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Kosher playlists; musical considerations for psychedelic therapy with orthodox Jews

Kosher playlists; musical considerations for psychedelic therapy with orthodox Jews

Pinni Baumol - Janurary 9th, 2023

mystics from various traditions, faiths and indigenous backgrounds believe that music can act as a sacred vehicle to unconscious realms, and use it specifically with their plant medicines, prayers, worship or practice. In the 1950s and 60s, scientists found that music has a profound impact on psychedelic trips, and recent research suggests it may be more important in facilitating positive outcomes than the dosage of the drug. Music and psychedelics evoke similar brain responses, bypassing the intellect and bringing emotional content to the forefront of consciousness (*1) . According to Mendel Kaelen, founder of the psychedelic music app Wavepaths and former neuroscientist at Imperial College, music is an effective tool for therapy because it offers a flexible framework for patients to express their personal thoughts and emotions.

Music can provide a climate where the individual feels deeply acknowledged and their experience is accepted as it is, and play an important role in psychedelic therapy as it can help to create a safe and supportive environment for the therapeutic process. It can also help to facilitate the emergence of unconscious material and can be used to support the integration of the psychedelic experience after the session. Some therapists use specific types of music, such as classical or world music, to help create a relaxing and contemplative atmosphere, while others may use more dynamic and immersive music to help facilitate a deeper and more intense therapeutic experience. The use of music in psychedelic therapy is often highly individualized and is tailored to the needs and preferences of the person undergoing treatment.

In jewish spirituality and belief, music was used by the levites in the temple as part of daily worship. In more contemporary hassidic thought, song and “nigunim” or traditional melodies have a great impact on the person and his spirituality . The Baal Shem Tov taught that "the Hall of Music is adjacent to the Hall of Repentance'', and his great grandson, Rabbi Nachman of Uman adds: (Likoti Moharan Tanina, 31) "By the music it is evident whether he has accepted the yoke of the Torah. A person sings about what he identifies with , and according to his song, a person testifies to the extent of his identification with the Torah and his fear of God. Hence: Teshuva (Repentance'') which is complete, passes through singing."

In Chabad, or lubavitch, a specific branch in hasidic thought, music is an integral part of worship and spirit. “If words are the pen of the heart,” taught Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, “then song is the pen of the soul.” Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak of Lubavitch taught: “A nigun opens windows in the soul.”“Song,” wrote the second Rebbe of Chabad, Rabbi Dovber, “lies at the core of life; its source is in the most supernal ecstasy.”

As we mentioned, It is important to respect the cultural and religious beliefs of individuals who are undergoing psychedelic therapy, and this includes any restrictions they may have on the types of music they are willing to listen to. In the case of Orthodox Jewish individuals, it may be necessary to use music that is specifically tailored to their religious and cultural beliefs. This could include music that is religious in nature, such as traditional Jewish liturgical music or music that has been specifically composed for use in spiritual or meditative practices. It may also be appropriate to use instrumental music, as long as it is not considered to be immodest or inappropriate in any other way.

In the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, there are some restrictions on the types of music that men may listen to. These restrictions are based on the belief that certain types of music may be immodest or inappropriate for religious Jews to listen to. The most obvious and widely accepted restriction is “Kol Isha”- a prohibition for men to listen to a female voice singing(*2). Other issues may be timing related, as there are several periods in the jewish calendar where music, and especially happy music which includes instruments, are prohibited as part of mourning rituals. This could be true for an individual in the year after the passing away of a parent, during “sefirat haomer” (the period of time between passover and shavuot) or the three weeks between 17th of tammuz and the 9th of Av (*3).

In general, ultra-Orthodox Jews avoid listening to music that is secular or non-religious in nature, as well as music that is considered to be immodest or sexually suggestive. This may include popular music, rock music, and certain types of electronic music. Some ultra-Orthodox Jews also avoid listening to instrumental music, as they believe that it is inappropriate to enjoy music for its own sake, rather than as a means of praising God or expressing religious devotion.

Ultimately, the use of music in psychedelic therapy should be carefully considered and tailored to the needs and beliefs of the individual undergoing treatment. Here are a few examples of music that might be appropriate for use in psychedelic therapy with ultra-Orthodox Jewish individuals:

  • Traditional Jewish liturgical music: This includes music that is specifically written for use in Jewish worship and religious ceremonies. It is often characterized by its use of Hebrew lyrics and its focus on praising God and expressing devotion.

  • Instrumental music: This could include music that is specifically composed for use in spiritual or meditative practices, such as classical music, world music, or new age music. It is important to ensure that the instrumental music chosen is not considered to be immodest or inappropriate in any other way.

  • Religious choral music: This could include music performed by choirs or choral groups that focuses on religious themes or texts. It could also include music written by Jewish composers or inspired by Jewish religious traditions.

  • Nigunim are traditional holy melody or tune of Kabbalistic/Hasidic tradition, generally without words and frequently sung without instruments.

It is important to note that these are just a few examples, and the specific music that is chosen will depend on the individual preferences and beliefs of the person undergoing treatment. It may also be helpful to consult with a therapist or other healthcare professional who is familiar with the use of music in psychedelic therapy and who can provide guidance on selecting appropriate music for treatment.

Here are some additional questions that could be helpful for evaluating the musical needs and constraints of an individual undergoing psychedelic therapy:

  • Are there any specific types of music that you feel comfortable listening to during therapy sessions?

  • Are there any types of music that you feel would be inappropriate or distressing for you to listen to during therapy?

  • Do you have any preferences or preferences when it comes to the style or genre of music that is played during therapy sessions?

  • Have you had any previous experiences with music in a therapeutic context, and if so, how did you find those experiences to be?

  • How do you typically use music in your daily life, and is there anything about that experience that you would like to incorporate into therapy sessions?

  • Do you have any specific cultural or religious beliefs that may impact your feelings about the use of music in therapy?

  • Do you have any specific physical or emotional responses to music that you would like to address in therapy?

  • Are there any specific themes or lyrics in music that you feel would be particularly meaningful or relevant to your therapeutic goals?

  • Do you have any musical training or experience that you feel would be relevant to your therapy sessions?

  • Is there anything else you would like to share about your musical preferences or needs in the context of therapy?

With culture-informed therapists willing to discuss these possibilities with patients, both the efficacy and quality of therapy, and therapeutic connection can be increased, in tandem with a higher moral and ethical level of treatment and engagement with the patients world view and background, easing the integration process as well.


(*3) Spotify men’s voice and no instruments playlist

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