Shlomo Carlebach’s background is Chasidic. But his tight hugs do not really fall into any of those categories. When he was once asked about this, he said that he was hugging Neshamos – souls not bodies. This behavior did not go unnoticed by Rav Moshe Feinstein. He was asked whether one may utilize the music composed by one such as this. Rav Moshe allowed it although he clearly condemned the kind of behavior displayed by Shlomo Carlebach.
Shlomo Carlebach’s claims about looking beyond the body and only hugging souls was apparently not entirely true. At least not in the case of a few women who allege he molested them during those hugs. Having married relatively late in life – most of those hugs took place while he was a bachelor. Carelbach was a very passionate man. He was passionate about music; he was passionate about Judaism; and he was passionate about his fellow man – both Jew and gentile. Carlebach was not without a sex drive. He must have been passionate about that too. Enough said.
It is a shame that a man of such genius and high achievement; a man with no peers; whose contributions have few parallels in other fields was probably guilty of molesting a few of the women he hugged.
It appears that Carlebach was not alone in this respect. There are other icons who commanded a great amount of respect and admiration for their contributions. Which were many! And yet they were guilty of the same type of behavior on occasion.
What do we do with all of this? Do we reject them and all they did? Do we ban Carlebach’s music? Is that even possible? I don’t think the answer is all that simple.