I was going to write about bad grammar. There was a message on the phone machine from someone who should know better, but said”
“Blahblahblahblah blahblah blah…
for you and I to get together.”
No. You lose all credibility with that one.
So that’s the theme here that I walked into (into which I walked?):
You should know better.
That’s my feeling about Shlomo Carlebach. I was reminded of him just now by the link provided by Jewish Ideas Daily from the Forward. I am wary in general of anything written in the Forward, since it’s going to have an anti-religious outlook, but this article is so blaaaand. It’s as if the person reviewing the musical had no idea of who this guy was. And I think that’s bad reviewing.
So I will review him without seeing the musical.
Which I will not do.
I will explain. Actually, I will refer you to what I wrote back on June 28, 2009 about my distrust of celebrity, charisma, etc., including my distaste for Shlomo Carlebach. I did not state it outright, but I’ll link you to an article from Lillith Magazine that has been used as an example of Lashon Hara, since it was written after he died and so he couldn’t defend himself against such charges.
The fact is abuse basically by definition means the weak not being able to defend him/herself. So I have no use for this argument. The undisputed fact is that he took advantage of many women, and probably much of it (now this is definitely my opinion, for what it’s worth) could be called abuse.
So how does this figure into his music?
Last Friday evening, at shul, the person leading the services was a Carlebach devoté and he milked all the Carlebach tunes for all they’re worth.
Which, of course, in my book, is not very much.
Most of his tunes are quite simplistic, which most people think means that they’re easy to follow. It happens to be not true. There’s one in particular that people mess up, not able to handle the minor vs. major key that it dips into. But still, yes, I did use some of the tunes when I taught preschool. As I said, simplistic. Fit for that.
I will also link you to a wonderful article about music and prayer by Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks that I just received and I will include but a bit here (and you should definitely read the whole thing, if you haven’t already):
There is an inner connection between music and the spirit. When language aspires to the transcendent and the soul longs to break free of the gravitational pull of the earth, it modulates into song. Music, said Arnold Bennett is “a language which the soul alone understands but which the soul can never translate.” It is, in Richter’s words “the poetry of the air.” Tolstoy called it “the shorthand of emotion.” Goethe said, “Religious worship cannot do without music. It is one of the foremost means to work upon man with an effect of marvel.” Words are the language of the mind. Music is the language of the soul.
So if music is indeed the language of the soul, then it will inform what is in that soul. And I’m saying that just like I won’t listen to Wagner’s music because I know what an anti-Semite he was, (and I don’t like Renoir because I know what kind of anti-Semite he was), I will say that Carlebach’s lack of boundaries comes out in his music and we shouldn’t use it for holy purposes. And so the Forward can review the play, but that’s just what it is.
And he played with people’s lives, and we shouldn’t make music to sing to G-d without realizing where it’s been first.
We should know better.