Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Some Random Thoughts About a Music Hechsher and Election 2008


The latest rage in chareidi Jewish life is the opening of a "music hashgocho." Some rabbis have banded together and declared certain musical forms to be innately forbidden. Classical music is in. Rap and reggae are out, regardless of the lyrics. There is no talk about Nazis who found "kosher music" useful for unwinding after a long day of working in the concentration camps killing Jews.
Music in the Third Reich

Any discussion of the Jewish purity of music is going to yield many surprises. Both Jewish cuisine and music have borrowed influence from those among whom we have sojourned over the centuries. The resemblance of Hungarian Jewish music to that of Hungarians and Russian Jewish music to that of Russian gentiles is not a random coincidence. There has been a Jewish presence in America for over three hundred years. It has left its imprint on our spoken language, whether it is the English spoken in the majority of Jewish homes or the Yiddish that has endured corruptions of grammar and absorption of English vocabulary.

The question of our relationship as Jews to majority culture is not confined to music. Nor is one strategy appropriate to all Jews. An orthodox Jew in Teaneck has a different cultural frame of reference than a Jew in Williamsburg, who is more likely to hear bachata music (my favourite) than punk rock or techno.

Orthodox Judaism as interpreted by chasidim frowns upon fancy haircuts for boys. A "chup",( hair long enough to comb to the side) is frowned upon. I have yet to hear rabbinic responsa issued on the subject of designer eyeglasses. I have heard chassidic children talk about who has the nicest glasses. The term "hip" has not made it into the chassidic lexicon, but the concept exists in recognisable form.

There are problems that are turning off Jews to Judaism. Incidents of all sorts of physical abuse of children can if swept under the carpet turn the victims against Judaism. This is an inestimable loss to the Jewish people.

Another problem is shoehorning a child into a more intensive level of learning than he or she can master. In helping a child choose his or her path in adulthood, it is wise to consider the nature of the child and to try to see beyond the pride of the parents. It is all the rage to tell orthodox children to stay out of college. Yet it is college graduates and those who took the business route who subsidise the Torah learning so prized in our community.

The idea of analysing what effect music has is a personal question. In biology there are harmful microorganisms and toxins. In music there is likewise songs that promote evil behavior. Sometimes even the music and not just the lyrics have a negative effect. Other music is in a gray zone.

A blanket prohibition of wide ranges of music in my opinion creates a lot more problems t than it solves. Poverty, domestic violence and sexual abuse as well as education that is ill suited to a particular child are far more pressing problems than the issue of "non kosher Jewish music".

The music hechsher idea has a lot of problems. The question of what music promotes spiritual growth and what music hinders it is subject to a multitude of individual and social variables. For years, great rabbis refused to issue a rabbinic prohibition against smoking, for fear that it would add the sin of disobedience to the health worries of the faithful. The inauguration of a music hechsher leaves me with a sense of longing for such forbearance.


Although I recently presented the video at the top of this posting with an article about Iran, it seems to have a relevance to this discussion. Should one be impelled to a path of piety or compelled is a universal and not a solely Jewish question. Iranian youth have faced clergical prohibitions as have Jewish youth. Such an approach invites a comic response, as can be seen in the video.


Short Takes and Random Thoughts About Election 2008

John McCain raised five million dollars in five hours in Chicago recently. Did Obama’s reputation make it any easier? Could some of those solid blue states end up going for McCain?

McCain Raises 5 Million in Obama’s Home Town

There is usually a series of debates between the two major candidates. In one of the debates, the Vice Presidential candidates face off. Remember Joe Biden? He’s running for Vice President. How would he look in a debate with Palin? Or would that be just too cruel?

As always, Rudi Stettner continues to post selected articles in their entirety at American Sentinel. Please click below to read entire article

To Read entire article click here Sphere: Related Content

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