Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Ba'al Teshuva Dissonance:

The Alter Rebbe said, "Words are the quill of the heart, music the quill of the soul." Music comes from a deep part of a person's essence, and connects the listener to that place. That is why (at least, in chassidic circles) we're taught to be careful in regards to music.

Oddly enough, when I first became frum, it wasn't hard for me to stop listening to secular music. I found solace in eclectic Jewish musicians. Shlomo Carlebach helped a lot. Simply Tsfat was another one.

As the years went by, I would sneak in music here and there. Of course, The Grateful Dead. It's not beneath me to belt out Kenny Rogers' "Lucille." Old, twangy Neil Diamond always works. Cheesy 80's pop is great for depression. I could go on and on about different music that interests and inspires me.

Yet The Alter Rebbe's words reverberate as clearly as the music does. I'd like to say, "Well, I was a Deadhead. It's different for me." But everybody loves the secular music they grew up with. And I wrestle with the idea that it's not okay. For me, listening to secular music is a rare treat. It's fun, relaxing, and therapeutic. Yet I know deep inside that I'm doing myself a disservice by listening, and it drives me crazy. I have a friend who grew up in a non-chassidic home. Her father is a Rav, and she listened to secular music all the time. For her, this is simply not an issue. Sometimes I wonder; why does it have to be an issue for me?

I believe it was Reb Shmuel Munkis who was with the Alter Rebbe when a gentile farmer tried to shoot the latter. He used his spiritual powers to prevent the assault, yet he asked R' Shmuel why he didn't try to protect him. Reb Shmuel replied, "If you're a Rebbe, no bullet can hurt you. But if you're an imposter, you deserve to be shot for the worldly pleasures you took from the chassidim."

(The Alter Rebbe was the inspiration behind Jedi Mind Trick, nu?)


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