How to Criticize in Elul

letter-447577_1280

We owe much to Rabbi Eli Teitelbaum.

Not just because he gave us an excuse to stop talking about Noah Feldman.

Not really for the substance of his remarks, either. Many readers of CC undoubtedly reached the same conclusions on their own.

Nor do we applaud him chiefly for his courage in stating what others will object to. B”H, while you probably will not find one on every corner, there are still more than a few people in the right-of-center Torah world with the courage to speak their minds.

I believe we ought to applaud him because his critique was a model in how to criticize without leaving your yiras shomayim (reverence for Heaven) at the door. It is a point that will unfortunately be missed by some of the “negativity bloggers” who will wonder whether a long-standing Agudah activist has joined their ranks. He hasn’t.

His criticism was trenchant and biting. I won’t review the substance of his argument, which is not the point of this posting. For convenience, I reproduce his essay below. (OK, it’s not just for convenience. There must be some people far less enthusiastic than I am, because the original has been bowdlerized. If you go to the site that first posted the piece, you will find some changes have been made. Maybe someone thought it was a yeshivishe Wikipedia. The Yated version was different from the beginning, I’m told, but that is hardly surprising.) He pulled no punches:

In every generation we have the likes of Doeg and Achitofel who misled great people such as Shaul and Avshalom with falsehoods and lies that caused them to try to kill Dovid. Doeg even succeeded in getting Shaul to kill all the Kohanim in the city of Nov. This shows how falsehoods can be spread, how easily they are believed, and the terrible damage that can result. Even the greatest of the great are vulnerable to such camouflaged slander and can be misled by advisors they trust… Today, too, we have self proclaimed agitators and charlatans who have nothing to do with their time but to go around to our leading Torah sages and try to convince them that separate-seating concerts are a threat to our Yiddishkeit and to ban them. They falsely claim that there is pritzus in the hallways plus other fabrications. Exaggeration is a blood relative to falsehood, and almost as bad. A gossip is one who can give you all the details without knowing all the facts.

Now, lots of folks could have said that. Lots more certainly think it. What distinguishes Rabbi Teitlebaum’s version is his bottom line, which shows his mettle admirably.

It must be clearly noted that despite all that was said, one is required to follow the ruling of our sages even when they say “Right is left and left is right.” Nowadays when there is no Sanhedrin, one must seek a leading posek and follow his ruling on all matters and not go “posek hopping.” This applies not only in the above case but in all other areas as well. There are some disagreements among our leading poskim in Hilchos Shabbos which can be an isur sekilah. One can’t pick and choose stringencies from one or leniencies from another. (Gemora ) The Agudas Yisroel follows the ruling of the Moetzes Gedolai HaTorah. Others can decide on their posek whom they wish to follow. But whoever it is, the psak must be followed even if it hurts.

He makes two points for which he should be saluted. Firstly, he emphasizes (in contradistinction to so many others in the blogosphere) there is a gevul, a limit to our criticism. In the final analysis, gedolim are our einei ha-edah, and important issues must be brought to them. We must be prepared to do things that are not comfortable when allegiance to their authority demands it.

He then turns around and underscores that each community must make its own choice of Torah authority and leadership. Different camps might each champion different talmidei chachamim.. Agudah chooses to fall behind the Moetzes; there are different legitimate choices for others to make. One choice that, beyond cavil, that is not legitimate is to not choose at all!

Halevai that all of us who write and comment in the public forum should employ as much balance and yiras shomayim as Rabbi Teitelbaum.

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Rabbi Eli Teitelbaum: A Kosher Alternative

Many people are in total shock at some of the goings on in the Catskills this summer. I will not go into the details. Suffice it to say that hundreds of our teenagers boys and girls were enticed to engage in activities that are far from what their parents and teachers consider acceptable, and far from what we have a right to expect from Yeshiva and Bais Yaakov products. While there are many reasons for it and no easy or simple solutions, we must be very careful not to add to the problem by forbidding everything without providing a satisfactory kosher replacement.

The Yetzer Hora of today is not the one of yesterday or the one our grandparents had to deal with. Today we have television, movies, CDs, DVDs, Internet, videos, certain type cell phones, and music that are extremely attractive and contain more filth than ever before. They are everywhere and they can easily be brought into our homes without detection. Their influence and message is so powerful and seductive that they have penetrated even the best homes. We are dealing with a mighty foe whose magnetic power of attraction is difficult to resist. Saying “No? doesnt always work. Unless we provide our children with a kosher alternative to it all, we are asking for trouble.

While in the past, summer camps may have been considered a luxury and kids could be kept in the city, nowadays camps are a lifesaver. Most summer camps provide kids with a kosher outlet for their pent up energies with a balanced program of learning and sports. There is Color War and BOG. There are hikes and trips. Children are kept so busy that they dont have the time or desire to look for non-kosher means of entertainment.

Many years ago, Pirchei Agudas Yisroel used to organize trips to Washington, Baltimore, and Toronto. Motzoei Shabbos there was learning along with game nights, and concerts. There was the famous Pirchei Choir that put out beautiful records and tapes that brought countless hours of delightful Jewish entertainment into thousands of homes. This was all done in order to keep children busy during their free time so they shouldnt have to go looking elsewhere. It was important to show children at a very early age that the Torah is not just restrictions, but that Shabbos as well as the rest of the week can be a time of constructive joy and pleasure. Happy laughter and family voices in the home will keep more kids off the streets at night than the strictest curfew.

I still remember when the Pirchei Agudas Yisrael put on a play and concert more than forty years ago in Montauk Junior High School. ( The play was based on the book Family Aguilar. ) There were some who tried to convince the rabbonim to put a ban on it. Since I was the president of Pirchei at the time, Rabbi Moshe Sherer z.l, asked me to go down to the venerable gaon hador, Rabbi Moshe Feinstien z.t.l., to get his halachic opinion. Not only did he not ban it, but he gave it his blessings. He understood only too well the importance of giving the boys a kosher alternative; otherwise they would soon find their pleasures elsewhere. One must be very careful before imposing restrictions. “Restrict everything and everything becomes permitted,? is what my father z.t.l. once said. When some tried to ban the Miami Boys Choir Concert in N.Y. and tried to get Rabbi Pam z.t.l.s signature as well as that of the Mirer Rosh Yeshiva to ban it, they both refused to sign.

A number of years ago, Rabbi Motty Katz of JEP and I organized a Chanuka trip to Washington on the two days that yeshivas give off for Chanuka vacation. Thanks to Mr. Yisroel Lefkowitz and others who helped subsidize part of the trip, we were able to charge only $20, which included an overnight stay in a nice motel. We were only able to take along 100 boys even though many more boys wanted to come along. I received a very nasty letter in the mail from a prominent rosh yeshiva accusing me of causing bitul Torah and admonishing me for organizing the trip. I very respectfully replied that it wasnt I who was causing any bittul Torah but rather the yeshivas that gave the kids off for two days without providing them with something positive to do. I told him that if he wanted, I would show him where some of his students are hanging out during this time. I never received a reply.

I give great credit to the Mirer Yeshivah in Yerushalayim that has realized the great problem of what happens when their bocurim have nothing to do during bein hazmanim. The yeshiva organizes trips at subsidized prices which take their talmidim around Eretz Yisroel. If only other yeshivas would follow their example, many tragedies would be avoided.

When sports and concerts are forbidden, and all forms of kosher entertainment are off limits, we are asking for trouble. If our kids cant find a place to vent their energy within a kosher environment, then they will find it elsewhere. In a time of war even the Torah itself permitted one to marry a captive non-Jewish girl under certain conditions. Chazal explain the logic behind this law. The Torah understood that a person is only human and therefore in this instance, while fighting a war, it gave him some leeway. The Gemora tells us that for everything the Torah forbade it gave us something similar that was permitted. Todays war with the Yetzer Horah is far greater than ever before.

But in every generation we have the likes of Doeg and Achitofel who misled great people such as Shaul and Avshalom with falsehoods and lies that caused them to try to kill Dovid. Doeg even succeeded in getting Shaul to kill all the Kohanim in the city of Nov. This shows how falsehoods can be spread, how easily they are believed, and the terrible damage that can result. Even the greatest of the great are vulnerable to such camouflaged slander and can be misled by advisors they trust. Just turn to Shmuel II chapter 16 and read the story of how Dovid who knew better than anyone else of the great dangers of an evil tongue was himself taken in by Tziva who fabricated a false story about Mefiboshes. If even the greatest of the great can be misled, then wed all better be very careful and constantly on our guard least we too fall into the same trap.

Things havent changed much since ancient times. Today, too, we have self proclaimed agitators and charlatans who have nothing to do with their time but to go around to our leading Torah sages and try to convince them that separate-seating concerts are a threat to our Yiddishkeit and to ban them. They falsely claim that there is pritzus in the hallways plus other fabrications. Exaggeration is a blood relative to falsehood, and almost as bad. A gossip is one who can give you all the details without knowing all the facts. Unfortunately, they often succeed in their mission. All it took was one Korach to convince the 250 heads of Sanhedrin of the holiness and purity of his mission.

Some have organized special activities and places for these “at risk kids? to get together under proper supervision, but this is not the real solution. The problem must be addressed long before young people reach the “at risk? stage. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If the money we spent on rehabilitation where to be spent on prevention, wed get far more for our money, and fewer people who need intensive intervention

It must be clearly noted that despite all that was said, one is required to follow the ruling of our sages even when they say “Right is left and left is right.? Nowadays when there is no Sanhedrin, one must seek a leading posek and follow his ruling on all matters and not go “posek hopping.? This applies not only in the above case but in all other areas as well. There are some disagreements among our leading poskim in Hilchos Shabbos which can be an isur sekilah. One cant pick and choose stringencies from one or leniencies from another. (Gemora ) The Agudas Yisroel follows the ruling of the Moetzes Gedolai HaTorah. Others can decide on their posek whom they wish to follow. But whoever it is, the psak must be followed even if it hurts.

Yes, there are legitimate concerns that must be addressed in order to make sure that concerts are conducted in a true Yiddish atmosphere and flavor. Performers should not be Jewish rock or rap singers and the music should not imitate todays street hip-hop culture as some performers unfortunately do. Sadly, Ive gone to frum weddings where the music and dancing felt like one was in a discothque with only the flashing lights missing. Roshei yeshivas and rabbonim danced in the middle of the circle having no idea as what type of music they were dancing to. I hope no one is going to ban music at weddings because of this, but rather the msader kidushin or rabbonim should meet with the band leaders as well as the mechutonim to rectify this outrage. Serious concerns must be discussed between the concert organizers and rabbonim beforehand. Instead of seeking to ban these concerts, we must make sure that they are a kiddush Shem Shomayim. Music has a powerful effect upon the listener
and we must ensure that it follows in the footsteps and style of Dovid Hamelech the “nim zemiros Yisroel,? to whose words our music is often put.

We definitely need our gedolim to guide us, and if we come to them with sincere requests to teach us to run activities al pi Torah, they would respond wisely and constructively. We should no longer leave the field open to those few agitators and connivers who choose to deprive our young people of positive outlets. For if we close the doors to that which is permitted, theyll unfortunately, soon find other places to fill the void!

© 2007 Rabbi Eli Teitelbaum.

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46 Responses

  1. Yehoshua Mandelcorn says:

    In response to #44: On a battlefield there is no time for shock, disbelief and sorrow. If we believe that our children are leaving Torah observance because they do not believe they can both be Torah oberservant and enjoy life, we must move immediately to correct that misconception.

  2. Baruch Horowitz says:

    Chaim,

    No problem :)

    Gmar chasimah tovah and a wonderful new year to you and everyone on this blog!

  3. Independent Frum Thinker says:

    On my blog I explain why although R’ Teitelbaum’s defense of Kosher entertainment may be correct, now is not the time for such talk.
    After so many of our youth were were “enticed to engage in activities that are far from what their parents and teachers consider acceptable, and far from what we have a right to expect from Yeshiva and Bais Yaakov products”, our first reaction should be shock, disbelief and sorrow.
    We should first work towards fixing the problem, and not let this wake-up call go unheeded.
    Reacting defensively for Kosher entertainment will not allow us to learn the lessons of this terrible story.

  4. Yehoshua Mandelcorn says:

    Elul is over, but Rosh HaShanah did give me an additional insight about “Gezairah she-ain rov Tzibur yocholim laamod bo” (a decree the majority can not abide by). A King must have subjects and a full nation following Him. When we reached 600,000 in Egypt and large enough to be a nation, then G-d could redeem us and be our King. A rabbinic decree that would reduce the number of Jews able to follow Torah and Mitzvos, such as a ban on virtually all forms of entertainment, would reduce G-d’s Kingship from that over a nation to that over a small pious sect.

  5. Chaim Wolfson says:

    “I wrote “appropriate” for a reason! I was not at all negating the importance of a sh’eilas chacham.” (Comment by Baruch Horowitz — September 12, 2007 @ 12:05 am).

    And I never suspected you of it! All I said was that what you consider INAPPROPRIATE others might consider appropriate.

    “but was rather speaking of those who use “daas Torah” as an excuse not to think for themselves, and to criticize those who merely express an opinion(it’s happened to me more than once)!”.

    Baruch, I sympathize with your plight. Nay, I empathize with you. My analogy was not intended as a comment on the merits of debating such issues between friends (in person or even on blogs), but rather whether some of the comments in this thread are indicative of a particular mindset.

    I actually have more important things to do on Erev Rosh Hashanah than blog, but I wanted to clear the air before the Yom Hadin. Baruch, if I (inadvertently) slighted you, I ask you for “mechilah”. And I ask the same of all my Cross-Currents friends. We may have our differences of opinion, but I esteem all of you personally. If in the course of the give and take of the debates on this blog I have not treated you with the respect you deserve, or my comments have caused you distress in some way (though I don’t rate myself so highly as to think my words could have such an effect), please forgive me.

  6. Bob Miller says:

    How about,

    “60% or more of all web postings and comments contain urban or suburban legends untainted by facts”

  7. Toby Katz says:

    “The rav to whom I address most of my shilahs has told me that Rov Soloveitchik held that all classical music was mutar. That included concerts with mixed seating and women singing. ”

    I do not believe and do not accept that Rav Soloveitchik permitted men to hear women singing on the stage.

    ========

    “It was also pointed out that some 60-80% of youth who “drop out” from Yiddishkeit began their descent at these concerts”

    I don’t believe that, either.

    You could say that 60% of all dropouts began their descent with unhappiness at school, or began their descent with the internet, or began their descent with unsuitable friends, or began their descent with working mothers who left them unsupervised too long, or began their descent with junk food, and all or none of these things might be true, might be contributing factors, or might be irrelevant.

  8. Baruch Horowitz says:

    I wrote “appropriate” for a reason! I was not at all negating the importance of a sh’eilas chacham–whether on the individual or on the communal level– but was rather speaking of those who use “daas Torah” as an excuse not to think for themselves, and to criticize those who merely express an opinion(it’s happened to me more than once)!

    Baruch Hashem, I think independently, and I was gratified to be “mechavein” to Rabbi Teitelbaum’s ideas, especially after associates of mine criticized me for expressing those very same ideas. Again, merely expressing an opinion, or rigorously weighing the strengths and weaknesses of a course of action has nothing to do with deciding issues for the tzibbur(community), although some, unfortunately, do not appear to realize this distinction.

    The possibility that the above conception of daas Torah may, as I wrote, “be damaging the image of the Right of the Torah World…”, was suggested to me by someone in the Yeshivah World whose thoughts I(and others) value. For an example of this, see my comment #21, versus Aron’s # 24 to Rabbi Adlerstein’s essay, linked below.

    Whether true or not, I wonder where Ahron get his idea from, and how such a perception can be changed. While I can understand the motives and considerations involved, the fact that there is opposition to publishing Rabbi Teitelbaum’s essay in full and allowing a respectful pro and con discussion of it, itself, may illustrate that Aron’s perception is at least partially grounded in reality. On that note, I am gratified that Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz has published the essay in full(linked below). I hope that, as Rabbi Adlerstein wrote, people will indeed see it as a moodel of “how to criticize without leaving your yiras shomayim (reverence for Heaven) at the door”.

    Kesivah vachasimah tovah to all!

    http://www.cross-currents.com/archives/2006/12/12/daas-torah-the-core-values

    http://www.rabbihorowitz.com/PYes/ArticleDetails.cfm?Book_ID=893&ThisGroup_ID=236&Type=Article&SID=2

  9. Loberstein says:

    We may not be better than our grandparents, but we are “frummer”.

    Comment by Chaim Wolfson — September 11, 2007 @ 6:27 pm

    I beg to differ. I saw unadulterated ahavas yisroel growing up in Alabama. My Uncle Joe showed by example that he considered every Jew his relative and he would give his last penny for Israel. He did not distinugish one Jew from another. Today I do not see Uncle Joe’s Yiddishkeit in a lot of frum places. It exists,but I also see enclavism that considers only “people like us” as part of Klal Yisroel.There is a lot of holiere than thou behavior that does not show the warmth (varemkeit) and emunah peshuta that I saw. His legacy of a chassidic upbringing in the Ukraine stayed with him for 75 years after he came as a lad to a foreign land. Today, the book has replaced the people, it is a religion of rules, not a deeply felt folk loyalty to our tribe. I wish we could all have Uncle Joe’s relationship with Hashem , rather than worrying about the minutae of chumros designed to pasul every one else. Frummr is not better.
    On that note, I will use the phrase our ancestors used”have a gut gebenched year”. I will hashem deal with writing in the Book.

  10. Chaim Wolfson says:

    “That included concerts with mixed seating and women singing.” (Comment by Charles B. Hall — September 9, 2007 @ 2:58 am).

    Dr. Hall, are you referring to the singing of women in the audience or the performers on stage?

    “Regarding “Jewish” music, there are many shuls that held concerts tonight before the first selichot service. (I attended a pre-selichot shiur instead.) It is clear that concerts of Jewish music have been acceptable for quite some time in almost all, it not absolutely all, observant Jewish communities.”

    I assume that the pre-selichos concerts to which you refer were “chazanus” concerts. That’s a far cry from concerts that “instead of being an evening of inspiration… have been more like one of “idol worship” [yes, like ‘rock idols’], screaming, and the like” with performers that act like “Jewish rock or rap singers and the music [imitates] todays street hip-hop culture as some performers unfortunately do.” And I venture to say you were more inspired by your shiur than the concert goers were by the “chazanus”.

    “The burden is on those who wish to change the halachic acceptability of such to justify the change from what is clearly an established minhag.”

    Leaving the issue of concerts aside, not everything that was done in our grandparents’ generation was halachically acceptable, and is not practiced today. Many years ago, for example, card games were a very common fundraising event in many Orthodox shuls. America is very different from pre-War Europe. There, Yiddishkeit was unfortunately on the way down; here in America it is b”H headed in the opposite direction. We owe much to our grandparents’ steadfastness in the face of almost overwhelming pressure to abandon yiddishkeit, and we can learn alot from them. But circumstances today are much more conducive to observance of the finer points of halachah than they were in the past. We may not be better than our grandparents, but we are “frummer”.

  11. chaim wolfson says:

    “If you take issue with something I wrote above, please be more specific, and I will either explain my comment better, or concede your point.” (Comment by Baruch Horowitz — September 10, 2007 @ 6:57 pm).

    Baruch, my comment was not addressed to any one specific person (least of all you!). I agree there’s a problem, and it’s not going to get solved by itself. My point was that I wonder if everyone believes it’s important to see the system fixed. Do some view the imperfections in the system as an excuse to eschew “daas Torah” entirely? That would be a terrible mistake and a great tragedy. The problem with people “march[ing] to their own drummer and trust[ing] their instinct in an appropriate way” is that the definition of “appropriate” can be very subjective. We all have our self-interests, and these almost invariably affect the way we view things. It’s fine to offer opinions on blogs about the most weighty issues facing the Jewish world, but very few of us have the necessary qualifications to decide such issues in real life. For all the complaints people have about the way it is practiced nowadays, the concept of “daas Torah” and submission to the authority of “gedolim” is what has kept us intact all these thousands of years. Now is not the time to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

    “I have never met Rabbi Adlerstein, but as far as Rabbi Tetelbaum I never would have described him that way.” (Comment by Jewish Observer — September 10, 2007 @ 11:18 pm).

    JO, but you’d have to agree that Rabbi Teitelbaum hates rats (and he’s very good at smelling them). He’s also blessed with a personality that cares little for what other people think about him.

    I, too, wish everyone a “ksiva v’chasima tova”, and best wishes for a year in which “vlamalshinim” need not be said at all.

  12. michoel halberstam says:

    I have concluded that since there are obviously people who believe that we should paskan sheilos from Kol Koreis, the time has come to collect these placards and print them like tshuva seforim. It will be interesting to see what the haskomos look like. Also what type of kol koreh wopuld you neeed to ban such a sefer. If you read carefully in the Gemara in Sanhedrin, you will find that the Kol Koreh was an invention of Yerovom ben Nvat, whose purpose was to get people to sign their name to something they would not otherwise sign. (Sanhedrin 101 b- 102 a)) When will we start treating these things like what they really are.

  13. dr. william gewirtz says:

    In the slang of “de alte zeiten,” this “cat” wishes you all a Ksiva Ve’chatimah Tova and best wishes for a year of health and peace and where “velamalshinim” need not be said as fervently with such kaavanah.

  14. Loberstein says:

    Rav Dovid Cohen told me at an AJOP Convention that we suffer from the assumption that there are no poskim-gedolim in America, that every issue must be decided only by Rav Elyashiv,exclusively. He said that in the past, the leaders of Israeli chareidi life deferred to American gedolim when asked a shailah about America. Why has this changed? I understand that there are some enclaves in the US that reject America and want to imitate Bnai Brak e.g. not teaching secular studies in elementary schools and not allowing ball playing. However, for most of us, we are very happy to follow the competent poskim and gedolim of this land. as has always been in our past. Just because the style in Israel is different ( in the chareidi world ) doesn’t mean we have to demolish all that is successful in America and ape their ways. There is much to admire in their lifestyle but it is not a requirement that NCSY cease to exist because it wouldn’t go over big in Bnai Brak .
    Those who blindly refuse to see anything wrong with Israeli chaerdim and condemn anyone who offers an opinion based on reality is living in a world of delusion. You aren’t necessarily frummer than me, just living in a world that is not based on a search for what is really true, your real philosophy is “don’t bother me with the facts, my mind is made up.”

  15. yitz says:

    To Yehoshua and everyone else,
    No I do not automatically believe everything I read, even in honorable publications like Mishpacha. However, this should apply to everyone here across the board — do you really believe that our Gedolim are being manipulated by people with the wrong intentions? Do you really believe everything that’s being circulated thru the Internet, including so-called “news” sites? Yes, you too have to use your brain & look into it. Has anyone consulted with any of the Gedolim that signed the Kol Koreh to find out what REALLY happened? Most of what we are dealing with here is pure speculation!
    As I mentioned in my first comment [#12 above], I DID use my brain & my own logic to demonstrate that at least one of the signatories, the Belzer Rebbe Shlita, was not misled. And how do you know that the allegation printed in Mishapacha is incorrect?

  16. Jewish Observer says:

    ” I believe Rabbis Teitelbaum and Adlerstein are very much housewives”

    – I have never met Rabbi Adlerstein, but as far as Rabbi Tetelbaum I never would have described him that way

  17. Baruch Horowitz says:

    While Rabbi Teitelbaum was discussing separate seating concerts, another point about the current Israeli approach seems to be that singers are penalized if they perform before mixed audiences in America, in that they are then not permitted to perform in Israel. While free market can dictate whom one hires, there is a question of whether Israeli standards should be forced on an American audience. In general, there is a question of when to make an issue out of something, as the media portrays forcing one’s view on someone else negatively.

    At least in the past twenty years, it was possible for a frum couple or family to be able sit together at Jewish Music concert or to attend together a non-Jewish Philharmonic concert, assuming that their rabbi indeed accepted such a standard. However, with Rabbi Teitelbaum’s middle path, even if the Israeli pressure will force American concerts to cut out family seating, at least the concerts themselves will be saved.

  18. Baruch Horowitz says:

    “Reading this post and the comments on it recalls to mind R’ Yisrael Salanter’s famous parable about the housewife and the cat…”

    Chaim,

    If you take issue with something I wrote above, please be more specific, and I will either explain my comment better, or concede your point.

    In general, I think that although it is true that Elul is not an ideal time to discuss these issues, that’s the way it worked out, based on Rabbi Teitelbaum’s timing of the essay.

    I don’t think that there is anyone on this thread who is a “cat”, in the sense of looking to perpetuate machalokes; the reality of Orthodox and Charedi life is that in the past few years, that have been painful issues with no easy solution in sight; as such, it is productive to simply recognize that reality, and also that focus on the issues will generate passionate feelings, which are not negative in of themselves.

  19. Yehoshua says:

    yitz:
    You quoted Mispocha saying “It was also pointed out that some 60-80% of youth who “drop out” from Yiddishkeit began their descent at these concerts” Do you really believe this just because you read it? As my Rosh Yeshiva pointed out, when you hear something that sounds absurd, use you brain and look into it instead of automatically accepting it as fact.

  20. chaim wolfson says:

    Re: my previous post. To avoid any misunderstanding, I would like to clarify that I believe Rabbis Teitelbaum and Adlerstein are very much housewives.

  21. chaim wolfson says:

    Reading this post and the comments on it recalls to mind R’ Yisrael Salanter’s famous parable about the housewife and the cat. The housewife had a problem with rats in her house, so she bought a cat to get rid of them. Every time the cat killed a rat, both the housewife and the cat were happy, but with one important difference: The housewife hoped the cat would find no more rats; the cat hoped it would find many more.

    At this time of introspection, it would behoove us to ask ourselves: Are we the housewife or are we the cat?

  22. yitz says:

    Rabbosai, in a post on this topic on my blog, a commenter suggested: “in order to treat an illness you must first explore what is causing that illness, only then can you cure it. Just forbidding the patient from going near the symptoms isn’t a cure.”

    To which I responded: “I surely wouldn’t want you to be MY doctor! Adreraba, if you leave the symptoms untouched while looking for the “root cause”, the patient might die in the interim! And do you really know that the Gedolim are NOT trying to get to the root causes? Perhaps things have gotten so far out of hand that they felt it just had to be stopped! In any cause, who are we to judge them?”

  23. yitz says:

    “it was also brought to light – in an article in Mishpacha – that there was an attempt at negotiations with the organizers of these concerts, and the musicians, to try to come to some kind of understanding. It was only when such negotiations failed that they issued their Kol Koreh. It was also pointed out that some 60-80% of youth who “drop out” from Yiddishkeit began their descent at these concerts. And instead of being an evening of inspiration, they have been more like one of “idol worship” [yes, like ‘rock idols’], screaming, and the like.”
    For those who asked, this entire part of my post above was my translation from the Hebrew Mishapacha magazine, except for the brackets. (The word they used for ‘idol worship’ was ‘segida’ which means ‘bowing down.’). They did not disclose their sources.

  24. Baruch Horowitz says:

    Joel,

    I reviewed the radio question, and think that the question Rabbi Teitelbaum was responding to was a different one than Shlomo’s(comment#2). Rabbi Teitelbaum was responding to a general question(submitted via e-mail) regarding leadership, not about following a particular psak. I quote from the interview:

    “You claim that the Gedolim are being mislead by various kannoim but should still be followed anyway. However, can a Rabbi still be considered a gadol or a leader of the community when he bans various activities without consulting independent sources or asking the other party to state their case”

    This is a difficult and sensitive question, but Rabbi Teitelbaum answered without hesitating(!), that there indeed different types of gedolim, and the less accessible type of gadol is still a gadol, only “we have to do everything possible to go into them and tell them the true facts, and tell them the other side of the story”.

    Shlomo’s question, above, was about following a specific psak, not leadership(“If the statements of the gedolim are based on false premises, why should they be followed?… R’ Teitelbaum is trying to square a circle here ” ). I think that Rabbi Titelbaum gave some type of balance regarding choosing your own poseik versus “even if they say left is right etc.”, but either way, it was a different question than the one on the radio.

    By the way, the issue of leadership is one of perception. If people even perceive that some gedolim don’t hear both sides and the concerns of the simple man on the street, whether or not that is true, that needs to be dealt with(the very least is that one recognizes the question, as did Rabbi Teitelbaum), as chilul Hashem is based on perception.

    Regarding Bais Yaakov Degrees, Sarah Schmidt indeed wrote in January that ” this committee interviewed dozens of administrators, principals, teachers, parents, students…”; I see there, at least, some type of procedure(even if I personally do not like the idea), rather than a less transparent process, and simple assertions of “60-80% of youth dropping out”.

    Who gave the above statistics? What about dissenting professional opinion about why kids drop out of Yiddishkeit? Acting out at concerts are a synmptom; what about internally, building up a person(see Dr. A.H. Fried’s essay at length)? What about improving concerts instead of banning them, as Rabbi Teitelbaum said? Also, I can understand Eretz Yisrael has different needs, but the human needs of people who aren’t cut out to be gedolim are the same everywhere, even if the milieu is different in Israel, so in one sense, if some people benefit from a concert in America, the same would be in Israel.

  25. joel rich says:

    “If the statements of the gedolim are based on false premises, why should they be followed?

    Someone asked a similar question to Rabbi Teitelbaum on the Zev Brenner show. He responded in a very forthright way, by saying that some gedolim, over history, have choosen to rely on their trusted people, while others have an “open door policy”, and are therefore more accessible. As an example of the latter, when a number of years ago, some wanted to ban concerts, Rabbi Teitelbaum named two gedolim with whom he was able to discuss the issue with(one from a previous generation in America, and one current, yibadeil l’chaim, from Eretz Yisrael).
    ===========================
    R’ Baruch – I don’t see how this answers the question. I assume the answer is that HKB”H allowed this information to get to the gedolim to elicit this psak irrespective of whether the information was accurate or not (a’ la the simplest view of behemtan shel tzaddikim)

    KVCT
    Joel Rich

  26. Baruch Horowitz says:

    In the interest of quoting as accurately as possible, when I commented above that “Rabbi Teitelbaum mentioned on the radio that his views are based on discussion with gedolim”, I think that this was a general statement about the basis of the thrust of his essay, ie, about the critical importance of providing “kosher alternatives”, and not just banning.

    One would have to ask Rabbi Teitelbaum himself, exactly what he discussed and with whom, as far as knowing what any particular gedolim feel about particular bans that were already issued.

  27. Baruch Horowitz says:

    “Zichrie tzaddikim”, s/b “zichron tzaddikim”(above, September 9, @ 3:23 pm).

  28. Baruch Horowitz says:

    ” Many readers of CC undoubtedly reached the same conclusions on their own… Now, lots of folks could have said that. Lots more certainly think it”

    In a more general sense, Rabbi Teitelbaum gives confidence to people who are “intellectually adventurous” and perhaps “march to their own drummer” to trust their own instincts in an appropriate way, notwithstanding the importance of “make for yourself a Rav, and acquiring a friend”(one should note that Rabbi Teitelbaum mentioned on the radio that his views are based on discussion with gedolim, but the point is that a non publicly-emphasized view can, in theory at least, be right, or be partially correct).

    If one’s friends are those whose knee-jerk response to an argument, is “did you ask daas Torah”, instead of at least hearing you out, then understandably, one might feel inadequate from a Jewish point of view, in contrast to Chazal’s dictum of “do not be a Rasha(evil person) in your own eyes”.

    On the Concert issue, an acquaintance of mine seemed to imply that I was automatically wrong because I am not a Gadol, so it’s nice to know that, at least sometimes, one is vindicated. I felt a similar sense of relief when learning how my opinions agreed with that of Rav Shlomo Zalman Aeurbach, as far as insisting on respecting Rav Kook, zichrie tzaddikim l’vracha, even though he was not of the same school of thought on some important issues.

    I can respect people who have a more Right Wing point of view than myself, and indeed think that I could learn from their concerns, including the importance of respecting gedolim’s view. But the courtesy should be returned; in other words, to at least *listen* to another person’s point of view, and give it *serious* intellectual consideration. This issue may be damaging the image of the Right of the Torah World, when in reality, it need not be like this. In short, as a friend of mine once said, membership in the Moetzes Gedolie Hatorah is not(or should not) be necessary before merely expressing a tentative opinion in the Frum world :)

  29. mb says:

    Yitz,

    You wrote,
    “It was also pointed out that some 60-80% of youth who “drop out” from Yiddishkeit began their descent at these concerts.”

    Did you have any credible source for this?

  30. Baruch Horowitz says:

    “The censorship/cheirim of many books/articles which go against the agenda of what he called “agitators” is a BIG problem in the Charedi world.”

    It is indeed a problem, and although not every issue is identical, Charedi periodicals and publishers are subject to it in different way, since they serve diverse communities. In Shaar Habitachon, the Chovos Halevavos writes that in general, one trusts someone, if one senses that he will benefit by doing so, and if someone needs to worry what new pressures Frum publications and periodicals will have, or whether changes will be made to a previosuly acceptable book due to new concerns raised(I’m not talking about R. Slifkin’s books), such an atmosphere is not conducive to cultivating trust and confidence in the “system” of public discussion of ideas(obviously, a mature person can, and should, respect such a system for what it is, while being aware of its imperfections).

    The good news is that “emes meretz tizmach” and Truth can not be suppressed indefinitely; a Charedi rav once told me a similar point.

  31. Baruch Horowitz says:

    ” Yet, it is only because he has done as much as anyone in our generation to expand the breadth and depth of Torah learning through his worldwide Dial-a-Daf programs that he is immune to ad hominem attacks on either his yiras Shomayim or his devotion to Torah learning.”

    One should also note that he has written publicly about topics like kavod Hatorah, lashon hara, letzanus etc, so his ideas on the current topic should be taken seriously.

    There have been many people, myself included, who have benefited from Rabbi Teitelbaum’s creativity in dissemination of Torah on a mass scale; his views in the essay on the value of music, sports, etc. when used to further Torah life, also reflect his own creative involvement in these areas over the years. This is Torah Im Derech Eretz brought out beautifully(and not a contradiction to other worldviews either). I hope that he continues to be involved in different projects benefiting the tzibbur, b’ezras Hashem.

    For those who benefited from Rabbi Teitelabum’s type of frankness coming from within the Yeshiva World, check out Rabbi Dr. Aron Hirsch Fried’s recent interview on OU Radio with Steve Savitsky, as well as his article in the latest Hakirah Journal (both available online).

  32. Baruch Horowitz says:

    “If the statements of the gedolim are based on false premises, why should they be followed?

    Someone asked a similar question to Rabbi Teitelbaum on the Zev Brenner show. He responded in a very forthright way, by saying that some gedolim, over history, have choosen to rely on their trusted people, while others have an “open door policy”, and are therefore more accessible. As an example of the latter, when a number of years ago, some wanted to ban concerts, Rabbi Teitelbaum named two gedolim with whom he was able to discuss the issue with(one from a previous generation in America, and one current, yibadeil l’chaim, from Eretz Yisrael).

    Rabbi Teitelbaum stressed that even gedolim who are less accessible are still gedolim, but “we have to do everything possible to go into them and tell them the true facts, and tell them the other side of the story”.

  33. Baruch Horowitz says:

    “There must be some people far less enthusiastic than I am, because the original has been bowdlerized.”

    Some people’s emunas chachamim may be harmed by open, frank discussion of this type of issue, but others, to the contrary, are harmed by an atmosphere which is not open and forthright, which is certainly inherent in censoring the essay of someone, who as Rabbi Adlerstien wrote, is trying to face a problem which people are aware of without contradicting Yiras Shomayim(to the contrary, he’s trying to help people respect gedolim).

    It should be noted that on the Zev Brenner Show, Rabbi Teitelbaum *insisted* on reading the entire original, un-bowdlerized version printed on Cross Currents. For those who live in Brooklyn, pick up a copy of the Country Yossie Magazine, and you also will find the full version of the article in Rabbi Teitelbaum’s regular column.

    In truth, the Yated should be commended for allowing discussion of the “kosher alternatives” aspect, even if did not allow a discussion of the more sensitive issue of how public decisions are sometimes made in the Charedi world. I also think that the website which edited or(temporarily) took down the article should be frank and open with its readership and explain its concerns; I think people will(and should) respect, at least the motives behind a decision, when one is open about why one made it(even if people will still vehemently disagree with it).

  34. Yirmeyahu says:

    “Gezairah she-ain rov Tzibur yocholim laamod bo” (a decree the majority can not abide by). If anyone shows me a set of laws that prohibits virtually ant type of recreation, they will have to either prove that it is biblical or prove that at some time in history the majority of Jews actually were able to abide by it.

    I believe the implication that we have to some how “prove” that a gezeirah was accepted is faulty. If the poskim for over fifteen hundred years haven’t made any note that the tzibur wasn’t able to accept such a gezeirah then I would say that there is a very strong chazaka that it applies. I’m also inclined to believe that such a gezeira must be actively retracted, i.e. the Beis Din must recognize that it wasn’t accepted an annul it. Furthermore I don’t think this concept can be applied to anything codified in the Talmud, “However, all the matters mentioned by the Babylonian Talmud are incumbent on the entire Jewish people to follow.” Introduction to the Mishneh Torah of the Rambam (Moznaim page 28).

  35. yitz says:

    I find the “we-know-better” attitude expressed by many of the commenters & even, b’mechilas k’vodo, by Rav Teitelbaum [if indeed they are his words] astounding! For example, one of the signatories on the Kol Koreh concerning concerts was the Belzer Rebbe Shlita. The Belzer Rebbe was the one who initiated the choir in Belz, and guided those Chassidim who were musically talented, to compose niggunim & put them out on disks and tapes. It was Belz who put Moshe Mona Rosenblum on the Jewish music “map,” if you will. To say that he is misinformed & doesn’t know what’s going on at these concerts, is just pure nonsense! While it may seem to many of us that our Gedolim have “gone overboard” in this recent Kol Koreh, it was also brought to light – in an article in Mishpacha – that there was an attempt at negotiations with the organizers of these concerts, and the musicians, to try to come to some kind of understanding. It was only when such negotiations failed that they issued their Kol Koreh. It was also pointed out that some 60-80% of youth who “drop out” from Yiddishkeit began their descent at these concerts. And instead of being an evening of inspiration, they have been more like one of “idol worship” [yes, like ‘rock idols’], screaming, and the like. Even Rav Teitelbaum expresses this in his penultimate paragraph: “Yes, there are legitimate concerns that must be addressed in order to make sure that concerts are conducted in a true Yiddish atmosphere and flavor. Performers should not be Jewish rock or rap singers and the music should not imitate todays street hip-hop culture as some performers unfortunately do. Sadly, I’ve gone to frum weddings where the music and dancing felt like one was in a discothque with only the flashing lights missing.” Sadly, I’ve even seen ones with the flashing lights, and fireworks, present.
    And the following from a MO blog called “the Muqata” does not bespeak well for change in this area: “We’ve been to a lot of weddings lately, yet they aren’t as enjoyable as the used to be. Band music is so deafening, so powerful, that you can’t have a simple conversation with the person next to you, let alone across the table. Airports are fined for what passes as Jewish wedding music these days. More and more people are coming to weddings with earplugs, and while they can’t converse with you, at least they aren’t suffering from permanent hearing damage.”
    Perhaps our Gedolim aren’t as misinformed as we’d like to think they are, and it’s we that are deluding ourselves? And I would extend that question to those who think a “ban” on concerts is a “gezeira sh’ein haTzibbur yachol la’amod bo.” Again, perhaps we’re deluding ourselves – we need to first correct what’s wrong so that a viable “alternative,” yes Kosher and not “kosher-style,” emerges. Shana Tova to all!

  36. Charles B. Hall says:

    “If there is an actual divergence of opinion in the poskim (with respect to the above sources) I would love to see it”

    The rav to whom I address most of my shilahs has told me that Rov Soloveitchik held that all classical music was mutar. That included concerts with mixed seating and women singing. Yeshiva University has held an annual opera fundraiser for some time and continues to do so.

    Regarding “Jewish” music, there are many shuls that held concerts tonight before the first selichot service. (I attended a pre-selichot shiur instead.) It is clear that concerts of Jewish music have been acceptable for quite some time in almost all, it not absolutely all, observant Jewish communities. The burden is on those who wish to change the halachic acceptability of such to justify the change from what is clearly an established minhag. (The rabbis who have forbidden concerts of course have the authority to do so for thie own communities.)

  37. Yehoshua Mandelcorn says:

    The Torah was given to a nation of millions, not to a small cadre of thousands. Any Rabbinic decree that the majority of our nation of millions can not live by is by definition “Gezairah she-ain rov Tzibur yocholim laamod bo” (a decree the majority can not abide by). If anyone shows me a set of laws that prohibits virtually ant type of recreation, they will have to either prove that it is biblical or prove that at some time in history the majority of Jews actually were able to abide by it. By allowing at least some forms of recreation over the last 50 years, the community of those who keep Torah and Mitzvos has grown dramatically. If what was permitted the past 50 years now becomes prohibited we may, G-d forbid, lose most of these gains.

  38. Jonathan Rosenblum says:

    Rabbi Teitelbaum’s response required tremendous courage because of his prominent position within the Torah world. Yet, it is only because he has done as much as anyone in our generation to expand the breadth and depth of Torah learning through his worldwide Dial-a-Daf programs that he is immune to ad hominem attacks on either his yiras Shomayim or his devotion to Torah learning.

    One of those closest to Rav Hutner, zt”l, told me last year that Rav Hutner used to say, “You are not mechanech with issurim.” Perhaps there are other reasons for bans, but they should not be considered chinuch.

  39. Yirmeyahu says:

    Kosher alternatives need to be kosher, not kosher style. There are halachos which govern this stuff and near as I can tell spectator functions are halachicly problematic. See M.A.307:22, A.H. 307:9, M.B. 307:59, and Igros Moshe Y.D. 4:11. The M.A. 224:3 and M.B. 224:4 seem to state that they present halachic problems even when “Jewish”. There are also other halachos pertinent to entertainment, especially music.

    I actually wish this topic would just be left alone. Already the M.B. notes that people transgress in this area, and I think many poskim prefer just not to raise the issue if it isn’t going to help. The problem is that agitators like to act as if there is no halachic issue…everything becomes hashkafic and how one defines one’s orthodoxy.

    If there is an actual divergence of opinion in the poskim (with respect to the above sources) I would love to see it, really. But no one presets it in the online discussions I have seen over the years.

    Additionally we need to remember that O.C. 231 would demand that our recreation be with the intent that we reinvigorate ourselves for avodas Hashem.

  40. mb says:

    Except his response has now been edited. The banners have banned once again.

  41. Yehoshua says:

    Why was his piece pulled? I think the *courage* of R. Teitelbaum must be emphasized. The censorship/cheirim of many books/articles which go against the agenda of what he called “agitators” is a BIG problem in the Charedi world.

  42. Bob Miller says:

    The quoted article seems to say that:

    1. Poskim need correct information to make correct decisions. Agitators provide wrong information that leads to wrong decisions.

    2. Once a Jew has selected a posek to follow, the decisions that posek makes, even if not 100% correct, become binding on that person. This assumes that consistent obedience to one’s previously chosen posek has significant independent value.

    This raises some questions:

    1. Should one follow one’s chosen posek only in areas where he is well-known to be an expert in the subject matter at hand, or he is at least guided by such a expert?

    2. If the particular subject area that includes one’s current situation is better understood by a posek one has not been following until now, should one now begin to follow the latter’s decisions in this area? Should one at least ask the latter for a second opinion? If the two opinions differ, what then?

    3. Is one’s posek’s presumption of accuracy suspended in cases where he clearly decided or acted as he did because of wrong information? Or do we say we can’t know enough to judge whether or not the wrong information affected his decision?

  43. dr. william gewirtz says:

    excellent post – two points:

    1) the old expression: “fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me,” might have some relevance. If a rav has a more than isolated habit of “Right is left and left is right” or being taken in by whomever, then one has to wonder either about his worldliness or lomdus or temperment, etc. In any case, one is hardly obligated to blindly follow.

    2) Rabbi Teitelbaum writes: “one must seek a leading posek and follow his ruling on all matters and not go “posek hopping.” ” The two parts of the sentance are hardly the same; classic non-sequitor. one ought not go posek hopping, unless a second opinion on a particular issue is recommended or suggested by the first person you consult. OTOH, one can (not must) chooose a different posek for different matters, much like choosing different specialists in any field. Ideally, however, your local Rav is your first point-of-call.

  44. Steve Brizel says:

    This was a very important and necessary response that hopefully should lead and contribute to discussions about the root causes of these issues.

  45. Shlomo says:

    If the statements of the gedolim are based on false premises, why should they be followed? (assuming that gedolim themselves wouldn’t want incorrect opinions to be followed)

    But if the statements of the gedolim are not based on false premises, what are the “agitators” doing wrong?

    It seems to me that there’s no middle ground, and R’ Teitelbaum is trying to square a circle here.

    BTW I agree, posek-hopping is a great example of intellectual dishonesty.

  46. Loberstein says:

    Very impressive. I have heard from very choshuva (important) and well connected insiders in the upper echelons of the Agudah world the same sentiments on the concert and many other issues. No one has had the courage to do what Eli Teielbaum has done publicly, everyone gripes privately. Many have told me that the signatures on the poster do not necessarily mean that the person approved to have his name, he only said , if the other rabbi signed than I go along. My problem is that it creates a crisis for true believers.

    Rabbi Teitelbaum is right that we have to listen to the gedolim, but is it fair to ask that the gedolim listen to us also, not only to their handlers.At what point will people deal with the crises they face other than keeping a finger in the dike. I long for the gedolim of yesteryear who were able to deal so much better with the vital issues of the day and who left a legacy of the miraculous rebirth of Torah America. .