Friday, May 20, 2011

Maccabeats At The White House

Wow, two Maccabeats posts in a row, I must be crazy, right?

Anyway, I'm definitely not the first person to post the news about this. Heck, even though I had heard about the performance at the White House, I didn't even know when the Maccabeats performing, so I totally missed it because I was on my way to and then davening Mincha (a good excuse, I suppose).

For those (like me) who missed the actual streaming video, here are some recorded versions from Youtube, though I am not sure the exact order of performance other than the last one:

UPDATE: YU has posted the concert in its entirety here:

If you still want to see individual songs, I'll keep the old videos:


"The Purim Song"

"Lecha Dodi"

"Wavin' Flag" and "One Day"

I have to say that I'm immensely proud of these guys. It's hard to put into words the immense nachas I get from seeing how popular and world-reknown the Maccabeats have become.

Howeber, my interest and continued support has only a little to do with their incredible talent and the music they produce (and I do enjoy their music immensely). In reality, I am truly amazed by their accomplishments as representatives of Yeshiva University, Modern Orthodox Judaism, and Jews as a whole. The Maccabeats aren't just some kitschy college a capella group that made it big because of a one-hit youtube video. One personal and group levels, they exemplify what it means to be bnei Torah and provide concrete, positive examples of what Torah observant Jews can and should be.

In a world where Judaism is getting dragged downward with assimilation and apathy, where other "denominations" that try to "update" or "fix" our faith by making changes they feel are necessary to make Judaism fit modern society, where Israel is constantly berated in the public news sphere for ridiculous things - The Maccabeats are a pristine example of the application of Torah Umadda philosophy at its best.

These young men attend or graduated from Yeshiva University, an institution that strives to produce graduates, both men and women, who will go out an engage the world, making it a better place, while at the same time upholding the halacha and mesora Jews have received and practiced f0r millenia. Being an "influential" Jew does not mean you wield political power, have tons of money to buy your way in business, or gain immense popularity because you seek to attract the attention the masses to inflate your ego.

To truly be a meaningfuly influential Jew, you have to be firmly invested in the Truth of our Torah, and live your life with meaning, being an example to others of how it's possible to be upright, honest, and moral, yet still engaging in the world. The world isn't a bad place by nature, although our modern societies have sunk pretty low in many ways. That doesn't mean we need to retreat into segregated enclaves and wait for the world to die as we maintain a private life of personal "sanctity" at the cost of losing everyone else around us.

The Maccabeats didn't set out to become this famous, but as things tend to, and should happen, people notice the things that are real, convincing, and meaningful and search out for that greater connection to spirituality and G-d that they lack in their lives. It doesn't matter what circumstances have lead someone to the more physical, ephemeral lifestyle in which they find themselves, truly genuine people will take note of people, events, and other things that ring true then grab onto them, holding on for dear life. There is such a vacuum of meaningful, educated spirituality in the world today, and the Maccabeats have tapped into that latent desire for more than the fleeting pleasures that most people occupy themselves with every day of their lives.

Yes, I have voiced my support for the Maccabeats twice before, and I will continue to do so. The fact that the President of the United States (regardless of your personal opinion of him) welcomed them to the White House to perform as part of a ceremony commemorating Jewish American Heritage Month - speaks volumes about what they've accomplished, and G-d willing, will continue to accomplish for the public image and acceptance of American (and world) Jewry.

Here's a short story involving another president that emphasizes my point about The Maccabeats' impact:

A friend told me a story that his rabbi told him, which occured at a wedding the rabbi attended earlier this year. The chosson and rabbi were from out of town, and it just so happens that the rabbi sat next to Yeshiva University President Richard Joel during the chupa. While they were waiting for the ceremony to start, people kept coming over and talking to President Joel, referring to him as "Mr. President."

After a while, the rabbi, who has no affiliation with YU whatsoever, got curious and asked why they keep calling the man next to him "Mr. President." The rabbi had assumed that he must have been a president of a big shul or something, so he was a bit shocked when President Joel replied that he was president of Yeshiva University.

The rabbi was hashkafically yeshivish, and his thus only real connection to YU (aside from the chosson) was of course, The Maccabeats. He told President Joel that he really liked their music and also enjoyed their videos. President Joel thanked him and remarked, "You know what the best part about them is? Each one of them is a ben Torah." The rabbi was very impressed by the response and has subsequently thought more highly of YU and The Maccabeats because of it.

The Maccabeats truly represent the values espoused by Yeshiva University, and I am quite proud of everything they have achieved thus far, and I hope they will further influence and inspire Jews (and gentiles) accross The United States and the world for many years to come.

Keep up the good work, guys!

P.S. Don't forget to check out my speculation about the in-the-works second Maccabeats album.

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