Friday, October 03, 2008

The Paul McCartney Concert

There is an issue being discussed on an e-mail list to which I belong about the recent Paul McCartney concert in Israel. For those who get all their news from the Yated, Paul MCartney is one of the original Beatles, a very successful rock group of the sixties.

Considering that all - even kosher separate seating - concerts in Israel have been banned, I might conclude that a secular concert would be a no brainer even for those who disagree with the ban. Especially during the ‘days of awe’ the Yomim Noraim - just before Rosh Hashanna.

But - it was disclosed by someone on that list that a young American Yeshiva student asked his Rosh Yeshiva for permission to go to that concert and he was permitted to go. It was further revealed that at the time of the concert there was a funeral taking place for a big Talmid Chacham, Rav Binyomin Zilber.

The question arose about the propriety of allowing this young man to do that. Wouldn’t it have been a far more appropriate choice to force this young student to attend an inspiring funeral of a huge Talmid Chacham instead of allowing him to attend a rock concert?! …during the Yamim Nora’im? Especially in light of the fact that this concert was not only outdoors, and mixed seating, it was completely secular! What about matters of Tznius? What about the frivolous atmosphere at a time when one should be thinking about Teshuva?

The Mechanech was severely criticized by some on this e-mail list for his decision allowing his student to go. But one should never judge the path of others via one’s own path.

Yes it is an educator’s responsibility to teach a student of Torah appropriate values. But one cannot always look at every situation in the ideal. One must look at the real as well. One must also consider context. And there is the aspect of Chanoch L’Naar Al I Darko to consider.

On an ideal plain, the funeral of a Talmid Chacham is on a far greater level than a rock concert by Paul McCartney. If for example one of the Kollel Yungeleit would opt to go to the concert instead of the funeral, that would be a travesty - assuming there are no extraneous issues impacting it such as being Mekarev an OTD child.

First let me state that in my view there is no intrinsic Issur in such music any more than any other music - despite efforts by some to cast virtually all secular music that way.

For an American student raised in an American culture and who has come to enjoy the Beatles music and appreciates their contribution to the field of popular music - which is enormous and in line with what Beethoven did for classical music and what Carlebach did for Jewish music – going to this concert and in effect witnessing a truly historic figure perform those great songs may in fact be a better choice than forcing him then to go to a funeral and thereby having resented the forced missed opportunity.

As for the atmosphere at the concert, Paul McCartney is quite harmless. In fact it likely attracted mostly older fans who are now in their 40s, 50s, and 60s. The manner of dress worn by attendees at the conceert will hardly be any different than what one sees in the street in Israel on any given summer’s day. It is a sight that most Americans are used to and will not be the focus of any of the attendees there anymore than a passerby on the street might be.

Paul McCartney is not a rapper, nor was his group, the Beatles a heavy metal band. This is a singer who has written some of the most beautiful music of his generation. Nothing even remotely raunchy or distasteful. In fact I know one huge Talmid Chacham- a Masmid - who sometimes hums Beatles tunes while he learns!

Yes, it was in the midst of the Yomim Noraim. And yes one can spend one’s time more productively at this time. But when one considers the age and the influences of a young person being satisfied by going to a relatively harmless concert versus the disappointment of being forced to attend a funeral instead… it’s a no brainer to me.

Maybe when he gets older this student will regret his ‘misspent youth’. But I doubt it - and what difference would it make anyway. In fact it will probably end up being a very pleasant memory for him.

I therefore think the Mechanech who gave him permission to go did exactly the right thing. Better to regret having gone later in life than to resent those refusing to allow him to go now.