Friday, June 29, 2007

Frummer (more religious) than the Torah

When I was in 11th grade, I had a Rebbe (teacher) who used to say "you can't be frummer, or more religious, than the Torah. The implication was that the Torah has a set of requirements, and the custom of going above and beyond was unnecessary. And while you might disagree, his prime example was the custom of 10 and 11 year olds fasting. There is precedent in the literature for young kids doing this, but his contention was that "when you reach bar/bat mitzvah age, you have to fast." You can practice if you want, but it is not necessary.
All this leads me to the news stories yesterday regarding Eliyahu Chaim Fayzakov, a religious 20 year old talented singer, who happens to have a voice that sounds like a woman. (Listen to the link here) Here is a nice young man, with a large black yarmulke whose recorded music which is played on radio stations has been banned by charedi stations for fear that the listeners would feel that the station was (g-d forbid) playing recordings of women singing. Now I won't enter into the debate over what they call "kol isha" the prohibition against listening to a woman's voice. (read this link for a DETAILED explanation) But the overriding thought that kept coming to my mind was Rabbi Hochberg, in 11th grade saying, "you can't be frummer than the Torah." I mean, here you have a guy, for crying out loud, and they are unwilling to play his music because someone might THINK it is a woman singing? Cut me a break. I have often argued for the rights of those to the right of me to be left alone to do what is best for them, but this time, even I can't defend it. In the meantime, enjoy listening to Eliyahu's music. I have to admit, he does sound like a woman, but he also sounds pretty good!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Is Facebook Good for the Jews?

Well, I guess i could apologize for being away for a month, but it would just be lame. I just plain ran out of steam for a bit, but I am back. Especially after i see that my pal, and blogger par-excellence Treppenwitz linked me to his page. And by the way, Dave, if you are reading this, one of my board members is now a religious reader of yours, and passed along the post that included a reference to the Case Foundation. I now have board members telling me about your posts!!!
Anyhow, I wanted to know how many of you are on facebook? It is a kinda new phenomena. Not that facebook is new, it is just that everyone seems to be using it now. I have been "friended" by three new people this week, including one that I was sure I did not know. For the un-initiated, although I imagine that is not many of you, facebook was created to allow college students to interact and find each other online. As it became more popular, it spread to non-college students. Today, professionals, students of all stripes, and kids are using it. It is supposed to be limited to those over the age of 18, but in reality, no one checks the ages. My son's 12 - 14 year old friends all have a facebook page, and they spend all day (when they can) talking on it, updating it, putting photos on it. On the one hand, it is very scary. On the other hand, it is great. I have been aware for many years of the potential danger of the internet. People expose themselves in ways unknown to us just a mere ten years ago. Horror stories are legion, and more than one death has resulted from chance internet meetings that went bad. On the other hand, it allows us also to connect in a way unknown before. And in these scary, wondrous times in which we live, that can be a great thing.
Facebook allows people to join common interest groups. I have to admit, I am not a facebook pro, so i have not joined any, but i have looked around at them. This morning, i noticed that one of my young "friends" joined a group called Kehana Tzadak, which is really the ramblings of adolescents on the thoughts of Rabbi Meir Kahane an activist Rabbi who was assassinated in 1990 for his radical thoughts that have become more in vogue as the Arab - Israeli conflict has continued. Like him or hate him, the fact that there is a forum for kids to talk about these ideas online is a good thing. We have a generation of kids who will not know what a record is, or an eight track, or a beta vcr. But they will know how to use a computer, and will be able to access people and information all over the world. That is a great thing. The hope is that they will come to use it responsibly.