Wednesday, September 03, 2008

NewsFlash: R' Shlomo Aviner vs. Srugim



In the SMS halachik Q&A section of the upcoming weekly Shabbat pamphlet "Olam Katan", R' Aviner is asked the following question:

Is one allowed to watch "Srugim", the TV show about religious singles and "shiduchim"?

The answer was a resounding "NO."
"Of course this is forbidden [to watch]. There is bad language and licentiousness. It is not enough to be "shomer negia", and this is also not always followed [on the show] -- one needs purity and modesty.

It [the show] doesn't lack cheap, low and stupid content and its a disgrace to the religious Zionist community. To learn about how one should act, a person should read "Messilat Yesharim" (story source: Ynet via Rotter.Net)
A few comments:

1. Perhaps R' Aviner is retaliating for his mention in the previous show from last week?

2. I find it disappointing that there is a common knee-jerk reaction to the show that it doesn't positively portray the "religious Zionist" community. The show isn't about positively portraying the religious Zionist community -- it's about reality as it takes place. Yes, it's a show, but ask anyone who's been in the Katamon swamp, and they'll say it reflects reality. The point of Ma'aleh (their website is being re-done), the religious film school is not to exclusively produce promotional films that advocate for everyone to join the "religious Zionist" lifestyle.

The show really does not need a disclaimer/warning at the beginning stating: "The following show depicts the behavior of religious singles in the Katamon. You should not draw any conclusions that their behavior is proper or in accordance with halacha and that the characters are truly representative of the religious Zionist community. The scenes and actions shown are not under any halachik authority but were written by 2 graduates of the Maaleh film school and are self-defined as religious Zionists. In doubt, please consult your local Religious Zionist Orthodox Rabbi or see the Messilat Yesharim"

3. The person who asked the question in the first place should have prefaced his question if he is allowed to watch ANY TV at all, since I don't believe it falls within R' Aviner's worldview to begin with.

4. I seriously doubt R' Aviner's halachik opinion forbidding someone from watching the show is going to affect the show's ratings in the slightest...and will probably only increase them.

It's Elul. Please keep your comments respectful.


Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael טובה הארץ מאד מאד

52 comments:

chareidi said...

Does this mean R Aviner hold watching TY in general is mutar?

Mindy 1 said...

Still didn't get around to watching them.

What is Ma'aleh's website?

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

chareidi: excellent question. I bet the answer is no...

Mindy: I updated the post with links. Their website is currently being redone, but I put in some other useful links.

Esther Kustanowitz said...

Admittedly, my modesty standards are different from those of R. Aviner's community. (And I happen to be a big fan of the show, feeling that the issues are presented sensitively and truthfully.)

But having seen a bunch of these episodes and as a result of my involvement in the UWS Jewish singles scene, I would suggest that religious authorities in general have much to learn about the issues faced by and the real experiences of the religious singles community (in Jerusalem and elsewhere).

I hope that the ban was issued after actually watching it, instead of a knee-jerk reaction about something on TV being critical of the religious community.

But I do think there SHOULD be a warning before every episode, and that it should end with, "In some extreme cases, may lead to dancing." (G-d forbid.)

YMedad said...

Esther, watch it. Some of us know how that joke starts...

;->)

I never got to see my daughter's 8th grade graduation becuase R' Aviner prohibited the fathers from wathcing the end-of-school-year show as some of the girls might feel embarassed appearing before strange men.

My daughter told me later that I didn't miss anything because the Folies Bergerre high-kick number was dropped at the last moment.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

YMedad: The dancing joke was thrown around alot during the NBN flight :)

R Aviner has been banning alot of things lately: The Revadim/ViShinantem Mishna program for kids, Women sleeping in PJ pants, Aviv Gefen songs, etc.

YMedad said...

So, there was a lot of dancing in the aisles?

Shimon said...

I think the issur only applies to people who haven't read "Mikimi"

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Shimon: ROFL - touche! :-)

YMedad: We tried hard to avoid it...but there was a sheva brachot...

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

FYI: Here's a link to R' Aviner's ban on reading the Mekimi book.

At the rate we're going, the muqata blog's going to get banned by R' Aviner pretty quickly considering we liked the Mekimi book, and routinely watch Srugim.

JoeSettler said...

Why ban Aviv Gefen. Who wants to listen to him anyway? Yuch.

The Rebbetzin's Husband said...

I have no comment on the show, since I haven't seen it, but your point #2 doesn't seem quite right, Jameel.

When viewed through the lens of shmirat halashon, why would accuracy mean that it's permitted? That just makes it lashon hara.

shlomo said...

Practically every episode so far has had shown men and women hugging, kissing, nuzzling, and otherwise engaging in romantic contact. It is halachically problematic to watch that if it will induce sexual thoughts, which honestly speaking is probably the case for most of us.

I believe R' Aviner is protesting that, rather than the "negative" depiction of Katamon. For all we know, he's probably against the singles scene in the first place and prefers that it be portrayed negatively.

BTW, the "Srugim vs R Aviner" graphic is hilarious :)

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

TRH: When viewed through the lens of shmirat halashon, why would accuracy mean that it's permitted? That just makes it lashon hara.

How exactly is it lashon hara, and against whom?

See the comment thread on this post for some insight.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Shlomo wrote I believe R' Aviner is protesting that, rather than the "negative" depiction of Katamon. For all we know, he's probably against the singles scene in the first place and prefers that it be portrayed negatively.

But he didn't write *that* -- he said something completely different -- that the show defames the religious national camp.

If he is against the show for that reason, he may as well come out and ban the Maaleh film school altogether.

(And thanks for the smiley on the graphic :-)

Akiva said...

Unfortunately, the storybook portrayal of religious life and the realities of the world (it's not all roses and connecting to Hashem, or rather, it is but there's freaking big pokey thorns in those roses, so watch out!!!) are far from each other.

For example, one reads of the wonderful fulfilling Jewish religious life in Europe of the 19th century, one doesn't ready that most families lost multiple children to disease and poverty.

The agony and serious day to day challenges of being a single are very serious, but it's not representative of the way we want things to be. Maybe if we don't talk about it long enough, it will get all better?

Oy.

But don't worry Jameel, it seems the ReligioZionio camp is doing a good job of catching up with the charediomaximo camp on bans. After all, they wouldn't want to be accused of taking their jewishkeit half hearted.

Oy.

PsychoToddler said...

"The person who asked the question in the first place should have prefaced his question if he is allowed to watch ANY TV at all"

Bingo.

The question and therefore the answer are meaningless in this context.

Reminds me of my friend who asked the rabbi whether he should take off his yarmulke at the rock concert or leave it on. He was told that the concert was assur.

Risa said...

Rav Aviner has said many times that you should take your TV and throw it off the mirpesset. So why would he say watching davka Srugim is OK?
Sometimes you have toknow what and who NOT to ask.

Commenter Abbi said...

"Practically every episode so far has had shown men and women hugging, kissing, nuzzling, and otherwise engaging in romantic contact. It is halachically problematic to watch that if it will induce sexual thoughts, which honestly speaking is probably the case for most of us."

Shlomo, this applies to most tv dramas/comedies/reality shows/game shows. So if this is clearly halachically problematic, why just assur this show?

(also, speak for yourself about the sexual thoughts. I think most pple who live in the modern world can handle the scenes in Srugim.)

Esther Kustanowitz said...

I would have never even asked any Orthodox rabbi who thinks television is assur if he thought a specific show was also assur even if it dealt with issues in the religious community.

And because it's within a framework of the religious world, the physical contact is not gratuitous and in fact serves as a point of discussion. How long are people supposed to remain alone before they start bending rules so that they can retain their emotional health?

The Rebbetzin's Husband said...

Jameel-
Sure, I'm going to read an 83-comment thread...

Why wouldn't this be a problem of lashon hara against a community, and therefore each of its members?

I fully agree that we shouldn't cover up our problems, and that we should address them rather than hope they disappear - but I'm not convinced that popular television is the most direct and productive way to do that.

Anonymous said...

funny to think rsa is writing to defend the rz world, considering the treatment theyve given him in the last 3-4 years...

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

TRH: Why wouldn't this be a problem of lashon hara against a community, and therefore each of its members? While R' Aviner may believe its lashon hara against a community, I'm not sure everyone in the community agrees with him that its neccessarily libelous (which is why I suggested reading the 83 comment thread :)

For example: (I'll try to think of something appropriate) Would you say that "Reform Jews are not shomer shabbat" -- os is that lashon hara against a community and it's members? The show takes people who are shomer shabbat and shomer kashrut and explores their relationships. Some of their behaviour is wonderful, some of it is human, some of it goes against the grain of hilchot tzniut.

Yet the poing of the Maale film school is not to hide issues, but broadcast them for discussion. I think more good will come out of the show than bad for the simple point that it highlights the issue of the singles scene in Jerusalem with all its problems. Perhaps that will increase others' sensitivities towards singles, perhaps it will inspire someone to try harder to set up shidduchim for their single friends.

Perhaps it can help the people in Katamon laugh at themselves a bit, making their own lives eaiser.

If you believe that a religious Jew is only allowed to make TV shows and movies that are promotional ads for religious Judaism, then the Maaleh school should be closed.

I respectfully disagree.

Anonymous said...

Has Rabbi Aviner actually seen the episodes? I kind of doubt it since he doesn't have a TV. SO apon what is he basing his ruling? Hearsay?
I think the show deals with important issues facing the single ortho community and is doing a great job of bringing these issues to light.
Ariela

The Rebbetzin's Husband said...

Jameel-
Why is it a black or white choice, films that are positive about the RZ community or that are negative about them? I can think of a million possible film topics that don't pass judgment on a community.

shlomo said...

But he didn't write *that* -- he said something completely different -- that the show defames the religious national camp.

In his first paragraph R' Aviner definitely says what I said. In his second paragraph - looking it over again, it is closer to your understanding than mine. So we're both partly correct.

Shlomo, this applies to most tv dramas/comedies/reality shows/game shows. So if this is clearly halachically problematic, why just assur this show?

Indeed, the same considerations would apply to those shows. But R' Aviner was asked about Srugim in particular.

(also, speak for yourself about the sexual thoughts. I think most pple who live in the modern world can handle the scenes in Srugim.)

Look, it's not like I'll go into catatonic shock if I see two people kissing, or if I see a woman in a bathing suit or whatever else. But at the same time there are halachic guidelines for this kind of situation, and they indicate that you must avoid these sexual stimuli, even if you can "handle" them.

And because it's within a framework of the religious world, the physical contact is not gratuitous and in fact serves as a point of discussion. How long are people supposed to remain alone before they start bending rules so that they can retain their emotional health?

Discussing people's bending rules is not the same as graphically showing them bending rules. The point of Srugim is an important one, but I think it could be made with less explicit sexuality. For example, take the incredible scene where Amir and Naamah sit down next to each other on the bed, and next thing you know, they're putting on their respective head coverings in front of the mirror. I think many other scenes could have been made no less discreet, and equally effective.

I previously alluded ("Practically every episode so far") to the fact that I DO watch Srugim. But I make a point of looking away from the screen when there is physical contact, which seems to me the only halachically responsible thing to do. And there is a good case to be made for going further and not watching at all.

I think the show deals with important issues facing the single ortho community and is doing a great job of bringing these issues to light.

Agreed (though why is it that none of the people I know in Katamon are as thoroughly miserable as any of the people in the show? Maybe because they are mostly age 24-25, not 30+ yet.)

RivkA with a capital A said...

Jameel -- you were on vacation when I posted about last week's episode of S'rugim (But-She's-Not-Wearing-Any-Clothes!

The problem with TV shows, is that it is pretty boring to show "goody-goodies," so shows tend to focus on the "not-so-goodies," and the portrayal of any given community is skewed.

This week's episode put me off. We already got the point that not everyone is respectful of the halachik boundaries of touch. But not everyone is ready to jump all over everyone else either.

It is impossible to know how prevalent these conflicts are, because they usually take place behind closed doors. S'rugim invites us to "spy" in people's private quarters and see things we "should not" be seeing.

The fact that it makes people so uncomfortable attests to its success.

Shoshana said...

I think the show is excellent, and I can't even understand half of what is being said. It very accurately portrays not only (what I know of) the Katamon singles scene, but what it's like to be a religious single in their upper 20's or older and struggling to make sense of all of life in general. I eagerly wait each week to watch.

YMedad said...

Great. Thanks to Esther's comment (at 8:23) we've moved on from dancing, and now we're bending?

(sorry I can't comment on much else as I do not receive Channel Two)

Baila said...

I'd like to know who screens these shows in order to know they should be banned. And the music as well.

Probably lots of assistant rabbis fighting for that job.

shlomo said...

This week's episode put me off. We already got the point that not everyone is respectful of the halachik boundaries of touch. But not everyone is ready to jump all over everyone else either.

The woman who did this was already breaking Shabbat! And the man wasn't religious to start with. So it's hardly a demonstration that the Katamon singles are breaking all sexual boundaries.

In general I think you are putting way too much emphasis on the "being celibate is hard" angle, when that is really only a small part of the show. If anything, I think the characters' sense of loneliness, isolation, and lack of place in the world is much more acute than their sexual frustration. Those who do engage in sexual contact repeatedly find that it cures none of their problems.

Anonymous said...

Where can i get hold of episode 5 & 6 which I have not seen yet. Let me know please at drivewcare10@yahoo.comm thanks

one who knows said...

Rav AVINER forbids?

You said keep your comments respectful for Elul, so I WON'T say that Rav. Aviner is in no place to discuss "purity and modesty."

Seriously, in view of all the hypocritcal crap spewed by these so-called religious leaders, it is a wonder that anyone in Israel finds spiritual inspiration.

chardal said...

I would like to say that I am against bans in general and so am against this "psak" by Rav Aviner, but that being said ... I don't think that you can throw off ethical responsibly based on statements like "that is not the show was meant to do." A show can be true to its mission and STILL be problematic. The mission itself could be problematic. Entertainment is important, for sure, but every venture carries with it broader responsibilities. which brings me to:

>The show isn't about positively portraying the religious Zionist community -- it's about reality as it takes place. Yes, it's a show, but ask anyone who's been in the Katamon swamp, and they'll say it reflects reality.

It does NOT reflect reality. It reflects the theatrical considerations of the writers and director( see http://www.srugim.com/2008/08/7.html and http://www.srugim.com/2008/08/8.html )

Katamon has people such as are in the show, but it also has happy people. It also has people who do not compromise on important halachic categories. These people are not an insignificant component of the katamon scene! The writers ADMIT that these people exist but they leave them out of the show because according to them, it does not make "good TV." To me that is a cop-out. If a writer can only write an interesting character that is conflicted and unhappy, than that only reflects badly on the writer.

In the end, you can not have it both ways, you can not say that the show is there to reflect reality when attacked from the right and at the same time claim that "artistic" considerations trump reality when confronted with discrepancies with reality.

I tend to think that the directors DO have a responsibility for representing their community and part of that responsibility is to show that there ARE people who are happy AND committed within the religious world. The fact that the creators of the show fail in this is a crime both against their community and against reality.

rockofgalilee said...

I would say that the question is not whether it is assur to watch, but whether anybody cares.

X-rated movies portray what actually happens, but that doesn't make it ok.

Lashon Hora, by definition, is true. If it wasn't true it would be motzai shem ra.

Do you know of any poskim who say it is ok to watch people kissing on tv? or movies with nudity? Or shows with a positive message that also have people kissing?

I think that the hamon Am have decided that this is something they will not listen to the rabbis about.

It's not the first time and it won't be the last.

Commenter Abbi said...

"In the end, you can not have it both ways, you can not say that the show is there to reflect reality when attacked from the right and at the same time claim that "artistic" considerations trump reality when confronted with discrepancies with reality."

Chardal, the director and writers can do whatever they want because it's their show. You might not like it or agree with its premise- therefore, you shouldn't watch it. But beyond that, you can rant and rave about how the katamon in the show isn't "the real katamon" as you personally know it, but that's really irrelevant, unless you want to write, direct, and produce a katamon singles drama of your own showing how everyone is really happy and religiously on the up and up.

chardal said...

>Chardal, the director and writers can do whatever they want because it's their show.

I never said they can't. They can do whatever they want, and I can complain about it as much as I wan't.

>you can rant and rave about how the katamon in the show isn't "the real katamon" as you personally know it, but that's really irrelevant

It is relevent as long as people are still using the "The show isn't about positively portraying the religious Zionist community -- it's about reality as it takes place" as a fig leaf for what others see as an ethical failure of the show.

If the show would have a disclaimer, it would have to be "this show does not reflect the full reality of the katamon scene. Its main considerations are entertainment value and what the writers consider to be 'good TV,' therefore, please do not make generalations from this show regarding the reality of life in katamon or of life in the RZ world in general".

>unless you want to write, direct, and produce a katamon singles drama of your own showing how everyone is really happy and religiously on the up and up.

I am not a writer, director, or producer. I am a consumer. and therefore, I am doing what consumers do, expressing an opinion. If I WOULD put my sites on depicting reality (as some of the production staff claims, while others deny), however, then, I would have SOME happy characters who are religiously on the "up and up" (whatever that means) - since some people DO live in katamon.

chardal said...

since some people DO live in katamon while maintainer a more stringent halachic standard than is depicted on thw show.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Abbi: I don't mind if people kvetch about the show...and Chardal is more than welcome to kvetch here :)

I will say that the writers and director DO hear the feedback (I spoke to Laizy yesterday, while he was taking a diving course in Eilat)...

There are only 4 more episodes left this season...so in one month, this weekly saga will close down till they finish filming season 2.

Chardal: Ideas for episodes are welcome...I'm suggesting a few of my own :-)

Esther Kustanowitz said...

I don't know everything. (Far from it, in fact.) But I'd venture to say that even the "happy people" on the "up and up" (ומהזה באמת אומר?) have their share of dissatisfactions and stories. I mean, if it's anything like the Upper West Side in Katamon...

Commenter Abbi said...

If the show would have a disclaimer, it would have to be "this show does not reflect the full reality of the katamon scene. Its main considerations are entertainment value and what the writers consider to be 'good TV,' therefore, please do not make generalations from this show regarding the reality of life in katamon or of life in the RZ world in general".

It's a fictional drama on tv- why would they need a disclaimer saying so? This isn't a documentary, it isn't even a reality show. It's fiction. Should newscasters/journalists make the same kind of disclaimer when they report about rabbis and askanim being arrested for financial and sexual abuse scandals which actually happen in reality and not just on some show?

TV shows do not have ethical responsibilities aside from adhering to broad cultural norms regarding racism, sexism, anti-semitism. So I don't believe there's any "ethical failure" on the part of the show. Charedi men being arrested for numerous financial and even sexual improprieties? Definitely an ethical failure that reflects poorly on the religious community. Srugim doesn't even come close that kind of ethical failure.

Sorry, you'll never convince me that the show is "betraying" us.

Commenter Abbi said...

jameel- i'm sure you enjoy the kvetching. You get more comments!

Esther- has nobody hear of the phrase "on the up and up"? Here's the definition: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/up-and-up

Anonymous said...

Jameel, how about a column about just how extreme (and often intolerant) those proclaimed to be the "gedolim" of the Religious Zionist world really are?

Rav Aviner is an extraordinary man, and there is much his brilliance can and should teach all of us, both in terms of Torah and on a human level. At the same time, a large part of his value system (especially anything having to do with women, or men and women, and Srugim has everything to do with this) is so far from the values and expectations of regular God-fearing Jews that he makes a difficult "leader" for much of Religious Zionism.

The same could be said for most of the rest of the rabbis often proclaimed the "gedolim" for the RZ community: Rav Mordecai Eliyahu (may he be healed) and his son Rav Shmuel, Rav Lior, Rav Melamed (father and son), Rav Levanon, Rav Tau. (Yes, I am fully aware that many of these don't get along with each other or with Rav Aviner. That is part of the problem.) And many more.

There is nothing wrong with great rabbanim reflecting the "chardal" ideology. The problem is when they are proclaimed gedolim (and the only gedolim), and people are told that it is to them (and to them only) that they must listen. And also the idea that it is appropriate for rabbanim to tell people how to live their lives and even what to watch on TV (which I think is the true message of this psak). And when there are people who consider a question like this to be a true halakhic query?

Religious Zionists need to start thinking for themselves, honoring but not venerating Torah scholars, and choosing as their rabbanim those who reflect these values. Rather than choosing "gedolim" based on the proclamations of their talmidim/chasidim.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Anonymous: Jameel, how about a column about just how extreme (and often intolerant) those proclaimed to be the "gedolim" of the Religious Zionist world really are?

Religious Zionism is wrongly accused of being parallel to modern orthodoxy. It isnt -- and the Chardal stream is Chareidi...

But I will be posting on this topic soon.

Thanks for the idea!

rockofgalilee said...

The original comments in favor of the show were that it is showing life as it really is. When Chardal says, that's not how life really is, the answer back is, this isn't about real life, it's just entertainment.

Take your pick. Is it entertainment, which is then bad according to the people who said it is good because it depicts life as it is, or is it real life in which case it is bad because it doesn't really depict real life.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

RoG: Nothing is ever black and white. It's entertainment. Its also real life. But its a slice of real life which isnt fully representative, and it's entertainment which isn't fully representative.

Lurker said...

I've found that real life is like that too. It, also, tends not to be an accurate representation of real life (the rest of it, that is...)

See? Life imitates Art. :-)

Lurker said...

chardal: Katamon has people such as are in the show, but it also has happy people. It also has people who do not compromise on important halachic categories. These people are not an insignificant component of the katamon scene!
...
If I WOULD put my sites on depicting reality (as some of the production staff claims, while others deny), however, then, I would have SOME happy characters who are religiously on the "up and up" (whatever that means) -
...
since some people DO live in katamon while maintainer a more stringent halachic standard than is depicted on thw show.


Regarding "happy people" in Katamon: The show is the interpersonal relationships of 30-years in Katamon who (in principle) want to be married, but have failed to achieve this goal. It goes without saying that they are not going to be happy about this.

Regarding people in Katamon who don't compromise on halakha: What about Reut? Isn't she such a character? Unless I missed something, I don't think we've ever seen her compromise on halakha.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you, chardal. I know girls that live in Katamon and don't so much as wear the low-cut blouses that they wear on the show.

Can anyone here spell the words "fan fiction"?

Mindy 1 said...

I am getting a major kick out of this thread...

Thanks for teaching me to be like one of the commenters on blogosphere-

Modeh B'Mikzas.

Just when I thought I knew everything. ;)

And thanks for the link. :)

aoc gold said...

O Sailor, Come Ashore

(Part I)

O sailor, come ashore

What have you brought for me?

Red coral , white coral,

Coral from the sea.

(Part II)

I did not dig it from the ground ,

Nor pluck it from a tree;

Feeble insects made it

In the stormy sea.

~by aoc gold

Kamagra said...

I prefer Srugim because has more interesting topics, but if we are talking about format quality the best is R' Sholmo Aviner because has more audiovisual effects.

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