Monday, March 03, 2008

The Silence of the Bans

Following up on Lipa-gate...

This story is still attracting a lot of interest throughout the community.

Here's a thoughtful letter a Jewish musician sent us.
Re your recent post about the Lipa ban: It's interesting that you mention Rav Hutner ZT'L.

A relative of mine received semicha from Rav Hutner many years ago. Before he officially ordained his students, Rav Hutner spoke to them; I assume he gave the same speech to each semicha class. I paraphrase:

"Your job as a musmach is not to be the toughest Rov around. This is your job: When a poor woman comes to you on a Friday morning with a chicken asking a shaila if it's kosher, you are to examine the chicken extremely thoroughly to try to find any possible hetter. If you can't find one, you should obviously tell the woman that her chicken is treif - but you are not allowed to do so until you have exhausted every possibility that the chicken might be kosher. It would be very easy to tell the woman, 'Just be machmir, throw out the chicken, and stop wasting my time.' This you may not do, under any circumstances. You are not allowed to be machmir with someone else's money.

"Your job as a Rov is not to be a machmir. Any am ha'aretz can be a machmir. It takes a talmid chochom to know when it's appropriate to be meikil, and that's your job."

The funny thing is, I seem to recall that Rav Hutner was considered one of the "tougher" gedolim of his generation when it came to psak halacha. Yet this is what he told his musmachim.

I don't mean to say anything bad about the gedolim, chas v'shalom. Yiftach b'doro k'Shmuel b'doro, and I'm sure that we have the leaders that Hashem intended for us. Yet all the same, I can't help but feel betrayed. I can't help thinking - whether it's the Agudah takanos regarding the size of bands at simchas, or it's another ban of another innocent Jewish concert (and believe me, compared to even the most pareve rock concert, Lipa's wildest shows are incredibly innocent), or it's the not-so-subtle shaming of chasanim into forgoing a regular band in favor of one-man-bands, no one seems to take into account the livelihood of Jewish musicians and their wives and children. Most of the "stars" (whatever one thinks of their music, and I've heard all the "shiny-shoe" comments) are decent, unassuming people who are simply trying to make a living by utilizing their talents. Many of them do not live very opulent lifestyles, and they rely on these concerts for their livelihood. And even more so, one should consider the rank-and-file musicians who are not "stars", many of whom have trouble putting food on the table because they have dedicated their lives to the mitzvah of simchas choson v'kallah. How many of the troublemakers promoting these bans - and wasting the gedolim's time with these bans - took even one second to think about the havoc they are wreaking on the families of Jewish musicians? Do they have trouble paying tuition, or buying food, or making rent or mortgage or utility payments, or buying sheitlach for their wives from rabbinically-approved sheitel stores? Not likely. If they did, they wouldn't have the time or money to go around making trouble and ruining innocent people's lives.

And as for the rabbonim who sign these things - why do they listen to these evil people? Why don't they listen to Rav Hutner instead? And why don't they speak with the actual musicians who are affected by their pashkevils? Why aren't Jewish musicians warned, let alone consulted, before the rug is pulled out from under them again and again and again?!!

It just seems that as time goes on, folks seems to be getting more and more frum, and less and less ehrlich. And if I sound bitter, it's only because I am.
Here are some more links to add to the collection I've amassed thus far in my earlier posts on the subject.

Psycho Toddler writes "Banning Simcha."

Gruntig posts a video commentary: "The Big Flop Event." He also posted "Why I Think Lipa did the Right Thing!"

Chaptzem Blog! wants another Kol Koreh.

Harry Maryles writes "Daas Torah?" and comments on FM's latest in "Shades of Gray: Keeping it Real." FM blogs Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz's latest, which I comment on below.

Here's a Hyde Park discussion of the topic.

The Daily Yid posts about it here.

Noyam posted "A Post-Script on the Bans."

UOJ comments.

VOS IZ NEIAS reports:
Brooklyn, NY - VIN News has learned that many gedolim will come out tonight with a P'sak, stating that those people who want to help make a Kidish Hashem should donate the BIG EVENT tickets fund they bought and can claim it as Ma'aser money for tzedakah.

Leading this effort is world-renowned Torah personality Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser.
This is just outrageous! More about this soon! I should note that Rabbi Goldwasser also believes that one fulfills one's ma'aser obligation by funding this. (Note: Link is likely not kosher.)

THE LIFE-OF-RUBIN BLOG writes that Jewish concerts are not dead. Judging by past takanos, this assessment seems about right. Also hypocritical. Unfortunately, it's what has come to be expected, I think, and that's one of the saddest things about these bans. They foster cynicism about rabbinic leadership.

On a related topic, Gershon Veroba writes "What's Jewish Music's problem? What's ours?" His closing question "Do you think Judaism needs music?" Go tell him what you think!

Finally, there is now some action from the Chareidi reps online...

Or perhaps not. Cross-Currents punts.

Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz writes "'Lipa' - Where Do We Go From Here? " an article with parenting thoughts about the "Lipa concert brouhaha."

Rabbi Horowitz tries to gently sidestep the elephant in the room, but it doesn't work real well, and most of his commentors seem dissatisfied with his approach. I don't blame them.

The reason is because there are two components here. One is the past, and Rabbi Horowitz attempts to present a framework for addressing this on some level. However, he ignores the present. What happened in the past in this case requires action in the present. Avlos were perpetuated against a number of individuals and there is an obligation to rectify them. As well, the actions taken have had effects and those effects need to be addressed. As long as they are not, the wrongs are being perpetuated. These leaders didn't only make bad judgments in the past. They are continuing to make poor judgments in the present.

The parsha of the "par he'elam davar" teaches of how leadership atones for mistakes made in good faith. (In this case, they don't even appear to have been in good faith.) It's not by ignoring the mistake; its by rectifying it publicly. This needs to happen here.

To put it in more yeshivish terms; there appear to be "tzvey dinim" in hilchos bein adam lachaveiro. The rabbinic leadership that signed onto this ban needs to clear up this perception.

They also need to address the contradictions raised by Rav Shmuel Kamenetzky in his responses to the Jewish Star's questions.

It's not about accepting the notion of Da'as Torah. It's about the fact that there are now conflicting on-the-record Da'as Torah's by the signers of the ban. Although this is made evident by Rav Kaminetzky's acknowledgement in the interview, it was really self-evident before, as I wrote. The chareidi community needs to resolve this.

Over the past several posts, I've linked to numerous online discussions and comments about this. I've received thousands of hits in just a few days. And it's not just me, or "the bloggers" that are talking about this. It's a major topic of discussion throughout the community. Take at look at the posts I've linked since this story broke, and be sure to read the comments.

Here's a screenshot of Rabbi Horowitz's homepage taken earlier this evening.

Look at the number of reads his post on the subject has gotten. (Over 5500 at the time I took the screenshot.) Then take a look at the number of hits his previous posts have gotten. A lot of people have unresolved questions about this. It won't go away. This isn't about outsiders criticizing Da'as Torah. It's about people within the community watching their leaders perpetuate a wrong.

And ultimately, its about truth.