Concerts, Intellectual Understanding and Rabbinic Authority

Dear Mark/David:

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.

– Mark

104 comments on “Concerts, Intellectual Understanding and Rabbinic Authority

  1. I think our enemies derive strength from reading our blogs. I am truly shaken to the core.

  2. Found today in New York Sun article:

    “Just as there is a special place in hell for perpetrators of attacks on men women and children doing nothing but going about their daily lives, there is a special section there reserved for attackers of young men who were sitting and studying Torah,” said the director of public affairs for Agudath Israel of America, Rabbi Avi Shafran. “Those who were killed, not the murderers for whom Palestinians use the word, are true martyrs, holy innocent souls killed only because they are Jews.”

  3. For us to be worthy of deliverance, we have to keep our everyday behavior on a high level, so concern about concerts isn’t so trivial.

  4. Kinda puts this concert nareshkeit into perspective. May Hashem avenge these precious souls.

  5. I received an email this afternoon from the Yeshiva World news service about tehillim services being organized at major shuls on account of this sad event. It read in part:

    “In the United States, many Shuls were quickly arranging many Tehillim, and Kinnos Hisorirus gatherings for Thursday night. As of this time, YWN has learned that K’hal Tiferes Yackov (Hagoen Rav Avrohom Schorr Shlita) will be having a Kinnus Hisorirus at 10:00PM [1212 East 15th Street]; and the Agudath Yisroel Bais Binyomin will be having a Kinnus Hisorirus at 10:30PM; and the Mora D’asra – Rav Pinchos Breuer Shlita will be speaking for men and women [2913 Avenue L].
    In Baltimore there will be a community gathering for Tehillim tonight at 8:15PM at Shearith Israel Congregation (the “Glen Avenue Shul”).”

    This came in an email from the Bostoner Chassidic Community in Har Nof:

    “Consequent upon the murderous attack in Yerushalayim tonight on
    Merkaz HaRav Kook Yeshiva, The Bostoner Rebbe Shlita has issued a
    call from his Beis Hamedrash in Yerushalayim asking every Yid
    wherever he is, whatever he is doing, to stop now and recite three
    chapters of Tehillim, any three chapters. Those who need a Refua
    Shleima should be healed, those that need a yeshua to get the yeshua
    they need. Now is a time for all Yidden to stand together and direct
    ourselves to the Ribbono Shel Olam.

    Nesanel Peterman

  6. IMO, the biggest problem with this ban is that ultimately, many people will ignore it, and therefore, the position of our Gedolim gets lowered. In the grand scheme of things, this is not the most important issue in the world (although you wouldn’t know it from the blogosphere), there are way more important things out there – such as what Steve Brizel points out about Sderot. When Rebbeim issue bans such as this, how will the Klal respond when one is issued on a much more significant issue.

    Also, if their ban was too exclude concerts being done to raise tzedakah, why would they put this out right before The Big Event, which was to raise money for orphans in Israel. Next will be a ban on Chinese Auctions, no doubt. That would therefore eliminate two of the most successful means of fundraising out there.

    And in so far as Jewish music having routes in non-Jewish sources – didn’t anyone ever wonder why a lot of Sephardi music has clearly African/Mid-Eastern origins (such as Yeminite), and Klezemar clearly resembles Eastern European and Russian music of the same period. Carlebach performed at places like the Village Gate because his style fit right in with the guitar playing folk musicians of the early ’60’s. These examples show how Jewish music, since we have been nomadic in Galus, has picked up styles from many host countries. Which would explain how these days Jewish music has picked up American rock music sounds.

  7. A point about emunas chachamim:

    At night, a person cannot see — he needs emunah. It says: “Your emunah is at night” (Tehillim 92:3). We grasp what is behind things, but we do not actually see it. This is emunah.

    Those of us that have been privileged to meet gedolim, and/or have close relationships with their talmidim, understand clearly their high level of integrity, love and concern for every Jew, and the great sense of responsibility they feel for Klal Yisrael.

    So even when we don’t understand a particular move they make, we don’t *see* it, our underlying emunah is that they have the Klal Yisrael’s best interest at heart and are doing their utmost to preserve the continuity of the Am Hashem. In the final analysis, they may turn out to be right, despite what it seems to us at this juncture.

    It’s like an analogy of a person who can see ten times better than 20/20 vision. If he were to tell someone to hit the ground, there’s a projectile heading this way, we’d be wise to hit the deck, even though we can’t see a thing.

    For example, over thirty years ago Rav Shach was making a very big deal about messianic tendencies in Chabad, and he was roundly criticized for making a mountain out of a molehill. Today, we see the situation quite differently, do we not?

    Perhaps the issue of mega-concerts and the perceived acquiescence to kanoim about tznius issues, certain books, secular learning, etc., things about which we’re in the dark, need to be viewed with emunah.

  8. If an organization is not mentioned, it stands to reason that the organization as such did not issue it.

  9. Yakov, a few posts back, characterized the Kol Koreh as applying to Agudas Yisroel. While many of the Rabbis who signed this are members of the Moetzes, the document itself did not seem to have been issued by Agudath Israel of America. Did the entire Moetzes sign it? I would make a distinction between an official AYOA Kol Koreh and one that was issued outside of their jurisdiction. Would anybody else make this distinction?

  10. In light of the Eretz Yisrael — America divide:

    This point made me think. I live in a neighborhood that is the constituency, if you will, of the Israeli gedolim. I mean, my daughter goes to kindergarten with a girl named Leah Elyashiv (you can guess who her great-grandfather is).

    But I never would have heard of the Slifkin ban if I hadn’t stumbled onto blogs in 2006. And the concert ban (Teddy Stadium) in 2007 raised not an eyebrow in this neighborhood.

    So what gives? To whom are these bans directed? Nobody in the population that have accepted these gedolim gets excited about them or pays much attention to them. So who’s the target audience?

  11. In this case, Ron, it’s even unclear that anyone overseas was really involved. Names can be invoked “for effect” without the knowledge or authorization of the named people.

  12. I think it is necessary, especially for those of us who came in late (which is most of us here) to be aware of a small point, though, Charnie: Although R’ Moshe is appropriately recalled with fondness and reverence, and was eulogized for his historic greatness by all, he was not “universally” recognized as the unquestioned Gadol HaDor by all orthodox Jews, on all matters, at all times. Many of his decisions were very controversial in his time, and there are many highly regarded rabbonim and communal leaders — to the right and to the left — that did not and do not rely on them, sometimes ruling more leniently than R’ Moshe did and sometimes more strictly.

    Furthermore, although there was no one during his lifetime who was considered a greater posek, his dominantn leadership role was largely confined to North America.

    On the other hand, during his life his stature was so profound that it was understood by gedolim in other countries that this territory was indeed “his,” along with R’ Yaakov’s and the others of that great postwar group. Today much of what we are experiencing, and what underlies some of the phenomena we are discussing here, is a result of the breakdown of that borderline, and far more involvement of certain overseas figures in affairs here than would ever have taken place during R’ Moshe’s life.

    And there is not here.

  13. A published ban becomes especially disconcerting (no pun intended!) when people “in the know” in the target group, even some Rabbonim, say or imply that it wasn’t meant literally and that we have to read between the lines. Likewise, when some signatories are later said to disavow all or part of its content. The rank and file should get the straight scoop, not a puzzle. The document should be 100% as intended by all signatories, direct, well-supported and unambiguous. If the direction has to be so hedged, gradated and nuanced as to make a clear publication impossible, don’t print it.

  14. Dovid –
    This concert,like the one that kano’im tried to shut down in Israel, was organized and advertised as having separate seating – including separate entrances – and no intermission to prevent mixed-sex socializing.

    When I compare this to the arrangements for Orthodox musicians when I was young – it’s clear that the standards of tzniyus have only increased.

  15. Hamodia, upon request, sent me a copy of the Kol Koreh. The first thing I did was look through it to see if my husband’s Rebbe was one of those listed. He wasn’t – which raises questions like did he disagree with his peers, he wasn’t asked to sign, or what? It seems to me that the reason there are still so many people saying “Rav Moshe said…”, is because he was universally respected and revered by all observant Jews, Chassidishe, Litviks, MO, etc. Maybe that had something to do with the sensitivity he always brought to a posuk halacha. Would the Klal be able to abide by it, or was it just ink on paper.

    Music is very important to me. While I’ve rarely attended any of these concerts (and am grateful that those for tzedakah were not banned – can you imagine how Hasc or Ohel, for example, would survive without their annual concerts and therefore, how many children would suffer), I do think they are a realitively healthy outlet. And I’m glad that Rav Horowitz took the position on this that he did. As many of you may have seen, there was a lot of discussion on about this – and so many people said things like “why can’t kids learn on Motzei Shabbos instead of needing outlets”. I’ll tell you why. Typically a HS boy spends upwards of 8-10 hours a day in yeshiva, plus Sunday. He has a few minutes of recess here and there. He needs a kasher outlet – he’s still only a kid, and everywhere he looks, they’re being taken away!

  16. Ellen: Thanks for responding. There were more evenly split comments on BBT at one time, perhaps there will be again….
    You said “I believe that as the screws of the chareidi world are getting twisted tighter and tighter, there are more kids who are already very turned off and angry, who will certainly allow this issue to add to their sense of disenfranchisement, if not put them over the top” 2 points about disenfranchised youth. First, I wonder what percentage of ticket buyers fall into this category? The disenfranchised youth I know wouldn’t go near a concert like this and are more likely to be found in the clubs that were described in Dovid’s comment. But I guess there are degrees of disenfranchisement. In any case I’m guessing there are a lot of adults who need the kosher outlet and uplifting as well.
    Second, a point about youth balking at the tightening of limitations–agreed, however when that tightening is paired with a response by the charedi community that we give Kavod outwardly but disregard inwardly, the young people (dare I say, especially BT’s?) quickly detect the inconsistency and turn away. I assert that the hypocritical response is as much a factor in OTD as the tight screws.

    Dovid, I’m glad you brought up the point about the remoteneess of the Gedolim; I think in the end this is what prompted my post. I also see their pictures and get a strange feeling, akin to how secular Jews disconnect with charedi Jews and feel as though they are in a different religion altogether. Trying to connect with them through our own Rabbaim or pupils sounds like the next best thing to more direct contact (even videos would be better than nothing). But this hinges on the pupil being able to pass down the inspiration from his mentor successfully. It sounds like Mark has had this experience through his own Rav, but I’m guessing that many of us have not been as fortunate.
    I have to admit, that with this hemhorrage that has resulted from the most recent ban, I am waiting and hoping for some kind of address of acknowledgement and repair by the Gedolim to the masses. Am I crazy?

  17. Dovid, I think you connect to the gedolim, by connecting to your Rabbi who is hopefully connected and is influenced by the greatest people among us.

    One of my Rebbeim has reached the point where he is basically available 24×7. If the situation warrants it, he makes it clear that he can be called or contacted at any time. He has learned this aspect of complete servitude to the Klal from his teachers who are among the gedolim. He makes it clear and often relates of the greatness of these people.

  18. Dovid,

    We have a local rabbi/businessman/academic who has spent much quality time with Gedolim while learning in Israel and the US. His vignettes of them, including descriptions of their brilliance, consideration, lack of affectation and ultra-modest style of living, made a big impression on me. So, if you can’t connect with them directly, find their pupils.

  19. Ron & Bob – I agree with both of you regarding the situation with our Gedolim and the disapointing way in which their rulings are diseminated amongst the klal…and how only certain segments of us seem to abide by their psak halocha. To think that their are entire communities that pay little or no heed to our generation’s gedolim both frustrates and confuses me. On the other hand, I’m not aware of any particular mode of communication that is “officially” used by them. That’s not a good thing. I can’t contribute anything to solving that, and only hope a way can be agreed upon to make it easier for all of us to know what exactly they wish to communicate to us.

    As an aside, for me these great gedolim are framed pictures on walls or in newspapers and magazines; great rabbi’s who I have never met and many of whom I have no idea who they are.

    In my BT experience, I was not influenced by any of them (so far as I know). I never attended a program or read a sefer by any of them, nor was I aware of any kiruv efforts made by them to gain my attention. So, it’s hard for me to connect with them in a way that has meaning for me. How do folks who have little or no background make the connection and gain an appreciation for these holy men?

  20. The bans seem to boil down to how to deal with non-Torah based influences such as secular culture, materialism, scientism, rejection of authority.

    Our Rabbinic Authorities have to decide where to build walls and where to allow non-Torah influences to penetrate. How to balance the needs of those who would benefit from not being exposed to those who have already taken the plunge.

    As an example, some Rebbeim feel TV is not healthy for a Torah home, while others see no problem with it.
    – Should the Rebbeim who see dangers in America’s Britney realty-tv culture warn us, advise us and issue Kol Korehs on the subject?
    – Or should we insist that they first watch a weeks worth of Entertainment Tonight, as one commentor suggested above?
    – Or perhaps we should protest and claim that TV is a necessary entertainment outlet for some people?

    We all put up fences for people that we have a spiritual responsibility for, why shouldn’t our spiritual leaders build fences they deem appropriate.

    Again I have to reiterate that I’m not talking about the advisability of a particular ban, just pointing out that spiritually responsible people build fences.

  21. 1. The gutter, the real gutter, and the really real gutter… are all problematic and demand attention. Ideally, we’ll each focus on our own characteristic failings and those of our own communities first.

    2. The larger Orthodox community shows enormous skills and accomplishments in scholarship and chesed, and much credit is due to our Rabbonim. They are also called upon now to provide genuine leadership, as we have had in all past generations. We seem to be in a confusing transitional stage, and much depends on their ability to size up today’s situation and act effectively with HaShem’s help.

  22. Dovid, there’s no question that the music scene is full of pitfalls, and there is a legitimate argument that there is a slippery slope from “heimish” concerts to the scene you have described. But I don’t think that’s really the issue here. I think the issue and the problem is that there is cadre of distinguished and important people who are in a position of leadership, and to whom many very committed orthodox Jews look to for leadership, and who as a group seem frequently to disappoint us in the manner in which they go about doing things.

    That doesn’t mean we’re “right” or “wrong” to be disappointed, but we are. And this is not the Old Country. Leadership based, as Torah leadership always will be, on consensus must “deliver” in this world. Ironically, if it were able to do that in a way that were coherent, rational — not even transparent, but comprehensible by not only laymen but even the “foot soldiers,” the local rabbonim — it’s probably amazing what could be achieved in terms of building consensus on substance.

    That seems to me to be the crisis of this moment, and what the decisions themselves are — science and Torah books or Lipa concerts — appear to be relatively insignificant.

  23. Dovid,

    I don’t go to these kind of clubs, but I don’t see them as the gutter of society. Drug addiction, prostitution, tax evasion, commercial fraud — THAT is the real gutter.

  24. Have any of you on this blog ever attended these type of concerts? Though I have not been to a large venue like MSG for such an event, I have been to smaller local “clubs” where other “top shelf” Jewish bands were playing. The crowds were mixed audience, mostly teens or folks in their 20’s. The music was raw and loud and driving. Pretty much no different than going to CBGB’s in the old days, except that the lyrics were Hebrew and the band members had some sort of head coverings. The guys, dressed in blue jeans with their shirt tails hanging out, along with the girls wearing…(well I’ll skip the description, as you can probably get the picture), were all dancing and gyrating to the music in ways that would leave even regulars at hard rock clubs staring.

    I was there because I was hired to play drums for a musical act that was on the bill. It was a musical group which played mainly accoustic type material, and was light years away from the styles of the other bands who were there. I was not aware of what the gig would be like, but if I did, I would never have taken the job.
    I was shocked and disapointed in both the audience, the bands and the roudy audience.
    These types of local “club” shows are common in NYC and NJ, mainly catering to MO teens. The bands all have groupies (both guys and gals) who follow them wherever they play. The activities at these clubs is no substitute for teens-at-risk, as they are no different than any other clubs were secular music is played.
    It is this scene, more than the large concert scene, that is the problem, and needs to be stopped. The promoters, as well as the bands, should be made responsible for their actions to diseminate the garbage music and totally unkosher environments that they create. If they suffer a financial loss for risking their activites, so be it. Maybe that will have an impact on any future attempts to drag our kids down into the gutter of society.

  25. Following on Sephardi Lady’s post – there is also likely to be a stifling domino effect on Jewish popular culture, in which future concerts are not even attempted because the producers are afraid of losing their shirts at the last minute.

    Many in the frum world have been up in arms about the “youth in crisis” issue. What happens when the kids who would have gone to this concert find no kosher outlet?

    This was an issue that came up in discussion of the Israeli ban.

    That and other bans were also traced back to a few “kano’im” – people whose opinions do not bear the weight or wisdome, or require the devotion given to true gedolei Torah. And those bans also involved steamrolling/deception of busy rabbonim.

    It’s been noted already that the FFB world greets most such proclamations with a shrug – it’s perceived as “Da’as Askonim” more than “Da’as Torah”.

    The current ban has drawn more interest, and generated more heat, because more people feel that a “kanoi’s” extreme position has really impacted the community – and may restrict it in the future – without real deliberation by the Gedolim.

  26. Chana Leah:

    I’ve noticed that this blog in general is male-dominated, which I thought of raising as a feature, but have since reconsidered. It seems that the males in general have the learning and ability to look at this and many other issues from a perspective different from a female point of view. Maybe I’m being petulant here, but a woman’s less learned (apologies to my sisters-in-frumkeit on this blog) but possibly legitimately insightful contributions are frequently bypassed or disregarded, as was your last comment, except briefly responded to by another female.

    While I read an opinion that not attending a couple of concerts would hardly cause a kid to go off the derech: “Personally, I find it hard to believe that the complete disappearance of mega-concerts for all times would drive kids off the derech” on Cross-Currents, I don’t think that’s the concern. I believe that as the screws of the chareidi world are getting twisted tighter and tighter, there are more kids who are already very turned off and angry, who will certainly allow this issue to add to their sense of disenfranchisement, if not put them over the top. It seems that the increasing loss of these precious Jewish souls are not being addressed adequately by Daas Torah. Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, who works extensively with these teens, who consults regularly with gedolim, and who put out a plea to parents (including FFB parents) on his blog not to take this issue as an opportunity to turn away from Daas Torah, said during a radio interview last Motzei Shabbos that he personally would not have signed such a kol koreh. As he emphasized, the problem is that more and more issurim are being issued, but there are few alternative activities being provided for these kids. More and more these kids are becoming the korbonos of an increasingly chareidi society. On the other hand, there continue to be remarkable heros who without fanfare reach out to these kids, and many of them are rabbonim in our communities. And incidentally, Chana Leah, the people calling in to the above-mentioned radio show to express their unhappiness with everything that had transpired in the Lipa incident sounded by and large like FFBs to me! Just one sister’s opinion…

  27. For those posters who follow other Gdolim , this ban is almost irrelevant.

    With all due respect to Steve Brizel, a commentor whose opinion I highly regard, I don’t know how a ban that causes massive loss is irrelevant to any Orthodox person. I don’t follow the opinion of any of the signers (although Rabbeim I field shailot to often consult with Rav Shmuel Kaminensky, I believe), nor do I prefer this genre of Jewish music. But, a last minute cancellation of a concert that has caused tremendous losses to the organizers, to say nothing about the losses to Jewish and non-Jewish hourly workers and vendors who now are out of a day of work, should be a concern to every Orthodox Jew. And who knows whose source of parnasah, large or small, is next.

  28. Menachem:

    I concede your point and plead guilty to cognative dissonance. Although I consider myself chardali (sort of, with a chassidishe twist), I nevertheless recognize the Moetzes as my gedolim. Rav Shachter’s point is sound (even without my approbation), but my original point addressed the dilemma of those who accept the wisdom and authority of the Moetzes but cannot reconcile this kind of kol koreh with the hashkofos they absorbed from their own rabbonim and roshei yeshiva.

    Emunas chachomim is easy in theory but much harder in practice. Switching groups may be a convenient solution, but not one many are eager to take.

  29. I have to wonder how well informed the signatories to this Kol Koreh were on the subject. Have they listened to the music in question? Have they been to similar concerts or seen videos of them?

    We already know that neither the artists nor the promoter of the show were questioned prior to the ban. Exactly how much due diligence do the gedolim do before taking a decision that can bankrupt someone?

    I’m supposed to defer to Da’as Torah, but I’m sorry, but argument from authority never works for me, particularly when the authority in question seems to be willfully ignoring things that go on in the real world. Knowledge of Torah is not enough. To properly judge a matter one must know enough about it to be able to understand how Torah applies, as was seen in the responsa (and reversal thereof) concerning internet commerce on Shabbat.

  30. Hi Chana Leah, been following this thread, really have nothing to say about it. It’s old news already and has been hashed about for too long, I am onto other issues.

  31. I concur fully with Menachem Lipkin on this issue. RHS has made this point very frequently in a wide variety of venues.

  32. Just wondering—this entire thread, and several others recently, are dominated by male voices. Are there any women with responses to this matter?

  33. The curious thing is that (and please correct me if I’m wrong) I don’t detect in this thread ANY claim that all true Gedolim are affiliated with the Agudah! Please, people, if you’re feeling sensitive about that ,please re-read this thread.

  34. Rememeber that the Brisker Rav and the Satmar Rebbe, not to mention all the gedolim of the Badatz, such as Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, were never part of the Moetzes. There can be many reasons a godol is not part of the Moetzes, it’s not just about Mizrachi!

  35. Rabbi Goldson,

    “Even if I’m not a card-carrying member of Aguda, the Moetzes is still composed of undeniable gedolim.”

    Nobody is denying that. However, there are also undeniable gedolim who are not on the Moetzes. Rav Shachter’s point in the shiur I heard is that there is not a unified consensus of Gedolim who speak with one voice on most issues, creating an absence of global Daas Torah.

    “By questioning the apparently political exclusion of certain rabbonim, is that itself not a lapse in emunas chachomim?”

    Not sure I understand your point. The exclusion of non-Aguda Rabbis is an historical fact. To say, which I don’t think you are, that only members of the Moetzes are entitled to emunas chachomim would, in fact, be a lapse in the emunas chachomim of those Gedolim who are not members.

    If emunas chachomim means the chachomim, by definition have to be right, then we create an enormous problem of cognitive dissonance when chachomim disagree.

  36. Menachem:

    Your point from Rav Shachter is well taken. But doesn’t this lead us into murkier waters. Even if I’m not a card-carrying member of Aguda, the Moetzes is still composed of undeniable gedolim. By questioning the apparently political exclusion of certain rabbonim, is that itself not a lapse in emunas chachomim? Of course, being able to invoke the name of Rav Elchonan as an opposing view certainly strengthens one’s position. But contemporary hashkofic issues can be as confusing as the world we live in.

    With respect to the current ban, as much as we might like to deflect responsibility to “kanoyim” or “handlers” of the gedolim, we still face the same dilemma of retaining trust in gedolim who allow themselves to be “handled.”

  37. Mark:

    I would define daas Torah as the intuition that naturally results from years of Torah study and diligent effort in developing yiras Shomayim. I think it’s self-evident that there are degrees: with respect to my high school students, I think I can claim a reasonable degree of daas Torah; with respect to Rav Eliashev, I can claim virtually none.

    Respect for rabbinic authority begins with asking sha’alos and following psak halacha. Respect for daas Torah extends to rabbinic opinion concerning what is consistent with the divine will even in situations not directly or unambiguously addressed by halacha.

    This is what we call “Fifth Shulchan Aruch:” the application of educated intuition, sincere interpretation, and common sense to discern the spirit as well as the letter of the law. Obviously, in the hierarchy of rabbinic authority, the daas Torah of some carries more weight than the daas Torah of others.

    Consequently, I don’t have to understand the intuitions of my rabbeim to respect and follow them any more than I have to understand their ruling on whether or not a chicken is kosher. However, if I consistently receive rulings that contradict my own understanding of Torah, it is a natural psychological response that I may start questioning the wisdom of rabbinic decision unless someone can explain to me why I am wrong.

    By the way, I’m pleased that we’re able to engage in this debate. When I raised a similar point some time ago in my “Rabbi Dilbert” post,, comments were so uncivil that they had to be closed.

  38. ChanaLeah wrote:
    “And if we are trained to dismiss the seriousness of these proclamations, what happens when the Gedolim feel there is something serious at stake? What kind of language would they have to use to get their point across?”

    A very good question. I’m describing the reality. I can only hope that when it’s really serious they’ll find the way to get through. As many have mentioned, all these zealot initiated bans have the cumulative result of the boy who cried wolf, which I believe is your fear as well.

    Charlie Hall,
    I’m referring to the Israeli chareidi initiative to use only cell-phones that are unable to access internet, play multi-media, or use text messaging.

    One might hold of another hashkafah that it is up to the individual to exercise restraint in these areas, as opposed to pulling the plug.

  39. Bob,

    “Thomas, when he appeared on the professional football scene in 1970, was acclaimed as an outstanding player but within two years was stigmatized as an “emotionally disturbed misfit,” largely because of his periods of total silence.”

    Evidently, it’s dangerous to miss a few hours of commenting around here!

  40. From Time Magazine 1/31/72:

    …It remained for CBS-TV Commentator Tom Brookshier to provide some comic relief. While conducting the ritual post-game interviews in the jubilant Cowboys’ locker room, he suddenly found himself staring into the baleful eyes of Duane Thomas. Sportswriters had unsuccessfully been trying to interview Thomas for weeks. Making the least of the moment, the visibly flustered Brookshier posed a long convoluted question that seemed to translate: Are you as fast as you seem to be? “Evidently,” said the unsmiling Thomas while his teammates roared with laughter.

  41. “When the movement began to use only kosher cell phones”

    What do you mean by “the movement”? (I’m not trying to cause trouble, I’m just not sure what you are referring to.)

    When my Young Israel shul was negotiating to hire a new rabbi 3 years ago, one thing he wanted added to his contract was that the shul would provide him with a Blackberry. The board and congregation agreed.

  42. “The chareidim simply understand the dynamics behind these things, and take them with a grain of salt. And that’s an understatement.”

    And if we are trained to dismiss the seriousness of these proclamations, what happens when the Gedolim feel there is something serious at stake? What kind of language would they have to use to get their point across?

  43. Ron, isn’t a blog supposed to let us spin our wheels independent of someone who knows the answer?

  44. One irony of this discussion is that it seems we really need someone “authoritative” to explain to us how exactly we should reckon “authority.”

  45. Bob Miller-WADR, I think that you missed my point. The simple facts are that some rabbonim are more qualified than others . Once again, if one follows the hanhagos, chumros, kulos and psakim of any rav who is capable of rendering Psak and who is considered a Baal Mesorah, you are per se a talmid, even if others follow differen Piskei Halacha of other Gdolei Talmidie Chachamim who are recognized Poskim.That is what is meant by “earning” the right to rely on a Talmid Chacham’s Piskei Halacha WADR, your comments insinuate that unless we all follow the same Gdolim, then we have nothing in common.

  46. I (and, more importantly, my rabbis!) agree with Bob Millers point that a person can choose to be more machmir on his own provided he does not try to restrict others. Thanks!

  47. I agree with Charlie Hall’s comment of
    March 4th, 2008 with respect to public behavior in a community, except that a person can choose to be more machmir on his own provided that he does not try to restrict others.

  48. >>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.

    The chareidi bnei Torah I associate with, predominately FFB, never accept a Kol Koreh at face value.

    Case in point: When the movement began to use only kosher cell phones, my Gemara shiur rebbe waited over half a year before doing anything, despite many Kol Korehs, etc., with the strongest imaginable language.

    Finally, he asked one of the signatures, his wife’s uncle, when he happened to be with him at a simcha, who told him something to the effect of, “Well, why not? It’s not a big deal, but you might as well switch over.”

    The chareidim simply understand the dynamics behind these things, and take them with a grain of salt. And that’s an understatement.

  49. “It’s that reliance on a Moreh D’Asra has to be earned, so that a blanket instruction to follow one’s own Moreh D’Asra in all matters is inappropriate.”

    I would disagree with this for matters affecting the community as a whole. The Leader of the Community has been designated by the community to be responsible for the community, and chaos would result without some level of communal acceptance. Any individual, of course, can go to anyone with semichah for a binding psak.

  50. >>Rabbi Schallheim, what ended up happening with that concert? Was it well attended?

    I heard they made money.

    What was reported in the papers was that the organizers denied all the charges against them about tznius, etc. and went ahead with the concert.

    I wonder why things played out so differently in NY.

  51. Steve said, ” Raising the issue of whether some Rabbonim are more qualified to Paskem than others is IMO not only irrelevant to the discussion, but an attempt to state that unless one’s name appears on a Kol Koreh, he is not a Gadol-which is IMO a statement that cannot be rationally supported.”

    Steve, you missed my point almost totally. It’s that reliance on a Moreh D’Asra has to be earned, so that a blanket instruction to follow one’s own Moreh D’Asra in all matters is inappropriate. I once addressed a related question to a well know Rav (not Chareidi). I asked whether one should always take a shaila to one’s shul rav first. The answer was: not automatically if it was possible to address it to a Rav with more expertise in that subject area.

  52. > 1) How would you define the Daas Torah of the Chareidim and your understanding of Daas Torah?
    2) Is Daas Torah the same as respecting Rabbinic Authority?
    3) Should people believe in some form of Daas Torah or adherence to Rabbinic Authority?
    4) If the answer to number 3) is yes, how should people approach Daas Torah or Rabbinic Authority, when they don’t understand a particular psak.

    If you can also answer one more question:
    “What are the limits of Daas Torah and Rabbinic Authority?”

    I think that would help a lot.

  53. Rabbi Goldson, My point was to clarify what you see as the problems you mentioned, so that we can discuss them. Let me state them as questions to try to clarify.

    1) How would you define the Daas Torah of the Chareidim and your understanding of Daas Torah?
    2) Is Daas Torah the same as respecting Rabbinic Authority?
    3) Should people believe in some form of Daas Torah or adherence to Rabbinic Authority?
    4) If the answer to number 3) is yes, how should people approach Daas Torah or Rabbinic Authority, when they don’t understand a particular psak.

  54. Rabbi Goldson,

    You said, “A number of years ago, I discovered that many acquaintances in the modern Orthodox community roll their eyes whenever they hear the expression “daas Torah.”

    RHS has a different explanation for this than the one you suggested. He quotes from a biography of Rav Elchanan Wasserman.

    When the Aguda created the Moetzes in Europe they made membership in the Aguda a pre-requisite. Rav Wasserman requested that this condition be dropped since there actually could be Gedolim who, for whatever reason, were not members of the Aguda.

    By limiting it in such a way the Aguda politicized what could have been a truly representative body of religious leaders. So to those outside the Aguda world, who look to Gedolei Torah who aren’t “members”, the idea that the Moetzes represents a definitive Daas Torah is a bit ridiculous.

  55. Bob-Yes, not every rav, regardless of his hashkafic leanings, is qualified to issue a Psak-especially if he is not in possession of either the facts or has not been trained in the art of Psak-which is a far different skill set than being a RY, Admor or Mashgiach.

    Menachem Lipkin and I were very clear in our posts about whom we considered our Baalei Horaah and Poskim on these issues. Raising the issue of whether some Rabbonim are more qualified to Paskem than others is IMO not only irrelevant to the discussion, but an attempt to state that unless one’s name appears on a Kol Koreh, he is not a Gadol-which is IMO a statement that cannot be rationally supported.

  56. Mark: The point about Mordechai is well taken. Is there any description of the methods that Mordechai used to convey his ban?

  57. Every community has the right to make takanos, not decrees as Chazal made, but ‘corrections’ based on social needs. This is independent of previous halachic decisions since by definition these takanos are extra-halachic. In our situation the rabbanim decided that the concert is bad socially becuase it leads to light-headedness etc.

    Thus a Rav (or bais din) of a community can institute basically anything he wants as a takana. Of course, overuse of this power will bring the downfall of the Rav in question or cause people to leave the community.

    In our case Agudas Yisrael (AY) decided to make such a takana. Anyone who wants to be bound by the decisions of AY is bound by this also.

    The discussion now is simply was this a good idea. As stated above, there are many reasons why this may not be a good idea: there’s nothing wrong with concerts, it was done improperly, there was financial loss, they threatened people, they do/will not administer such a ban equally, etc.

    But if you’re an AY follower, that’s what you’re stuck with. If you’re not happy find different leaders…

  58. What’s really fascinating is that the kol koreh that was written in Israel, and did not result in the cancelling of the concert of MBD et al in Teddy Stadium, was then taken around in America and resulted in the cancellation of a concert in NY!

  59. The Rabbonim are very busy with numerous important, often life and death, issues. They simply do not have the time to investigate the details of every issue presented to them. As I understand it, the present kol koreh was presented to the Rabbonim in a hasty fashion (despite the fact that the concert had been advertised for months). If, as it has been reported, the individuals seeking the ban had not contacted those with information about the financial aspects to present that to the Rabbonim, those individuals may bear some ethical if not halachic responsibility for the loss. I have heard that some of the Rabbonim are endeavoring to raise money to cover the loss.

  60. Steve,

    Are you saying that one should submit totally to the judgment of his Moreh D’Asra? In America, at least, not every Moreh D’Asra may be qualified to be relied on to that degree.

  61. Mark:

    You gave the answer I would have in your second paragraph. When I teach my students about the meaning of Purim, I labor over the theme of emunas chachomim. The Jews of Shushan had every reason to question Mordechai and resist his decrees. And each time they did so they caused the danger confronting them to become more acute.

    If there is a single recurring lesson to be learned from Jewish history, it is that rabbinic guidance is the key to our redemption. But there is also a concept of a decree beyond what the people are able to accept. While I am not versed in the technical halachic application of this concept, the general principle seems relevant here.

    I carefully avoided making my own belief in daas Torah the issue of my comment. My point was the effect on the community of b’nei Torah, in which there seems to be a growing crisis in emunas chachomim.

    Steve: could you try again, please. I’m afraid I’m missing your point.

  62. R Goldson-WADR, Daas Torah, like all hashkafic principles, sounds nice and reads well but is difficult to apply in discrete situations. Like all hashkafos, it tends to surmount, rather than serve a supplement to Torah, Avodah and Gmilus Chasadim and its defenders, as in the case of all advocates for a particular hashkafa, have difficulties in recognizing the fact that an intellectual kind of arteriosclerosis and organizational opposition to any change present huge difficulties in considering other approaches and whether mistakes were ever made in its application in the light of history.

  63. Chanah Leah-Achdus does not mean that there are no differences of opinion in halacha and hashkafa. The Mishnah records that in the hometowm of R Yose HaGalillee, the residents followed his psak and ate Basar Of vChalav because he held that it was permissible and they all enjoyed “arichas yamim” because they followed the psak of their Moreh DAsrah. Achdus should never be confused with a mistaken need for total conformity within the Mesorah.

  64. Chana Leah, In wider matters the issues are even more complicated and only those with a inside view of what’s going on can really understand the matter.

    My Rav says that he never comments on hashkafic rulings made by Rabbonim in Eretz Yisroel, because he knows that unless you are there and living in the process day to day, you don’t really know what’s going on.

    This takes us back to one of your earlier questions. According to many, hashkafa needs to be determined locally, because only the local Rabbeim are sensitive to all the issues.

    Talking to your Rav is the place to start and I think most great Rabbis would agree with that.

  65. Chanah Leah-if one follows your logic, then women shouldn’t dance at a chasunah behind a mechitzah. If you have ever seen a chasunah video, you would be astonished at the differences between the men and women in style, etc.

  66. Rabbi Goldson-WADR, please read Menachem Lipkin and my posts on this subject. In all seriousmess, there are huge differences between Emunas Chachamim, adhering to all Gzeros and Takanos of a rabbinic nature even if they impact on how one performs a Mitzvab Min HaTorah and views expressed on public policy issues without being presented a full set of facts. Like it or not, while we respect the Gdolim who have issued this Kol Koreh on this and other causes but who have a studied silence on many other issues of a life and death nature, many of us look to Gdolim for answers on halacha and hashkafa beyond those listed on this Kol Koreh for these issues.

  67. Mark said, “In my less complicated communal dealings it is clear that in sensitive matters, the entire process is best left undisclosed to the entire public.”

    Leaving aside the internal workings of the process, shouldn’t the output of the process give absolutely clear direction to the target audience and present halachic support for the decision?

  68. Mark: Is the case of small private and delicate matters comparable to a sweeping ban that affects thousands of Jews? I can understand the need for privacy in the first case, but can you explain further the need for privacy in the decision making process in the latter case?

  69. Rabbi Goldson, Do you personally believe in Daas Torah? Do you believe there are great Rabbis who are people of integrity, are learned in Torah, are committed to helping Klal Yisroel? Although Judaism does not hold that people are perfect, do you believe we should still have faith in Rabbinic Authority even if we don’t totally don’t understand or agree with every communal decision they make?

    It’s interesting that this issue comes at the time of Purim when most of the people thought that Mordechai was clueless in banning participation in Achaveroshes’ party/concert. History has shown that Mordechai was not as clueless as the people made him out to be.

  70. I’m certainly in no position to judge the decisions of our gedolim. What I find profoundly disturbing,however, is the effect that these kinds of stories have on many sincere Torah Jews. A number of years ago, I discovered that many acquaintances in the modern Orthodox community roll their eyes whenever they hear the expression “daas Torah.” Whether right or wrong, they claim to have heard the term invoked by their neighbors in the Chareidi community to defend every kind of questionable behavior. To their minds, “daas Torah” is nothing more than a catch phrase for “this is how we justify anything we want to do.”

    Since then, this kind of cynicism toward rabbinic authority has spread to many who consider themselves members of the yeshivishe world. Is it not possible, even likely, that bans of this sort that raise so much confusion among committed b’nei Torah will gradually and inevitably lead to the erosion of emunas chachomim on a massive scale? Is it possible that our gedolim can be unaware of this? Is the law of unintended consequences not a factor that must be taken into account? I wish I had even the beginning of an answer.

    (I’ve also submitted this comment to Cross-currents, which is following the same thread.)

  71. David, Who actually issued the ban, the Rabbonim or the activists? Why would the activist be held financially responsible in light of the fact that there is no agentship (shlichus) when an aveira is committed, if you think it might have been. In this case, I don’t think we would say that the Rabbonim were the activists agent. If an halachically improper financial loss was caused, which in this case I would be very surprised, it would seem to be the responsibility of the Rabbonim and not the activists.

    Charlie, I agree with you and the majority of commentors here, that each person should seek out and follow the gudiance of their local Rabbi in these matters.

    This does raise the question of whether every psak by every Rabbi is appropriate. If your local Orthodox Rabbi decided it was ok to drive to Shul on Shabbos, would it be ok for you to drive. Halachic determination does have a process and the last Rabbi in the chain needs some solid basis for giving his psak.

    I think Rabbi Aryeh Kaplans, the Rules of Halacha is must reading in this regard.

    Chana Leah, I don’t think more exposure to the decision making process is always helpful. In my less complicated communal dealings it is clear that in sensitive matters, the entire process is best left undisclosed to the entire public.

    However more exposure to the greatness of the Gedolim is important and your local Rabbi who has hopefully had such exposure could possibly relate that greatness.

  72. Actually there is quite a bit of relevance to my enjoyment of the music, as it was the recorded music itself which I found spiritually uplifting. Anyone who has had a similar experience can understand how the gift of appreciation for music can enhance devaikus. Truthfully I have never attended a concert of Lipa and when I saw video clips I felt that the stage theatrics were a sad distraction from the exceptional singing talent heard on the CDs. Is there really a need in a Jewish concert for light shows, stage smoke, ostentatious costumes, and dance moves that emulate goyish entertainers? When I was a teenager, the common opinion was that if an entertainer needed to resort to these distractions, it was because his talent was lacking. In this case, Lipa doesn’t need the shtik, but he claims his audiences clamored for it. Anyway, I am able to understand objections about the style of the concerts being inappropriate, but why was the Kol Koreh the only solution? Why not impressing upon the entertainers and audiences what the Gedolim hold to be acceptable behavior during concerts so that the positive elements of Lipa’s (and others) gift can continue to inspire?

  73. I don’t presume to think that the Rabbonim have any monetary obligations here. I simply have no idea. As I staed before, a few times, I’m speaking of the individuals who brought “the issue” to the Rabbonim.

  74. On the other hand, the solution to ask your own Rav for direction as to whether or not you should obey the ban, only confuses me more (although, to be honest, that is just what I did).

    Did the Gedolim mean that their words may not apply to any particular reader and each of us should see if their Rav says it’s OK to obey? And if a Rav (who generally abides by the rulings of the Agudas) says you can go to a concert is that a contradiction? And even if we say, well, my camp doesn’t follow the rulings of the Aguda Rabbis so their Kol Koreh doesn’t mean anything, aren’t we contributing to a serious achdus issue?

  75. I also had thoughts this morning along the lines of Yochanan’s comments. It would be helpful to have more exposure to the Gedolim; in the global media today it is possible to reach a vast audience easily so that the Gedolim would seem more accessible, less remote. As Bob comments, an explanatory communication of some kind, I hope, would have gone far to curb some of the bewilderment that seems to have accompanied this pronouncement.

  76. How to react to the ban?

    In my case, I ignore it.

    I have a rav with whom I had previously discussed the appropriateness of entertainment. He had discussed these issues with his rav, one of the leading rabbis of my lifetime, and he told me exactly what that gedol said regarding this issue.

    There are many things I find difficult here. Do so many frum Jews not have a rav that a ban needs to be pronounced publicly? Is it proper derech eretz (or even proper halachic procedure) to publicize a halachic decision that involves particular individuals without discussing it with them? Is the fact that a frum Jew is now in danger of defaulting on hundreds of thousands of dollars of financial commitments, itself an issur d’oraita, of no halachic concern? How do contemporary halachic authorities have the authority to reverse a practice which had been viewed by many if not most halachic authorities as mutar l’chatchila? Doesn’t this violate yeridot hadorot? It would be very helpful if someone could explain these issues adequately.

    In my own community, this has not been a major issue. I don’t even think I heard it mentioned once last Shabat. And last Motzei Shabat, my wife and I saw dozens of frum people at a jazz concert with mixed seating at the local (Shomer Shabat) Y. Within the past year, more than one shul in my community has sponsored concerts with mixed seating in their beit knesset. It is no disrespect to the rabbis who signed onto this ban to point out that there are other rabbis who permit concerts with mixed seating and that is the custom in my community.

  77. Avfigdor’s point re the effectiveness or the lack thereof of the ban is on the mark. One can argue that even prior to the ban on Spinoza, that such controversies as over Rambam’s Moreh Nevuchim were counterproductive. Since the ban on Spinoza and the rise of secular and heterodox or even MO and RZ, one can argue that bans have had no impact on the outside world and have also increased the attraction of those with doubts to what appears to be the equivalent of an intellectual cheeseburger. RYBS opposed bans except in very special instances ( mechitzah in shul, ecumenical theological dialogue, discussions of theology between Torah based and heterdox groups) because he felt that the best way of winning this war was always and only to show that Torah had depth, profundity and relevance. Under this rulestick-the question is simple-does tne ban increase or decrease respect for Torah? None less than the Rambam in Hilcos Yesodei HaTorah defines that issue as the key dividing mark between Kiddush and Chillul HaShem, two terms which have been bandied about in the wake of this ban by many who seemimgly are unaware of their rather precise halachic definitions.

  78. Whether one likes or dislikes the lyrics and approach of Mr. Schmelzer is IMO almost irrelevant. His lyrics and methods of crowd involvement are hardly the only ones that warranted a ban. When one reads the details about the process by which the ban was promulgated, one can raise a legitimate question as to whether the full facts were presented by those seeking the ban and whether those who signed on the ban had a full set of facts prior to doing so. No less than R Shmuel Kamenetsky has openly admitted that there may have very well been a rush to issue a ban without considering the facts. I pointed out this in a seemingly unrelated concept-the Ramban in Parshas Shelach points out that the Karban Par Elem Davar Shel Tzibbur was first brought after the debacle of the spies and their report to demonstrate that even the greatest people of a generation can and will make a critical mistake in judgment. One more point-I think that Mark’s points of caution make eminently good sense for those posters who follow all of the Psakim, Chumros and Kulos and direct all of their queries to the Gdolim posted on the ban. For those posters who follow other Gdolim , this ban is almost irrelevant. One can only wonder where these Gdolim are as Sderot and Ashkelon are being shelled on a daily basis and on other critical issues facing all of Klal Tisrael both here and in Israel.

  79. I accept that some things should be banned under some conditions.

    I accept that some things should be decided democratically and others not.

    All things being equal, I would want all actions taken by Jews to be done after appropriate deliberation and consultation.

    I sit on my shul’s board of directors. If controversial new business is brought up, it can be heard and discussed but is rarely acted on at the same meeting—because people are not prepared and much relevant information is not yet available.


    My college dorm (Bexley Hall at MIT 1966-1970)
    Was run as a sort of mix between democracy and authoritarianism. All residents could speak, raise motions, and vote at house meetings. Volunteers to be house chairman put their names in a hat at the meeting and the “winner” of the drawing chaired the next meeting. The only permanent officers were the house treasurer and secretary. Plus, there were various committees with chairmen. Since this was the 60’s, the radical faction of residents occasionally packed a meeting and voted house funds to their favorite radical causes. This prompted the treasurer (treasurers were more conservative) to not pay. Instead, the treasurer would pack the next meeting with his own friends and the appropriation would be rescinded. This was our system of checks and balances. The radicals were not totally united either. At one meeting, one radical was the chairman. Another radical was speaking total nonsense, so the chairman cut him down with an expert karate chop. Anyway, I got to see some pitfalls of direct democracy.

  80. David

    I think I said pretty clearly that we have to look separately at the process from the outcome. I’m sorry if you understood that as saying the “ends justify the means” – that is not what I meant.

    In terms of financial damage, are you stating that the Rebbeim who signed the ban violated the halacha and are obligated to financially compensate those damaged? It might be true, but what is your basis of that halachic conclusion?

    In this particular case, even if they met I think the ban would have been placed due to the Chassidim’s issues with Lipa and the ban of concerts in Eretz Yisroel.

    I think Rabbi Adlerstein in his Cross-Current’s piece today has a good read of Rabbi Kaminestky’s statement and stance on this issue. He is balancing his respect for the authority of the gedolim in Eretz Yisroel while also signaling his personal position. Give it a read and let me know what you think.

  81. Mark, I disagree. First, I think your approach is almost an “ends justify the means” approach. Second, we are not talking about a process with a few holes. We are talking about a process, in this situation, in which almost nothing went right. Sure, they reached the goal, issuing the ban, but the process caused reputational damage, financial damage, chilul Hashem, even a breakdown in the standard Rabbinic process (the failure to meet/discuss first as HaRav Kaminetsky pointed out usually happens but did but here), etc. I don’t think that a process that at least attempts to address these issues should be considered as requiring, to use your words, “exacting standards”. Do you?

    I do agree, however, that people who don’t support, understand or respect the ban wouldn’t support, understand or respect it even if the process was perfect.

  82. Bob, your question assumes that you are ok with bans. Is that correct?

    Have you ever been to a board meeting for an organization? Generally normal business is discussed first and then issues are brought to the attention of the board.

    These issues are brought up by activists with a concern who make a strong case for their position. Do you feel it is valid for activists to make and state their case before groups responsible to make decisions?

    A second factor is that not all activists are created equal. Some people have more credibility based on their track record. Do you think that it is fair that some people are trusted more than others?

    Our gedolim are not democratically elected. Do you think it is fair that gedolim are not democratically elected, nor do they always follow democratic processes?

    I think that these are important questions to answer.

    As far as process improvement, my experience has been that great Rabbis are very smart. I think they learn from their experiences and will improve the process to the degree possible.

    I think two of the issues here are that actions have a more global effect and the influence of non-Torah values on the Torah world has increased. These two forces do not lend themselves to smooth sailing ahead.

  83. I think it’s important that people remember that they should be going to their own local orthodox rabbis for specific guidance on these issues. While the Kol Koreh may affect the availability of such concerts, the decision an individual makes to attend one should be made in conjunction with his rabbi. Your rabbi knows you, your needs, and whether or not such a ban even applies to your community.

    While I have tremendous respect for the Torah of the men who signed this particular ban, and I hold by Mark’s four points above, the Rabbis signing it do not, in general, represent the daas torah that I follow. According to RHS we do not live in a world of a monolithic Daas Torah (with a capital “D”). Specifically regarding the ban on the book, “The Making of a Gadol” he said that the ban simply did not apply to those outside the hashkafic influence of the “Aguda” Rabbis.

    Further, the ability of mass media in general, and, ironically, the internet in particular, to propagate these Kol Korehs around the world in minutes puts these bans in front of people they possibly were never meant for. A Kol Koreh pasted up in B’nei Brak, Mea Shaarim, or Boro Park is not likely meant for someone living in Modiin, Raanana, or Teaneck.

    One has to wonder if the signatories to these bans are fully aware how fast and widely they are being spread. And if not, what effect it might have on their willingness to sign on.

  84. Mark said, “Process, (by definition?) is always flawed from some perspective. That is not to say that process can’t be improved, but I think we have to be intelligent enough to see that it will always be flawed.”

    Mark, do you see any efforts afoot to correct flaws in this process? These flaws, after all, did not just pop up in the last few weeks. Even if there will not be a real solution, can’t we expect something to at least ameliorate the problem? Or is this all a given that nobody has the clout to deal with?

  85. I think it’s important to separate outcome from process. We can question and try to understand both.

    If the process met your exacting standards, would you be ok with the ban?

    Since a ban will often effect some person or group negatively, can there be a process that you would consider fair?

    I remember an incident in which women’s prayer groups were banned in Queens, which did stem the tide of this movement. Those who supported these groups were not happy with the process.

    On a personal level, I have often been an activitist for more Torah learning and slower davening in my Shul. I have often taken heat for such activities and some people have actually taken the position that we should democratically decide whether I have the right to be an activist for these types of goals.

    Process, (by definition?) is always flawed from some perspective. That is not to say that process can’t be improved, but I think we have to be intelligent enough to see that it will always be flawed.

    Again, I’m not defending these particular activists or this particular process, but pointing out that many people will be dissatisfied with any non-democratic process. And democratic processes also have their deficiencies (see our current president and upcoming presidential prospects).

  86. “David, If they had contacted Lipa first and told him they were going to ban his concert, would you have had problems with the ban? Should the fact that there is a financial loss involved preclude any ban? ”

    People will and should view the ban, with the guidance of their local Rov, as they view any other ban. The issue to me is whether the process is flawed and whether people should invest their trust and respect in those that have raised the “issue”.

    I don’t see why the issues I’ve raised should not be a concern of even those who wholeheartedly support the ban.

  87. Can great rabbinic leaders be manipulated? If the Kol Koreh originated with Gedolei Yisrael, and not “kanoim” -those seekers of machlokes who think they are lishmah-, then Lipa and others would’ve been informed in advance, would they not? Those sensitive to the nuances of halacha, especially bein adam l’chavero, might have charted a different path. However, the Taliban among us lack perspective and are willing to tell rabbonim what they “need” to hear. This is not a new phenomena.

    Numerous questions about this situation have been raised elsewhere. Jonathan Rosenblum has a piece posted on, “Bans are not Chinuch,” which is worthwhile reading.
    IMHO, this ban, as previous with previous ones, can only lead to a reduction of rabbinical authority, as David Linn writes.

  88. David raises a lot of the points that I agree with and am thinking but there is one further question that keeps bothering. The handling of the entire affair was flawed (e.g. bad wording, not contacting people, doing it at the last moment). If the Rabbonim’s judgment was poor in the handling of it why should I believe their judgment was better in the deciding of the issue?

    I do not mean this question to disrespect the Gedolim but this is an honest question that I struggle with .

  89. David, If they had contacted Lipa first and told him they were going to ban his concert, would you have had problems with the ban? Should the fact that there is a financial loss involved preclude any ban?

    For the record, in my little world in Queens, bans are generally frowned upon, but I increasingly see the need to try to understand things from different perspectives.

  90. What responsibility do the community and its lay leaders have to protect Rabbonim at all levels from improper pressures, and to insure clear lines of communication to and from the Rabbonim?

  91. To me, there are issues other than the ban itself and rabbinic authority that are at issue.

    My criticism here is aimed not at the Rabbonim but at those individuals who brought the “issue” to the Rabbonim.

    One larger issue is the manner in which the ban was issued. Apparently, no one called Lipa or Sheya Mendolowitz about the ban and Lipa found out about it in the newspaper. I have heard numerous interviews with both Lipa and Sheya Mendolowitz. I have to say that they both have been very respectful of the Rabbonim. I have heard Lipa say that he had spoken (at the time)with aprox 10 of the Rabbonim that had signed the kol koreh. Each one, he said, had asked him for mechila for the fact that no one contacted him in advance. How is it that the reputation and parnasa of a fellow Jew was taken so lightly?
    Additionally, in one of the interviews, Lipa confirmed that his name did not appear on the kol koreh at the time the Rabbonim signed, it was added afterwards. If this is true, it appears to me that the individuals that brought the “issue” to the Rabbonim to start with are, themselves, showing and creating a lack of respect for Rabbinic Authority.

    Finally, the fact that the kol koreh used the exact language as the one previously issued in EY (even where that language doesn’t make sense), indicates, on the part of those who brought the “issue” to the Rabbonim, a lack of appreciation for the sensitivity of the personal issues involved and a hasty approach to an issue that is not so simple.

  92. I have found that the strongest medicine for me in this area is direct exposure to gedolim. Arranging to davin in the home of Rav Pam Zt”l and the brief conversation that came with wishing him good Shabbos worked wonders for my emunas chachimim. A Godol’s availability and sensitive handling of a shayla on a matter with grave implications for the course of my life left me with an indellible impression about what it means to be a Godol.

    Exposure third-hand, through advertisements, newspaper articles, and hagiographies and, dare I say it, even Kol Korehs, is negative for me (although, in this case, the honesty and integrity of R. Shmuel K’s comments have again done wonders for me).

    Another great positive is learning Torah thoughts that contemporary Gedolim have written, especially directly through their own books or lectures, not through other’s repitition of them.

    Lastly, I would suggest a caution. There is no uber authority who controls who is asked to sign a Kol Koreh. Unfortunately, that means that you need to recognize which signatures represent the people who meet Mark’s useful criteria of Gedolim above, and feel the weight of Klal Yisroel on their shoulders when they allow their names to be used.

  93. There is a great deal here that needs commenting.

    ChanaLeah writes “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”

    I think this represents a common misunderstanding of how FFBs think. Over and over again, I have seen major rabbanim express DISRESPECT for an individual’s failure to think for himself. And I think that failure to think independently is more common amongst baalei t’shuvah than it is amongst FFBs.

    FFBs tend to understand the proper place of Kol Koreh: to convey a message as breifly as possible to the broadest population possible. And to do it in an emotive way that conveys the seriousness of the issue. They most often understand that the issue is actually more complex and that if they would speak to individual rabbanim they would get a more sublte treatment of the issue. At the same time, they realize that respecting daas Torah is something that Hashem wants from us. This doesn’t mean that they see g’dolim as infallable.

  94. Much of the issue is not about outcome but about process. We are all familiar on some level with the Shaila/Teshuva process by which Jews get direction from Poskim, and with the idea of referring certain knotty issues up to Gedolim. We are also familiar on some level with the Beis Din processes for adjudication, arbitration, or mediation. However, as the above article indicates, the mechanics of the Kol Koreh process as practiced in Orthodox communities are more of a mystery, probably not only to BT’s. This opens up all sorts of possibilities for mischief by those who want to discredit Talmidei Chachamim in general. Perhaps the Kol Koreh process now needs better definition and control, and the publicized decisions need to be backed up by formal explanatory documents, analogous to detailed teshuvos.

Comments are closed.