Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The Lipa Ban -- A Response to Rabbi Adlerstein

Over at Cross-Currents, Rabbi Adlerstein posts a response to readers who commented on his earlier (non) post. Read the whole thing.

Here are some excerpts followed by my comments.
Perhaps they are contemplating a full music ban as the next move, but the way to handle that responsibly is for you to quietly and forcefully relay those impressions to Torah leaders that you know. It is not as satisfying to many people, and lacks the cathartic release of a good zinger in the blogosphere, but it will likely do more good.
I don't accept this. Obviously. I believe that much of the problem here is due to the fact that some of these people believe that they will never be challenged in public and that they can simply ignore private objections. The publicity is crucial to ensuring this doesn't happen again.
I don’t understand why people cannot read between the lines of Rav Shmuel’s shlit”a words. I know very few of the other signatories; Rav Shmuel’s integrity I can swear by. I am obligated – and many of our readers as well – to bend over backwards to judge him favorably. (That is not an opinion, but a halachic requirement!) Rav Shmuel, even as one of the reigning gedolim of America, has his own obligation of kavod haTorah in regard to iconic representatives of Torah learning at its greatest in Israel . He has to discharge this both on a personal level, and to prevent anything that he does to be seen as slighting their honor – even if he disagrees. If you think about it, what he did makes ironic sense to people who can bottle up their rage for a while.

What follows is a guess, nothing more. I have not spoken with Rav Shmuel, neither directly nor indirectly. If I am completely wrong, I hope he will be mochel; my intention is to be mindful of his kavod and that of the Torah. Many leaders of groups – nations and others – must learn the language of diplomacy. This does not mean hypocrisy, but articulating in a manner that will send different messages simultaneously to different people. Rav Shmuel was beset by the kanoim on the one hand, the requirement of kavod haTorah on the other. Think of what he did. He paid the kavod HaTorah debt, and then effectively let the word out that this is not the way he would have preferred to see the matter handled. Why doesn’t anyone get it? He unmasked the kanaim! He essentially told people that when kanaim do this kind of thing, people have to be a bit more astute and probing, and make subtle inquiries, directly or through others, about what their own individual Torah authorities really think. Perhaps he actually meant what everyone is frothing at the mouth about: don’t take Kol Korehs at face value! He said it, not you!
This reads like Kafka or Wonderland! It's just bizarre. Rav Shmuel had to sign because of "Kavod HaTorah" even though it was wrong. But then he can disown it, essentially. His statements to the Jewish Star were honest and necessary. However, they clearly impugn the Kavod HaTorah he supposedly needs to uphold at all costs. Plus, since he says he was lied to, and in fact the Gedolim in E"Y had not requested this ban, there was no Kavod haTorah obligation in the first place.

Also, is this the way we ought to do things? Issue public rulings and then "walk them back" later? What about Emes?
I am not saying that this was behind the ban. As I said, despite all the comments that we have printed and those we have not, I do not know what was really behind this. Perhaps in a few weeks we will find out.
Perhaps in a few weeks we will find out??? That's a satisfactory way of imposing anything on the tzibur?

Rabbi Adlerstein makes a similar argument here.
If a Kol Koreh seems bizarre, check it out. Don’t demand instant gratification. It may take a while. Find the most significant bnei Torah you know, and push them for an explanation. They will push others. In time you will learn the truth.
I've done just that. The truth seems to be that even choshuve Chareidi rabbonim have no clue, only educated guesses. There's only speculation and some of that is less than flattering to some of the signers.
What would you say to those that felt no impact by the Slifkin banning? Yet you were quite horrified by that and the direction things were going. Do you not see this as the next step in that same direction?

Sorry, my friend. I cannot get as exercised over losing some moments of musical entertainment as over the delegitimizing of the works of geonim, rishonim and acharonim, particularly since said works were the lifeline to all the scientifically engaged people I had worked with in decades in kiruv. Besides, the problem you point to is not the here and now, but the “What will they think of next????” You are anticipating, perhaps rightfully so. My solution for the moment was clear. Ignore the work of the kanaim. Pick a responsible Torah authority of the highest caliber, and learn to get his opinion, quietly and discretely. And then follow it, whether it is comfortable or not.
The main problem here is not the subject of the ban, per se. Its the abuse of the process. Rav Kamenetzky acknowledges it happened and this matters whether or not one is a Jewish music fan. As I've noted, the abuse is readily apparent even without Rav Kamenetzky's admission.
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?

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
What we do know is troubling. Again, Rav Kamenetzky acknowledges as much. If nothing else, don't those known questions need to be answered?
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.
Leaders of other parts of the community? The singers were not just the leaders of one or two Chassidic groups. It is fair to say that the signers represent a broad cross-section of American chareidi Roshei Yeshiva. For many in the community, these are their leaders. On a personal level, this might not affect Rabbi Adlerstein directly because his rebbeim didn't sign. On a communal level, though, the leaders of American chareidi Jewry (the Agudah version) signed. At best, Rabbi Adlerstein seems to be saying "not my problem." It is ours, though. The Cross-Currents roster list includes several for whom these are their Torah leaders.

Rabbi Adlerstein didn't respond to the following comments.

LOberstein wrote:
I asked a local posek who is highly regarded in the chareidi world and he told me that if everything is prohibited and there are no kosher outlets for our youth, then we are driving them to go off the derech. It seems that Rav Shmuel Kamenetzky made the same comment that kids need an outlet. Yet, he also said that he felt oblidged to follow the lead of Rav Elyashiv and Rav Shteinman and therefore had to go along with the very last minute ban on the Lipa Concert.
Another local wise person told me that every time something like this happens it lowers the honor of the rabbis and makes their pronouncements on anything less meaningful. He entitled the ban as an example of “chutzpah yasgieh” but he was referring the activists who agitated for the ban.
Note that both of the above are not named. If either were quoted by me, they might suffer damage to their reputation or their income. That is the problem, we are driven to silence, except in the blogs, where people who use the internet, therefore not really observant Jews, hang out.
YM wrotes:
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 Haalberstaam wrote:
Rather than comment on the very disturbing issuies raised by this affair,I recommend that yoy 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 wrote:
Ori: 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.
I think it's a shame that Cross-Currents keeps punting.