Idol Chatter

Before I start this entry, let me just say that Orthodox Jews are not against music. To the contrary, music figures prominently in liturgical recitations, holiday celebrations, and of course at bar/bat mitzvahs, weddings, and other family simchas (occasions of happiness). That said, there is a lot of concern from various ultra-Orthodox groups about the kind of reaction that music inspires in people, and as to whether that reaction is appropriate, modest, and Godly.This concern most recently manifested in the cancellation of a very highly anticipated benefit concert at Madison Square Garden, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported, following a ruling by 33 fervently Orthodox rabbis that appeared to condemn all public musical performances. The show was called off with two weeks’ notice, leaving the organizers out $100K and the fans holding pieces of paper that were once tickets but were now worthless. And what about the children? The concert’s beneficiary was Simchat Tzion, an organization that pays for weddings for orphans who cannot afford to cover their costs.Hamodia, a religious newspaper, celebrated the cancellation (as quoted in the JTA story):

“The bottom line is that Gedolei Yisrael [Torah authorities] have spoken, and their message has, baruch Hashem [thank God], been heard,” the paper opined. “That should be music to everyone’s ears.”

(Of course, quite literally, it’s NOT music to anyone’s ears now, because there’s no concert.)By the way, we’re not talking a Britney Spears or Madonna concert here. There are no naked women (and perhaps not any women at all) to object to, nor are the music and lyrics in question. And this isn’t a “Footloose” scenario, wherein all the kids in town are going to revolt and hold a secret prom with rock-and-roll and dancing. So what’s the problem? I have not seen the ruling in question, but insiders say, it seems somewhat ambiguous.

Binyomin Jolkovsky, the publisher of the Web site Jewish World Review, told JTA that the ruling’s ambiguity may have been intentional. “The people who understand them understand them,” Jolkovsky said of the rabbis, adding that the rabbinic ruling appears to be a reaction to a creeping secular influence in haredi music.

What lengths should any of us go to to protect the values that we hold dear? And how far is too far? And should spiritual authority go unquestioned? Watch a clip of the music here:

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