Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Thoughts on the Dei'ah V'dibbur Article - 2

The Pied Pipers of Brooklyn
Of all the things that the yetzer hora has managed to smuggle into the chareidi public, probably his greatest success is modern "chassidic" music. After all, many people think, what harm can there be in a song?
Maybe after all that has been said here, people will realize that these songs can do a lot of harm. The kosher singer Abish Brodt (in an interview that appears here, and originally in the Hebrew Yated, Tammuz, 5761) said that it is this music that opens the door for many young people to leave the Torah world. Parents and educators must be aware of the great influence that modern music has on children, and protect them from hearing those songs that are far more dangerous than songs that our rabbis warned against hundreds of years ago.
Abish Brodt is well known for his work with Regesh. When Regesh first came out, it was marketed with the fact that it was "appropriate" Jewish music. The arrangements only used acoustic instruments, and I remember an interview (ad, really) in the now defunct "Good Fortune" magazine that described how the album used only soft sounds like French horn and not the sharper, aggressive, more powerful brass or sax sounds.

If you listen to the series in order, though, you can hear a clear evolution of the music on the Regesh recordings. They slowly added more brass, electonic instruments, and the like, to the point where there is a pounding '50s Rock piano groove used in the arrangement of "Borei Olam" (it's after the instrumental break, for those who are interested) and Yossi Piamenta was brought in to add his unique rock guitar sound to "Adir Bamarom." In short, the Dei'ah V'dibbur characterization of him as "Kosher" seems to indicate that use of secular influences is acceptable, it's just a matter of how they are used. This is a fair approach, but it's inconsistent with their blanket rejection of secular styles.
The power of the chareidi pop stars and the respect that they receive from young people is also a very serious problem. Cheap entertainers who make themselves look like bnei Torah in order to sell their songs to a naive public are being advertised on every street corner, and many young people are led to look up to them as much as we look up to gedolei hador, Rachmono litzlan.
I agree with this. I've been agonizing a post relating to this for a while, with regard to a recent scandal. I do think the assertion that people "look up to them as much as we look up to gedolei hador" is an extreme over exaggeration.
We must realize that they are not our people. Anybody who has a feeling for music can sense in their songs that they are immoral people. This is not surprising if one knows who they take as their examples and what low types of people they work with in the corrupt world of rock music. The non- Jewish and Israeli papers have already compared the most famous chareidi singers to the likes of Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson and other immoral personalities. To them that is a compliment, but to us the opposite.
What low types of people do they work with in the "corrupt world of rock music"?
The success of the Committee for Jewish Music depends on the response of the public. We have already received much support and encouragement from many important rabbis and roshei yeshivos, but the public must also take this matter seriously and stand up for the honor of Hashem Yisborach and the honor of the Torah, in order to ensure the spiritual welfare of the next generation.
There seems to be some confusion here. One the one hand, the burden is placed on the public, but the main emphasis here seems to be to legislate rather than educate.
Parents and teachers must be careful to guard their children from a young age from all the bad influences with which we are being bombarded, and they must take care what kind of music they are exposed to. Anyone who cannot distinguish between kosher music and treife music should take advice from people who do understand the difference.
I'm curious, would these "experts" have a problem with the secular influences on the Regesh recordings I pointed out above? Will they ban them? Is there a different standard for full-fledged members of the "Agudah" community?