This is the period of time in which the students of Rabbi Akiva died, and therefore it is not appropriate to increase in our happiness (simcha) and in so doing, we observe an element of mourning outlined below:
1. We don’t get married.
2. We don’t have haircuts.
3. We don’t dance.
4. We don’t play musical instruments.
There are also those that don’t make a shehechiyanu, or wear new clothes.
There are a few differences in our observance of which days to implement these levels of mourning. Today, the majority of Ashkenazim in fact observe some of these levels (for example not having haircuts) for the entire period of Pesach to Shavuos.
What is included in the levels of dance?
1. Even though the Poskim only mention dancing, the agreement of the Poskim is in fact to include the playing of, and listening to musical instruments (including recorded music) in this prohibition.
2. Specially recorded compilations of vocals-only music are also prohibited. However, if they are not tunes that promote simcha, but rather arouse the soul, it is permissible for those who need it.
3. Listening to recorded Chazanos (Cantorial music) without musical instruments is permitted for those who need it, but not in public.
4. Singing is permissible, but there are those that prohibit singing in a group of people, however they allow singing songs that arouse the soul. It is permissible to sing Zemiros on Shabbos and Motzei Shabbos even in a group. It is also permissible to sing together with the children in Cheider.
5. With regards to recorded stories, shiurum etc which are sometimes accompanied by interludes of music, it is permissible to listen to them provided the intent is the content and the music is only incidental.
When and where is it permissible to play and listen to music?
1. Seudas Mitzvah (Bris Milah, Pidyon Haben, Barmitzvah day itself).
2. There is a difference of opinion amongst the Poskim as to whether or not it is permissible when completing a Tractate of the Talmud, where that is the practice. There are those that permit it, but the stringent will be find blessing in refraining from doing so. However, it is certainly permissible to sing in a group, even happy melodies.
3. It is not permissible to play musical instruments at an engagement party or meal.
4. With regards to a Hachnasas Sefer Torah which is accompanied by musical instruments (recorded or live), one needs to ask a Posek if it is correct or not during the Omer, as it is a public gathering and in many cases it is not specifically necessary to hold it during the Omer.
5. “On-hold” music is permissible when it is not the intent to listen but rather to speak on the phone. It is however, appropriate for the owner of the phone or system to change the on-hold music if possible. This would also apply to those with real music ring-tones on their cell phones.
6. One who is learning to play a musical instrument, if it is for purposes of earning a living, then it is permissible. However, for enjoyment it is prohibited. Even only parts of a song (for example just playing the melody or just the chorus) is also not permissible. Only with regards to small sections of such musical parts, is there room in which to be lenient.
7. Children who are learning to play a musical instrument or the teacher, should ask a Posek as the Halacha could change according to the situation.
8. Listening to music while exercising – if the lack of music will reduce the level of exercise, then it is permissible. However if it is to increase one’s enjoyment while exercising, then it would be prohibited.
9. Listening to music in order to keep one awake behind the steering-wheel of a car while driving – if there is no alternative means in order to keep one awake, then it would be permissible to listen to recorded music.
10. One who is accustomed to listening to music at work, and a lack of it would reduce his ability to produce, should consult with a Posek on how to act accordingly during the Omer.
11. Children of the chinuch age should be taught all the relevant laws above, however, if there is a great need, there is room in which to permit listening to recorded music temporarily, but not as usual on a regular basis. Either way, it should never be in public.