Thursday, August 02, 2007

Concerts? Heaven Forfend!

Another ban. This time it isn’t Rabbi Slifkin. And it isn’t Rabbi Kaminetsky. It is Avraham Fried and Yaakov Shwekey.

I am not going to go into the Halachos of listening to live music post Churban Bayis Sheni. That is part of the over all the Halacha which limits how much enjoyment we may have since the Holy Temple was destroyed. And that includes listening to live music. That issue has been addressed by people far greater than I.

But Halacha does allow for live music in certain circumstances. There was never a total ban on it. Poskim have permitted live concerts for various reasons. And concerts by people like Avraham Fried and Yaakov Shweky have been a staple on the Orthodox Jewish scene for many decades with the full knowledge and approval of many rabbinic leaders.

I remember a concert by Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach when I was in elementary school. He came to Yeshivath Beth Yehudah in Detroit back in the late fifties or early sixties when he came out with his first album ‘HaNishama Lach’. He sang and played the guitar for us right in the Shul of the boys building. He was a friend of Rabbi Sholom Goldstein, vice principal of the school and a pioneer of Chinuch in America, sent by Reb Sraga Feivel Mendelowitz himself.

That such a ban comes out now in light of the events taking place in the Catskill Mountains as witnessed by Rabbi Horowitz is demonstrative of just how out of touch these rabbinic leaders are with what’s going on in the Jewish world outside of their own very narrow one.

I want to focus for a moment on their specific Issur directed at mixed seating at concerts. They left their strongest language for this:

'We trembled at hearing about the terrible breach in our camp of 'music evenings' and 'concerts' in which musicians sing before men and women sitting together, Heaven forefend, and even not together. All Torah leaders have in the past clearly forbidden these events, even when men and women are separate." The rabbis say the ban applies to men, women and children and of course the performers. Newspapers are not permitted to advertise these events, according to the ad, and musicians who sing "in front of men and women together" must not be invited to sing at other events.'

Maybe there is a underlying reason for this Takana. Maybe there was penetration. We know that if there wasn’t they could even teach our children Torah, let alone sing at ‘other events’.

This new Takana is mind blowing! Singing in front of a mixed crowd causes them to tremble?! But a child molester who has been destroying lives for over twenty years gets to keep teaching if there was no penetration?!


In trying to access this new ban, I am reminded of the event in Ramat Bet Shemesh that took place a couple of years ago on Lag B’Omer. That event was trashed by a group of Kanaim led by a local Charedi Rav because of the mixed crowd in the park. Were those intruders right? Maybe their methods were a bit extreme but it seems that right along with them in spirit were Rav Elayshiv, Rav Steinman, Rav Sheinberg, Rav Wosner, and the Gerrer Rebbe.

Clearly this is not Halacha. If it were then no concert like this would have ever been held. And they are held all the time as fundraisers for worthy causes, or as inspirational events. And those concerts are not exclusively separate seating. Yet we see the kind of strong language issued here for this.

I plan to ignore this ban right along with the other two famous bans. I will not stop going to concerts including those that that have mixed seating. But there are plenty of people who will say ‘Daas Torah has spoken’. ‘And we must listen’.

What are these people going to do to keep their families sane at those times when their children are not in school? …or during vacations?

They have so precious few recreational activities in which their families are allowed to participate. No Internet. No TV. No movies. No Ipods. No theater. No secular books. No Sports. For girls, no bicycles. And now no concerts. And as I write this I am informed (...although have no verification) of yet another ban, no recreational hiking.

What is left for these youngsters to do in their spare time? …smoke cigarettes?! I guess so, judging by at how much of that goes on in the Charedi world in Israel today.

How can these rabbinic leaders look at the epidemic of young people dropping out, the dire poverty of its most loyal adherents, the numerous instances of child molestation in their schools, the violence on the streets by some of its sects and come up with a ban on concerts?! Is this the most important issue of our day? And why now? Didn’t these leaders know about the concerts before now?

It’s almost as if they are doing their level best to break the spirit of the Jewish people. Let’s see what kind of world they have built for their Charedim in recent times.

*They have created a system of Jewish life where men do not work. They instead all sit and learn no matter what their capabilities are.

*They have banned secular studies as at best a waste of time for their students.

*Women may not advance their careers by any more than two years of formal education beyond high school. This applies to even Limudei Kodesh studies… let alone secular studies.

*No sporting activities are permitted to their students. There is virtually no recreational activity available to them.

*Woman must dress so that they do not give away that they are women. Clothing stores will now be certified and those without certification will be boycotted.

*Charities are now selling Segulos as a means of fundraising.

*And in some of the more extreme quarters of the Charedi world, those who participate in violent protest are given sympathy for their goals if not for their methods. Torching clothing stores, and dumpsters, burning tires, shoving women around in buses, spray bleaching passers by… all somehow tolerated though ‘officially’ rejected.

None of that is addressed. I can only surmise that the one person keeping Moshiach away is Avraham Fried.