In this clip, Leonard Cohen performs "Who by Fire".
I got this as part of a Rosh HaShanah greeting email with "This is great" in the subject bar. Well I suppose it's great music but is it great for the Jews?
Cultural osmosis and interpenetration between Judaism and the balance of humanity is a hot button issue. In the J-Blogosphere one extreme you have DovBear who basically opines that NOTHING is "authentically" Jewish, that everything is a foreign import at . While at the opposite pole you'll find the likes of Rabbi Raphael Bearmant and Jewish Philosopher who are convinced that Rav Miller z"l, to the exclusion of all other Tzadikim and streams in Torah Observant Judaism, represents pure Judaism untainted by ANY foreign importations.
The truth, of course lies somewhere in the middle, and the pressing questions are: Is the "Goyisha" import in the manner of a Ger Tzedek- a righteous convert? Or, to use the Lurianic parlance, is it a spark that has been raised back to it's source? Is it a lost scintilla of Qedusha that has been reincorporated into the Jewish People, the "recapturing of a captive" :
י כִּי-תֵצֵא לַמִּלְחָמָה, עַל-אֹיְבֶיךָ; וּנְתָנוֹ יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, בְּיָדֶךָ--וְשָׁבִיתָ שִׁבְיוֹ.
10 When thou goest forth to battle against thine enemies, and the LORD thy God delivereth them into thy hands, and thou carriest them away captive,
יא וְרָאִיתָ, בַּשִּׁבְיָה, אֵשֶׁת, יְפַת-תֹּאַר; וְחָשַׁקְתָּ בָהּ, וְלָקַחְתָּ לְךָ לְאִשָּׁה.
11 and seest among the captives a woman of goodly form, and thou hast a desire unto her, and wouldest take her to thee to wife....or is it an invader, an interloper seeking to adulterate Qedusha with khol=the mundane? Is it an intermarriage sans conversion that leads to the antonym of Jewish continuity?
IMO Qedusha is most difficult to maintain when it's boundaries are being expanded and a Havdala line is erased to allow for that expansion.
No where does this controversy rage more than in the field of Jewish Music. Is Klezmer Jewish or not? Is Shlomo Carlebach's music Jewish or not? When Schlock Rock, Variations or Lipa rip off classical or popular musical notes and wed them to Jewish/Yiddish lyrics are they "Jew-ifying" the tune or "Goy-ifying" the lyrics? Is co-opting Goyisha tunes this way something reserved for Rebbes only? After all the Khasidic traditions contains such "coopted-from-the-Goyim" numbers as Nyet Nyet Nikabow, Napoleans march, Sol-ah-kokosh mahr and Yam Yam to name a few.
However It seems a lot easier to tolerate when we move the music towards Judaism rather than when we move the Jewish lyrics towards Jazz or other musical forms not originally found in Torah Judaism.
I don't know much about Leonard Cohen but I find this clip off-putting. To me it is not so much that he is raising the holy sparks scattered in Jazz as drowning and submerging the holy of holiest sparks found in U'Nesaneh Toqef Qedushas HaYom into the ugly, coarse husks of smoke-filled rooms and easy virtue. I could be wrong but I think if Rav Amnon of Mainz could be resurrected he would sooner re-suffer his gruesome and excruciating death by dismemberment than see his lyrics, transmitted to atone for a hairsbreadth desecration of HaShem's name, and intended to be wailed by Jews with the Ark doors opened on the holiest day of the year, played in a Jazz bar.
What do you think?
Have you had YOUR Qedusha/Havdala today...Hmmm?