This past shabbos I was a guest at my friend’s shabbos table, and as I sat there enjoying the meal, the host suggested that we sing zemirot. Since she is female, this was a hint to the males at the table to begin singing. All the guys present, however, were too shy to start singing. Although in the end one of them started and we all joined in, I could not help but feel slightly envious of guys, who can start singing whenever they want to without worrying about violating halacha. In some situations I am the leader type, and if it had been only females at the table, I would have had no problem starting the singing, loudly and fervently (as I often do). This is not the first time that I have been in a situation like this before.
Before I go further I feel obligated to point out that although some poskim say that women are permitted to sing together with men for davening and zemirot etc., most men (at least in my circles) would feel uncomfortable if a woman starting singing in front of them, even if it was just a zemirah for shabbos. I personally feel uncomfortable, from a halachic standpoint, singing in front of men when my voice can be audible, even if it’s just zemirot. If I’m in shul with over 100 people and everyone is singing Lecha Dodi, for example, I have no problem singing. But at a small shabbos table, I would sing along, but try to be more careful about being heard.
Starting zemirot at a shabbos table is one example of a situation where Kol Isha is difficult for me. When I say difficult, let me clarify, I don’t mean that I’m tempted to violate halacha. It’s more comparable to a situation where you’re in an amusement park on a hot summer day and you see some non-Jews eating delicious looking ice cream cone. Part of you is like, “Wow, I really want that ice cream! I’m sweating so much and it looks so cold and good!” Despite that thought, you are never even tempted to go up to the ice cream stand and ask for your favorite flavor.
Another situation in which Kol Isha is difficult is that secretly, I would love to be a chazan and lead davening. There are certain tunes in davening that I love, and instead of sitting there on the women’s side trying to send telepathic messages to the chazan of what tune I hope he’ll sing, I wish I could be the one choosing the melodies and putting my heart into every syllable. But Kol Isha isn’t the only halacha stopping me from that. But I’m OK with the fact that I will never be able to lead davening. It would not be Tznius for one thing, and singing in front of so many people would be way too intimidating for me anyway.
Luckily most of the time Kol Isha is not a problem at all, and I find appropriate means to channel my love of singing. The bottom line is that almost everything in life has pros and cons and the positive aspects of keeping Kol Isha outweigh the negative ones.