Lipa, Lead Belly, and Adar

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34 Responses

  1. LOberstein says:

    “I have nothing to say about the Lipa controversy. I don’t have any inside facts”. Rabbi Adlerstein, this sentance takes all the punch out of blogging. If we have to actually know something to spout off, who will fill the blogosphere?
    What concerns us here in Baltimore is whether the NCSY Concert will now be cancelled. How about the highly successful ones in New York?
    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 oblidged 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.
    Another local wise person told me that every time something like this happens it lowers the honor of the rabbis and makes their pronouncements on anything less meaningful. He entitled the ban as an example of “chutzpah yasgieh” but he was referring the activists who agitated for the ban.
    Note that both of the above are not named. If either were quoted by me, they might suffer damage to their reputation or their income. That is the problem, we are driven to silence, except in the blogs, where people who use the internet, therefore not really observant Jews, hang out.

  2. Bob Miller says:

    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.

  3. YM says:

    I find the notion that the a gadol is not responsible for his signature on a Kol Koreh to be very disturbing. Very disturbing.

  4. dr. william gewirtz says:

    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.

    I have no problem with banning Lipa as long as Scarborough Fair can be sung to Adon Olam. However, the choice of signators should cause some introspection/process improvement; i assume some/many were not aware of their co-signers??

  5. Menachem Lipkin says:

    “What concerns us here in Baltimore is whether the NCSY Concert will now be canceled.”

    Why should this ban affect an NCSY concert? The people who signed the ban are “Chareidi” Gedolim. If NCSY followed the Hashkafa of Chareidi Gedolim it would not exist.

    In a Shiur on Daas Torah given in 2003 in response to the banning of “The Making of a Gadol” RHS said, “If you have no Shaichus [to the “Aguda” Rabbis-i.e. don’t follow their psak in all areas],why do you think you have to follow their issur?”

    A general ban on concerts would be unfortunate to the extent that it would reduce the number of concerts available for all to enjoy. Of course nobody should be m’vaze these talmidei chachimim and their thoughts should not be dismissed out of hand, but in the final analysis those of us outside of their hashkafic orbit have no requirement to adhere to such a decree.

  6. barry says:

    Will those same zealots now tell their chevra to stop dressing on Shabbos like Benjamin Franklin and George Washington (white socks, knee breeches, buckle shoes) or wearing jackets designed for Germano-British royalty (Prince Alberts), or Polish Russian gentiles Shtreimlach and spodeks?

    In it’s own day, the Rabbi’s Sons first record also met with some hesitancy among some rebbeim/mechanchim–but it wasn’t banned.

    “Yidden” would still be an anthem of sorts if not outed by YouTube or Eurovision fans, which leads one to believe that it’s not the melody itself which is assur but the image the melody arouses. The lesson seems to be that as long as the “cover” is drawn from obscure sources one is relatively safe. So no more Andrew Lloyd Weber, Groban or Bocelli; hello Basque and Albanian folk music.

  7. Yonason Goldson says:

    When I asked Rav Nachman Bulman zt”l about secular music, he answered that it was much more the syle than the source of the music that matters.

    I must confess that Maoz Tzur is among my most passionate pet peeves: it is not primarily that the popular tune can be traced to an old German drinking song and, before that, to a hymn from the Benedictine Monks (although there is a certain irony that we borrow a gentile religious melody to celebrate the holiday that commemorates Jewish cultural integrity); my complaint is that the tune SOUNDS LIKE an Xmas carol. It evokes images of fat men in red suits and good king Wenceslas. It’s not as if we don’t have other niggunim to fit the words that are lichtig.

    But it’s everywhere. From the beginning of Adar we have to hear it sung to Kabbolas Shabbos, Keil Adon, kedusha, and Hallel. Everyone sings it because everyone sings it. Please, as R’ Adlerstein says, let’s HEAR the music.

  8. michoel halberstam says:

    Rather than comment on the very disturbing issuies raised by this affair,I recommend that yoy read the Gemara in Sanhedrin Daf 101b through 102a, in which the history of the first Kol Koreh is described in detail. The author of that Kol Koreh was Yerovom ben Nevat who managed to get Zaddikim and Neviim to sign on a document urging jews to follow Yerovom into Avoda Zorah. The gemara says that this kol koreh continued to work its evils for years and brought horrible results to Klal Yisroel. The genius of the Kol Koreh is that it works by pressuring people to sign in spite of their better judgment, and then gives everybody something to hide behind when the flaws in that judgment are exposed. From the day of Yerovom to this day, these dynamics still operate. My vote is to abolish the institution of Kol Koreh. The need is far more urgent than the abolition of blogs.

  9. Yisroel Moshe says:

    R. Adlerstein

    “I have nothing to say about the Lipa controversy. I don’t have any inside facts”

    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).

  10. Holy Hyrax says:

    >I have nothing to say about the Lipa controversy. I don’t have any inside facts. When the dust settles, I hope we will find out what really happened. In the meantime, it has had no impact on my life.

    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?

    >If the worst of the rumors about the production of the the Kol Koreh turn out to be true, I will have learned nothing. I understood quite a while ago that names on a Kol Koreh do not necessarily mean anything. If you want to know what those important talmidei chachamim really believe – and I myself would feel compelled to bend to the wishes of several of the purported signatories (or virtual signatories in this case) – you had better speak to them personally, and out of earshot of the zealots.

    Doesn’t this speak a whole lot about this entire system? The fact that zealots can get away with signing names, or misleading these rabbis into signing bans. I think we are learnging quite a bit here.

  11. Ori says:

    Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein: I understood quite a while ago that names on a Kol Koreh do not necessarily mean anything. If you want to know what those important talmidei chachamim really believe – and I myself would feel compelled to bend to the wishes of several of the purported signatories (or virtual signatories in this case) – you had better speak to them personally, and out of earshot of the zealots.

    Ori: Is charedi society supposed to be led by talmidei chachamim, or by the zealots? I don’t want to come across as rude, but it seems that if their names are used for something they don’t agree with they need to protest publicly. Otherwise they are acquiescing with forgery, at the very least. Leaders who do not do that are abdicating their responsibility.

    King Achashverosh gave his ring and his authority to Haman and then to Mordechai, and didn’t check exactly what they were doing. That is not a model of good kingship.

  12. YK says:

    I was also surprised that amongst all the hoopla about the “Big Event”, very little of the underlying Halachos were actually discussed. I’d like to point out that the Birkei Yosef Orach Chaim 560:6 specifically addresses this phenomenon. He quotes the Sefer Maasei Rokeach who deduces from the Maharam Di Lunzano in Sefer Shtay Yodos (Pg. 100) that it is PROHIBITED to adapt non-Jewish tunes to Jewish songs, because “although the song is Holy, the non-Jewish tune is harmful”. The Birkei Yosef himself, however, points out that the Maharam Di Lunzano seems to contradict himself later on in Sefer Shtay Yodos (Pg. 142) where he writes that he himself used Arab tunes for most of his songs, and he goes on to explain that those that disallow such a practice are not justified. (The Sefer is available at

    Many Hungarian Jews are familiar with the Nigunim of the Kaliver Rebbe Zatza”l. Perhaps his most famous song was “Zshol Akakash Mar” (spelling?), which according to common knowledgs, was adapted from a Hungarian shepard’s song. It is fair to say that much of the reason behind the Rabonim’s ban had more to do with the beat, tempo, etc. of the tunes that were adapted, than the fact that they were actually adapted or not. The purpose of song, as mentioned in the Sefer Charedim (Mitzvos Esay Min Hatorah Perek 7) is to awaken in our hearts the love to Hashem. When sung with this purpose, the Charedim considers the act of singing to be a fulfillment of the Mitzvas Esay of V’Uhavtu Es Hashem. Certain kinds of music are not conducive of this goal, to put it mildly.

    Music that is sung purely as a form of entertainment is however Halachically suspect. According to many Poskim this would be prohibited as a sign of mourning for Churban Beis Hamikdosh, as mentioned in Shulchan Orach Siman 560. Exceptions are made for songs of Dveikus (Aishel Avrohom Butshats, Rav Vozner Volume 6 Siman 69), and songs that help workers concentrate on their work. The common habit of many to listen to CD’s and cassettes, etc. seems to be based on a leniency mentioned in Achronim, that we need soothing music to avoid getting depressed, etc.

    Rav Moshe Feinstein Zatzal (Orach Chaim vol. 1 Siman 166) is of the opinion that: 1) Singing with musical accompaniment is prohibited under regular circumstances, but is allowable for the purpose of fulfilling a Mitzvah. He mentions a “safak” if music at a Banquet where the proceeds go to charity is considered a D’var Mitzvoh or not, since the meal itself is not a Mitzvah, and neither is the joy attained from the music. His Psak: Better to be stringent, but not to be “Moche” those that are more lenient. It would seem, that the Rabonim banning the concert understood that this TYPE of gathering could not be condoned in any case. In my opinion, it ends up being a judgment call-and that’s the kind of thing we need Gedolim for.

    I am not addressing the Halachic ramifications of causing financial loss, or naming names. That would seem to be a separate issue deserving clarification.

  13. Daniel Price says:

    I wrote a false cherem about MeShenicnas Adar which was published on and Was this the one you were referring to?


  14. Mordechai Torczyner says:

    This is a very old issue. Shut Rambam #224, Shut Bach 127, Tzitz Eliezer 13:12 and Yabia Omer 6: Orach Chaim 7 all deal with using secular tunes, as well as tunes of Avodah Zarah, for davening.

    Be well,

  15. Yeshiveshe Liberal says:

    I see nothing wrong with looking stylish within the parameters of Tznius. As a matter of fact the history of the Charedi community is replete with examples of its constituents of wearing stylish clothing to the horror of its elders. Chassidim, who now consider wearing a Streimel and Bekeshe as ultra-traditional dress might be shocked to learn that at one point, those clothes were considered the highest fashion, worn only by polish nobleman. Like the B’nei Yeshiva earlier this past century, who adopted the stlish fedora, they chose the fashoianble dress to lend a little respect to their fledgling movements. It seems to have paid off. The irony, of course, is that now if you DON’T wear a Borsalino or Hamburg or Shtreimel, you’re looked down upon. And forget about trying to dress stylishly.

  16. LOberstein says:

    “Why should this ban affect an NCSY concert? The people who signed the ban are “Chareidi” Gedolim. If NCSY followed the Hashkafa of Chareidi Gedolim it would not exist”. Menachem Lipkin raises an important point and I want to clarify the situation here in Baltimore. NCSY was always endorsed by Rabbi YY Ruderman,zatzal. Though there was a concern about single boys being advisors in a co-ed setting, the yeshiva consistantly supported NCSY and many of its leaders are alumni. For at least 25 or more years, there is a summer camp on Ner Israel’s campus , now called Camp NCSY Sports. Furthermore, a large share of the financial base of the local region is through and by alumni, who are active as lay leaders and major supporters. If you attend the annual concert you will see that a large proportion of the attendees in all catagories of support are members of the frum community. I can’t distinguish if they are from the chareidi or modern community as the wall of separation here is not that high and people like me get to play on both sides.
    Unfortunately other communities did not have Rabbi Ruderman and Rabbi Neuberger and find it hard to understand how the Baltimore Yeshiva can have alumni who are the heads of Agudath Israel of America, Young Israel and AIPAC and all listened to Rabbi Neuberger faithfully.

  17. Elitzur says:

    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?

  18. kar says:

    “Perhaps a parallel can be drawn from the halachos of non-Jewish dress. Roughly, there are two chief opinions. 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 fact that the point of initiation is the non-Jewish world does not make a style of dress impermissible, other than its adaptation for the wrong reasons. They would include dressing in order to ape or imitate non-Jewish culture.

    A year ago, a group of high school seniors I taught in a centrist school asked about the propriety of wearing clothing that is in tune with the dictates of current fashion, assuming that they conform to the requirements of modesty in other regards. They like to look stylish. Is there anything wrong with that?

    I took the question to a few (American) poskim, who said the same thing. To be the first on the block to bow to the dictates of the newest trend should be assur. In a very short while, however, much or most of what appears on the rack will follow the new trend. At that point, the shopper who is buying anyway should not be obligated to buy what is less stylish, even if she indeed feels good about conforming to the styles that are “in.” The difference is running to adopt the latest diktat of the non-Jewish shapers of culture, or simply wearing something that by a later date has become pleasing to the esthetic sense through enough exposure.”

    I don’t understand what you’re saying. According to the maharik, it’s mutar. Acc to the gra, it’s not. It shouldnt matter when they are adopting the style. If the point is that they shouldnt adopt the style to copy goyim, but that is just as true after it’s “on the racks” as before – actually, before the style is mainstream, they are not copying anything distinctively gentile at all, but setting the trend.

    Besides, every second designer is Jewish. How are jewish designers’ clothing chukas hagoyim?

  19. Daniel Shain says:

    Our Gedolim need to take a stand on these issues. If they were misled into signing the concert ban, they should come out publicly and say so. It’s not enough to tell us to “speak to the Gedolim personally out of earshot of the zealots” to find out what the Gedolim really think, as Rabbi Addlerstein suggests. Not all of us have such easy access to the Gedolim. If our Gedolim are to be true leaders of Klal yisrael, they need to make their opinions known publicly, honestly and truthfully, and not only in secret conversations with their personal friends and intimate contacts. They need to stop being afraid of or controlled by the “zealots”.

    I agree with YM (comment 3) that it is very disturbing that a gadol would sign something and not take responsibility for it. WADR, what kind of leadership is that? If the Gedolim believe that concerts are assur, why not write and publicize a psak or teshuva?

  20. shnmuel says:

    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.

  21. Steve Brizel says:

    From my limited POV, the best Jewish music enables one to daven and dance. R Berel Wein has defined Jewish music as music that Jews listen to. By that standard alone, one wonders what would be left of much of our niggunim and Nusach HaTefilah if we applied the language of such a Kol Korei. Considering the fact that the Gdolim listed are as Menachem Lipkin stated not the Gdolim to whom I would turn to other and at least arguably far greater challenges in our community, it is sad that the precise time of Talmidie Chachamim is wasted on such topics.

  22. dman says:

    You wrote:
    If you want to know what those important talmidei chachamim really believe – and I myself would feel compelled to bend to the wishes of several of the purported signatories (or virtual signatories in this case) – you had better speak to them personally, and out of earshot of the zealots.

    My question:
    How are those of us who are not privileged to have direct contact with gedolim supposed to find out what they think?

  23. Yoni Schick says:

    In 1995, against my better judgment, I attended a Catskills concert after Shabbos Nachamu which featured the artist known as MBD, Ira Heller, along with other Hassidic Rock Stars. I went b/c the concert supported the missing MIA’s, including Zach Baumel, former Chavrusa of my brother in Gush.

    Now, I am in full agreement with the huge problems these bans spawn, another example of the tail wagging the dog. Yet, what happened that night was an example of the huge problems of this callous, vulgar form of “ruchnius”. A section of the audience publicly embarrassed, actually almost lynched Ira Heller during his “tzioni” opening act, scolding him for singing with a Sephardi haavara. (Apparently they forgot about MBD’s first album.)

    Then came the fireworks…a prominent performer arrived with much pomp, wowing both a crazed, fawning throng of chassidic women on one side, and a frenzied pre-kids at risk group on the other. I literally saw this performer drink water and then spit it out at the adoring crowd who thirstily drank his saliva. Then, strutting about like Billy Idol, he indulged the women’s side with…well, I’ll leave it at that, as this is a family blog.

    I left that concert, held in a cavernous gym in a typical Catskills shlock resort, feeling like a cavernous hole just landed in my heart.

    These concerts, as well as these bans, are indicative of a very twisted state of affairs. Like R Yitzchak, I have no answers.

  24. Shaya Goldmeier says:

    What an absolute cop-out. Here is an opportunity to explain just how Rabbonim can sign something with no research. How they can sign something with no regard for Hefsed Merubah, despite knowing about this event months prior. How Rabbonim can ban something with one hand, yet forget to be mekarev with the other. Then you wonder why there’s a growing lack of respect for those who some call Gedolim? I don’t mean R’ Elyashiv isn’t a Gadol, of course he is. But my own Rov just had an incident where he was at R’Elyashiv and the shamash kept interjecting and rewording the psak being given. My Rov said it was the strangest thing he’s seen. Here’s R’ Elyashiv paskening something is mutar, and the shamash is trying to assur it. My rov is a Chareidi fanatic to begin with and he was floored by the behavior. He had been a huge defender against the various attacks claiming the gedolim aren’t in charge anymore. Now we know they really aren’t.

  25. tzippi says:

    I don’t know if this forwards the conversation, but in light of comment 19 it’s too good not to share. It’s from a review of a mystery that sounds too raw for my taste, but the review was entertaining: “confronted by a group of born-again kids playing Christian rock tunes on the street, Taylor listens as a young girl says earnestly to him, ‘”Through music, we are making Christianity better.”‘ He growls back a line cribbed from TV’s ‘King of the Hill’: ‘”You people aren’t making Christianity better; you’re making rock and roll worse.”‘

  26. L Oberstein says:

    Yoni Schick is correct. Especially for those of us over a certain age, these concerts are foreign to our definition of Jewish music. Abish Brodt is my kind of Jewish musician. He doesn’t do large concerts although he sings at the Agudah Convention , so this must not be what the rabbonim meant when they banned concerts.
    There is a confusion of issues here. What bothers me is that there was no “due process”, just a ban. Kovod Hatorah is predicated on your rebbe being a malach. I saw gedolim up close and none of them spoke in the harsh tones or were so dismissive of those who had a different point of view as the author of the kol koreh against concerts in Israel that was repeated in the Hamodia. The author wasn’t just against Lipa, the kol kereh’s wording was to ostracise all performers, not let them lead the prayers, to make them suffer for their behavior. Is this the way a malach talks ?
    I love Rav Shmuel Kaminetzky, He is the sweetest man I know. How did this kind and gentle man get mixed up with hate speech? Did he or the other rabbis read the kol koreh , did they have any editing authority or were their names just added on.
    Finally, I would prefer my son to go to a Lipa concert than to one where there is dope, alcohol and open pritzus. Halevei, we could find a way to keep our children on the derech and not drive them away.

  27. Steve Brizel says:

    As far as the history and development of “Jewish music” is concerned, IMO, there is probably no greater expert than Velvel Pasternak. IMO, his views would shed a great deal of light and dispell much ignorance on the sources of Jewish music.

  28. Michoel says:

    Rabbi Oberstein wrote:
    “I saw gedolim up close and none of them spoke in the harsh tones or were so dismissive of those who had a different point of view as the author of the kol koreh”

    May I humbly suggest that your seeing those gedolim up close is what caused you to see their words as not being “harsh” and “dismissive”? They signed onto harshly worded Kol Korehs a plenty, for many generations up to and including the dor of Reb Moshe and Reb Yaakov. Perhaps they are more common now and perhaps we have less confidence in our gedolim for a variety of reasons. But they signed.

  29. Orthonomics says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein,
    It really pains me to hear you say that such a ban has “no impact on [your] life.” Like you, this genre of Jewish Music isn’t my cup of tea. Non-Jewish classical music is far more likely to be playing on our home sound system than Jewish Music, although today my oldest insisted on cantorial music, which he happily accompanied at the top of his lungs.

    Just the greater cynicism that has been brought to the surface should be concerning enough for any communal leader, Rebbe, etc. The financial losses alone are saddening. The fact that hourly workers (both Jewish and non-Jewish) had no job for that day (a job that perhaps counted on) should bring tears to the surface.

    While I have never spoken with you personally, I know you are a sensitive and caring person as students of yours that I am acquianted with speak highly of you. Therefore, I am saddened that you feel so removed from this event.

    And who knows which tzedakah or whose source of parnasah will be derailed without warning next.

  30. Yitzchok Adlerstein says:

    To Daniel –

    No idea. Someone sent me email with the satirical ban, unsigned and unattributed. If you wrote it, my apologies.

  31. Noam says:

    Re: comment of Steve Brizel

    Rav Velvel Pasternak has a book out entitled(I think) “Beyond Hava Nagila.” It traces some of the history of chassidic music in America. There are a number of excellent books extant on the history of liturgy. My favorite story from rav Pasternak’s book is how the tune “mizzerlou” transformed from a Greek tune to a Gerrer niggun.

  32. Aaron says:

    Rabbi Oberstein

    re: the the concerts the son may choose go to (and that you allow him to). If either of you are open to popular music aka classic rock you simply need to be judicious. In the past year or two I’ve been to see Elton John, The Who, and Jethro Tull. There was no dope or alcohol and the crowd was too old for any form of pritzus… open or concealed!

  33. R'M.S. says:

    v’az mah?
    Was there any follow up? Why was there no clarification for the olam. G-d knows there is no shortage of frum papers out there waiting for something to talk about. Why would the roshei yeshiva not clarify their position, and more importantly, the process. This is the part that drives me crazy. Here we are, waiting to understand, hoping to follow, but there is no explanation.

    It is very disheartening.

  34. cvmay says:

    It is imperative for those in leadership positions to note that there are various SPIRITUAL DIETS available for consumption. A large segment of our Frum Youth long for wholesome music and find solace and inspiration in today’s music. Middle-agers should recall some of the ‘Spiritual Diets’ of our youth. There is a necesity to come down to “amcha” in order to help them rise, BANS do the exact opposites.

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