The reggae pop star Matisyahu sent a Twitter message to his followers this morning announcing that he has shaved his beard. The accompanying photo showed a smooth-cheeked Matisyahu posing in front of a mirror, cell-phone camera in hand.
Along with the pic came a post on Matisyahu’s web site:
A beardless Matisyahu posted a picture of himself today to Twitter. He has just issued the following statement:
NOTE FROM MATISYAHU
This morning I posted a photo of myself on Twitter.
No more Chassidic reggae superstar.
Sorry folks, all you get is me…no alias. When I started becoming religious 10 years ago it was a very natural and organic process. It was my choice. My journey to discover my roots and explore Jewish spirituality—not through books but through real life. At a certain point I felt the need to submit to a higher level of religiosity…to move away from my intuition and to accept an ultimate truth. I felt that in order to become a good person I needed rules—lots of them—or else I would somehow fall apart. I am reclaiming myself. Trusting my goodness and my divine mission.
Get ready for an amazing year filled with music of rebirth. And for those concerned with my naked face, don’t worry…you haven’t seen the last of my facial hair.
The singer, who was born Matthew Paul Miller and raised non-Orthodox in Pennsylvania and New York, embraced Hasidism after a high-school study trip to Israel. His beard and black coat have been part of his distinctive look, and, according to an interview with Rabbi Naomi Levy in The Jewish Journal, part of his spiritual growth.
NL: Your attire, the way that you look, in what ways is it a hindrance to you; in what ways does it help you?
M: In terms of the beard, it keeps me a little bit less focused on how I look, you know what I mean? I want to look good, but it kind of makes me less focused on that a little bit. And then I guess when I get into the music and I’m moving around or I’m singing or whatever it is, it’s like there’s a lot in it, a lot of emotion, and there’s excitement and there’s love, you know what I mean? And I guess all those things can be translated as sexy. But I won’t go out there and sort of like ... I’m not looking to be sexy. I’m looking for this kind of spiritual experience.
Judging by the comments section on the singer’s web site, his fans support the move. While a few posters wondered if this meant he was “denouncing” his faith, most supported his evolution.
“Matis,” said the poster Aedile, “I don’t believe we will be judged by the hair on our face, but rather by the deeds we have done, the words we have said, and the lives we have changed. I am excited to see what you will bring us in the new year!”
To read Rob Eshman on Matisyahu’s importance (and see him perform mit beard, click here.