Tuesday, December 13, 2005

From the mailbag



Here's what some of you may have thought if you went out and bought the book after The Besser Post.....

A reader writes:

I recently finished, on your recommendation "The Rabbi of 84th Street" about Rabbi Chaskel Besser, and it highlighted a question that has troubled me for many years.

From the book we see different attitudes than those of frum society today. Rabbi Besser's father was an important and respected loyal chossid of the Radomsker Rebbe, yet the family was very cultured. They attended symphonies, were what you might call "broad minded", and befriended Jew and non-Jew alike. All of these things are seldom found among today's religious Jewish population. To be sure, this was not true in all areas and in all families, but do we all have to emulate Rumanian peasants?

It seems to me that throughout history numerous religious Jews were knowledgeable and participated in creative art, music, or writing. For whatever reason, these pursuits have been deleted from our education or value systems. If there is a creative soul among us, they are either stifled or forced to the fringe (or worse).

Oddly, however, this seems to be a recent creation; but why should it be that way?


עכ"ל

Anybody care to take a crack at it? I know I do.

72 comments:

fekete said...

As a Rumanian peasent myself I will just say:
Thou complainest too much.

Hirshel Tzig said...

Fekete, a Rumanian? nem seret....

George W. Bush said...

Nice goat!

fekete said...

HT what dont you like?

zezmir said...

HT, I thought you said you had something to say about this?

Yehoshua Leib said...

I love these guys who sit at their computers complaining about everything that they don't like.
Go learn Toah, do Mitzvos, and live an honest life.
Stop kvetching so much - or are you one of these guys who never opens a sefer and just complains about how things arent good enough?

nosson tzvi said...

Do you trust your child too be creative?
Creatibity often leads to crumkite, my friend.
Those days of open mindedness to secular culture didn't turn out so well.

go snags! said...

YL, NT,
I love these names! Where did you guys come from? You should post here more often!

CE said...

I take responsibility for the original email that HT posted here.
Let me ask you, do you think that it's a positive development that there hasn't been a single frum poet, artist or musician produced by the religious world in recent history?
I know, I know, you don't care... I'm talking to the wall.

Hirshel Tzig said...

Fekete

Fekete=Hungarian, not Rumanian, and any self-respecting Hungarian, even from ביי די גרעניץ, would never call himself a Rumanian (gasp!).

Hirshel Tzig said...

Zezmir

patience, my friend, is a virtue.

Fekete said...

My last name may be Fekete, but I am a Rumainisher.

Fekete said...

And as a Lubavitcher you should know that the Rayatz held that unz Rumainishe Yidden zenen a tefach hecher vi di ungarishe.

Hirshel Tzig said...

Fekete

"unz Rumainishe Yidden zenen a tefach hecher vi di ungarishe".

is that a direct quote, or an assumption on your part?

btw, is that real Rumania or parts that were once Hungary?

fekete said...

The quote goes like this:
"A Rumainisher hut khotch emunas chochomin, ubur a Ungarisher... er toivelt zich un toivelt zich, un es helft nit gornit."

ch'sidshe tourist said...

isnt there some line from the rebbe rashab that was recently printed how he said chasidus once, somewhere in romania and he was sort of impressed by the accomplishment and said like "mir hoben g'chazert chasidus far de "mamilige mit van(sic)(wine).my grandfather "fin de greinitz" really loved that dish.

fekete said...

So, CE:
You can see your Rebbe wasn't opposed to the lifestyle of the "Rumanian Peasant" that you denigrated!

CE said...

Fekete,
Don't take it the wrong way; some of my best friends are Rumanian peasants! ;-)

Hirshel Tzig said...

fekete

א מקור פליז

fekete said...

I heard it from R' Yisroel Friedman among others...

avremel said...

From a Chassidishe p.o.v. is Rumania worlds above Hungary. More Emunas Chachomim and less Baalebatishkeit.

Circus tent welcoming com. said...

C. Tourist, thanks for dropping in!

Hirshel Tzig said...

welcoming:

who died and made you the welcoming commitee?

C. Tent Welcomers anon. said...

Where I come from we stress the positive instead of the negative - Why does someone have to die? Maybe it's because I was BORN that I nominate myself as the welcoming committee. Yo got a problem wit dat?

still waiting said...

I'm glad to see so many substantive responses to the question posed at the outset here...

Hirshel Tzig said...

waiting

you work with what you have.....

how's about you start, eh?

Tamara said...

How odd, no direct responses, yet lots of kvetching from the people who are complaining about the kvetchers. I don't know...sometimes we must look in the mirror before we project outwardly. Just my meager thought...

George W. Bush said...

CE certainly raises some good issues.

n said...

ce, good to see you back...your post reminds me of how some people view the american indian and the land of America 'back in the day'. An idyilic time, of love between native tribes, language, culture, art, ecology....Some imagine beuatiful, robust tanned people running through the plains, Pocohanis waltzing on a mountaintop waving to 'sweet running cloud', ...whats really happening: running cloud is an illiterate savage(typical of the population) running to rape and scalp pocohanis who in realty is a prematurely aged malnorished 20 year old who eats lizards and rats and lifts her skirt wherever she is to make, and self mutilates her arms and face for the sake of enhanced beauty (controlled wounding)....

Rabbi Besser's era is the same as the american indian mushel "era'. 'If it aint now, things must have been better.' This is a falicy....

Hirshel Tzig said...

N

I'm shocked,utterly shocked, at the content. I never knew you could write like that! but it's OK.

To defend CE I would say that he's not trying to emulate the period as a whole, but rather certain aspects, that way he'll have a totally euphoric world.

JEW said...

Hey Tzig
where in england are you from/
you sound imature, with your posts

ch'sidshe tourist said...

ok, dead or alive. thanx for the warm welcome.

Hirshel Tzig said...

jew
you sound like a boor with your spelling....

JEW said...

Ok let's talk…
First where in England are you from?
Second, what in ……. Is the point of your pathetic blog?

What are you trying to accomplish?
Whatever you throw out there, believe me the other kreizin can throw back way more
Stop your silly narishkeitin

Hirshel Tzig said...

Sounds like "bring home the troops" to me.

Have you read any of the old posts? If not don't bother me.

JEW said...

Sounds like "bring home the troops" to me.

The trrops are helping us while they are there, so of course dont bring them home. your nurishkeiten are not helping us one iota.

and yes i have read all of your comments, I still dont get your point

Hirshel Tzig said...

no, bloke. I mean that it sounds like you're saying "what's the point of the fight, bring home the troops". I see a point, and maybe some of the regulars here will fill you in. I have no time.

JEW said...

Yes I know that is what you meant, and I asnwerd that your analogy does not compare, since the troops are helping us here and it is a silly notion to bring sonmeone home if they are helping out. But your nurishketin is not helpig one bit, it is doing the opposite

JEW said...

Yes I know that is what you meant, and I asnwerd that your analogy does not compare, since the troops are helping us here and it is a silly notion to bring sonmeone home if they are helping out. But your nurishketin is not helpig one bit, it is doing the opposite

n said...

ht, ce ..a decent post, some controoversy and this is all....whats going on?

zilbervasser said...

HT - Guess what, R. Goldvasser just issued a new book and he is scheduled to be on JM in the AM with Nachum Segal next Tuesday morning. Greyt zich tzu. Maybe you can inspect the book to make sure it passes muster.

c said...

"To be sure, this was not true in all areas and in all families"

You answered the question there. R. Besser's family was the elite. They were very rich and very close to the Rebbe. They were פון די בּעסערע מענטשׁען. An exception does not make a rule.

"there hasn't been a single frum poet, artist or musician produced by the religious world in recent history?" - I think that's going too far. You have a point, but that's overstating the case a bit.

I find it interesting though to read that complaint here, since Lubavitch has portrayed itself as being more advanced in this area. What about the Chassidic Art Institute and stuff like that ? I assume you might say that such is for BT's and perhaps PR to a great extent though.

avremel said...

C

You don't know CE personally, so you can't claim that a Lubavitcher said it. TCAI is run by a Russian BT, and Zalman Kleiman was an exception as well. The Rebbe directed him to study art in Paris. Hendel Lieberman-Futerfas did his study of art while at a low-point of his religious observance. Michoel Muchnik is a BT, and I believe Baruch Nachshon is as well.

avremel said...

Metzitzah

look at the picture of the Rebbe Rashab, the hat looks pretty much like the one the Rebbe wore.

CE said...

I was away yesterday so I'm sorry that I wasn't able to comment.

Foist of all, my dear N,
I agree with debunking the myth of the noble savage, but the analogy is misapplied here. I was not waxing nostalgic about the "bad old days" - I am merely using the book as a springboard for a pint that has bothered me for quite some time: the lack of (and stifling of) artistic creativity, be it musical, verbal or visual. This seems to me to be greatly lacking, and I see no reason for it to be so - since historically it was acceptable; why is it no longer so?

HT,
No frum artist was got his artistic abilities honed or foster in the frum world. I knew R' Zalman Kleinman, and was a great man, a chissidshe yid through and through. - and he did not study art because of his growing up in chassidishe home (he was in a monastery during the war and was saved by some chassidim and taken to France. He agreed to go to yeshiva only if he would be allowed to study art...).

I know of no artsist of any kind produced in modern times by the frum world. Read the post again, and I spefically stated my the point I was trying to make.

ce said...

Sorry for the hard read, I must slow down my typing (and read my comment over again before posting) next time.

This is what I meant to say in the last two pragraphs there:

HT,
No frum artist had his artistic abilities honed or fostered in the frum world. I knew R' Zalman Kleinman, and hewas a great man, a chissidshe yid through and through - and he did not study art as a result of his growing up in chassidishe home (he was in a monastery during the war and was saved by some chassidim and taken to France. He agreed to go to yeshiva only if he would be allowed to study art...).

I know of no artist, of any kind, produced in modern times by the frum world. Read the post again, and I spefically stated the point I was trying to make.

n said...

ce says: "the lack of (and stifling of) artistic creativity, be it musical, verbal or visual frosts my pint"

An essay is required to deal with this topic..but b'kitur:

The atributes of creativity when expressed by goyim typically emulate nothing spiritual, eternal, or deep thinking, but rather the converse: Creating or viewing art in museums accomplishes what? Composing or listening to heavy metal or Wagner elicits what? Viewing a movie or reading most books has what effect?

The answer quite simply is that for the goy, creativity is a transitory pleasure unconnected to anything of great importance, even at the highest echelon of creativity, classical music/literature....This is antithetical to the life of a yid...
Creativity (in music, art, etc) as an end in and of itself is just not consistent with the thrust of yiddishkeit.

Lets face another fact of life, yidden have very little time in life to be electively creative within even a jewish context. Mitzvahs demand specific performance, as does the going to and from work, family chores, and obligations (we are challenged today by being busier than ever with good things: better parents than ever doing homework with kids, invitations to more simchas than anyone in history ever attended, etc.).
When is there time to contemplate creativity within even a jewish context within one of kosher pleasure and electiveness?

In summary we collectively don't have much time rather than creativity being stifled for its own sake and Jewish life doesn't promulgate transitory pleasure (the arts) with the exception of anything thats edible.

Hirshel Tzig said...

N

that would explain why there's little creative spirit amongst Frum Jews, but what I think CE wants to know is why if there happens to be a creative spirit, by fluke, in one of us, that too is stifled?

CE said...

Thank you HT for trying to clarify my words a couple times here!

N,
I am not talking about joining the world of secular art. Take, for example, Zalman Kleinman mentioned above - a Jew who was raised frum could never become Zalman Kleinman today.

Not every person is inclined to be a businessman, nor should they be. There are very creatively inclined people in the word as there have always been. This is a good thing! Yet, our frum culture and society seems to stifle an actually oppose creativity of any artistic kind, and the only creativity we hear about in frum families are creative methods of fraud.

I personally think that this culture in which we currently live is often precisely what you described above as the pursuit of:
"Transitory pleasure unconnected to anything of great importance, even at the highest echelon....This is antithetical to the life of a yid..."
however, creative pursuits do not have to be goyish - on the contrary - they can express great spirituality!

You said "Creativity (in music, art, etc) as an end in and of itself is just not consistent with the thrust of yiddishkeit."
But I never meant it as an end of itself! And by the same token many people live uncreative lives full of pursuits (money, kovod, etc.) that in and of themselves are not consistent with the thrust of yiddishkeit.

n said...

now we're having fun!

HT says:I think CE wants to know is why if there happens to be a creative spirit, by fluke, in one of us, that too is stifled?

n says: how in the world are you or anyone else pratically stifled?
there is no conspiracy here...if you wanna produce art, music, write a book, then go ahead..no body stopping you...read, listen to music, buy art work....


CE said...
ZK could never become ZK today.
N says: how would a zk of today be stifled? if you are talking training, and there not being a school of art for yidden, its no conspiracy...then start one.if a yid wants training, he is creative enough to pursue it without an established instituion catering to him..

Ce says:
Yet, our frum culture and society seems to stifle an actually oppose creativity of any artistic kind, and the only creativity we hear about in frum families are creative methods of fraud.

n says:
no one has contempt of artistically creative yidden and I'm shocked to hear what by definition is a self hating canard...

ce says:
I personally think that this culture in which we currently live is often precisely what you described above as the pursuit of:
"Transitory pleasure unconnected to anything of great importance, even at the highest echelon....This is antithetical to the life of a yid..."

n says: this is moral relativism. what are you talking about?

Ce said:
however, creative pursuits do not have to be goyish - on the contrary - they can express great spirituality!
N say: great..what are you talking about...give examples and then who is stifling what...

Ce; Said:
You said "Creativity (in music, art, etc) as an end in and of itself is just not consistent with the thrust of yiddishkeit."
But I never meant it as an end of itself!
N says:
cultural entertainment sounds like fun but it ain't happening because its just too passive for frum folks...it doesn't happen not because there is a conspiracy

Ce:
And by the same token many people live uncreative lives full of pursuits (money, kovod, etc.) that in and of themselves are not consistent with the thrust of

N says: this is more moral relativism...why are we rating peoples lives in their totality?

ce said...

N,
I don't think we're communicating my friend.
Let me clarify:
Jewish history is replete with Torah based art (admittedly that might not apply to visual arts because of the problem of graven images, etc.) such as poetic and musical appreciation. Now, I'm not referring to goyishe oriented forms of expression, I mean G-dly expression.
From Chazal until before the war there seems not to have been this stance against artistic expression (ex. The Leviyim in the Beis Hamikdosh, R' Yehuda Halevi, the Paitanim, ballei negina, the Ramachal, who was a playwright, etc.) -- which I do think exists today.
I'm not talking about a conspiracy, let's call it a cultural stigma or something. The bottom line is that the frum world places no value on these matters, and those pursuits are definitely not encouraged; and if someone has an artistic nature and/or interest he will be discouraged. Should he decide that he wants to peruse creative expression, he will be forced out of the frum world and get his fulfillment elsewhere.
Now my point about Reb Zalman Kleinman was to simply say that Zalman Kleinman's clearly an example of a chassidishe artist - but he wasn't produced by yeshivos and we certainly wouldn't tolerate a boy like him today. As things worked out, he became a chassidishe artist - and only because it was considered a valid pursuit by R' Nissin Neminov, etc. However, if a typical frum kid growing up today would have an interest in creative arts, he would never have the opportunity to become a Zalman Kleinman.
If I was able I would like to start a school for frum kids - which would fail because I am not capable and I'm pretty insignificant - I would never be able to take on the establishment successfully.
But that's not my point; my question is, how did we get here, and why?

c said...

I have seen ads for a frum art school in a heimeshe area - but mostly for youngsters and mostly for girls.

Hirshel Tzig said...

C

you said:

"By the way, do any of you guys ever read writings by Hirshe-Dovid Katz in the Algemeiner Journal and elsewhere ? He has some interesting stuff out there."

I hadn't bought the Algemeiner for a long time, this week, after your comment, I did. But Alas, no HDK this week, he's away on an expedition.

Fill us in; what have we missed?

n said...

ce,
lets break it down nuts and bolts...the institution that produced singing and instrument playing levyeem is out of business until moshiach comes. That doesn't mean that a child, even one with no talent can't take music lessons, or sing in a choir, or sit by a farbrengan and commence the process of becoming attached to music and then pursueing learning more and growing ...who is discouraging this? if your issue is the lack of systematic learning (cultural) in an institution, meaning it not being available and therefore we are not producing cultural end products..i disagree...institutions very much make us weak...today we have more yidden learning in yeshiva than probably anytime in history...and what are we reaping?..where is the talent of yesteryear that somehow emerged out of the local individualistic dilapidated shtetl bais medrash?
and if you ar talking music today how about all those frum perfomers: mendy, and dudi, and I don't even know the names...these guys are making music...(i wouldn't call it jewish music myself but) they are not outside of the mainstream and very much embraced by a wide spectrum...chassidish music..we'll again there are plenty of these music makers... if you are talking creative expression as a means to make a living i don't know which normative conservative minded parent jewish or not would encourage this as a general rule letchatchila for an 18 year old. And at that juncture we are already talking about the prospect of mariage and life gets busy...and everyone has to eat...how many real artists ever made a living from their avocation? most don't so idon't get whta you mean by saying everyone is not cut out for business..

Hirshel Tzig said...

N

Ya gotta start using some good-old-fashioned grammar here, otherwise nobody'll know what you're talking about.

To call today's tapes and CD's "music" is a disgrace to the greats. Nobody ever said anything about making a living from your creativity, just pursuing it somewhat.

To be fair, however, in the Besser case they did not see themselves as part of the greater Jewish community insofar as living there. They lived in the big city, went to public schools, frequented the theater and symphony, and so forth. It would be nice to know what the word in the shtiebel was about the Bessers. Something tells me that the locals didn't care for them, with their bourgeoise attitude.

ce said...

N,
I'm not sure if I understand what you're saying - but if you still don't know what i'm trying to say then we will have to agree to disagree, and i won't try to explain it further.

HT,
I don't see any reason to think you're right about the common view of the Bessers. Unless you have evidence to the contrary, i think they were well accepted, and probably not considered as radical as you think (which was what my post was about).

Hirshel Tzig said...

CE

it's just a hunch, but I believe I'm right. Why would it be any different than it is now?

n said...

ce,
i hear you but disagree with the upshot..: There appears not to be too much artistic cultural output in frum life and you are saying that talented ones are being stifled. I' m saying that there are no bad guys out there...no one is stifling anyone and that its a low priority in jewish life...

HT,
i wouldn't call it music either, but whose fault is that? Maybe now i'm agreeing with ce a bit, because come to think of it, kosher music is primarily chazonis and people are in such a mode of hurry it up that few enjoy or have patience for it....

ce said...

That was the point of my post - I think it IS different now.
Please prove otherwise!

Hirshel Tzig said...

N and CE

Much of the stifling today is imaginary. People run from their own shadows and impose much of today's standards themselves. The examples abound, times does not however.

ce said...

HT,
You are not fully correct.
Creativity and expression flourish when they are encouraged. I maintain that these are important and healthy elements of human development.
Some examples of (unintentional) stifling:

Some people would consider it intolerable for a Jew to sing or dance in shul after Lecha Dodi.

A woman I know once stayed by a main-stream heimishe family for Shabbos. The hosts asked he what she would like to do after the meal, and she replied that on Shabbos afternoon she usually learns and thinks about Hashem privately.
They told her very seriously 'That doesn't sound very Jewish."

But more to the point, I know a fellow about 50 who lives in Boro Park. He is pro-Chabad, was born in Williamsburg, very intelligent and ehrlich (and Hungarian). To make a long story short he said:
Creativity is not safe; it leads to many bad things, and has been the cause of great tragedies throughout history. And that the halochos of Tznius are our guide - we wear tailored formal clothing that shows that we are about self-control. this is a model for life.

Maybe he's right, i don't know. But I don't think that creativity is the root of all evil - like anything else it can be good or bad, but don't tell me that there is no stifling going on (intentional of otherwise).

Hirshel Tzig said...

CE

you're all over the place here.
you said:

"Some people would consider it intolerable for a Jew to sing or dance in shul after Lecha Dodi."

Keeping within the Shul's rules isn't called being stifling, nor is the need to dance necessarily a creative one, sometimes, I say sometimes, it's a need for a stiff pill or drink that manifests itself in a dance.

ce said...

If you don't like it, skip that example...

Hirshel Tzig said...

Why skip it when you can rip it to shreds and look like a stud doing it?

:)

ce said...

It was a cumulative point that I was trying to make.

n said...

ce,
the dancing issue placed to a vote would show 85% for, 14% undecided, and 1% against. The 1% makes the rules and is anti spontineity rather than a stifler of creativity; I don't think he is against creative dance...just the expression of joy! we can't learn from this or maybe this is an example...


the lady who thinks about hashem...well, its a cute anectdote but it proves what? frum people don't talk in those terms so it could throw them...strange mode of communication, she is probably not a native...I can'tbeleive anyone would have any issue with her learning about Torah, or thinking about the abishter.
the chabadsker/hungarian is interesting...you may have a point....but i see the primary stress on conformity rather than against creativity, and is probably relevant singularly to his generation; holocaust survivor parents who lost family everyone in america and europe thru either assimilation or murder...and maintained a steadfastness to stay jewish, and raised the most loyal of children, loyal to lots of rejectionist opinions...survival mode...and despite being vigilant and conformist (this fifty year old), the complicated tides of living in a non shtetl environment, with mass media available to all, living amonsgt a non homogenous crowd and goyim, influences even his kids to some degree...today the frum world is much wider than his generation...

HT,
i follow many man made rules but i'm not happy with all of them. The desire for the expression of joy and the warmth of brotherhood aroused by milling around the bima means someone needs a drink or needs medication? you need to be reprogrammed....

Hirshel Tzig said...

I need to institute a new rule, not to comment on a post or comment before reading it twice and thoroughly at that.

Read it again, N, and then talk to me.

artsy fartsy said...

FYI Raphael Eisenberg is teaching art in Touro, does that count any?

OY! said...

HT censored my last post because I expressed a rhetorical opinion about Reb Eisenberg's 'art' by asking whimsically, 'You call that art?'. Is that stifling or what?

Hirshel Tzig said...

RE is a personal friend of mine, and a good artist in his own right. Please refrain from making off-topic comments about peoples' artistic abilities. Thank You.

OY VY! said...

Are you serious?

Hirshel said:
"Please refrain from making off-topic comments about peoples' artistic abilities. Thank You"

This particular post is about cultural repression of artistically inclined yidden; there was mention of Baal Tchuva artists and their contribution toward art; someone later posted that RE is teaching art at Touro. My comments were very much on topic everyday of the week.
Regarding my making comments on 'peoples artistic ability'; well doctor, lets parce it up....Since RE is an artist who displays publically, everyone has the right to express his opinion on whether or not he beleives that RE has artistic ability. It goes with the territory. Turn the volume down a bit and rather than comment on his abilities, one could comment on whether he produces good art or not. Turn the volume even lower and you'll see that I asked a whimsical question about what is it that RE actually produces.
Lets understand that words mean things and that the current writter feels stifled. I guess CE was right after all.

Hirshel Tzig said...

blah blah blah

stop dribbling over your keyboard. The topic was not to judge artists' abilities or lack thereof. The fact that it got to that point does it not make it so.