King Over Who?

59

meatBy S. Friedman

Recently, a friend invited me to a fundraising barbeque on behalf of a yeshiva that he is supportive of. I obliged to attend, and it was explained to me that rather than a traditional parlor meeting with a guest speaker, an informal barbeque can be more effective in attracting a crowd.  And a crowd it did indeed attract.

The food selected was more lavish than the typical refreshments served at a run-of-the-mill parlor meeting, but it was the “extras” that I think warrant attention.

First of all, there was a “cigar roller,” who was churning out fresh stogies as fast as he could.  The hosts were graciously encouraging one and all to partake in this wonderful delight as the participants became lost in a haze.

Additionally, there was a bar, which in itself could be interpreted as unnecessary and out of place.  However, and I do not think this is a small point, the bar was serving beers. Beer and cholent at an intimate shalom zochor is one thing. A bunch of young to middle aged men sitting around on a random weekday night with a longneck bottle in their hands is another.  Some of you don’t need further explanation, and for others, further expounding will do no good, but I will attempt anyhow.

This is not an article about smoking or alcohol; one’s personal vices is their own business. This is an issue of demeanor in public and what is considered an indulgence by our society. Cigars and beers in a public setting are sophomoric and boorish. More aptly put, it is grubb. Fine wines and expensive liquor can at least be dressed up as the “finer” things of society, but beer?

I don’t find the yeshiva that this was benefit was held for at fault per se. It’s the “crowd” that they were catering to.  At first I thought this might be an ugly case of “the ends justify the means,” but then I realized how the majority of the participants were indeed relishing the atmosphere.

Who are we that our fathers, brothers and sons are sitting around with cigars and beers while enjoying live entertainment in the name of supporting Torah? Have we been so thoroughly influenced by American culture that a makeshift “kosher” night club is how we draw crowds as opposed to talmidei chachomim imparting words of wisdom?

I do not have my head in the sand, nor am I as naïve to not realize that grown men have been inviting their friends to summer barbeques replete with cigars and beers for quite some time. What strikes me is the comfortable and casual way that such an event can occur – with the rather loutish behavior – so open and public.

When I was younger, I most definitely heard of men who had expensive cigars, but I have a hard time recalling if I ever saw someone smoking in public. I believe that even a few years ago such an event would have either never made it past the preparation stages, or if it would have occurred, it would have been met by round opposition.

What happened in a few years? What is now acceptable, and what will be acceptable in a few years from now? Who are we acting like?

I ask these questions as we approach Rosh Hashanah. We blow the shofar each morning to announce the imminent arrival of the ultimate King of Kings. However, Hashem declared His kingship over us.

In Kelm, during the month of Elul, there was a small sign hanging which read, “Ein melech b’loi am. (There is no King without a nation.)”  This was meant to remind everyone that in order to properly proclaim Hashem’s sovereignty over Am Yisroel, we must truly act like His people. The nations of the world are not fit to be considered the flag bearers of Hashem’s empire.

To be worthy of being His subjects, perhaps we have to assess our actions and determine if they are in line with what is expected of Klal Yisroel. If we cannot be discerned from our non-Jewish neighbors, what gives us our unique identity?  If we don’t act like the Chosen Nation, then who are we? Whom will He be King over?

{Matzav.com Newscenter}

59 COMMENTS

  1. Sounds like quite an event. Personally I would not be so peevish regaring cigars and beer. They always served beer and beverages at the synagogue here where I was and then they also might if they are quite insightful have a few events with cigars. Cigars are not your enemy and they are quite a great way to enjoy conversation and company. So do not enjoy if you are not into that interest, but they are not a pervasive factor and if the synagogue had cigars, I would be happy to enjoy the company of others.

  2. People who are going to want to defend these actions are all gonna say “why is that different than a wedding?”
    1st, not a simcha, so what inyan of simcha with “wine” is there?
    2nd, a wedding is a “party”. A parlor meeting for a yeshiva should not degenerate to a bar atmosphere.

  3. I for one, am happy that Congressman Aiken did not drop out of the race. He made a mistake with his wording, & that happens to everyone, when they are on the campaign trail. The Democrats NEVER scold one of their own! They ALWAYS circle the wagons for each other, no matter how disgusting a statement they make! They don’t care about anyones feelings, as long as they win & hold on to power! The wuzzy Republicans are so petrified of their own shadow, that they feel they don’t want to upset the left wing hate media, so they MUST “condemn” “in the strongest terms” their own! What a disgrace! This is wjy Obama will win in a landslide! The Republican party is finished!

  4. In my opinion it all starts at the top. When higher ups cover-up more serious issues then the regular folks having a BBQ with some cigars and beer it’s not that bad.

  5. Thank you mr S Friedman ( or should I call you anonymous, since a first initial and a generically jewish last name does not really identify you, does it?), you have succeeded in ruining my day.
    HOW DARE YOU presume to decide for the public what is considered “sophomoric and boorish” and what is acceptable?
    Because you think having a beer and smoking a cigar with friends while donating hard earned money, and paying respect, to a torah institution is wrong?
    Get off your high horse – I think YOU are a boor.

    If you dont like beer dont drink it – either way, keep your silly opinions to yourself, as they just dont matter!

  6. I am shocked beyond words
    there is so much bad out there that this institution is up against and they do their work with much success,they are crumbling under their financial burden being they can’t charge tuition. there was a certain crown that had to be attracted to this event and this was the only way to get them to come, and that is why there was such a large crowd.the regular olam is plain sick and tired of parlor meetings and thats why they hardly attract a minyan anymore

  7. Well said. I have been to this event in the past and have stopped going for these and other reasons. You speak of “ein melech b’loi olam” which I interpret too that the “melech” at these events is precisely the beer and cigars and gluttonous food and party atmosphere, and indeed, “ein melech b’loi am”, there would be no place for this “melech” if there was no “am” coming to worship it. And THAT, my friends, is the problem. I certainly understand from a business point of view why the organizers make such an event- because that is exactly what draws the crowd, but it says little for us if that’s what we need in order to get a crowd, I, for one, though certainly appreciate the gashmiyus of it, do not want to be associated with such an “am” and therefore stopped attending. I fail to see the “ends justifying the means” in this case.

  8. Kudos to Rabbi Friedman. He is so on the mark. What started as a simple Chinese Auction or Yeshiva fundraiser has now turned into an American society thematic affair.

  9. “I don’t find the yeshiva that this was a benefit for at fault per se.”

    However if the Yeshiva repeats the same event next year, then indeed the Yeshiva is to blame & I for one would want to know the name of the Yeshiva so as not to send my children there.

  10. I agree wholeheartedly. I saw the advert for this event – and cringed. Glad you wrote this. Smoking – drinking – how does it make sense.

  11. I am the Menahel of a Yeshiva that recently held a fundraiser in just the type of setting described above. The question of what is “acceptable” or not is’nt something I feel qualified to comment on. That said, I feel that many of the questions the article raises are valid and are worthy of further discussion. I commend Mr Friedman for carefully sticking to his point while eschewing the standard “blame game” fare that we encounter all too often in the media.

    With respect for honest, fair and constructive dialogue about subjects that may increase the honor of His name,I remain.
    Sincerely,
    Michoel Levy
    Menahel,Yeshivas Ruach HaTorah

  12. While the author admirably advocates for more “run of the mill” events, which by his admission attract fewer people than “informal” barbeque fundraisers but are less “grubb”, one has to wonder whether he’d also be willing to make up any consequential shortfall in donations of which this Yeshiva presumably is in desperate need.

  13. Mechanchim are noticing a new yetzer hora among teenagers. Whether it is hard liquor at chasunas or beer Friday night, boys are getting high and sometimes drunk. I have seen good normal boys get drunk Friday night, be mechalel Shabbos while drunk and in general act like shekotzim. What has happened to us? Are we becoming like goyim chas vshalom? What can we do to stop this?

  14. I attended this event as well. I do agree with the writer on his description and his direct point of where are we as a nation and how we have perhaps accepted the “American lifestyle” as our own. Such an event challenges the proclamation of Kedoshim Tehiyu. However,

    At the same time though, the yeshiva which is the direct beneficiary of the funds collected that evening (well over the six figure number may I add) is a yeshiva catering to the Bochur who is not ready or yet able to accept the lifestyle of what society today describes as the “yeshivisha lifestyle” (no negativity meant in any way here) and this Yeshiva has still imbued a love for Torah at the level this Bochur can handle. The Alumni that I personally know are all nice good guys who have sedorim, work and support Torah. Good Baalei batim!

    It is these guys who arrange the event, who reach out to their chevra and who push people to come and the atmosphere at the BBQ reflects as such.

    I myself stop in to show my support and to say hello to those who I am proud to know that are a part of this event but I do not “hang out” there for I feel that for me this is not the place I belong at.

    If anyone here makes any type of comment to the live an let live theory suggesting that if you don’t want to come don’t but don’t try to stop it they are wrong on so many levels and in so many ways. We are an AM ECHUD – One Nation. What you do helps me and what you do can also hurt me. I respect the writer for sticking his neck out and writing this article and I also respect those who made the calculated decision that such an event is ok to have.

  15. What a great article. I totally agree. It is so sad. But I think the irony here is that the people the yeshivos rely on for their support are the ones who go to work, make a good living, and have maaser/tzedaka to give, aka the “not yeshivish” crowd. The alumni they produce are not encouraged to work, so they yeshiva can no longer have a batampte fundraiser for that crowd… If they had a traditional (boring) parlor meeting, a bunch of yeshivish chevra (without good jobs, disposable income, etc) would show up…not exactly the point, is it?

    Seems like a paradox to me… is there a solution?

  16. I have a similar situation happening where I live. The local hachnosas kallah fund is hosting an event. The invitation is absolutely beautiful and looks very, very expensive, and the main entertainment is going to be a fashion show featuring many of the wealthier women in our community. It seems very “grubb” to me, but apparently that is what will attract the money-giving crowd.

    I am so disappointed, as I remember my mother getting simpler invitations in the mail to events featuring a raffle, a singer, or a play. I always looked forward to when I would be of age to go to events like this, especially for such a worthy cause. I want to go see a cute skit or have a kumzits. I don’t want to see “Project Frumway” (yes, that’s what it’s called).

  17. He’s right! People need to have more restraint. Not everyone is expected to be on a madraiga to not enjoy these things, but at least on a public level this shouldn’t go on!

  18. The frail distinction of a man being “king over” his world is not an anathema to the King of the Universe. If we have a few events where perhaps there are cigars and really beer is not a big deal unless its a drunken festivity, there is really no major disruption of Jewish life and lifestyle. I think that it would depend on the event and who is invited. If there are coats of extreme views on what constitutes regular examples of dignity in our nation, that is of course a big deal; but the fact is that a cigar is NOT A CIGARETTE and the cigars are pleasant to many and if that was a popular event it might have positive effects on participation and other interests. Let us judge by the results. It is not a pagan event and I see no violation in Torah values to smoking a cigar. At least I do believe that it is not a very essential ingredient in the lasting future of our people to avoid all cigars and even beers. But I realize that many today are painstakingly unable to adjust to many new developments in our nation and our future may or may not be limited by discourse that is not exactly the diploma of the future. I hope that you do not consider a cigar to be an anathema to diligence and humanity and friendship. For to me, I have enjoyed cigars immensely and I would love to find more jewish friends to enjoy smoking in their company.

    The idea of not exposing our younger yidden to such experiences is an issue, but over 18 this is a legal matter.

  19. To ALL selfrighteous people criticizing this event… Either write a check and help out the Yeshiva cover all their expenses or be quiet

  20. Great great article! Its a very unfortunate state of affairs that we have to come on to such outlandish tactics! Can you imagine the Ponovicher Rov, Reb Aaron, Rav Elchonon Wasserman, etc… having to come on to such frivolity?! In my opinion, it shows a lack of understanding of Kavod Hatorah. In other words, without such parties, these individuals wont give or not give as much?! Not everything is mutter in the name of Kiruv/Tzedaka! Yes, the power of Golus has crept into our world R”L. let’s change.

  21. Rav Pappa was a brewmaster – infact we remember him at siyums because he was known for bringing beer and creating a joyous environment. It’s not the beer that’s the issue, it’s the nature of people’s conversations while drinking. Beer can be elevated and used for lofty goals. Like all other things including phones and cars. Please, be holy

  22. I used to think the same things. How could a frum Jew drive “that” kind of car and live “that” kind of lifestyle. And then I saw the amount of tsedaka they gave and changed my mind.

    Each community has it’s own social norms. Each event has it’s own backstory.

    I once went to a shiur where I heard someone commenting about how inappropriate it was that there was a ton of food served before and afterwards. “Come for the shiur!” What he didn’t know what that this was a shiur that used to be in someone’s home, and when it moved to the shul he wanted to continue the barbecue and a shiur intimacy.

    I don’t know what the details are here, but there is often more than meets the eye.

  23. thank you to the author. You have restored my faith that there are some sane people still alive. I thought I was the only crazy one abhorred by what goes on with cigar rolling and who knows what else. My brother was at such an event in Flatbush and was horrified.

  24. Ari, #5. His point is generally correct! While you may feel (and I might agree) that such fund-raising is necessary, it is albeit – YOU MUST AGREE – a necessary evil!
    We should need to be catered to in Obama-like-fund-raising style! Right??? C’mon, I know you agree! We Yidden are better than that! We’re His Am Kadosh! We don’t NEEEEED such events!

  25. OOPS!
    Ari, #7. His point is generally correct! While you may feel (and I might agree) that such fund-raising is necessary, it is albeit – YOU MUST AGREE – a necessary evil!
    We should need to be catered to in Obama-like-fund-raising style! Right??? C’mon, I know you agree! We Yidden are better than that! We’re His Am Kadosh! We don’t NEEEEED such events!

  26. I know one of the mosods running this type of event and i will say as follows. A- the event was designed and run by the bale-batim. B-if its the mosad that i know, they struggle for money and are doing yeoman’s work in making bnei torah out of their boys, and the rest of klall yisroel isnt giving money so easy. C-i don’t accept the “boorish” label, a cigar rolling and having beer at the bar is not boorish, and actually is seen as a upscale event in the goyish circles. if you want to complain about the event as is -well that’s a whole different conversation but throwing your weight behind the beer complaint wont get you very far. D-since this was an adult event, i see no reason why adults cannot engage in moderate consumption of alcohol and cigars. I dont know if is the type of event i would go to , but come to think of it -it sound like a lot more fun than another boooring dinner listening to 2 hours of speeches. When you consider the number of fundraisers we are all being asked to go to and support -it might as well be a light enjoyable one. Or else start giving the mosdos the money they need without havingto resort to these tactics

  27. I am the Menahel of a Yeshiva that recently held a fundraiser in just the type of setting described above. The question of what is “acceptable” or not is’nt something I feel qualified to comment on. That said, I feel that many of the questions the article raises are valid and are worthy of further discussion. I commend Mr Friedman for carefully sticking to his point while eschewing the standard “blame game” fare that we encounter all too often in the media.

    With respect for honest, fair and constructive dialogue about subjects that may increase the honor of His name,I remain.
    Sincerely,
    Michoel Levy
    Menahel,Yeshivas Ruach HaTorah

  28. The author complains of grubbkeit in the form of cigars and beer. Why these two items are more grubb than 250 dollar scotch, sushi, hot pastrami stations, over-the-top hotels, sashimi and rib eye steaks is a matter of splitting hairs.

    If you are going after “grubb”, we have about 10 years of decadence to attack in the frum (and even Yeshivish)) tzibbur.

    Our holy Gedolim made takkanos years ago in regard to chasunos, but no one listened.

    We are all paying the price now.

  29. This is what brings the crowds with the check books, if you need donors you have to give them what they want, if they want sushi, give it to them, open bar and cigars, we are a weak dor, it is what it is. Trust me, if you advertise that you will be serving kugel and seltzer, I don’t think you will getting much of a crowd.

  30. What boggles my mind here is this, someone is having a fundraiser, it includes cigars & beer, why is it not better to do this in a kosher environment than have them go where they shouldn’t to do it, i.e. cigar bars (yes they are real) or a regular bar to drink.

    My question to you Mr Friedman is, after how many cigars & beers that you consumed yourself, did you realize that it is the wrong place for one to be? You had to know going in that this is what was being served?

    Just because YOU feel this is wrong, doesn’t make a nice light kosher night out wrong for everyone.

  31. oiy Gevald! you are right! What a terrible event! It would be so much better to just cancel the whole thing. Forget the thousands of dollars they raised. You know what, yeshivos should just start rejecting boys you cant afford to pay tuition. There are many public schools available. And most of them even have easy access to the drugs and alcohol they will inevitably become addicted to. Who cares about our youth anyway? Its not like these kids are the future of klal yisroel.
    Its so sad to see articles like the one above. It just shows a serious lack of knowledge and understanding of the world today. How can you be so blind to whats happening all over the jewish nation? Now more than ever, there is a tremendous need for post high school yeshivos. Where will this boy otherwise be if he is not enrolled in a yeshiva? I shutter to think.
    Fact: This Yeshiva MUST accept boys regardless of their financial situation (sorry, its called having a heart. The yeshiva’s rabbis have one.)
    Fact: A large percentage of student in yeshiva are not paying a dime.
    Fact: Without successful fundraising, the yeshiva would be forced to close their doors.
    if you are ok with that being on your conscious, then by all means, write your articles. Just know, there will always be good people in this world that will fight you till their last breath leaves their body.

  32. i am the mother of a talmid of this yeshiva. i cant even begin to describe the love & devotion this yeshiva shows to their talmidim. they bring them from beyond the brink & give them their lives back. they have alumni in the best yeshivas in the world. i have a few boys b’h who have been in many diff yeshivas & i have never seen the caring for each & every boy, on his own level, like its shown here. they deserve all our hakaras hatov for making thousands of mentshen out of what could have been many otd boys. they teach ‘al pi darko’, they know their boys & how to reach them. they are fathers to thousands & deal w many that no one else will. i am proud to be part of such a wonderful place & all of you that criticize should be so lucky to have an ounce of the zechus that this hanhala gets. they need money to continue their lifesaving (literally!) work & they themselves(the hanhala) are daas torah & should not be questioned. none of you should need to send your son to a yeshiva to find himself & his way back, but if you do, know that there is no better yeshiva out there anywhere. & every yeshiva from the right to the left, tops anywhere, can learn from them how to love their talmidim like they are their own children. i am so grateful to them & anyone who doesnt know the hanhala should not say a word, bc they are the biggest tzadikim around. may they continue their wonderful lifesaving work w/o you all that complain w/o knowing the true story.

  33. S Friedman, the author of this article is in need of some serious mussar refreshment.

    He told us in his very first sentence that he was invited to the barbecue “as a guest”. As “a guest”, accepting the well-intentioned hospitality of others, he should keep all (and I really do mean “all”) of his negative criticisms about the food, the drink, the free cigars to himself.

    Not only did he not find any of that to his oh-so delicate tastes, he goes on to criticize his fellow guests!

    If all of this was so distasteful to this ‘adin nefesh’ named S Friedman why did he not just get up, make his apologies to the more than generous host, and leave?

    But no: S Friedman just went ahead, and fressed, drank and smoked everything that was put in front of him. If he did not, then he has not told us otherwise.

    What S Friedman should (and could) have reported was whether or not the “grub” crowd who attended the barbecue were moved by the divrei Torah of the guest speaker and possibly the fact that checks were written to enhance the beneficiary yeshiva’s funds.

    But S Fried merely chose to write about what he perceived as the negatives.

  34. To #47:
    So you’re advocating that people doing not good things should better do it in a “kosher environment?” That’s what leads to these types of actions becoming “kosher.”
    For an individual it may be more harmful to sit in a bar and have his beer than amongst other frum jews, but if we don’t have things publicly than when someone goes to a bar to indulge himself he KNOWS it’s not right. You’re creating a situation where we slowly allow everything and eventually everything becomes “kosher.”
    Should we show movies in yeshiva gyms because theaters are treif?
    Please don’t advocate lowering the standards of Am Kodesh.

  35. To the mother of a talmid of the yeshiva:
    No one is saying anything negative about the yeshiva- this whole article isn’t about the yeshiva. It’s a commentary on what society now accepts as a fundraiser. If you think it’s normal for frum men to sit around with cigars and booze, then you and the author (and myself) disagree.
    The point of this article is that it’s sad that a great Yeshiva need to resort to such an event (and it could be the Yeshiva had nothing to do with the actual planning of it) in order to raise $.
    A letter read aloud from a proud mother such as yourself should be able to bring in cash. How sad that fundraising has to become an entertainment industry.

  36. What a boorish article! What friedman fails to mention is whether or not he gave money to this Yeshiva. If he did then the Yeshiva accomplished what it set out to do, if not then he’s stam a shnorrer going to a party for free food and drinks and then ranting about it.

  37. How sad that people like yourself fail to see the beyond your own daled amos. A regular Yeshiva dinner is not any different then this is. Serving lavish dishes while sitting around a table and socializing is not any different then socializing at a bbq. Yes one is more formal then the next, but since when does formal settings play a role in what’s considered chukas hagoy or not. Do you know that all the BIG Yeshivas used to have MIXED seating (shocker) at their dinners? And yes all the gedolei yisroel attended those events.

  38. The author did contribute, and did not drink or smoke.
    How do I know- because I’m him 🙂
    Argue over all the stuff, but let’s at least get those facts straight.

  39. # 54
    Yes, formality makes a huge difference. A proper sit-down dinner is appropriate. A let-loose bbq where anything goes is not.

  40. #49
    Well said, im a bochur in this yeshiva and everything u have said is 100% accurate. the rabbanim here have a genuine love for each and every one of us and help each bochur in their own way.
    i have been to many yeshivos, and i can honestly say that any boy of my age and in this type of situation, where the ‘mainstream’ yeshivos are not suitable for our needs, that can attend such a place is incredibly lucky, and should be a proud person.
    so please, STOP arguing here about the rights and wrongs, and do something good and write a cheque to the yeshiva.

  41. While smoking cigars and drinking wine may not be the ideal existence for a frum person, they definitely aren’t actions that are bringing klal yisroel down to such a level where we have to cry out to the Ribono Shel Oilam about the sad lowly state that we are in. Those who attended the evening came away with a sense of unity by reconnecting with their old friends from yeshiva and seeing how they have shteiged, as well as seeing the current bochurim and how the yeshiva is still doing avodas hakodesh . They felt compelled to help the yeshiva continue their lofty work and all in all went home feeling that the evening was a beautiful KOSHER event without ant TZNIUS issues that so plague other , more formal dinners from well known mosdos.

  42. While smoking cigars and drinking wine may not be the ideal existence for a frum person, they definitely aren’t actions that are bringing klal yisroel down to such a level where we have to cry out to the Ribono Shel Oilam about the sad lowly state that we are in. Those who attended the evening came away with a sense of unity by reconnecting with their old friends from yeshiva and seeing how they have shteiged, as well as seeing the current bochurim and how the yeshiva is still doing avodas hakodesh . They felt compelled to help the yeshiva continue their lofty work and all in all went home feeling that the evening was a beautiful KOSHER event without ant TZNIUS issues that so plague other , more formal dinners from well known mosdos. Please let’s focus on the real issues that we have and not on a summer fundraising bbq.

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