When Matisyahu shaved his beard in December, many of his fans worried that the symbolic act signaled a big shift in the Jewish reggae star’s life. No longer would he Hasidic—was he moving away from Judaism as a religion altogether?
We’ve followed the news around Matisyahu intermittently. The most recent being that he “seems to resemble a love-child between an L.A. hipster and a youth group advisor.”
From what he’s seen, Rabbi Yaakov Rosenblatt is disappointed. He writes in The Jewish Journal:
All my life I’ve been waiting for and praying for a Charedi Jew to offer a message which resonates with America, a blessed country built on Judeo-Christian values but now listing towards secularism, and helps right it. How appropriate it would be for a member of one of the proudest, most observant Jewish groups to water the spiritual roots of American culture and give nourishment to its base. When your song One Day was chosen to be the theme melody of the NBC 2010 Winter Olympics my heart fluttered with pride.
Charedi, to me, means a Jew to whom Judaism – Torah values, Torah practice and Torah study - is numero uno and everything else is numero dos. It means someone to whom Judaism is not an identity but a life, not an ethnicity but a purpose. It would have to someone who could capture the God-centeredness of the Charedi lifestyle and express it in lyrics that America could sing. With your flowing beard, passionate vigor and refreshing creativity, I thought you were the one.
When your beard came off and your large black yarmulke remained I took pause, but your reassuring Tweets kept my hopes high. The pictures you recently Tweeted of you and Wiz Khalifa - you with dyed blond hair sans yarmulke and Wiz smoking a joint – made me realized that you are no longer singing z’miros in Reggae. You are singing a different song.
Read the rest here. It’s a great window into what it’s like for religious folks to hope for and find their own in the annals of pop culture.