Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Sounds of the Underground

There is a tradition among frummers to be especially frum for others. Tradition has it that Adam, told by his maker not to eat from the tree, in his fervour told Eve that not only were you not allowed to eat from it but touching it was not allowed. The wily serpent pushed Eve causing her to trip and touch it. “See,” he then crowed, “nothing happens, I bet nothing would happen if you ate from it either.”

I would venture a wager that there is not a single brain between two peyos on the Hill that has not heard this story and the lessons that must be drawn from it. That did not stop the Rabbinate from proclaiming a recent frum concert to be forbidden. Did they honestly expect a full hall of posteriorless seats?

Among Chassidim it is common to ironically say about something very good that it must be traif. There is an acknowledged feeling that most things pleasurable, if the Torah itself has not forbidden it, the Rabbis will. By the reverse token I would say that these concerts have got to be kosher.

When I was sixteen my father found my stash of music cassettes hidden in my sock drawer. The forbidden delights included stars like Mordechai Ben David, Jo Amar and suchlike. The hullabaloo that ensued ensured that while those particular cassettes might have been confiscated I have remained a fervent music addict. My way of hitting back was to listen, from them on, only to goyisher music and whatever Capital Radio and LBC had to offer. In keeping with the shgatzim of the time I listened to what I now see were the excruciatingly cloying sounds of Abba and Blondie. We would not be seen dead next to a MBD or Avraham Freed

My taste has developed somewhat over the years and my collection today would be more likely to feature tzaddikim like Eminem, the Grateful Dead and Leonard Cohen, yet I know that I have started to grow out of having to prove myself because I deign to allow the odd religious CD to share the shelf with my ‘real’ music.

I have many times agonized over my inability to give up my music collection even though I would be reluctant to allow my children to listen to many of the CDs I keep locked in the glove compartment of my car. Does that make me a hypocrite? Maybe, but at least when I tell them I don’t allow them to listen I do not tell them it is because it is forbidden. I tell them that at their age they are too impressionable and that their schools would have them expelled, reasons I hope they understand are valid albeit unfair.

I hope that by the time they are my age the quality and quantity of Jewish music and the quality of religious education will have improved enough that they will be happy to listen to music just because they like it.

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