Sunday, August 31, 2008

My love Affair with Jewish Music

Some roll their eyes, a few are curious, and my wife laughs, but I can't seem to shake Jewish music. I love music, and I have about 150 gigabytes of it on my computer - two thirds of which are Jewish. And when I say Jewish music, I don't mean Neil Sedaka, or even Carlebach, I'm talkin' Lipa Schmeltzer, Avraham Freid, and Mordechai Ben David.

Don't get me wrong, I listen all kinds of music - everything from Opera to Eminem, but nothing does it for me like a zaftige new album from say - Shwekey, or Lev Tahor. I was excited to get Rihanna's new single, but The 8th Note made me rejoice, and while I love a good Michael Buble Shtickle, he could never satisfy me the way Ohad, or Baruch Levine can.

"How could you listen to that?" My wife asks me all the time, and I really don't have a good answer, I vehemently disagree with most of what is said in these songs, and often find myself laughing at what I'm saying when I sing along with them, yet I persist. As I type now, I'm listening to Yeedle's new album, (it's not bad).

It's gotten to the point where I don't even hide it anymore, and I've had to explain what the hell it is that I'm listening to-to more than one Lieutenant Colonel, (don't ask). I've even gotten a buddy of mine - who's Mexican and has never met a Chassidic Jew - hooked on The Yeshiva Boys Choir! At the gym in the morning, there's only so far you can go with the Rocky theme, but give me J-Walking, and I'm good for hours, and there's really nothing like pumping iron to The Chevra.

I listen to hours of podcasts weekly, but the one I look forward to most is The Sameach Music Podcast, and one of the web-sights I frequent most is The Jewish Music Review. I was highly disappointed - yet not surprised - when The Big Event was canceled, although I wouldn't have been able to attend, I was looking forward to the videos.

In other words I'm obsessed with Jewish music.

I do realize that if I where to have a conversation with any one of these Jewish music stars, I would be annoyed to no end by them, in fact I have met several of them, and I wouldn't want to associate myself willingly with them, but somehow when they put their words to a tune I can't get enough of it.

Growing up in the Chassidishe community, music was the only thing I whole heartedly embraced, while I didn't quite feel comfortable with many aspects of my upbringing, music always made me happy. And what a fan I was, I would go to every live show I could, memorized every detail about every Jewish music star, and built a huge CD collection. But I never paid much attention to what was being said, although I knew and understood all the lyrics, and I feel the same way now. For that reason, I can listen to Christian rock, The Gipsy Kings, or sappy love songs, and enjoy them, as long as the melody is nice, the musicianship is good, I can dig it.

Sometimes my wife will say things like "are you sure you don't agree with what their saying?" While she and I both know better, I still wonder - what is it that has me so hooked? Is it just that I grew up listening to this kind of music, or is there more to it?

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Intelligent design? Not so intelligent.

I hate the words "intelligent design"- it's a lie, and an affront to all things scientific and/or intelligent. How much intelligence could be in the design of cancer, toothaches, headaches, or organs like the appendix and tonsils that only get infections and cause grief. What about the notoriously fragile human spine, or the pelvis that makes it harder, and more painful for humans to give birth than any other species. And what possible reason could there be for halitosis, acne or flatulence? Tailbones, male nipples, I could go on...

Intelligent Design can't answer any of these questions, evolution and natural selection does.

Creationists are at best ignorant, otherwise they are lying scum of the earth

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Of convert's and BT's

I always wondered what it is that Ba'alei Teshuvah (BT's) see, that I don't see. What do all those people cutting their pony tails off, and putting on Kipa's for Amnon Yitzchak hear that was so convincing? I'd listen to hours and hours of tapes, read books, and talk to countless people, but all I got was fluff, I remember thinking - "he wouldn't get me with that".

My favorite example is when I asked a close relative who became a BT at 18, what was it that made him leave his home and change his entire life, seemingly giving up a promising future, his answer was - "I watched The Fiddler on the Roof". That's it?! I was shocked! Here's a smart guy, who could have gone to college, and gone on to be anything he wanted. Instead he went to Yeshiva, got married, and became one of the many shlubs just barely making a living, and looking like they just immigrated from 1800's Europe, and all that because he watched a corny movie? (my retort to that was "I watched Big Love, and it didn't make me want to become a Mormon")

Another person I know, was on his way to becoming a Catholic priest, and (the story goes) the night before he was to graduate from seminary and be confirmed as a priest, he climbed out the window, ran to a Yeshiva and never looked back.

I have a little theory going, and I've recently discovered some others agreeing with it. I think the big Ba'al Teshuvah movement (makes me think of "bowel movement", but that's just cruel) of the sixty's and seventy's, was fueled by drugs and the counter culture of the time. People ran off to Ohr Someach in Jerusalem, for the same reason others ran to Ashrams in India, or hippie communes in San Fransisco. It was more about (the illusion of) the Shabbos table, or the tight-nit community, than a "seeing of the light", or a serious debate about belief.

Before they know it, it's thirty years later and they have a family, an entire life built, and whether they still feel the way they did years earlier or not, their stuck. Now they have to justify their actions to themselves and to others, so they bash the "outside world", mock science and lie to themselves. I'm sure some of them are sincere and believe in what they're doing, they've taken the bait hook, line and sinker, but many of them know better, they just don't see a way out.

There have been instances of BT's going back to their old lives, even with entire families, but those stories are and few in between, Why? Because as I can attest, it's not easy to uproot your family and make a huge life altering change like that, especially when the kids are old enough to understand what's going on.

Speaking of BT's, I would like to add my own take on Chabad and their Kiruv work. I have no problem with Mitzvah Tanks, or Tefillin Stations, but in my [humble] opinion, where Chabad went wrong was, first of all they went Rebbe-crazy. Everything is about the Rebbe, the Rebbe this, the Rebbe that, it's all about the Rebbe instead of about God and Judaism, in fact they worship him so much it's hard to distinguish between Meshichistim and Christians.

Secondly, instead of bringing their new recruits up to their level, they lowered their own standards in order to better suit the modern society they are trying to reach out to. The result was, instead of Lubavitch becoming a huge Chassidik group on par with Satmar, or Gur, they separated themselves from the mainstream Chassidim and became their own quasi religion. I've said this before to Lubabs and they get very defensive, but it's true, their standards, in Tznius for example, are not even in the same league as those of mainstream Chassidism. Much like Democrats, who strive to make everybody equally poor - unlike Republicans who want to make every body equally rich - (neither are unsuccessful), they've lowered themselves to the level of the people they were supposed to be raising up. But enough about that.

That's my theory, what do you think?