Inside

First off – sorry about the major lapse in posting. With the new baby and being crazy busy in the studio, the blog kind of took a major hit. Nevertheless, the most common posting on my facebook wall today has been about Matisyahu and his fresh and clean shave.

For those of you who somehow missed this, here is the picture that was posted on twitter earlier today:

I have been reading posts on this all day, ranging from sincere respect for the singer to real disdain for his supposed casting of his orthodoxy. In my humble opinion this picture and Matis’s post saying “No more Chassidic reggae superstar… Sorry folks, all you get is me,” is not something that we should be up in arms about.

We all go through our own journey in our short time on this earth. This includes ups and downs, trials and tribulations, and a lot of searching for who we are and what we want to be. Matthew Miller or as we know him, Matisyahu, has been through quite a lot in his lifetime. From growing up as a non-orthodox Jew to full fledged Chabad Chasid, to becoming a world famous music artist, pushing the envelope to where no one else in the orhodox Jewish music world has gone – Matisyahu has no doubt experienced an incredible journey that has led him to where he is today.

Very few people have stood in similar shoes as him. No one knows the real pressures of being on a major record label and being on tour for months at a time unless you have truly been there. Matisyahu has gone into a world sojourned by few. And I am sure throughout this process he has continued to discover himself  in different ways. Matisyahu was not born into Chasidus, so the fact that he left it means that at a certain time it just wasn’t right for who he wanted to be. And this public display of his newly shaved face is no different. This is another step on his journey. It’s not what is on the outside that defines us, but who we are INSIDE. At the end of the day only Matisyahu knows what this really means But to us observers, all it means is an alteration to the face of a man who sings some powerful stuff – stuff that I have been inspired by as an artist, musician, and JEW.

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13 thoughts on “Inside

  1. Shimmy Atlas says:

    Aryeh, not to judge him at all, but the “outrage” is because of the fact that many people looked up to him as a role model and the feeling that he let them down. I saw posts by many NCSY kids devastated…..

    • Shalom Yaakov says:

      It says more about NCSY’s failings as an organization (and in the interest of full-disclosure I was an NCSY director for several years) that kids are “devastated” by Matisyahu’s decision to shave, and not at all concerned for what may have prompted such a dramatic action, or at the very least showing some restraint and waiting to see if he’s actually abandoning anything more than a beard. Come to think of it, the regional director where I worked didn’t have a beard either…

      • I wouldn’t go and put down NCSY (they do some great things – as you know), but you are correct. Matisyahu hasn’t shed anything publicly other than his beard and his status of being a “Hasidic Music Star.”

    • Shimmy, if anything this is more inspiring. He is no less Jewish than he was with the beard. No one ever said that he is no longer an orthodox Jew. He is simply no longer a “Hasidic Music Superstar.” I have a short face beard (mainly because I HATE shaving), but if I were to trim it down, would it mean anything? People should take something strong away from this – you can be true to yourself and your religion regardless of how you look.

      • Shimmy Atlas says:

        Aryeh, if it is only him shaving and he’s still an erliche frum jew, then you are right, there’s nothing to it. Even if he is battling his own demons and has questions about his own frumkeit and direction, it is still only his issue and not ours. I was only pointing out that plenty of people (and I only used NCSY kids as an example, not to single them out) have looked to him as inspirational (and unfairly to him) and a role model. Those people are devastated that he “let them down”. I don’t really follow his music or career, but I remember in his earlier days (compliments of the HASC video) that he used to come on stage in a hat, jacket and white shirt. I know that part is long gone from the act, but still people looked up to him. That’s why everyone is making a big issue out of it. I hope for his sake that he stays true to himself and to a torah way of life. Now, discussing the actual shave and cutting of his payos, if he is/was Lubavitch or chassidish then they hold it is assur d’oraysa to shave. If that is the part of his “being true to himself” by leaving Lubavitch/chasidus, he is just like me! I come from a chassidish family (although my zaidy dropped all of it after the war) and I am clean shaven. And I hate to shave too….but shalom bayis is important…

  2. R Spinner says:

    Well said Mr. Kunstler!

  3. Dani says:

    I’m more worried that his statement means he has left the observant lifestyle. If that is the case, then the NCSY kids are allowed to be devastated. I wonder how his wife reacted. What about his kids? I hope this is just him exploring his Jewish identity. I like what you said about him being allowed to explore. But how much exploring is too much? Will he become a teenager Matther Miller again?

    • Dani – read his latest twitter post: “For all of those who are being awesome,you are awesome.For all those who are confused:today I went to the Mikva and Shul just like yesterday.” Be upset if this turns into something actually negative, not because he shaves his bear.

    • sam says:

      whatever decision he makes it is his decision to make its his life its his life decision furthermore your not in his shoes can you tell me you would do better if you were in his shoes

  4. avi kunstler says:

    bravo aryeh. I also shaved my beard after having it for 23 years. no statement there. Might actually grow it again

  5. Zev Zalman Ludwick says:

    B”H I Lost interest when he made a Chanukah video with revealing woman!! That was not cool for a torah observant Yid! I think Fame and Money can be good or destructive, I don’t know the emes, only him and Hashem!

    • You are not in his shoes buddy. Trust me – I know the potential pressures being under a major record label can bring. You can lose interest all you want – this isn’t about that. He has his own journey to go on and if that means taking off the beard to find clarity in his life, then so be it and kol hakavod to him for doing so. We all have our challenges. Instead of worrying about how he shaved his beard, focus on what we need to do in ourselves to make the most of our lives. Maybe you’ll find that you’ll need to shave your beard as well 🙂

  6. susan says:

    I say why judge a person Matisyahu is and will always be a great song writer he made alot of kiddush hashem with his music i am sure that he will continue to do so does it really matter if he has a beard or not . I dont believe that he believes less maybee he just wants to be himself instead of in a costume. so let the poor guy be & let us all continue to be inspired by his words and music.

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