A Footnote on the Matisyahu Debacle

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6 Responses

  1. Eli says:

    It is rather presumptuous on your part to assume that because Matisyahu no longer follows halacha that that mean that he no longer identifies as a Jew. This is an unfortunate symptom of the Charedi view that Jewish/religious identity is a binary subject – either you fully follow halacha or nothing – when in fact it is much more of a continuum. I personally, as someone whose main social surroundings are secular Israelis, am constantly made aware of this. Whether it’s the one without the kippa who lays tefillin, won’t eat milk after meat, or even one who was proud of fulfilling the mitzva of p’ru ur’vu upon the birth of a daughter after a son. Charedim are unfortunately very quick to judge people as irreligious or even anti-religious because of external appearances, when a little openness would show that there is much more religious observance, or at least positive feeling towards religious observance, than they are aware of. Matisyahu may no longer keep many halachos, but that doesn’t mean he has completely forsaken his people.

    All this reminds me of an aphorism attributed to the Kotzer Rebbe: “Where can you find G-d? Wherever you let him in.” If you shut your eyes to the connection klal yisrael maintains with HKB”H, you’ll just never see it

    • Yaakov Menken says:

      Eli, I may have been misunderstood because I said “if you don’t identify as a Jew, Matisyahu, they’ll remind you.” Of course he still identifies as a Jew. He still sings Jerusalem. He still sings many other songs filled with lyrics we find not only appropriate, but uplifting [I’m not saying his music is appropriate for everyone regardless of his dress or beard status; ask your Rav]. And of course, he knows everyone knows he is the former Hassidic reggae singer.

      But he consciously no longer identifies Jewishly to the same extent. He moved to a very different point on the continuum, deliberately so. That’s not “judging” him, because he said this is so, no one else. Certainly, keeping Halacha, following what HaShem wants, is at the core of self-identifying as a Jew.

      And by discriminating against him, they reminded him that inside, he’s still a Jew, fully a Jew, and yes, different than others. The media knew it, and portrayed him as different by using dated photos. Here’s hoping he’ll let those Mitzvos he left, come back into his life — because they are why we are different.

  2. cvmay says:

    A Jew is a Jew is a Jew is a Jew!!
    Say it frontwards or backwards….

  3. Yosef N says:

    Religon is a private matter. Please don’t tell other people how to act. He made a bigger kiddush hashem by seeing Jerusalem then many of us will ever make. His music today is still a genuine expression of a neshama searching for God.

  4. Moshe Katz says:

    With all respect to Rabbi Menken, are we trying to “preach to the choir” or to reach out to Matisyahu?
    If it’s the latter, I would suggest considerably more warmth and love. It seems likely to me that his embracing a Torah life was likely too fast, without sufficient learning and without a mentor that could have guided him better.
    Why not give him a yashar koach for standing up for his principles in a very public way and tell him, with love, that we miss him?

    • Yaakov Menken says:

      I think he knows the Jewish community all cheered for him. And I’ve said so elsewhere. And your analysis of his circumstances reflects thoughts I’ve heard from very sober, senior voices within Chabad itself. But the exclusion, too, has a message for him. The Yashar Koach and the sympathy and the “how about trying it again” all come together.

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