Posted on | March 4, 2008 | By Guest Contributor | 104 Comments
As many in the frum world are aware, there was a commotion recently over a ban issued by our Gedolim concerning attending concerts in general, and an upcoming event in particular. I have multiple reactions to this news, some of it sorrowful as one target of the ban (Lipa Schmeltzer) has provided me with much enjoyment and spiritual uplifting through his recorded music. But more disturbing is the upheaval over how we are to receive the words of a Kol Koreh such as this one, signed by 33 Gedolim.
I was very moved when the producer of the concert, Shea Mendlowitz, gave a statement on Motzai Shabbos in which he made it clear that he and Mr. Schmeltzer are determined to abide by the words of the Gedolim, and if Hashem wants this event to occur, it will, and if not, not. This despite the potential for tremendous financial loss. He also appealed again and again to people to refrain from criticizing the Gedolim in any way, and that this “dangerous” situation should be resolved for the klal, B’Shalom. I am also very moved by reports that came out the next day, that the entertainer had decided to cancel his performance, and in deference to the Gedolim, to overhaul his style to be more in tune with appropriate frum music. And this despite that he is extremely popular, having nearly sold out Madison Square Garden for the upcoming performance, and being one of the most sought after singers on the Kosher Hotel circuit. Some say his retraction was, indeed, the “Big Event”.
But the most unsettling part for me (my husband as well), is that without having an FFB education, in which unquestioning acceptance of such a Kol Koreh was simply understood, we just don’t know how to react. Sure, we try to work on our ability to submit to Daas Torah, understanding full well that we don’t even begin to approach their level of knowledge of what is good for the klal. But we would be insincere if we said we had no doubts. And judging from the NEED to appeal to the masses not to criticize the Gedolim, I guess we are not alone. We seem to want to demand accountability, as we would before submitting to some other types of authority. We seem to expect to understand the process by which the decree was arrived at, and have it make sense to us. We want to know that those issuing the decree are completely above suspicion, and are each well-versed in the facts of the case. HOW DO WE KNOW? And is it just a BT thing to even want/demand to know? And should we not be second guessing with ideas for other solutions, other than an attempted outright ban on all concerts?
I guess another reason I took this incident to heart is because just a few months ago there was a different uproar over the exposure of large numbers of frum kids doing off the derech things in the Catskills, followed by great hand-wringing and some resolutions to provide more kosher outlets of entertainment and stress-release. I thought this type of concert was exactly that, but maybe what is a kosher outlet to one, is off the derech to another?
I know Mark & David have done an outstanding and tireless job to keep this blog unique among its peers as a respectful place to exchange ideas, and perhaps part of that effort has been to stick with more parve topics, so I hope this very sensitive issue will be printable here, as I would appreciate hearing the thoughtful responses of other BT’s.
Thanks, and Kol Tuv
Before we let this go to comment, I spoke to a few great people about this to get their perspective and I will synthesize their comments here.
In Judaism, we are allowed to question, but at the same time we have to respect Rabbinic Authority. Just because we don’t understand a particular Psak, does not mean we are free to disobey it. In the case of bans, the best advice is to talk to your own Rabbi for hashkafic and halachic guidance.
Another point is that we are not privy to all the information that goes into a specific decision. I have seen the Rabbinic decision making process a few times and unless you are inside, you have no idea of all the factors in play. Unfortunately on the Internet, people are hesitant to admit their own lack of knowledge, quick to disparage, and stingy on giving the benefit of the doubt, but we have to clearly see that this is not what the Torah teaches.
In terms of the great Rabbis of our generation we have to recognize:
1) They are people of integrity
2) They are learned in Torah
3) They are committed to helping Klal Yisroel
4) They are faced with very difficult Hashkafic questions on a regular basis
Few people can match up to their stature.
With that preamble, we will open up the comments, but we insist the proper respect be shown to Rabbinic Authority and the Torah that stands behind it and that all comments be constructive.