(By Yonatan Sredni)
A chance encounter at a local park last Shabbat afternoon featured the following exchange. As our 13 year old niece approached, my brother asked her an important question.
"So, are you ready for the big night?"
"You mean, the Seder?" she wondered.
"No, the Justin Bieber concert!"
Our niece blushed while we all enjoyed a laugh. She had saved up all her allowance and babysitting money to go with her friends to Hayarkon Park this Thursday night and join thousands of other screaming teenage girls at the concert. Judging by the posters in her bedroom, she is clearly just one of the many teens happily suffering from 'Bieber Fever.'
But what is about 'the Biebs' that makes girls swoon? Ok, I understand it has to do with his looks (mainly his hair and smile) and his voice. It can't be about his lyrics, can it? I mean how many times can he sing the word 'baby?'
While Justin Bieber himself is not Jewish, his manager, and the one who 'discovered' him as a 13 year old on YouTube, Scott "Scooter" Braun is. No doubt it was Braun's influence that got Bieber to add saying the first line of the Shema to his pre-concert prayer ritual.
And coming to Israel to perform one concert is also no small feat for the boy from Stratford, Ontario, Canada. Performing artists with much more experience in show biz have cancelled concerts here with alarming regularity. For the most famous teenager in North America to come perform here is really praiseworthy. In addition, hundreds of kids in the south of Israel are being given free tickets to Bieber's show which will surely put smiles on their faces in the wake of the difficult times they have experienced with all the recent rocket attacks from Gaza.
There are even rumors circulating that Justin Bieber plans to stay in Israel long enough to attend a Seder. I 'm sure many Bieber fans would love to break Matzah with him.
But who is Justin Bieber? I know one can read up on him online or even pay money to go see a documentary on his life called, 'Never Say Never' at your local movie theater (how can you make a full-length film about a 17 year old, I wonder). But what is it about him that makes even the non teenage girls find him endearing?
As Pessach approaches, I think about The Four Sons in the Haggadah. Is Justin Bieber the Wise Son? That's a bit of a stretch. The Wicked Son? Certainly not. The Simple Son? Maybe. The Son Who Does Not Know How to Ask? Well, that depends.
I think the appeal of Justin Bieber is that he is a combination of the Wise Son with the Simple Son. If you see him being interviewed, he sometimes shows intelligence beyond his years, yet in many ways he retains his wholesome, boyish 'simpleness'. Like the Simple Son he may just ask 'What is this?' and there is nothing wrong with that. He surrounds himself with family and that keeps him grounded. He might not ask the difficult questions and have all the answers like the Wise Son, but he doesn't have the mean streak of the wicked brother either. Bieber also does not strike me as someone who does not know how to ask. He does ask, but simply.
No doubt that is the attraction. A youthful star that still maintains some sense of innocence, like the Simple Son. The danger is that in the world of Rock & Roll there are also lots of wicked sons out there, trying to tempt their 'simple' brother. If Bieber does not ask the right questions, he could get into trouble, but if he keeps asking the simple questions, the hope is that with experience he can grow wise and ask better questions.
So, will I become a Justin Bieber fan? Probably not. But as J.B. himself sings, 'Never say never.'
The writer has an MA in Creative Writing from Bar-IlanUniversity.
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