Monday, March 10, 2008

Do These People Deserve Answers?

This is a long post. It contains many questions and comments about the handling of the Lipa ban. I didn't write most of it, though.

My original concept for the post was to select comments from all of the blog posts on the Lipa ban to highlight. It became obvious, after looking at just one thread, that the end result would be much too long, and would involve much repetition.

So, I've limited this to select comments that were posted to more right-wing Chareidi blogs and websites. Specifically, Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz's site,, Cross-Currents (here and here), and Beyond BT.

All of these posts, as well as many others, can be found in the respective threads at those sites as indicated. I've made a few minor edits, like correcting spelling and breaking up paragraphs, etc. for clarity.

A certain amount of repetition is needed to make the point, but I think these are informative. They are illustrative of questions and perceptions people have about this matter. Given that they were all posted to these sites, the site owners should be aware of them.

The owners of these sites represent that they express a chareidi perspective on topical issues. Perhaps they would address these specific questions and comments, since the leadership --with one notable exception (Rav Shmuel Kamenetzky)-- appears to have lost their collective voices.

And, a question for the Chareidi leadership: Do these questioners deserve answers?

From Rabbi Horowitz's site...

Shmuel asked:
What about the orphans?

While much attention has been paid to "Lipa" and the apparent lack of 'due diligence', little if any attention has been paid to:

a) The hundreds of thousands of dollars lost by Mr. Mendlowitz,

b) The potential hundreds of thousands of dollars lost by the tzedakah for orphans' weddings,

c) The future money lost to the organization with which the ba'al machlokes who apparently instigated all this is affiliated.

It is accepted in our society to smear someone--just put on the mantle of "Torah" and "tzenius" and whatever else is needed--without even giving that person a chance to respond. That's okay, it seems, and even better if done quickly and publicly, so as to humiliate the person.

(Don't worry, we can 'ask mechilla' on Erev Yom Kippur, or better yet decide we did a big mitzvah by harming these individuals)...

But how will we answer the orphans' cries when the support they were counting on does not materialize? How will we explain this narishkeit to them? How will we respond to their tears?

Hashem, we know, responds to the tears of orphans, and woe to the person who causes orphans to shed such tears.
Anonymous in Baltimore wrote:
We need answers if we are to explain it to our kids-You provide none.

Rabbi Horowitz, you are one of the heroes of Torah today. You are frank and unafraid to discuss 'taboo' topics.' I generally love your insights.

But in this article, you basically say that the Rabbonim made a mistake here because we pressure them too much in general. Then you say we should somehow explain this to our kids. Our kids, and we, have legitimate questions on the Lipa episode. You imply the questions yourself but provide no answers. Were you not better off not writing the article?

Knowing you as I do, and reading the comments here, I assume you will write a follow-up piece, which will clarify further. I look forward to it.
Dazed and Confused wrote:
I am no wiser than when I started reading this!

With great respect to Rabbi Horowitz,

I love your columns and find them insightful and helpful. But this one really didn't help me. I understand that you say its our fault our leaders make mistakes because we ask too much of them. That being the case are you saying that we can't trust them because they have lost their ability to make proper decisions because we have overburdened them? Are you saying we should continue to love them even though we can't trust them?

What is the answer to the question that is driving us all crazy, that you seemed you were going to answer in the beginning of this article, but didn't really answer?
Anonymous wrote:
On a very well written analysis of the issue, I still have the following questions.

Will anyone take a lead in approaching the Gedolim and educating them on what it is doing to the average persons Emunah to see an individual performer be treated worse than child abusers in that he is singled out to be banned?

How can they cause financial losses to individuals after the fact, Lipa has performed countless times, and there are many concerts, why not make a pesak on a going forward basis?

How can we hear answers that Rabbis will raise money for the losses, this is not a Tzedakah situation to make up the losses to anyone other than the Tzedakah it would have helped? Any money raised would be money not going to worthy Tzedakahs.

With so many issues these days, why go after this one? What do we want our children to do? How do we explain this to them? These types of bans them move away not closer.
Shlomo wrote:
I'm not implying that the concert was "kosher" or that the ban was "treif", but I will say this: with the greatest respect for rabbonim, I strongly suggest that they take a "reality test" and check out the reaction of the general public. I think they will be surprised to learn how unpopular this ban was, and how they are being ridiculed.

Don't believe me? Just check out any website, blog spot, printed article, any shul conversation or "mikva news" and see for yourself. The rabonim have clearly been found guilty in the court of public opinion.

Again, I'm not in any way saying that they are wrong. The banning of the concert may very well have been the right thing to do. (I personally was offered free tickets, and didn't even have a "hav'a a'mina" to go) however, they must be aware of the massive gap that has opened up between them and the masses. They can hide their heads in the sand and pretend everything's fine, but sane people understand that the problem exists and in order to fix things up some sort of reconciliation is in order.

Kudos to Rav Kamenetzky for coming clean. If only the rest would follow....
Zeidy asked:
What do I tell my einiklech ?

My grandchildren have challanged me with the following two fallouts of the cancelled concert. Number one: "Zeidy we have a Chofetz Chaim project in our school. We learn, sing songs and have plays teaching us the wrongs of loshon hora, evil and hurtful speech against another person. Yet in this kol koreh it was alleged that the concert organizers, singers, players were involved in a horrible plan to mislead thousands of people away from the Torah. And everyone knows, and I mean everyone, that Sheya Mendlowitz sat with his rav many times and worked out every detail that it should be according to halacha. Which means that the ban, the kol koreh was loshon horah, rechilus, motzi shem rah, also mazik a persons livelihood and injuring him to the core, and taking his life away! So why do I have to be so careful with Chofetz Chaim's teachings and never tell anything bad about anybody when our rabbanim seem not to be so careful? (This girl, our einikle is 14 yrs old)

The second question is, "Zeidy, You always say that when we have a doubt we must ask a rav and you and Bubby always do. I overheard a number of times you called a rav and talked over sh'ei'los with him. And you said I should do the same. But what's the use. If I follow one rav, some other rav, or a group will put my name in the paper and say I am a sinner, a shik'seh and a misleader of my friends because I told them what my rav had "pas'kened" adjudicated the Jewish law. Sheya Mendelowitz said on radio and to the papers that he had asked a rav in detail about the halacha for this concert. Now the rabbanim grab him and say he is sh'ai'getz, a bum who is misleading thousand of people away from the Torah. So why should I ask a rav my sh'eilos? Tomorrow I could be called a shik'sa???!!!" (This granddaughter is 17)

These are the questions of my grandchildren and I don't know what to answer them. Do you?
Yoel B. wrote:
Imagine this: A surgeon R"L cuts off the wrong leg in an effort to save a patient's life. The hospital spokesman says "well, it was an emergency, the doctor was in a hurry" or "the surgeon was told the wrong information" or "he didn't look into things personally, he relied on the doctor at another hospital" or "he didn't fully understand the X-ray." And then a month later, it happens again at the same hospital; the same lame excuses. We would lose trust in the surgeon, and in the hospital. We would begin to think that there was no sense of personal or professional pride, no sense of professional responsibility. The thing is, that if such a thing happened in a hospital, not only that hospital but others would review procedures and safeguards, if not out of professionalism at least out of fear of a lawsuit.

Yet, we have heard "the rav wasn't given the full story" or "the askonim..." or "the kanoim..." time and again. What is wrong?
At least Rav Shmuel Kaminetzky himself stood up and said in the Jewish Star interview mentioned above, "Usually we meet together. This time, with time pressing, we did not get together. And maybe it was not the right thing.”

Worse, in the case of this particular ban, one of the signatories is a rosh yeshiva who for many years ran interference for a rebbe who is an indicted serial child molester. This doesn't look good at all.
Anonymous asked:
Dear Rabbi Horowitz, I would love to dan lekaf zechus. But I am looking for one. Can you help me?
Ahavas Yisroel wrote:
Dear Rabbi Horowitz. Firstly I must commend you on your editorial. Though I didn't see any satisfactory explanations or rationalizations in your article, I am impressed that you opened such a forum that may run against the wishes of your employers (Agudah).

Your point that this is a major turning point for Klal Yisroel is valid. I am a returned Adult at Risk, who had a crisis in faith primarily because I saw a lot of dysfunctional Rabbonim, and everything I learned came crashing down. Today I realize that my observance is not dependant on any one else other than my self. That is not to say that I am shocked at the aforementioned saga.

Let me present a few thoughts; ***The greatest aveirah in my humble opinion is Chillul Hashem. As we all know even Ne'ilah is not michaper for it. There is no other aveirah that cannot be forgiven. There is no doubt, and I'm not pointing fingers, but shaim shomayim was mechallel here. I tremble to see when the mainstream media has a field day with our Gedolim.

***The signers of the ban were from all facets of the chareidi spectrum. I am shocked that certain Rabbonim, very well known for their being open minded and having their finger on the pulse of today's society, signed this amazing proclamation.

***The fact that over 30 Rabbonim as well as the askonim let the ban go through without reading it properly gives me cause to wonder if they are really responsible. The ban said " Kahn Ubiartzos Habris" clearly indicating that that this nusach was plagiarized from the Israeli version.

***The claim that the funds will be repaid leaves me open-mouthed. We all know that everyone is pretty much maxed out with their charity donations. In these uncertain economic times with so many of our brethren unemployed it shocks me that there will be a further demand on individuals to give money to replace losses here. I'm sure the askan who is himself involved in a tzedakah can't foot this immense financial obligation. I also can't see myself giving anything further to his organization (as I've done frequently), as his value system clearly doesn't resonate with me.

***There have been claims of signer's names being forged. I assert that until those signatories publicly deny that they signed the public Kol Koreh, we must assume it was them who signed.

***Throughout our golus changes have been made to our structure, with the leadership of the leaders of that generation, to adapt Frumkeit to the changing times. Though there are many examples, Sarah Schenirer's heter for a Bais Yaakov, and permission to integrate secular studies in our Yeshivos spring to mind. Nowadays, we are having a massive defection from our way of life due primarily to the culture that we live in. This is a universally accepted fact. It amazes me that in light of this, where the concert can be seen as a plus to circumvent outside cultural pressures, the Rabbonim may have INADVERTENTLY caused a greater kilkul in Klal Yisroel.

***WE are in Golus for one simple reason, SINAS CHINAM. We are obligated to correct this sin in order for us to merit the redemption. I find it hard to see why this is not exacerbating the problem. Achav was merited a miraculous victory over his enemies even though his whole nation were idol worshipers. The reason given was because there was achdus among the nation. Does this not show us what values Hashem wants us to prioritize? ***It seems to me that being burnt out is not an excuse for Rabbonim to err. In all other leadership systems, leaders are deposed if their leadership capabilities falter. The maxim of "If you can't stand the heat get out of the kitchen" comes to mind.
I look forward to getting this issue behind us and for us to unite behind worthy leadership in order for us to merit Moshiach Tzidkeinu!
Talmid of Gedolim wrote:
Many commentors have attempted to shift the blame for this fiasco away from the "Gedolim" and onto "Askonim". One of the "askonim" is a very respected Rov and apparently considered as having Daas Torah and being a Gadol in his own right as the original Kol Koreh implies.

Many commentors are trying to defend the honor of our Rabbonim by saying things like they were misled, they did not have all the facts, etc. Other commentors are taking the blind faith approach that we must trust and obey our Gedolim and that the gedolim know what they are doing here.

Other commentors have tried to explain away the decision to ban the concert by conjecturing that the ban was directed against:

A. Jewish music with non Jewish tunes

B. A particular style of music

C. Concerts in general

D. Lipa in Particular due to the nature of his act both at concerts and at simchas which are alleged to contain elements of Letzanus which is not directed at Avoda zara and would therefore be Assur as Letzanus because they crossed the line from Badchanus to Letzanusa

E. Reigning in the Jewish music industry because it has strayed from the style of the 60s and 70s, which for some reason might be considered more kosher even though 60s and 70s Jewish music was also heavily influenced by non jewish music styles of those times.

F.The concept of a "big event" in Madison Square Garden

G.All or some of the above and perhaps other reasons as well

I myself am a talmid of Gedolim and Gedolei Poskim some of whom are no longer alive. One of my rebbeim was considered the Poseik Hador. That rebbi was not averse to saying "I made a mistake" or "I don’t understand" or "there is a Bilbul here" My personal feeling on this matter is that my rebbeim would not have appended their signature to such a kol koreh or approved of it.

The general lack of clarity surrounding this matter, the quotes attributed to Rav Shmuel Kaminetzky, and the apparent injustice perpetrated against Lipa and Shiya, lead me to believe and conclude that there is a mistake here and a big one at that. If indeed there was a mistake made by the signatories then there is an obligation to admit as such - It takes real Gadlus to admit publicly you made a mistake. If there was no mistake then there is an obligation to clarify the matter so that it is "as clear as the sun in mid-day" as my rebbi used to say.

Rabbi Blau and Rabbi Willig came out with public statements in the aftermath of an infamous case of abuse. In that statement they took responsibility for their mistakes in allowing an individual to continue in a position where he could accumulate more victims. This was even true in regards to the previous rulings of a Beis Din they had sat on that had adjudicated the matter.

I disagree with you, Rabbi Horowitz, on the notion that we are blaming too many of our problems on our Gedolim and not taking enough personal responsibility for our decisions. You are correct that we all need to take more personal responsibility. However this also includes Gedolei Torah that are in leadership positions. They have tremendous power as evidenced by the results of the kol koreh. With power and leadership comes responsibilty. Many of the problems in our community would probably be easier to address if they were dealt with as forcefully and with the same alacrity as the the issue of the concert.
Yoel B. comments again:
Thank you Talmid of Gedolim

I will push my point from before. I admit, I am from a secular background and have certain expectations of people in positions of responsibility that comes from exposure to Jewish and non-Jewish professionals of sterling character, in my case mostly medical professionals.

B'gashmius, we rightfully expect certain standards of accountability and professionalism in our doctors, engineers, and the many other professionals who in one way or another hold our lives in their hands.

We are told that the matters we bring to a rav are, b'ruchnius, of life and death magnitude. Yet one decision after another that is signed by big talmidei chachamin then has to be justified by "it wasn't the rav/rebbe, it was 'handlers' or 'askanim' or 'kanoim'" or whatever.

If I heard such things from a physician I would think that even if the excuses were true he wasn't a mentsch. I wouldn't go to such a doctor.

It is extraordinarily distressing but it looks as though the religious world has lower expectations of conduct from its great rabbis than I do of a physician.

I can tell you that if I had been exposed to the "handlers / askanim / kanoim" explanations when I was first becoming observant it might well have been the last straw. By the way, teenagers are pretty sensitive to hypocrisy. How do you think the "handlers/askanim/kanoim" rhetoric sounds to them?

BTW, the more I think about this article the more upset I get. I'm revising my rating downward from my first comment.
Jasmine wrote:
I still feel this article is overall counterproductive

I read your article AND I just finished listening to your show last night on Zev Brenner. Your bottom line message is that we can respectfully question the gedolim who signed on the ban. What we have heard about this ban raises serious questions and we don't have answers. Yet, when we agree with our kids that their (and our) questions are valid, and that we should chill out and not bash the gedolim right now, that's fine.

But at some point, we need answers, even if the answer is 'we made a mistake' (as you imply). If answers don't come, we are in big trouble. Can you work toward providing answers here and not just a forum to vent questions? Please run a follow-up with some answers.
Anonymous challenges a commentor, Reuven:

What world do you live in? Do you not see the earnest trouble and pain that has been caused by this situation? Somehow, any questioning of an action taken by Gedolim amounts to just wanting to attack them? Give me a break. Have you stopped to think for a minute about that? Or is that a problem as well...
Flatbush Yid wrote:
Missing the point

Rabbi Horowitz, Thank you for the excellent article. The article has generated this wonderful forum, an exchange of opinions that I can choose to agree or disagree with.

I think many people are missing the point. How is it that a small group of so-called askanim has the influence to sway so many Rabbanim with half truths and less then factual information. I understand that Harav Shmuel Kaminetzky was somech on what these askanim told him. By his own admission he admitted that Rabbanim that supposedly signed the Kol Koreh did not communicate with each other directly. The greatness of Harav Shmuel Kamintzky is his willingness to admit that perhaps the Kol Koreh went out hastily.

I believe this episode has left many Baalei Baatim in the Frum, politically correct, Brooklyn bred, card-carrying Agudah members shaken. It pains me to say that there are other goyish influences in the frum community besides concerts and music. We now have our own Taliban, who dictate to Rabbanim and to the community what they think is Torahdik, what they think is frum what they think a frum Jew is supposed to look like. I shudder to think that the time will come when they will issue Kol Koreh that puts in Cherem any man who shaves, or any young man that attends college, publicizing the names of those who eat cholov stam. We need an Emesdike Kol Koreh that calls upon all of us to be mekayeim the mitzvah of Ahavas Yisroel and to observe al FIVE chelukim of the Shulchan Aruch.
Tani asked:
While, I always appreciate your calm and non-visceral presentation, your essay does not answer the questions that you raised. I will take your advice in trying to respond as an adult instead of a child. I also strive to act as an adult in thinking and understanding, as opposed to a child -- who even in the face of physical abuse or worse tends not to question.

Let’s not consider the content of this current ban. The process unnerves and disturbs me. Time and again, most famously The Making of a Godol, the Slifkin ban, the One People Two Worlds issue, and the Jerusalem Avraham Fried concert, we, the believing people, have heard strong condemnations without solid explanation. Each time, the story is remarkably similar. Let’s work backwards: A strongly phrased kol koreh is published against a book or person or event, with an impressive list of gedolim signed on the bottom. Then we ask, what happened? Who is the principal signer? What is the issue at hand?

These questions remain time and again without solid answers. I want to trust the gedolim, I want to trust my leaders. But when they repeatedly raise issues in a way that I fail to understand, I start to question. I have had contact with some of the rabbanim who sign these and I have tremendous respect for them. These posters and signs and sayings lead me to non-understanding. Who is truly authoring them?

Worse yet, I want to behave in accordance with the Torah as expressed by the chachomim. But if these announcements continue appearing without traceability and accountablity, how can I know that if I try to teach Torah and take an untried angle at solving current Jewish issues, how can I know I will not receive this sudden and unexplained fate? Many of the people affected by these bans were not given an opportunity to meet with the gedolim. They were not given explanation. They were just condemned. Who will be next?

The real question is starts these petitions? And who writes them? Who informs the gedolim of the issues? And do they know what we know about these problems?

I agree it is time to start acting like adults.

These are the issued that we must responsible raise with ourselves. Should we raise them with our children? We cannot jade them against leadership, but when our leadership is unclear and inexplicable we must sensitively teach our children to question abuse.
Yoni asked:
Rabbi Horowitz,

How do you think we can effect a practical change in this behavior on the part of our leaders? How can we ask them (politely) and have them listen to our pleas for sensibility?

How can we make a change, practically speaking?

Can we?

How can we tell them that we've had enough of the banning, and want a return to the reason shown by Rav Moshe, and others? I don't want to join those who are making you uncomfortable, but I do want to know how we can change the trends that are going on, no matter whose fault they are.
Anonymous asked:
What about those who stand to lose parnassah?

Rabbi Horowitz,
My husband works as a technician in a Jewish music-related field. He works with erhlich, fine people, in a business that is constantly helping Jewish causes. Who will pay our bills if G-d forbid concerts are cancelled and his work is reduced??? I am upset personally.

Canceling concerts will cost Jewish businesses & the community (I don't think people understand the ripple effect this causes--I definitely wouldn't have had I not been in this position, and we're at least 4 degrees of separation from the concert) thousands of dollars. Those are real people being affected--not just that they have to cut out an extra stock purchase--but they're going to have to scrounge for rent.

We're the little people trying to live quietly. My husband is controversy-averse. When he first heard about this, he just wanted to distance himself. Then he found out from work that further bans and a continuance in this direction might jeopardize his job... which we need to make rent. Who's to look out for us?

It's not just the people getting paid thousands for a show who lost money. It's also the people who get paid per hour; who would really not like to be added to the ranks of those who need tzedakah. I would just like if you could add that somewhere to the vision being used to help guide our community.
At Cross-Currents...

YM wrote:
I find the notion that the a gadol is not responsible for his signature on a Kol Koreh to be very disturbing. Very disturbing.
Michoel Halberstaam wrote:
Rather than comment on the very disturbing issues raised by this affair, I recommend that you read the Gemara in Sanhedrin Daf 101b through 102a, in which the history of the first Kol Koreh is described in detail. The author of that Kol Koreh was Yerovom ben Nevat who managed to get Zaddikim and Neviim to sign on a document urging Jews to follow Yerovom into Avoda Zorah. The Gemara says that this kol koreh continued to work its evils for years and brought horrible results to Klal Yisroel.

The genius of the Kol Koreh is that it works by pressuring people to sign in spite of their better judgment, and then gives everybody something to hide behind when the flaws in that judgment are exposed. From the day of Yerovom to this day, these dynamics still operate. My vote is to abolish the institution of Kol Koreh. The need is far more urgent than the abolition of blogs.
Ori asked:
Is charedi society supposed to be led by talmidei chachamim, or by the zealots? I don’t want to come across as rude, but it seems that if their names are used for something they don’t agree with they need to protest publicly. Otherwise they are acquiescing with forgery, at the very least. Leaders who do not do that are abdicating their responsibility.

King Achashverosh gave his ring and his authority to Haman and then to Mordechai, and didn’t check exactly what they were doing. That is not a model of good kingship.
Elitzur asked:
It doesn’t affect you that the leaders of one part of American Orthodox Jewry willingly bow to the wills of others thousands of miles away (causing $1million of loss) without even investigating the situation or talking to those involved?
Daniel Shain wrote
Our Gedolim need to take a stand on these issues. If they were misled into signing the concert ban, they should come out publicly and say so. It’s not enough to tell us to “speak to the Gedolim personally out of earshot of the zealots” to find out what the Gedolim really think, as Rabbi Adlerstein suggests.

Not all of us have such easy access to the Gedolim. If our Gedolim are to be true leaders of Klal yisrael, they need to make their opinions known publicly, honestly and truthfully, and not only in secret conversations with their personal friends and intimate contacts. They need to stop being afraid of or controlled by the “zealots”.

I agree with YM (comment 3) that it is very disturbing that a gadol would sign something and not take responsibility for it. WADR, what kind of leadership is that? If the Gedolim believe that concerts are assur, why not write and publicize a psak or teshuva?
dman asked:
You wrote:
If you want to know what those important talmidei chachamim really believe – and I myself would feel compelled to bend to the wishes of several of the purported signatories (or virtual signatories in this case) – you had better speak to them personally, and out of earshot of the zealots.

My question: How are those of us who are not privileged to have direct contact with gedolim supposed to find out what they think?
LOberstein asked:
There is a confusion of issues here. What bothers me is that there was no “due process”, just a ban. Kovod Hatorah is predicated on your rebbe being a malach. I saw gedolim up close and none of them spoke in the harsh tones or were so dismissive of those who had a different point of view as the author of the kol koreh against concerts in Israel that was repeated in the Hamodia. The author wasn’t just against Lipa, the kol koreh’s wording was to ostracize all performers, not let them lead the prayers, to make them suffer for their behavior. Is this the way a malach talks ?

I love Rav Shmuel Kaminetzky, He is the sweetest man I know. How did this kind and gentle man get mixed up with hate speech? Did he or the other rabbis read the kol koreh, did they have any editing authority, or were their names just added on?
Sephardi Lady asked:
Rabbi Adlerstein,
It really pains me to hear you say that such a ban has “no impact on [your] life.” Like you, this genre of Jewish Music isn’t my cup of tea. Non-Jewish classical music is far more likely to be playing on our home sound system than Jewish Music, although today my oldest insisted on cantorial music, which he happily accompanied at the top of his lungs.

Just the greater cynicism that has been brought to the surface should be concerning enough for any communal leader, Rebbe, etc. The financial losses alone are saddening. The fact that hourly workers (both Jewish and non-Jewish) had no job for that day (a job that perhaps counted on) should bring tears to the surface.

While I have never spoken with you personally, I know you are a sensitive and caring person as students of yours that I am acquainted with speak highly of you. Therefore, I am saddened that you feel so removed from this event.

And who knows which tzedakah or whose source of parnasah will be derailed without warning next.
Dr E. commented:
Rabbi Adlerstein-

Of course, the disappearance of mega-concerts will not be what drives kids off the derech. What will drive them and what has driven them (and adults) off–i.e., increased cynicism towards leadership–is the way that matters have been handled in recent years. As J. Rosenblum has written about on CC before, bans are not chinuch. Not chinuch for kids and even moreso not chinuch for adults.

It’s time to get out of the Kol Koreh business (I would suggest a collective moratorium for 4 years, and then we can re-assess if we were better off now that 4 years ago). That style of leadership/communication just doesn’t work in this case and it hasn’t worked with controversial books, etc. This recent cherem/ban is merely a microcosm of what appears to be a desperate attempt to stay relevant, in response to the increasing religious extremism in Eretz Yisroel.

As for your encouragement to uncover subtle inference and read between the lines, why should it take pilpul to spin what someone said favorably (and even you admit that you are making an educated guess)? And that is the inevitable reaction to Kol Koreh. Instead of the signators signing on the bottom of a boilerplate text handed to them by Askanim, I would rather see a real, old-fashioned teshuva with Gemaras, historical reality, and Poskim weighed and articulated–even if it came out to the same maskana.

In Lipa-gate, there are surely no winners. But, what I can say, that the biggest loser is Kavod HaTorah–and some should have seen that coming. “Eizehu chacham? Ha’roeh es ha-nolad.”
Miriam Shear asked:
R. Alderstein - This was an excellent article and I thank you for setting some of the “history” straight on a few issues. Truly, one of your better-written articles (Maybe you should do all of them while traveling and in dire need of sleep!)

But there are still some unaddressed issues. They are big ones.

1) Was the banning of this concert really worth the price paid in makloket, loss of kavod l’rabbonim, loshan hara, bitul Torah, etc?

2) There is a lot of money involved here - reportedly approximately $700,000. That’s the annual budget for some small yeshivas or kollels. Let me ask you: Why would any Jewish person want to stick their financial necks out in today’s climate of a kol-koreh-ban-per-week to do such a high-profile mitzvah, knowing that they risk their reputations, investments, and livelihood? The hardships that will be endured by the organizers/promoters of this concert will resonate for a long time.

3) I would like to direct attention to Yoma 23 a,b. There an incident is recounted where, during a race, one kohane stabs a fellow kohane in the heart with a knife. The father of the dying kohane yells out “The knife is not tamei, he’s still alive!” The father’s concern of the moment is that a knife remain tahor - not his son bleeding to death in his arms. This incident is recorded to relay to us the value system and insensitivity of that generation to the rabid bloodletting.

I see a parallel between this gemara and my first 2 points. With a few phone calls and a swish of a pen, today’s gedolim can destroy a person, their reputations, careers, investments - for a greater goal? That is what is highly questionable. That’s why this has touched a major nerve. That is why, as Rav Shmuel Kaminetzky rightly suspects as implied from his comments, that this may have been the proverbial straw that breaks and discards any remaining respect or adherence to kol korehs. Schmeltzer and company is the kapara.
Yonason Goldson wrote:
I’m certainly in no position to judge the decisions of our gedolim. What I find profoundly disturbing, however, is the effect that these kinds of stories have on many sincere Torah Jews. A number of years ago, I discovered that many acquaintances in the modern Orthodox community roll their eyes whenever they hear the expression “daas Torah.” Whether right or wrong, they claim to have heard the term invoked by their neighbors in the Chareidi community to defend every kind of questionable behavior. To their minds, “daas Torah” is nothing more than a catch phrase for “this is how we justify anything we want to do.”

Since then, this kind of cynicism toward rabbinic authority has spread to many who consider themselves members of the yeshivishe world. Is it not possible, even likely, that bans of this sort that raise so much confusion among committed b’nei Torah will gradually and inevitably lead to the erosion of emunas chachomim on a massive scale? Is it possible that our gedolim can be unaware of this? Is the law of unintended consequences not a factor that must be taken into account? I wish I had even the beginning of an answer.
Moshe S. wrote:
Ignore the work of the kanaim. Pick a responsible Torah authority of the highest caliber, and learn to get his opinion, quietly and discretely.

Yet those who you would consider to be “responsible Torah authorities of the highest caliber” themselves do NOT ignore the work of the kannaim, but instead allow the kannaim to use their signatures for their work. Surely the inconsistency here is obvious.
Dr. Nachum Klafter wrote:
You are correct in your analysis of what occurred with this latest ban. I certainly agree that a kol korei against musical entertainment is not comparable to a ban which appears to forbid the shitos of rov ge’onim and rishonim, and many acharonim, (and, perhaps, common sense and the input of our senses).

Yet, I feel you are ignoring the following: The Mo’etzes and many of its members have allowed their signatures to be abused too many times and then have failed to openly clarify afterwards. What results is that the kannoyim are convinced that all of the members of the Mo’etzes are on their side on every one of their pet projects, and then people like you and me read between the lines, or make phone calls to our inside informants. Rather than leading, manhigim are pressured and then duck for cover. Thus, we see Gedolei Torah who are pressured into bans, who sign haskamos without reading the books, who sign bans without having read books, who retract their haskamos, who qualify their bans, who give verbal clarifications rather than written clarifications which are repeated in a manner that they appear to be contradicting themselves depending on their audience because they don’t write or publish anything themselves, gedolim in Eretz Yisrael who receive individuals from all over the globe and after hearing only side make pronouncements that can be interpreted as a pesak but can also be interpreted as not a pesak, etc., etc. While many of these individuals are honorable and admirable in their 1:1 conduct, their ability to lead kelal yiroel is being hampered by this.

To say it more simply: For the sake of kevod ha-Torah, leaders are avoiding answering questions directly and giving consistent, clear guidance on issues. The result is not an increase in kevod ha-Torah.

In my arrogance, I will suggest the following stock responses that every public leader should have at his fingertips

“I wish you success, but I do not have time to read your book carefully and I do not sign haskamos unless I am thoroghly familiar a book’s contents.” I.e., no haskama, no michtav beracha.

“I am sorry for your pain but I am prohibited from judging a case unless I hear both sides, and your situation requires a proper din Torah.”

“I understand that you are disturbed by this phenomenon, but we cannot control the world. Furthermore, I am not going to issue a ban unless I know all of the facts involved including testimony from the principal parties. Plus if these individuals are yorei shamayim, we presume that they have asked their own local rabbonim. If they are not yorei shamayim, then a ban is useless. Take these individuals to a proper Din Torah and I will participate if that is feasible, or I will recommend qualified dayanim.”

“Judaism does not endorse beliefs in a deceased leader as a possible candidate for the Moshiach. The individuals who hold such beliefs may be wonderful people, but this is not an acceptable belief.”

“Obviously we all know that Chazal did not have flawless medicine or science, but since I am not a scientist I cannot intelligently comment on which current scientific theories are fads and which scientific theories are emes. Stop making a tzimmes out this issue. Don’t you see that we all go to modern doctors and fly in airplanes? Obviously we all believe in modern science!”

“Be-avonoseinu ha-rabbim, we live in a generation where most Jews have no exposure to Torah. The great majority of them are tinnukim she-nishbu. Every Jewish man who wears a kippah or woman who wears tzanu’ah clothing must see him or herself as an ambassador for HaShem and his Torah, we must try to teach our children to conduct themselves in accordance with this thought.”

“I’m not a mathematician, so I can’t comment on the statistics involved in the Torah Codes, but what I can say with confidence is that the idea that statisticians will prove Torah Min Ha-Shamayim is just wacky and silly.”

“Stop asking us to issue new standards for tzeniyus which we have never heard of and which a normal human being with a normal imagination would never conceive of.”

You get the idea.

Not everyone is cut out for being harassed all day and all night by crusaders and opportunists. But is really it impossible to say “no” to kannoyim, or to say “no” to book authors asking for an endorsement, or to say “no” to a hot-headed bar plugta who feels disenfranchised about some issue, or to suggest proper dinnei Torah which follow standard procedures for conflict resolution? For that matter, why is it so hard to implement standard procedures for dinnei Torah in most battei dinim? (I applaud the RCA and the Beis Din of America.)

The relevant secular terms are “professionalism” and “boundaries”. I really think that a small dose of these could go a long way.
Rabbi Chaim Frazer wrote:
A reader wrote: It doesn’t affect you that the leaders of one part of American Orthodox Jewry willingly bow to the wills of others thousands of miles away (causing $1million of loss) without even investigating the situation or talking to those involved?

Rabbi Adlerstein replied: How do you know what they investigated and what they offered? Do we have no obligation at all to be dan lekaf zechus? If we can’t do it for the facts we believe we know, can’t we at least do it in the areas where we clearly don’t know? In the worst-case scenario, I will admit that such action would indeed cause me great consternation – but only in the case of my personal rabbeim and mentors. I am not so heavily invested in the leaders of other parts of the community, may HKBH give them all long prosperous lives.

My comments: I too believe that we should be dan l’khaf zechut. Since we all know that the Torah has mercy on the money of our fellow Jews, I wait anxiously for news that those who caused $700,000 or more in damage to their fellow Jews have reimbursed them. A touch of chumra would be reassuring here.

Looking for front and back copies of the cancelled check,

Rabbi Chaim Frazer
Over at Beyond BT...

Bob Miller wrote:
Much of the issue is not about outcome but about process. We are all familiar on some level with the Shaila/Teshuva process by which Jews get direction from Poskim, and with the idea of referring certain knotty issues up to Gedolim. We are also familiar on some level with the Beis Din processes for adjudication, arbitration, or mediation. However, as the above article indicates, the mechanics of the Kol Koreh process as practiced in Orthodox communities are more of a mystery, probably not only to BT’s. This opens up all sorts of possibilities for mischief by those who want to discredit Talmidei Chachamim in general. Perhaps the Kol Koreh process now needs better definition and control, and the publicized decisions need to be backed up by formal explanatory documents, analogous to detailed teshuvos.
David Lynn wrote:
To me, there are issues other than the ban itself and rabbinic authority that are at issue.

My criticism here is aimed not at the Rabbonim but at those individuals who brought the “issue” to the Rabbonim.

One larger issue is the manner in which the ban was issued. Apparently, no one called Lipa or Sheya Mendolowitz about the ban and Lipa found out about it in the newspaper. I have heard numerous interviews with both Lipa and Sheya Mendolowitz. I have to say that they both have been very respectful of the Rabbonim. I have heard Lipa say that he had spoken (at the time) with aprox 10 of the Rabbonim that had signed the kol koreh. Each one, he said, had asked him for mechila for the fact that no one contacted him in advance. How is it that the reputation and parnasa of a fellow Jew was taken so lightly?

Additionally, in one of the interviews, Lipa confirmed that his name did not appear on the kol koreh at the time the Rabbonim signed, it was added afterwards. If this is true, it appears to me that the individuals that brought the “issue” to the Rabbonim to start with are, themselves, showing and creating a lack of respect for Rabbinic Authority.

Finally, the fact that the kol koreh used the exact language as the one previously issued in EY (even where that language doesn’t make sense), indicates, on the part of those who brought the “issue” to the Rabbonim, a lack of appreciation for the sensitivity of the personal issues involved and a hasty approach to an issue that is not so simple.
Len Kofman asked:
David raises a lot of the points that I agree with and am thinking but there is one further question that keeps bothering. The handling of the entire affair was flawed (e.g. bad wording, not contacting people, doing it at the last moment). If the Rabbonim’s judgment was poor in the handling of it why should I believe their judgment was better in the deciding of the issue?

I do not mean this question to disrespect the Gedolim but this is an honest question that I struggle with .
Avigdor M'Bawlmawr wrote:
Can great rabbinic leaders be manipulated? If the Kol Koreh originated with Gedolei Yisrael, and not “kanoim” -those seekers of machlokes who think they are lishmah-, then Lipa and others would’ve been informed in advance, would they not? Those sensitive to the nuances of halacha, especially bein adam l’chavero, might have charted a different path. However, the Taliban among us lack perspective and are willing to tell rabbonim what they “need” to hear. This is not a new phenomenon.

Numerous questions about this situation have been raised elsewhere. Jonathan Rosenblum has a piece posted on, “Bans are not Chinuch,” which is worthwhile reading.
IMHO, this ban, as previous with previous ones, can only lead to a reduction of rabbinical authority, as David Linn writes.
Charlie Hall commented:
How to react to the ban?

In my case, I ignore it.

I have a rav with whom I had previously discussed the appropriateness of entertainment. He had discussed these issues with his rav, one of the leading rabbis of my lifetime, and he told me exactly what that gedol said regarding this issue.

There are many things I find difficult here. Do so many frum Jews not have a rav that a ban needs to be pronounced publicly? Is it proper derech eretz (or even proper halachic procedure) to publicize a halachic decision that involves particular individuals without discussing it with them?

Is the fact that a frum Jew is now in danger of defaulting on hundreds of thousands of dollars of financial commitments, itself an issur d’oraita, of no halachic concern?

How do contemporary halachic authorities have the authority to reverse a practice which had been viewed by many if not most halachic authorities as mutar l’chatchila?

Doesn’t this violate yeridot hadorot? It would be very helpful if someone could explain these issues adequately.
Bozoer Rebbe wrote:
I have to wonder how well informed the signatories to this Kol Koreh were on the subject. Have they listened to the music in question? Have they been to similar concerts or seen videos of them?

We already know that neither the artists nor the promoter of the show were questioned prior to the ban. Exactly how much due diligence do the gedolim do before taking a decision that can bankrupt someone?

I’m supposed to defer to Da’as Torah, but I’m sorry, but argument from authority never works for me, particularly when the authority in question seems to be willfully ignoring things that go on in the real world. Knowledge of Torah is not enough. To properly judge a matter one must know enough about it to be able to understand how Torah applies, as was seen in the responsa (and reversal thereof) concerning internet commerce on Shabbat.
Bob Miller also wrote:
A published ban becomes especially disconcerting (no pun intended!) when people “in the know” in the target group, even some Rabbonim, say or imply that it wasn’t meant literally and that we have to read between the lines. Likewise, when some signatories are later said to disavow all or part of its content. The rank and file should get the straight scoop, not a puzzle. The document should be 100% as intended by all signatories, direct, well-supported and unambiguous. If the direction has to be so hedged, gradated and nuanced as to make a clear publication impossible, don’t print it.
Again, do these people deserve answers?