The ban against the concert in the Madison Square garden signed by thirty three roshei yeshiva and admorim and the consequent withdrawal of Lipa Schmelzer from this concert, his acceptance of the ban and disavowal of his past musical style is discussed this week in Hamodia and is accompanied by an interview with Lipa. It gives one much to think about.
Lipa has certainly chosen the only honorable path for one of his stature as a man and as a religious Jew. This ban was not only more comprehensive than the Slifkin ban, it also differs in essence. This is not about arguable points of haskafa and philosophy that is given to rational argument and where some can be found to support either side; instead it is about what touches everyone close to the heart - music. I do not believe that any Rov of stature would have supported Lipa against the rabbinical opinion expressed in the ban. I do not address the regrettable manner in which the ban was made public and the loss of money to ticket holders, singers and organizers.
The case against " Goyish Music" is well laid out in a recent pamphlet printed in Bnei Brak and entiteld "Ki Davar Hashem Boza" in the Hebrew version and "The Torah is not Hefker" in its English version. While ignoring the Chassidic literature on the subject, it starts from Plato and Aristotle on hhow music affects society and proceeds to cite many anti-rock and roll quotes from the 1950s. It then discusses the various quotes from the Torah literature and later "yeshivishe" acharonim and closes with a brief review of the effects that the author believes that "modern" music is having on the behavior and views of our youth. It is when it reaches this part that the real concern of the author becomes apparent. The issue is not whether Jewish music has historically appropriated non-Jewish melodies. Yes, it has and that's OK. The author even makes an interesting observation that the poskim in European lands tended to allow non-Jewish music, because, he explains, it was fine and elevated, whereas those in the lands of Ishmaelites tended to prohibit it- for its unrefined and animalistic nature. The issue is not what the source is of the music. Rather it is what effects it aims for and accomplishes. He posits that the strong rhythms of African music, the same rhythms that have traveled into blues, jazz and later rock and roll, stem from voodoo and idolatrous ceremonies and are spiritually destructive by their direct effects on the heartbeat and phyisiologic functions of the body. Why are they unacceptable? Because they vibrate the body and provoke lowly desires and lusts.
I believe that the ban was made in response to the observation that all those older than 40 share. It is incontrovertible that young people in America are no longer as they used to be. Family structure, pursuit of the popular, kosher indulgences, chutzpah, and inability to commit to something above and external to oneself, are playing havoc with our family and communal structure. Can it all be blamed on the music? I do not think so, although that is a part of how culture changes people; however, I believe that many people see music as driving this process.
The pamphlet mentions two instances of new music in concerts inducing yeshiva boys to throw their shirts at the singer, and one instance during a concert in Bnei Brak when the girls did the same. The behavior and congregating of the sexes during concerts is repeatedly mentioned.
The ban is in its essence not based on chalachic or even hashkafic imperatives. It is being driven by the despair and horror that the new type of religious Jew, as it reaches a critical mass, is having on our keen and perceptive religious and lay leadership. Herein lies the explanation for and the power of the ban.
Will it work. No, I do not think so. Culture is more than music alone and the problems that bedevil us will continue to grow, Hashem yirachem. Will it have positive effects? Yes, I think so. Eventually the concerts will be back but in manner more refined and eidel. Our singers will be forced to produce more original material and there is certainly enough talent to do so. Kiruv will not suffer and kosher outlets will remain but, perhaps, they will be a little more kosher than before.