Sunday, August 29, 2010

True Repentance

Elul is the months for repentance.

Therefore it is particularity ironic that this story appeared last week in the Jerusalem Post.
A singer who performed in front of a “mixed audience” of men and women was lashed 39 times to make him “repent,” after a ruling by a self-described rabbinic court on Wednesday. ...

Rabbi Amnon Yitzhak,..has made it his recent mission to fight against musical performances for both men and women. ...

In a video clip of the court posted on the Shofar Web site, Ben Zion said that those who make others sin (mahtiei rabim), such as artists who make men and women attend performances or dance together, have no place in the world to come.

He displayed a leather strip he said was made by his father from ass and bull skin, with which Yechiel was to have been whipped.
The video of the "det bin" (rabbinic court) proceedings can be seen at . If you understand Hebrew (or maybe even if not) it is worth while watching to see what a farce the rabbinic courts have become in Israel. The actual lashing (at about minute 18) is shown only "through a glass darkly" and appears to be almost gentle - more humiliation than pain. But the point is the absolute medieval nature of the "court" proceedings, and the magical thinking that imbues it.

As to why the defendant - the wayward wedding singer - would subject himself to this court (it doesn't - thank God - have the power to enforce its orders other than by suasion of those who accept its authority) I have two theories.

1. The singer is truly penitent, and as the rabbi explains, it is better to undergo 39 court ordered lashes and receive rabbinic absolution, than to lose ones place in the world to come.

2. All religious Jews have been ordered by this rabbi to no longer hire the sinning singer to appear at their simchas. Having now accepted the rabbinic court's authority and undertaken its punishment, the God fearing people of the rabbis flock can now again hire him to again. And the guy has to make a living!

Either way its about the power of the rabbis to interpret God's word as they see fit. And in some quarters of the Jewish world that is still a great power indeed.


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