Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Simon and Garfunkel

I wanted to cleanse the filth (read: the last day in my Sex & Gender Roles class) from my mind and my Ner Yisrael friend suggested reading The World of the Yeshiva by William B. Helmreich. I'm halfway through. It's utterly fascinating. Yet another reason I should have been born a boy- then I would actually have gotten to experience this, if only as a tourist, as opposed to merely being able to read about it. Sigh.

Anyway, this part is hilarious.


Finally, deviance for some may simply be a response to insecurity about how the larger society perceives them. The typical yeshiva bochur travels, reads, attends college, and listens to the radio often enough to be at least somewhat aware of what is going on in the larger society. And he is also sensitive to criticism that he is unaware of the outside world. He may therefore choose certain recreational activities partly because he enjoys them but also because they give him a feeling that he is "with it" or "cool." The following example of this pattern took place not long ago in an out-of-town yeshiva known for its "other-worldliness":

    You can always tell the rosh yeshiva you need the tape recorder for shiurim [classes]. My roommate was playing Simon and Garfunkel music. I happen to think it's beautiful...like "Bridge over Troubled Water." As an instrumental it could pass for a Yiddish niggun [melody or song]. In fact, when I learned before in another yeshiva my chavrusa used to hum it while he was learning and the rebbe picked it up and he thought it was beautiful.

    Anyway, bekitzur [in short] one of the guys next door told the mashgiach that this guy plays rock, goyishe [non-Jewish] music. So the mashgiach comes over to me and asks me. Now I couldn't care less what my roommate does. They're not going to change him anyway. So I said he probably plays the Yiddishe niggunim but he zicher [surely] wouldn't play rock music. When the mashgiach came over to me the second time, I had to tell him something. I told him he plays these former yeshivaleit [yeshiva students], Shimon and Garfinkel. They made a couple of Yiddishe zochen [loosely: songs or numbers]. "Oh, good," he said, "as long as he doesn't play the rock music."

    ~pages 207-208
What is significant here is not that an authority figure within the school was made to look foolish. A rebbe or a mashgiach is not supposed to know about such matters. In fact, it is to his credit that he does not know the difference between Simon and Garfunkel and Shimon and Garfinkel. What does matter is that the yeshiva bochur cloistered away in the beis medrash knows who they are and what they do. Nevertheless, such awareness is somewhat tempered by the slightly defensive tone, as the student says, "It could pass for a...niggun," and "I happen to think it's beautiful."


Ah, they worried about Simon & Garfunkel back in the day...what in the world do they do about Lady Gaga and 50 Cent?

In a strange way it is actually very sweet- this idea of "Shimon and Garfinkel."


Benzie said...

ah, but the Parvanim sang S&G in Hebrew; it really is Jewish music!


הצעיר שלמה בן רפאל לבית שריקי ס"ט said...

I still think Drisha is a better place for girls like you than Stern in regards to textual analysis...

harry-er than them all said...

its because music that is meant to show a strong emotion or spirituality is seen as productive.

a number of yeshiva guys i know, even when doing things slightly 'deviant'(aka reading books, newspapers, movies) will try to find some redeeming quality (in this instance, the songs ability to be stirring)

RaggedyMom said...

I had a rav who referred to them as Shimon & Gavriel and actually sang some well-known Shabbos zmiros to their songs. As an aside, we rented our first apartment from two sisters who went to school with them here in Queens.

Anonymous said...

and you know of course, that they sang together first in hebrew school choir