Posted by Rabbi Yonah Bookstein
From the moment that Matisyahu’s new album ‘Spark Seeker’ hits your ears, you realize that the singer/songwriter is on a new journey of self-discovery. Complex, deeply spiritual, worldly, upbeat, at times pop and danceable, transcontinental, and electronic, ‘Spark Seeker’ grabs you. New beats, new sounds, new music, period. This July 17th release is best listened to loud.
‘Spark Seeker’ represents a continuation of Matisyahu’s personal journey and his independent streak. The changes he is showing the world are part of his spiritual quest, and are fueled by the same desire for authenticity as the call that led him to avoid the world of materialism and towards a spiritual Hasidic path. Matisyahu has has not forsaken his spiritual quest or the Judaism that has inspired him on his journey so far. He, like so many of us, is seeking, dreaming, struggling and wrestling with tradition and God. But unlike us, his personal journey has become the topic of intense public discussion.
“Crossroads”, the first track on the album begins with middle eastern rhythms, sounds and ancient winds blowing across a desert. Then the familiar voice fades in “like I’m walking through a kingdom of time…only to find the other side,” revealing to us that the Matisyahu is at a crossroads in his spiritual and musical development. ‘Spark Seeker’ brings together his previous albums and says, this is one path, one journey.
You can feel the spiritual energy that went into ‘Spark Seekers’ echos back to previous albums and songs. In his beautiful “Sunshine”, Matisyahu longs for a champion, a redeemer, the Moshiach. In “Live Like a Warrior”, you feel the power of “Youth”.
“Shema Yisrael…” calls Matisyahu into the vast sound of “Desert Eagle”, and you can see him there standing in the Judean desert embracing the beauty of the ancient past, and fusing it with the present and the future. The ancient and the modern mashup works brilliantly.
Each listen to the album reveals new elements, new voices, new lyrics. You come face to face with the brilliant collaboration with Shyne, the former Bad Boy Records rapper who spent nine years in prison before heading to Israel and becoming an Orthodox Jew.
Many have questions for Matisyahu: What happened to the beard? Are you still Jewish? Do you still keep kosher? What does your family think?
While offering some answers, there is still much mystery that surrounds Matisyahu’s transformation from beatboxing, rapping, Hasidic reggae artist who burst onto the world stage with “King Without A Crown”, to the clean-shaven rock-star we see today.
In a recent sit-down interview at his Beverly Hills home, we discussed the transformation, the songs, and ultimately the message of ‘Spark Seekers’. Rather than abandon his fans, he feels that he has a responsibility to keep them informed of his journey.
“I have a responsibility [to convey] my message at any given time. As I am going through things in my life, I will write songs about them. Whether it is ‘Shake off the Dust’ and was ‘Warrior’ learning about Hasidus, and my life then, or my life now.
“Just like then, if not more than ever, I feel I have evolved. I don’t look at myself at a downpoint in my life. The way I feel now, the wisdom that I have gained and the truth I feel I have found over the last 6 months, feels more up than ever in my life. I have gotten a taste of something that I have been searching for, for a long time, for my whole life.”
Rather than thinking he will disappoint some of his more religious followers, he feels that he has an obligation to share with them his journey of spiritual self-discovery.
“Why would I not share what’s going on - why because I’m afraid it may hurt people? I have led some people in a certain direction. There are certain kids who are ba’ale teshuva (newly religious) because my music has, at some point in their journey, had an influence on them. Now my life has changed, and I should end the story there? … If i am putting my life out to people there through music and art, there is a duty, you can’t just decide to put some of it.”
The third track on the album is called ‘Searching’ and discusses searching the soul for truth. This song includes deep Hasidic wisdom which permeated his first album “Shake off the Dust…Arise”. A teacher can be heard saying, “In the earth there are so many wonderful treasures. And if you know where to dig, you will find gold and diamonds and all kinds of treasures. If you don’t know where to dig, you find rocks and dirt. A Rebbe is a geologist of the soul. He can show where to dig and what to dig for, but the digging you must do yourself.”
In the 24 months that Matisyahu worked on this album, one wonders if he found what he was looking for or is still searching. Did he find diamonds or did he find dirt?
“Did I find it?” he says, “I don’t know if there is a such thing as finding it. But you find aspects of it, you find degrees of it. But when you actually figure out what it is — and that continually evolves as well — to actually have experienced something, and you know that that is what you want, that is authenticity. Authenticity with self, with others, with your art and with your music and with God. That is what I was looking for. Truth, in that sense. And that is what led me to let go of certain things.”
Matisyahu has not abandoned Judaism, but he has let go of the Hasidic beard and garb which distinguished him. Instead of external trappings, Matisyahu wants his voice and music to speak for themselves, while he stays true to himself, his beliefs, and his spiritual journey.
6.9.13 at 9:27 pm | The recent proliferation of media-inspired lists. . .
3.29.13 at 12:22 pm | We are. Don't rush to blame anyone but ourselves.
1.17.13 at 3:07 pm | Despite controversy in 2008 over Nazi memorabilia. . .
1.17.13 at 3:02 pm | Join Jewlicious and Chai Center for a little. . .
12.24.12 at 12:54 pm | One usually turns to National Geographic to look. . .
11.30.12 at 12:05 pm |
6.9.13 at 9:27 pm | The recent proliferation of media-inspired lists. . . (167)
6.25.12 at 10:34 am | From the moment that Matisyahu’s new album. . . (11)
6.30.11 at 8:20 am | I often ask myself, what would Abraham and Sarah. . . (5)
June 21, 2012 | 4:31 pm
Posted by Rabbi Yonah Bookstein
Recent headlines casting doubt on the kosher status of Hebrew National at first came as somewhat of a relief. To those like myself who have avoided Hebrew National for years – first because they never allowed outside rabbinic supervision, but did all the supervision themselves, and then starting in the early 2000′s because they chose Triangle K — the lawsuit was a long time coming.
However ironically, instead of the lawsuit bringing about any kind of justice, the big loser in the end might be the kosher consumer. When the kosher supervision industry – and there are many reasons to be skeptical – receives a blow to its credibility, it affects everything that is under kosher supervision, not just meat. This may mean fewer companies choosing supervision down the road and fewer choices.
Triangle-K is a huge company. Sadly, unscrupulous companies and individuals have taken advantage of the consumer need for high level kosher supervision. As long as there is money to be made, there will be charlatans at play. Is Triangle-K one of them? It will be interesting to see how this plays out, to say the least.
Hebrew National. Even the name sounds authoritative. They have been named by Consumer Reports as the nation’s best tasting hot dog. They have won numerous other awards and accolades. They are feted as one of great kosher additions to modern American cuisine.
However the “higher authority” they answer to might be called profits.
The lawsuit does not claim that Con Agra is “passing off pork as kosher products,” said Hart L. Robinovitch, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs, told the American Jewish World. “. … And based on our investigation, there were certain things that weren’t conducted properly, in a systematic way—from the way cows were slaughtered, to the way the lungs were inspected or not inspected for imperfections—as is required to meet the standard that the meat is 100 percent kosher.”
If I were the lead attorney on this case I would not argue about something being “100% kosher.” Among kosher consumers there is no unanimity about what is 100% kosher at all. In fact, one of the arguments that defendants ConAgra can make is that they represented their “level” of kosher supervision honestly by employing the Triangle-K.
The plaintiffs may need to show that Triangle-K were complicit somehow in fraudulently representing the status of their meat as complying with basic standards of orthodox supervision.
“This is an invisible fraud,” the lead attorney in the case told told Reuters. “How does a consumer who thinks he is buying kosher meat really know he is buying kosher meat? It’s a very, very difficult thing for a consumer to detect, unless someone investigates.”
It’s not hard to detect — it’s impossible for a consumer to detect, which is why we rely on outside kosher supervision for meat. This last phrase really applies to the entire kosher industry. How DO we know that what is passed on to the consumer is really kosher? We don’t. On the part of the consumer its 100% faith unless the product itself doesn’t need supervision in the first place.
Stay tuned, this one will get interesting. In the meantime, pass the mustard, these soy dogs really need some added flavor.
June 4, 2012 | 5:31 pm
Posted by Rabbi Yonah Bookstein
Jewish organizations that are on the cutting edge are having a hard time making it to the next level. It’s a worldwide phenomenon. Instead of getting to sustainability, they cannot access bridge or mezzanine funding to take themselves out of start-up mode.
As anyone in business will tell you: you can’t stay in start-up mode. It’s sink or swim.
In a brilliant article in the Forward, Dana Raucher the executive director of The Samuel Bronfman Foundation, demonstrates the significant challenges that Jewish innovation is facing, and a solution. “Organizations on the cusp of this “second stage” must find a way to professionalize their systems and staff, and to do this they often need additional financial resources just at the moment when the luster of their novelty is dimming/”
Raucher’s article also highlights a comprehensive study commissioned by Bikkurim, From First Fruits to Abundant Harvest: Maximizing the Potential of Innovative Jewish Start-Ups. The study was overseen by an impressive study group and list of partners including The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, The Samuel Bronfman Foundation, NATAN, Lippman Kanfer Family Foundation, PELIE, and the UJA Federation of New York.
I wish that I could say that here at Jewlicious we know nothing of these obstacles. However, that is not the case. In fact, there are the exact issues that Jewlicious is facing now.
Over the past decade, the Jewish community has fostered these types of organizations, which often try out groundbreaking forms of outreach and mix contemporary culture with tradition. But ironically, especially when these initiatives become successful, they encounter new obstacles that demand they rethink how they can best achieve their missions….
This also echoes my own experience at The Samuel Bronfman Foundation, where we make long term, deep investments in nonprofit organizations. We have learned again and again that no organization’s life cycle is completely linear. There are key points of inflection that present unique challenges and opportunities. Because we have been able to witness our grantees as they evolve, we have been involved in identifying and addressing these moments….
Second-stage growth requires nimbleness on the part of funders and organizations. By focusing on the mission and not the form through which it is driven, organizations are able to promote their institutional goals during each phase of their development. A commitment to a consistent set of core values may require shifts over time in both program orientation and organizational structures.
It is the responsibility of all stakeholders, including funders, professionals and lay leaders, to engage more publicly in this conversation. Today we are confronted with an opportunity to address an important need in the Jewish community, and together we must exchange ideas, share best practices and continue our support for this sector. Through collaboration and adaptability, we can better equip these organizations so that they don’t falter as they transition to their next stage.