Isaac Kaplan

"Is it any wonder I've got too much time on my hands?"

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Lipa Ban and Al Sharpton

Ok, so my last post was a little off - but then again, I was discussing the average Brooklyn Jew, not Lipa or Gertner. Apparently, they were influenced by the ban, you think?

I've reached the point where there are so many stories and theories out there, that I don't know who to believe. I don't know who's right, who's wrong, and perhaps we'll never know.

What ticks me off is the way this was apparently handled. The way I feel about the matter now is how I felt after Imus got fired last April. Here you had a guy who made mistakes, and he made a very big one with his infamous line. But the way he was treated that week, the way he was dressed down by Sharpton, the way he was dumped by MSNBC and CBS Radio - it made you feel like the bad guys won. The punishment didn't seem to fit the crime - most people would've been cool with a short suspension, but Sharpton wanted the guy to be fired. Sharpton won.

I feel like Lipa and Sheya Mendlowitz are like the I-man here. Maybe they've made their share of mistakes, but you feel like it should never have gotten this brutal for them. And the same way the Imus Ranch lost a lot of dough from the whole thing, I feel terrible for that wonderful tzedaka in Eretz Yisroel.

- Like so many other bans before it, this one was poorly executed. And I hate to say it, but it feels like the "bad guys" won here too. Obviously, the rabbonim deserve our utmost respect, but that's the gut feeling out there. What could've been done differently? A lot of things, in my opinion.

-- If Mendlowitz is right that he first heard about the ban on the internet, then that's very, very hard to justify. Where's the due process? When did "dan 'lkaff zchus" end up in the same dustbin as "yafeh torah im derech eretz" and "eilu v'eilu divrei elokim chaim"? I would love to see the Agudah or one of the rabbonim come up with a set of procedures to be followed in dealing with bans. Perhaps some sort of arbitration/mediation process would be nice. Sure, the rabble-rousers out there would have what to say no matter what, but for most of us, I think it would bring a lot of piece of mind.

-- I think the ban should've been clearer. More details, more info. Explain what the problem was, what's being banned, instead of a vague kol korei. If there's more transparency, there's less room for people to accuse the great ones of playing politics and kowtowing to the kanoim. Let's face it: A vague, super-harsh ban is like an open invitation for lashon hora and motzei sheim ra. I can't imagine it's too many steps removed from lifnei eevar.

When you go through a tshuva, it's always breathtaking to see the process, see the rav deal with the many facts out there, see the rav go through the steps, try to figure it all out, and end up with a psak. When a rav leaves no stone unturned, maybe you can't understand his logic, but you certainly respect it.

Again, I can't say who's right or who's wrong, I simply don't know enough. But I'd like to think there are ways to do this where we can limit the lashon hora, the ripping gedolim, and all the hate out there. There's gotta be a better way.

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Lipa Ban - Is Anybody Really Listening?

Like so many bans before it, the Lipa Concert ban has got all the bloggers flared up. You know the drill: centrist/leftist Jew rips the gedolim and the kanoim, and chareidi commenter ("I'm only on here because my rosh yeshiva said I should!") tries valiantly to defend the gedolim, all the while calling the blogger a kofer, aprikores, mevazeh talmid chacham, racist, sexist, and homophobe.

I'll leave the discussion of who's right, who's wrong, etc. to those blogs. My reaction to this controversy - when it comes down to it, does anybody really care? Is anybody really going to change their ways and cancel their tickets because of this pronouncement? Does anybody still care?

I believe that very few people take these pronouncements seriously anymore.

After all, the turning point for most people was the wedding takanos. The rabbis who signed said they weren't going to show up to the weddings that violated the takanos. Yet the richies kept making their weddings in the Sheraton Meadowlands and Brooklyn Marriott with all the trimmings, in clear defiance of the takanos. And guess what? The roshei yeshiva still showed up! I don't know of a single rich guy who switched his daughter's wedding from Ateres Avrohom to Ateres Shlomo because of those ads in the Jewish Observer. And I never heard of one rabbi boycott a wedding that violated the takanos. And I'm SURE we would've heard about an incident like that.

The whole wedding takanos fiasco taught us not to worry about these "kol korei"s. You could defy them and live to talk about it.

Sure, some chareidim tried to save face for the rabbis - "yeah, they didn't mean for it to be taken seriously, it was just meant so that the people making smaller weddings wouldn't be embarrassed, so that they could just say they were following the takanos..." - aside from the disturbing thought that some gedolim were playing the same political games as Hillary and Obama, the message was - don't take what we say at face value! Don't take us THAT seriously! And if that kol korei was about politics and quasi-hidden agendas, who's to say that the other ones are any different?

At the end of the day, the wedding takanos was a PR disaster for the Agudah and the Moetzes. And it's only gone downhill from there, with Slifkin, Kolko, etc. Even the Indian shaitels - a bunch of women wore snoods for a day, a horrible comedy album was inspired, and then life went back to normal.

- Plus, who were the Gedolim trying to target here? The MO and chareidi-lites are unaffected by this ban. As for the chareidim, many of them aren't going to concerts; Reb Laizer Ginsburg and others have been ripping concerts for years. Furthermore, most chareidim have their own rav/ rosh yeshiva that they speak to for their shailos. So why should they listen to an ad in the Hamodia, if they have their own authorities with whom to discuss the issue?

(Lawrence Kaplan has a terrific essay about how the concept of "daas torah" only came to life following WWII, after the destruction of European Jewry. In a future post, I plan on giving my take as to where "daas torah" is headed today. And most people having their own rabbeim is a big part of that.)

In fact, I have a chareidi uncle who has a bunch of rabbeim with whom he discusses shailos and other issues. And he recently borrowed one of my books, one that was heavily banned a few years back. So clearly, he's not taking that ban seriously. My Lakewood cousins, on the other hand.... well let's just say, my uncle better be hiding that book in a safe place, if he knows what's good for him.

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