Lipa – Response to Readers


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 obliged 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.

Personally, I find it hard to believe that the complete disappearance of mega-concerts for all times would drive kids off the derech. (Note: I am not advocating or defending, just presenting a thought arguendo.) Kids (and adults) who need outlets need them on a regular basis, not twice a year. Banning music or mp3 players might help push hundreds of kids over the brink, but not banning concerts. (I will admit to harboring questions for decades about the permissibility of attending mass concerts because of the zecher l’churban halacha.) 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 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!

Why did he not stand up to everyone, instead of going along with the group? Why does he not get up and clearly articulate his position? Why does he not publicly reassert the need for gedolim in America to make their own decisions instead of asking all questions thousands of miles away? (I will put money on Rav Elyashiv shlit”a and Rav Chaim Kanievsky shlit”a looking approvingly at such a proposal, just like in the old days of a few years ago.) I do not know. I can think of many reasons, and I’m sure I’m missing many more. There are times you can get up and fight, and times when you lose more in the long run. If I myself can understand such possibilities, I am certainly obligated to give Rav Shmuel the benefit of the doubt. So should many others.

One point of this article seems to be that some producers/musicians may be creating public spectacles which in themselves promote values foreign to Judaism. To me, this suggests there are hashkafah problems within the target audience. Nobody would put on a mega-event that was unlikely to fill up the house. What factors, then, have created the audience for these things, among the very group brought up to resist alien/pop culture the most? This may show the futility of a purely defensive strategy against the lures of our golus.

I’m not sure why. Certainly, there is a gradient of infection. While it may be too late for some, it will not be too late for others, both present and future. 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.

I am traveling and cannot remember the name of the rav who gave the psak, but I believe Elbogen quotes a tshuva about chazannim that went MaiAchora HaKotel at the vatican to find musical inspiration; their actions were praised, I believe.

If memory serves me correctly (I should be in bed by now), Rav Ovadya shlit”a completely dismisses this report in his teshuva about non-Jewish music in Yabia Omer.

The people who signed the ban are “Chareidi” Gedolim. If NCSY followed the Hashkafa of Chareidi Gedolim it would not exist.

This is historical revisionism. NCSY had the support and participation of many, many gedolei Yisrael of the charedi world. When I worked as an advisor, the administration was top-heavy with Chaim Berliners, acting with the guidance and blessing of Rav Hutner. Eastern Seaboard region was called “Ner Israel Region” colloquially. Rav Yaakov Kaminetsky, acting as the head of the Bais Yaakov of Balitmore education committee, issued a ruling about girls participating in NCSY and Bnei Akiva. He banned the latter (not out of any anti-Zionism – while he was alive the school had an Israeli flag and recognized Yom Ha’atzmaut to some extent, or so I was told), but permitted the former to girls who had become observant through it. He once said (in Yiddish), “I am an NCSY’er.” The NCSYers out there will back me up with recollections of a host of black-frocked charedi leaders who visited National Convention.

I understand that you don’t have the inside facts, but you surely know the “Zealots” who are involved, and whose name(s) have been openly mentioned on the Yeshiva World web site. Here is your chance to expose them. Will you take advantage of this opportunity? (Don’t forget that in previous posts you have mentioned that these zealots represent a tremendous danger to Klal Yisroel).

I think I did! Read again. 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.

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.

Many kids raised in secular American homes found their way to Yiddishkeit via NCSY and Jewish music including songs which were based upon popular culture songs but “nitharu” with lyrics derived from Tanach or Jewish content. while, I’m sure that some of the kanoim who acted against Lipa might oppose these venues as well (and there is basis to do so) I suspect that the “over the top” nature of current “Big Events” type concerts which include You-Tube music video promotions is more likely the center of their ire.

I suspect that you are very correct.

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? 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.

[continued below at comment 20]

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L Oberstein
7 years 7 months ago

To Clarify this confusion. Moran Harav Eliyashiv has said that his psak was for Eretz Yisrael only and that the Gedolim in america should decide for america.

Comment by Sam

I don’t think for a moment that Rav Elyashiv ever insisted that he is the only authority in the world.Rather, it is zealots in the Diaspora who feel the local poskim are too liberal or tolerant of diversity or however they phrase it. The bottom line is that they go over the heads of the American Gedolim by insinuating that they are lighweights compared to Rav Elyashiv. Now, it may be that factually Rav Elyashiv is on a higher level than some local poskim, but I do not think that this is what our mesora has historically taught.

Steve Brizel
7 years 7 months ago

Menachem Lipkin-WADR, depending on the region, NCSY regional directors advisors range all the way from YCT to RIETS and Charedi yeshivos. The female regional directors advisors also encompass a range of seminaries and college students who have attended SCW, Touro, Brandeis, Ivy League Schools and Emory.

7 years 7 months ago

It really pains me to hear you say that such a ban has “no impact on [your] life.”
Leadership roles assume the knowledge of “Different strokes for different folks” (within the realm of halacha). Jewish(?) music is a spiritual diet for some, while heavy textual studies fills the diet of others. Bans have never resulted in highering ‘kavoad shem shamayin’.

7 years 7 months ago

To Clarify this confusion. Moran Harav Eliyashiv has said that his psak was for Eretz Yisrael only and that the Gedolim in america should decide for america.

7 years 7 months ago

“It is likely not mutar according to the Maharik (#88). Look at the original, or the citation in the Bais Yosef in YD 178. The Maharik offers two cases in which non-Jewish clothes should not be worn. One is where these clothes have been rejected by Jews because of some degree of immodesty. Another is when wearing them is a sign of “conceding to their non-Jewish ways.” It is not clear whether this concession is a theological one, or a cultural one. The poskim I’ve spoken to either hold the latter way, or at least see it as a strong possibility”

I think you’ve misunderstood the question. They are just as much doing that (or not doing that) when the styles are on the racks as when they are just coming out. The idea here is supposed to be that when something is in style, people wear it because it’s available and happen to enjoy its being in style, but when it first comes out, they wear it to “copy the goyim.” But when it first comes out, they wear it to set trends for others, so if anything, the reverse should be true – they may be copying what they saw when a style is new, but becoming widely available, and not copying them before it’s current (when they are wearing the clothing that is not yet widely worn, and what they wear will BE COPIED by others). In reality, people want to wear what’s new and different that looks good, and the upscale predominately jewish shmatte industry caters to them. So “One of them would demand distinctively Jewish dress; the other permits any dress whose style could just as easily have been invented by Jews for Jews.” the styles are invented by (majority) Jews, for anyone who wants to wear something fashionable, which by definition is going to change regularly. I don’t see how clothing styles that by definition change regularly can be chukas hagoyim because they are new, because that is part of the process…the changes is regular and expected.

Sometimes women copy particular actresses etc…but I dont think chukas hagoyim is copying particular people.

The other problem with this analysis is that it doesn’t attend to how styles make it to mainstream. First they appear on runways and become trendy among the most fashion forward. Then styles filter down. (This happens faster than it used to – it used to filter down over years at times to progressively lower cost clothing, now styles are copied very quickly.) Depending on what circles one runs in, the style that appeared yesterday on the runaway might be what “Everyone” is wearing.