Tuesday, March 11, 2008

You've Got More (Lipa) Mail - Critical Edition

From the inbox...

Heshy Rosenwasser writes:
And for all those who deal in community affairs faithfully, the Holy One, Blessed Is He, will pay their salary …

The term askan, literally means “businessman” and is colloquially taken to mean someone of means who is involved in Jewish community affairs. This usage is undoubtedly derived from the above verse. Usually these askanim operate behind the scenes, away from the public eye, because of personal modesty; they work tirelessly for charitable concerns without any thought of personal gain or honor. This is in keeping with the high value placed on matan baseiser, giving charity anonymously so as not to embarrass either the donor or beneficiary. As such, askanim receive no salary for their good works, and so we pray that G-d will pay their salaries, be they physical compensation or spiritual elevation.

But what we have seen here is a dark, cynical use of these honorable values to advance hidden agendas that ruin lives and livelihoods. Taking advantage of the usual back channels, out of the public eye, certain askanim approach prominent rabbis and present a distorted case. The rabbis know and trust these particular askanim, having dealt with them in matters of community and charity for many years. And so they think nothing of adding their signature to the askan’s document without checking the veracity of the claims therein, and voila! Now the hidden agenda can be brought out into public view, bearing a rabbinical stamp of approval.

In abusing the honorable values of giving anonymously, these askanim have been dealing in community affairs in bad faith. And as such, may the Holy One, Blessed Is He, pay their salaries in kind, measure for measure.He also writes:
In the Response to Rabbi Adlerstein, this really gets me:

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?
My comment:
Rabbi Adlerstein's words are in direct contradiction to Pirkei Avos, which is (among other things) a manual for rabbis and community leaders. In perek 2 mishnah 4, Hillel says: Do not say something that is not readily understood in the belief that it will ultimately be understood.

Earlier, in perek 1 mishnah 11, Hillel's teacher Avtalyon said: Scholars, be careful with your words. For you may be exiled to a place inhabited by evil elements [who will distort your words to suit their negative purposes]. The disciples who come after you will then drink of these evil waters and be destroyed, and the Name of Heaven will be desecrated.

I have nothing further to add in this post to the words of our Chachomim, who in light of what's developing now, can also be considered Neviim after a fashion.
Psachya comments on our Purim Lipa post:
How's this for an album title: LIPA FAITH!
I think I'm gonna call it "Vechol Yisroel Yishmeu." Ironic, no?

Finally, here's a critical email from Zal Schreiber:
I've followed peripherally the discussions here concerning the recent concert cancellation with the connected mishmash and the ensuing resolve and reform of Mr. Shmeltzer. In this context, it is interesting to note the latest blog posters asking to free him. A question I would ask is if he really feels enslaved or has he risen to the occasion and has actually conceded that things needed to be changed and is at peace with his decision(s), himself, and the gedolim.

I don't claim to know this but may I suggest that perhaps others should not continually vent concerning these matters, considering the possibility of being oveir several mitzvos lo sa'asey Mideoraaisa. Hey, I'm no goody-goody, but it should be apparent that openly assailing Dahs Torah has its risks. This is especially pertinent when (and maybe even if) those concerned have agreed to follow the p'sak halacah.

OK. This assumes that we are all on the same wavelength ¥iddishkei-wise. (That) we all want and/or are Yeeras Shamayim and Shomrei Toraah U"Mitzvos. But what is the real makeup of the readers here? Anyone wish to run a survey? Are we all Shomrei Negiya? I assume we all eat Kosher, right? Do we stay away from mixed gatherings because it is a possible breeding grounds for illicit thoughts and activities? Do our families all keep Thahras Hamishpacha, wear shaitels, even, in the first place? Do we cover our bodies sufficiently in a tziniusdikka way, or are we out to kill even if every part of our body (well, almost) is halachikly covered?

When we read some of the things written, and we are ehrlicha Yidden. we may get to feel, yeah, I can agree with that, and then lose ourselves to loshen hurrah, rechilus and motzee shaim rah because we've read others vent and now it's like a hetter for anyone to say anything???!

Afterall, much of what happened here is really not our business, ESPECIALLY if Misters Mendlowitz and Shmeltzer have agreed with Daas Torah. As I said, I did not read ALL or MOST of what has been written in these parts because of the concerns that I have raised. If Misters M and S are OK with things (no, I'm not saying it was easy for any of the above individuals, but that is not my point), perhaps we should finally put this baby to rest once and for all. Especially concerning other issues I have brought up here.
Ginuhg shoine.

But this is not the reason I came to post today. It is ironic that the day this last blog hit that tragedy struck our people in a big way, in Israel and in New Jersey. It is a reminder that we are still in Golus, as my Rebbe has said, if anything goes wrong it is because we arer (still) in Golus. And we haven't learned a lesson that maclokes is a key factor in us still being here in the sad shape that we are in. We have affluence, seforim stores are now places similar to museums with the most beautiful chachkas, while the seforim section gets smaller and smaller. Concerts? Who heard of them in frum circles of the past as people were just happy to get by...intact. Gezunt, parnassah, nachas, hatzlacha...those are our real riches to strive for. But, again, this is not why I am writing ths..it is not my focus.

The Moslems are spending millions of dollars, probably yearly, in a media blitz campaign, to "educate" the world. Saudia Arabia has been THE benefactor to the majority of mosques being built in this country, and possibly world-wide, pushing with this its point of view and midset. They are out to manipulate public thinking through this campaign of propaganda. Moslem students at the major (and otherwise) college campuses, here and abroad, are taught (or indoctrinated) what and how to convince the non-Moslem student and specifically faculty into believing - that Israel is a monster, does not care about human rights, and most frightfully, that Jews have no claim whatsoever to the Holy Land, and that all the lands, specifically Israel, are rightfully the inheritance of the Moslem/ Palestinian people(s).

That’s right.

So, these Moslem students attack Jews on campus (sometimes physically) with their ideas and the Jewish kids don’t know how to react, or even answer them (IF they’re given the chance). They come off sounding like fools compared to those kids who have been trained to the Nth degree how to pull the rug out from under their feet. (It sort of reminds me of the J4J Missionary tactics).

What to do.
LEARN what to say and what NOT to say. But, you must actively seek the knowledge to refute these people. Seek and you shall find.

Foe example. One incident I am aware of was when a Moslem man came over to a Jewish boy, looked him squarely in the eyes and said (something like), “YOU are not of Semitic origin. You have BLUE EYES and fair (white) skin!!!”. (all “purebred” Moslems will have brown eyes and skin tone). "And you therefore have no claim to the land you call Israel." When I heard this, I thought of an answer. “Sir, are you not aware of your ancestors Abraham and his wife Sarah?...pause….And how the king there grabbed you ancestor’s wife…..Why would the king want to abduct such an old woman for his harem, a woman over 80 years old? …pause….IT IS BECAUSE SHE HAD BLUYE EYES AND FAIR, WHITE SKIN. And WE are the seed of Abraham and Sarah. And this is the land G-d gave to them and their seed.

OK. That’s my own shoot from the hip answer.

The Temple Mount and the mosque sitting upon it…unfortunately still….
The Moslems say that the mosque is their third holiest site. OK. I’ve seen national magazines bring this up over and over again. BUT, have they said that the Western Wall is THE Holiest Jewish site? Is there some balance given? No.

Did you know, that not long ago, maybe even up until somewhere in the 20th Century, that the site was dormant, and empty of worshipers? There are pictures from the end of the 19th Century that show a barren and desolate mosque with NO-ONE there? Since when is it the 3rd holiest Moslem site? Since it’s been convenient politically to be so considered? Right…now that we’ve gotten that straight.

Do your own research. You need to know what to answer these people, and moreso, the people they have swayed over to their side.

Yiddishkeit demands a lot from those who adhere. But there are great consequences if we don’t heed to do what we should…and great rewards for the others.

Mishenichnas Adar, Marbim B’Simcha. So it should be for all Klal Yisroel.
Where to begin?

Let's start with the assumptions about this blog's readership.

Blog in Dm's readership includes Jews and non-Jews from around the globe who are passionate about Jewish music. The spectrum of Jewish observance among the readership ranges from black-hat Orthodox rabbis to militantly secular Jews to Jewish and non-Jewish klezmer and simcha band musicians and more. All are welcome here.

The post that apparently triggered this email was my Purim humor post, "Michenichnas Adar Marbin B'Lipa."

Zal asks whether Lipa feels enslaved. It's really an irrelevant question, since the criticisms I've been levying have to do with the abuse of process (mainly), and not the result. (Although, for the record, I disagree with the ban.) Whether or not Lipa or Sheya Mendlowitz have agreed with Da'as Tora, and Lipa's acceptance of the ban are irrelevant to these points.

In public appearances, Lipa has strongly implied that he was threatened and Sheya has said it as well. I'm not going to go through all the audio and published interviews to link the sources, but they are there. I will say that what's been published/broadcast is bad enough, but what happened in this case behind the scenes is far uglier than what I've commented on!

Incidentally, it is Adar and Purim is coming. There's going to be Lipa humor galore in the community, whether it manifests itself in Yeshivah guys dressing as Lipa, the circulation of fake "Kol Korehs", bands at yeshiva celebrations playing Lipa medleys, "Big Event" themed mishloach manos, and so on. I imagine there'll also be wig store ban humor. Be prepared.

Zal claims not to know, but still asserts, that venting concerning these matters involves the possibility of violating several mitzvos lo sa'asey mideoraisa and that openly assailing Da'as Torah has its risks. I respectfully suggest that one should know before making such suggestions. One of the underlying issues propping up those who engage in these kinds of "askanus" is the successful tactic of hiding behind "doubts" about violations of Lashon Hara, Dan Lekaf Zechus, etc. I believe that respectful questioning and criticism is always permissible.

He also writes that he hasn't read much of what's been written because of these concerns. If you're not willing to hear what people say, it's a bit intellectually dishonest to criticize them for what they've said.

I have been very clear that I and others are respectfully asking fair questions. The success of the methodology used to impose this ban is a direct result of people not raising these questions openly in the past. Similar questions were raised with regard to the Slifkin ban, but they mainly came from outside the community as opposed to now. These issues ought to have been addressed then. "Eizehu chacham? Haroeh es hanolad."

Zal's point about Lashon Hara is valid. People shouldn't feel that just because public questions are needed, that's it's open season for gossip, or pejorative talk about any and all. That said, I've made the conscious decision in my coverage of this issue to link to blogs I otherwise wouldn't to illustrate the spread of the damage the askanim/kannoim and ban signers have caused. It needed to be done. The responsible leadership --or perhaps potential future leadership --in the Chareidi community needs to be aware of all that's at stake.

I did find Zal's insinuation about the irony that my humorous post went up shortly before the terror attack at Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav to be offensive. One could just as easily assert that the violence in Israel has increased as a direct result of the perversion of Torah and Halacha evidenced in the wig store ban and the Lipa ban, since it has been escalting in tandem with the escalation in bans.

Both assertions are absurd and offensive. We are enjoined to take "mussar" from bad events that happen, and apply it towards improving ourselves. However, no one can know the reason for tragedy. It's ironic that all to often the response to tragedy by the Chareidi is to point at the "bad behavior" of someone else as the cause; whether it's a criticism by men of "lack of tznius" by the women in a very modest community, or something else. Keshot be'atzmecha...

Although Zal is wrong with regard to his perception of the readership of this blog, I do feel that I should write a few lines about why this matters personally to me.

First, though, here's why I'm an unlikely candidate to have chosen this issue to get on the soapbox about.

1) The ban has no financial impact on me. I do not make my living playing, producing, or promoting these kinds of concerts. (I used to play a lot of the smaller ones, but those performances are no longer a significant part of my income.)

2) I have no interest in attending these concerts. I probably wouldn't go to most of them even if offered free tickets. In general, I dislike big shows, preferring to hear music in more intimate settings, and I abhor the kinds of inconsiderate crowds these shows tend to draw.

3) I have played a few concerts/gigs with Lipa over the years. None too recently. I have written about my impressions of Lipa in the past. Here, for example. We have no personal relationship. I think he's tremendously talented, especially his Yiddish song-writing, but don't like the musical direction he's chosen on his last few albums with regard to the musical arrangements.

4) Sheya Mendlowitz represents many of the things I most dislike about contemporary Jewish music in the Chareidi community. I've publicly taken him to task on his marketing ethics, (see here, for instance), I dislike much of the music and performers he's promoted of late, etc.

All of this is irrelevant. What was done to Sheya and Lipa (and the many other vendors) hurt by this is unconscionable.

I have strong roots in the Chassidic and Chareidi communities. It hurts to see the damage these acts (and the people whose midset they represent) have inflicted within and without.

We are taught that we are supposed to emulate Hashem, "V'halachta bedrachav" (or as the YU intellectuals might call it, imatatio dei.) "Mah hu rachum... It follows logically that one ought to be able to see a reflection of Godliness in the behavior of religious Jews. When devoutly religious Jews --indeed the religious leadership of a community-- engage in behavior that is not only not Godly, but is the opposite, it is a huge Chillul Hashem.

And although faith ought not be tied to the behavior of man, but rather on a relationship with Hashem, nevertheless. witnessing these kinds of acts raises questions not only about the people who acted improperly, but of the entire endeavor. For, if this behavior can even be possible after leading a life immersed in Torah study and pursuit of mitzvos, what is one to think of the effects of said pursuits? Al achas kama v'kama when said actions are not only done --by leaders of the community, no less -- but are allowed to stand and even lauded.

Remember, we're not talking about one individual, but many Rabbonim, including many prominent Litvishe Roshei Yeshivah. Anyone can make mistakes. To err is human. But for a group of Rabbonim to err, ignore the acknowledged errors, and forget the lesson of the Par He'elam Davar, is sad.

As R' M.S. commented yesterday at Cross-Currents:
V’az mah?
Was there any follow up? Why was there no clarification for the olam? G-d knows there is no shortage of frum papers out there waiting for something to talk about. Why would the roshei yeshiva not clarify their position, and more importantly, the process? This is the part that drives me crazy. Here we are, waiting to understand, hoping to follow, but there is no explanation.

It is very disheartening.
Disheartening is a good description of the inevitable outcome of the leadership leaving this wound to heal on its own. It might, as many wounds do. But it might not, and even if it does, it will leave a scar.

Finally, PT writes:
I don’t know if there’s a Pulitzer or Blogitzer for J-blogs, but you deserve to win it for this series. I just hope you don’t get blacklisted yourself.