Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Ribaldry and Lightheadedness

Ribaldry and lightheadedness. That was the reason stated for canceling last year's ‘The Big Event’ a concert featuring renowned Chassidic entertainer Lipa Schmeltzer.

Of course that had nothing to do with why the concert was banned. It was banned based on a lie. Misleading information had been given to the signers of the ban by a few zealots with an agenda of their own. 33 prominent rabbinic leaders bought into it without checking the veracity of their claims. That caused the cancellation of that concert at a tremendous loss to the charitable institutions that were to receive the proceeds and substantial financial losses to the concert promoters.

The fraud was later discovered. One of the more prominent rabbis who signed the ban had admitted his error and the botched way in which the entire matter was handled.

This year once again the very same concert is being promoted. They are calling it ‘The Event’. It seems to be largely the same type of concert as last year – although there may be some modifications in the program. There will be separate seating for men and women - just like last years concert was supposed to be. But this year – not a single word of protest. The words Ribaldry and lightheadedness have not been mentioned at all. In fact the concert has received rabbinic approval.

Why the approval this year? Are the attendees less ribald this year? What is so radically different? Could they not have just modified last year's concert to conform to the acceptable standards of this year?

I think the answer is self evident. Rabbinic leaders are not going to repeat the mistakes of last year. The rabbi who publicly admitted to being misled said that he was told that this ban was the same as the one issued by Israeli rabbinic leaders. Since time was if the essence the signers of the ban did not properly research the veracity of that claim - which was not true. They just signed the ban. They did not want to differ with the Israeli rabbinic leaders.

They later learned of this deception but by that time the zealots has successfully used the 33 rabbinic signatures on the ban to pressure the lead attraction, Lipa Schmeltzer, to back out of the concert. Ultimately the promoter was forced to cancel it. The proceeds that were to have gone to charity were lost. And there was a tremendous financial loss to the promoters.

This year they are trying it again. They are promoting the same concert. I’m sure there have been some changes made. But are those changes so significant that they could not have been made last year without canceling the entire concert to great financial loss? And massive disappointment to fans? And the terrible repercussion to the credibility of those rabbinic leaders?

Yes we have Gedolim today. By definition and without getting into names the top living rabbis of our day are our Gedolim. I believe that the majority of them - many of whom signed the ban last year - are sincere and decent people who work tirelessly for the Jewish community. All of them are highly knowledgeable in Torah – light years ahead of me. But as I’ve said many times today’s Gedolim are not the same as yesterday’s Gedolim. There was never any question about the credibility of any of that last generation of rabbinic leaders. Can the same thing be said today?