers in the first baraita and the statement about a camp of besiegers in the second baraita.
The Gemara continues: Granted, the apparent contradiction between one statement about a camp of besiegers and the other statement about a camp of besiegers is not difficult, as here, the first baraita is referring to a case where he is counted as one of them, and there, the second baraita is referring to a case where he is not counted as one of them. But with regard to the contradiction between the ruling about attending stadiums in the first baraita and the ruling about attending stadiums in the second baraita, it is difficult.
The Gemara answers: This issue is a dispute between tanna’im, as it is taught in a baraita: One may not go to stadiums, because they are considered “the Moshav Leitzim.” And Rabbi Natan permits attending stadiums due to two reasons; one is because he can scream and save the life of someone who would otherwise be killed, and the other one is because even if he cannot save the man’s life, he can provide testimony that a woman’s husband died, which will enable her to marry again…
Apropos the earlier discussion of the evils of scornfulness, the Gemara cites several statements that criticize such behavior. Rabbi Shimon ben Pazi taught: What is the meaning of that which is written: “Happy is the man that has not walked in the counsel of the wicked, nor stood in the way of sinners, nor sat in the Moshav Leitzim” (Psalms 1:1)? Since he did not walk in the counsel of the wicked, how could he stand with them? And since he did not stand, how could he sit with them? And since he did not sit with them, how could he have scorned? Since he never joined the company of the wicked, he would have no reason to be involved with them in any manner.
Rather, the verse serves to say to you that if he walked with the wicked, he will ultimately stand with them. And if he stood with them, he would ultimately sit in their company, and if he sat, he will ultimately scorn along with them.
The prohibition of Moshav Leitzim is a very vague and not well known issur. It is only mentioned twice offhandedly in Shulchan Aruch . Once in Muktzeh Orach Chaim 308: One may not read on Shabbos secular books of phrases and parables, books of passion (such as Emanuel) and war books. One may not read them during the week as well because it is a “sitting of scoffers” and because one is “removing Hashem from one’s mind”.
Tis also mentioned Siman 316 : A person who sends out a dog to hunt a game animal on Shabbat – this is considered trapping Kol Bo). There are those who say that even during the week it is forbidden to do this with a dog for this is conduct befitting “Moshav Leitzim.”

It would seem from the Gemara that main prohibition is to go to the circuses and entertainment paces of the Goyim. The Maharsha though qualifies the prohibition as not limited to going to the theaters but rather all forms of entertainment. He writes that as the passuk says in Tehillim as quoted in the Gemara “UBMoshav Leitzim lo Yashav Ki Im B’Troat Hashem Cheftzo”. That It is only the Torah a person should want. Chazal derived this from the passuk say that one shod find his entertainment in the world of Torah and to other sources. The Iyun Yaakov Shulchan Aruch straight that the problem with Moshav Leitzim is that if one gets involved in it will lead to Bitul Torah, not learning Torah.
However the end of the Gemara seems to imply that Moshav Leitzim will not only stop one from learning Torah but it will lead one to eventually follow Goyishe culture and become involved in their entertainment and led him away. Similarly the Vilna Gaon said the reason for Moshav Leitzim was that anyone who reads Goyishe entertainment a Ruach Ra’ah, an evil spirit will enter him and it will draw him away from Hashem.
The differences between the two explanations are in the bathroom when there is no Bitul Torah or for women who are not obligated in Limud Hatorah. According to the Maharsha it would be permitted but according to the Gr”a it would still be forbidden because it might lead one astray.
The Daat Torah from the Maharsham write Moshav Leitzim is also forbidden. In that case since it is unclear one may be lenient that a woman does not have to learn Torah and reading kosher (not disgusting Goyishe ones) novels etc. would be OK. However to go the theater is much akin to the Moshav Leitzim in the Gemara so it is preferable for her to go.

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