By Yossi Elituv / Mishpacha Magazine
Translated from Hebrew
It was Monday, and yet again Jerusalem was the scene of hundreds of Torah-observant Jews walking out of a concert, dubiously touted as a “Night of Chassidic Music.”
In the past, Rabbis and Halachic authorities have tried to implement a certain set of standards, to present the Halachic view regarding musical performances where there is no separation between the genders, and their struggle continues.
As a journalist, I am not in position to make Halachic decisions, but I would like to focus on something which really saddened me.
It hurts me when I see, that the Shulchan Aruch, which was written hundreds of years ago, and still serves as our guide, is being trampled on. As great as the “Chassidic” performer is, his actions, in which he performed for a mixed crowd of men and women, dancing together, including many of Anash, is an absolute desecration of Halacha.
It hurts more, when it is done at a location near the site of the Beis HaMikdash, in a city which just commemorated close to 2000 years of Golus.
But as much as that hurts me, and every religious Jew, there is an additional point, which hurts much more, and that is the actions of said performer, who deceitfully and wrongfully uses the Rebbe for his own benefit, using His holy name for his abominable actions, creating the impression that the Rebbe, the great fighter for Torah observance, is the one who (Heaven Forbid) permitted these performances.
An additional caveat, is his new act, of adopting Israeli love songs, replete with Non-Jewish content, and introducing these songs to the religious crowds, polluting their souls with impure content.
While some might have been led astray by said performer’s actions, thinking that the Rebbe would have approved such actions, this can be no further than the truth.
In 5748, HASC planned its first “A Time for Music” benefit concert, and invited MBD to perform. He agreed on condition that the performance will have separate seating across the whole hall, but the organizers were worried that such an arrangement will cause many people to avoid the concert. MBD offered to go with them to “Sunday Dollars” by the Rebbe and ask the Rebbe for a blessing, asking that the concert be successful despite the separate seating.
The next Sunday the HASC organizers arrived in 770 together with MBD, and after MBD introduced them to the Rebbe he mentioned that they agreed to make the concert with separate seating and they want a blessing for success. The Rebbe gave them a blessing and the preparations for the concert began.
A few days before the concert was due to take place the organizers were worried, very few tickets were sold and people said it was because of the separate seating. One of the organizers came up with an idea, to have mixed seating but call it “Family Seating,” thus skirting the Halachic requirement for separate seating. But MBD was steadfast in his refusal, and asked the organizers to write to the Rebbe about the problems and their idea. The Rebbe replied:
כל הנ”ל אינו משנה את השולחן ערוך, ברכה והצלחה [All this does not change the Shulchan Aruch. Blessing and Success].
In a similar vein, when the Rebbe was asked by a certain organization whether they can have Avraham Fried perform in front of a mixed crowd, citing the financial loss that they will incur if the concert will have separate seating, the Rebbe replied:
התערובות – איסור ודאי, הגרעון – ספק, ואין ספק מוציא מידי ודאי (Mixed seating is absolutely prohibited; The loss of money is only a doubtful possibility. The absolute has precedence over the doubt).
Chabad has had its share of such occurences. This performer is not the first one.
In the first years of the Rebbe’s leadership, there was a Chossid named Shlomo Carlebach, who had a musical talent, and had much success in bringing young students to Chabad.
Early on in his carreer, he realized that if he would remove the barriers between the genders, he would have much bigger crowds, and he asked the Rebbe for permission to remove these barriers. However, the Rebbe was adamant that he cannot break Halacha for the sake of bringing Jews closer to Torah, citing the famous saying of the Rebbe Rashab “You cannot extinguish fire with gasoline.”
However, Shlomo did not adhere to the Rebbe’s directive, and began performing in front of mixed crowds. When the Rebbe got wind of this change, and was told that people were unsuccessful in “bringing him to his senses,” the Rebbe spoke about it during the 2nd Night of Pesach 5714, speaking sharply (albeit, without mentioning Shlomo’s name) about those who think that lowering the standards of Torah will bring the Torah closer to the Jews, when indeed the opposite is true.
A short while later, Chabad was forced to publicly announce, that Shlomo is no longer affiliated with Chabad.
I have a hard time understanding what causes a G-d fearing person, who is pious in every aspect of his personal life, to dump the great treasures of Jewish music and replace it with shallow Israeli music, and more so – to do so while desecrating Halacha, and dragging the Rebbe down with him.
Seems like the Rebbe’s war to protect the Halacha from modernization and modification is still going on today, with some of his Chassidim needing it more than others…
I am not here to give Mussar, rather to relieve my pain by expressing it.