The Rabbi at the AC/DC Concert by Rabbi Yaron Gottlieb

by Rabbi Yaron Gottlieb

When I recently attended one of the AC/DC concerts in Melbourne, I  would never have guessed that an event featuring a middle aged man in a school uniform could illuminate some of life’s mysteries.

But during some of the songs and while singer, Brian Johnson, was delivering his barely intelligible patter between sets, I glanced around at the crowd.

Behind me there were half a dozen middle aged men (about the same age as the band). During the songs, they barely moved. At the end of each number, they clapped politely.

A rock band was playing to 50,000 screaming fans in a football stadium, with speakers that were several storeys high.

These men, however, gave their polite applause as if anything louder would disturb the peace.

I could only think of two possibilities:

1. They clicked on the wrong button when buying tickets for the opera, and when they discovered their mistake, decided to not to waste the tickets.

2. They were embarrassed to put their response to the music in the public domain.

The second option raises many questions.

How is it that people are embarrassed to dance at a concert, when there is a man in a schoolboy’s uniform duck-walking across the stage? And why would anyone be afraid when surrounded by so many anonymous people?

A similar dynamic may have occurred on this blog after my previous post about homosexuality and Orthodox Judaism. Alex, Malki, and I received numerous private responses via email and Facebook.

These comments could be divided into the following categories:

1. GLBT Jews who were afraid to speak out in case they would be publicly identified.

2. Non-GLBT Orthodox Jews who were afraid to speak out in agreement with my article, because they feared their tolerant stance would not be accepted by their community.

3. A number of people who felt that they did not have the knowledge to respond or that their opinion was in some way lacking religiously.

4. Others who simply did not want to have their opinions on record.

In theory, this blog’s comments section – like other internet forums – can be as anonymous as the massive crowd at the AC/DC concert, but a similar dynamic is at play. There is a fear that someone will recognise you (or your writing) and it’s enough to keep you quiet in your seat. The fear of looking stupid, or saying something unacceptable is very powerful.

But I take inspiration from the words of the great sage (and comedian), Dennis Miller:

“The biggest conspiracy has always been the fact that there is no conspiracy. Nobody’s out to get you. Nobody gives a shit whether you live or die. There, you feel better now?”

The essence of Jewish religious discussion is not to be afraid of emotional or intellectual exposure.

Our religious tradition asks us to put our ideas and thoughts out into the world. Sometimes they are accepted and at other times they are rejected. Sometimes ideas lead to intense debates and our tradition is based on these very arguments.

Jewish ideas are not quarantined in a monastery, nor are they restricted to a select class of privileged, literate individuals; rather learning is something that is in the public domain and it is incumbent on everyone to critique it for both positive and negative.

It is only in this way that new ideas can be properly investigated and then adopted or scrapped on their merits. We should embrace challenges and speaking out, because the alternative often results in a stunted an inflexible ideology that can’t withstand the challenges of the world around us.

It also means you can’t dance at an AC/DC concert.

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One Response to “The Rabbi at the AC/DC Concert by Rabbi Yaron Gottlieb”

  1. Anon says:

    Sometimes when you dance to a different tune you end up dancing alone.

    Sure it’s the most powerful feeling on earth when you dance like nobody’s watching; and suddenly the dance floor packs full of people inspired by people who are no longer afraid.

    But there is always that fear: will I end up dancing alone?

    Congratulations to those willing to throw fear to the wind and speak up. Who knows what (or whom) you may inspire.

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