Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Lipa Shmeltzer

I got my second emailed request this week to comment on the Lipa Shmeltzer ban, so here goes.

In a nutshell, Lipa Shmeltzer is a chassidish singer who occasionally puts Hebrew and Yiddish words to secular melodies. He is supposedly very popular in the Yeshivish world. Some prominent rabbis (I have no idea whom) recently banned his music because it was deemed "too goyish." Lipa doesn't seem to mind this ban, even though he had to give up some concert gigs as a result. He seems to be properly chastised at having sung this questionable music, and vows to sing only "acceptable" songs going forward. I have never heard a Lipa Shmeltzer song in my entire life (and I'm not planning on starting now), as I confess, I listen to very little Jewish music. It's just not my thing. I do like some: Dveykus, Neshama Carlbach, The Chevra, Yehuda!, Beatachon, and some other various Jewish artists, but 95% of what I listen to is secular.

This is the reason that I don't really have anything to say about this particular ban (which is nothing remotely like the sheitel store ban, btw). I am so far removed from the world of not listening to secular music, it would be unfair for me to judge it. It's a level of insulation that I am not even close to, and I admit, don't aspire to. I do respect people who have chosen not to listen to secular music, and I admire them for their self-elevation. I'm sincere about this.

There is no question that music, even pure melodies, can be raunchy, sexual, emotional and just about any other fill-in-the-adjective-here-ish, on its own. Anyone who doesn't think that music can be sexual should listen to Berlin's "The Metro" or Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing" (one of my favorites). So no argument from me that songs can have "questionable, non-Jewish qualities" that you might want to purge from your cultural life. I wonder though, at how far you can take this. Jewish melodies are so incredibly derivative, my guess is that 90% of the Jewish music that's out today has lifted it's musical core from some non-Jewish origin.

When I was a little girl, I went to a very Yeshivish summer sleepaway camp. Pretty much every camp and colorwar song was a rock and roll melody put to Jewish lyrics. I don't remember this sort of thing being objectionable back then. These days, I find that sort of music repugnant. I don't listen to Shlock Rock and I don't listen to Weird Al. It's just not my idea of music.

I remember when my father ah"s asked a shayla about listening to non-Jewish music. Dad was a huge classical and opera buff. His Rabbi told him it was fine, as long as it wasn't religious music (so "Messiah" and "Greensleeves" were out). I remember thinking that considering how much my Dad loved his music, it was very admirable of him to even pose the question. It's not a shayla that I will ever ask.

I'm just not in that place, and it's very unlikely I will ever be. There's a much greater chance of my giving up television than my giving up my secular music. But kol hakavod to those of you who have, though I do think you're missing out. But I understand the tradeoff. In my Modern Orthodox mind, I lean on the "Yesh chochma ba'goyim; ain Torah ba'goyim" credo. There is wisdom in the non-Jewish world but there is no Torah in the non-Jewish world. I think it's fine to help myself to a little culture from outside the shtetl. My morality will always come from within it.

So about the Lipa ban, well, I guess I don't reside in that world (though I visit often), so go ahead and don't listen to Lipa, if that floats your boat. Me? I've got Weezer blasting on the Ipod right now.


abandoning eden said...

i remember as a kid we listened to country yossi and shlock rock and stuff in my dad's car...all these people who basically stole music from secular classic rock, and put their own lyrics to it. At the time I didn't know the origins of the music, so I liked it, but now that I have listened to the original songs, I too find it repugnant. Why is that even legal? They are stealing the melodies of another band!

Do you know what the non-modern orthodox community thinks of Matisyahu? My dad listens to him (but my dad is MO anyway), and I hear they are having a "shabbas camp" at Langerado, a big music festival in Florida in a week or two, where he is playing.

I listen to Matisyahu as a jam band/reggae fan..and actually think it is good music. I like soul farm as well...I heard a breakaway soul farm band called 'evan's groove' (they had some soul farm people in it) play at a festival this summer, but they weren't playing jewish music.

Anonymous said...

I’m really proud how this ENTIRE matziv is being handled. B’h Klal Yisrael has been blessed with real Gedolei Torah who have guided us through turbulent times in golus.


L’maysa the whole concert sounded like it was gonna be a huge party ***(WITH ABSOLUTLY NO BOUNDRIES)***

at M.S.G. rigt before purim,
THE OPPOSITE OF WHAT mordechai AND esther wanted us to take out of the story of PURIM. I am sure everyone reading this comment will agree 100% Rabbi T.C.

WebGirl said...

You know what Rabbi T.C., your comment is so wacky that I originally thought you meant it sarcastically, especially given that it was posted on Shabbos. Then I looked at my Sitemeter and saw that you posted from Israel, so it was not on Shabbos at all. So you are serious. Good grief, you are actually serious.

Where would we be without our current "leadership?" I dunno, probably in a much less confused place. If the Lipa Shmeltzer ban is any indication of Torah leadership, we are in big trouble.

Rick said...

If Rabbi TC is such a nutter, why didn't you delete the comment? There are a lot of comments you should delete.

WebGirl said...


Why on earth would I do that? And Rabbi TC is not a "nutter," he is just someone with whom I don't agree. Blog=free exchange of ideas, not the free exchange of ideas as long as I agree with the ideas.

The only comments I'll ever delete are those with pretty bad expletives or those that are horribly nasty. Those making comments like that need to become adults or get their own blogs.