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Sunday, July 1, 2012

Judaism, How Much Individuality is Halachikly Permitted? Matisyahu's Very Public Journey

None of us are perfect, and none of us are truly great tzaddikim, holy people.  That's the truth, at least my reading of it. 

Just like our weights fluctuate, some more and some less, our spiritual and Torah observance levels go up and down, too.  Usually we can be discreet and it all stays where it belongs, between us and G-d.  Sometimes close friends, family and rabbis, teachers or our chosen spiritual advisors know what's happening.  I feel sorry for those whose spiritual barometers are on public display, like that of Matisyahu, the young singer who became a commercial and artistic sensation when he was a new BT (Ba'al Teshuva) Chabadnik, dressed in its uniform of big hat, kippah, big coat, full beard and long payot, those curls where Elvis had his sideburns, lihavdil (there's a difference.)

Even though, that uniform isn't required according to the Torah, I must admit that I felt good seeing such an obviously Torah observant Jew becoming a popular recording and performing artist. 

When Matisyahu decided to shave off the beard, he didn't look any happier than many of his Jewish audience felt about the act.  Fully bearded, he looked almost double his age, but without it he looked like a frightened kid. 

For most Jews, these sorts of changes only affects the immediate family, but for a very public Jew like Matisyahu, it's public and people wonder and people talk and the people aren't just neighbors, they're the media and more.

Aish.com has posted an exclusive interview with Matisyahu about his feelings concerning G-d, Torah and Judaism.  Aish posted a "warning" that not everything he says about Judaism is what they believe is correct.  I suggest you read the interview to judge for yourself. 

I'm just more worried by how thin Matisyahu seems to have gotten.  He may be doing well professionally, but he looks neither healthy, nor happy.  Like many of us, he probably needs to be part of a community, a community with the same religious values and life style.  G-d willing, he will find a good Jewish community that will help him spiritually, personally and also professionally.

11 comments:

Esser Agaroth said...

I can see why Aish would have issues.

I do not.

I just wish him well.

Batya said...

amen

Hadassa said...

Shalom!
I haven't listened to the interview yet, but I've looked at certain people's blogs and I think that much of what's discussed publicly is not in the spirit of tzniut, modesty, even if it technically isn't breaking any laws of tzniut or lashon hara, slander/libel. It's mainly the BT's (and converts) splash their private lives on the Internet, every day, detailing their many changes. Many of them expound on halachik issues even though they've hardly - or never - learned in a yeshiva; I'm including women here. (Raising issues is one thing, but arguing without knowing the halachik background of the issues isn't moral, ethical or fair to Judaism.) Is that a good way to live? It doesn't seem so to me.
Back to the "mainly BT's". Some of the Jews born religious aren't any better with the way they conduct their blogs - I've stopped looking at a few - but they tend to keep more of their private lives private.

Batya said...

Hadassa, I hope that I don't cross the line. Many of the more popular personal blogs really do reveal more than I do.

Hadassa said...

Shalom!
IMHO you don't cross the line. You rarely blog about events that haven't been witnessed by many other people or ask your followers' advice about major life decisions.

Batya said...

Hadassa, thanks
When I started me-ander I thought I'd keep my identity secret and write more contraversal revealing stuff, but I just couldn't. It's not me and even before revealing my identity I only wrote what wouldn't make me uncomfortable.

Alan said...

Matisyahu is now a normal size. Humans do not live longer nor better by being , er.... "chubby". Take a look at wildlfe (do you ever hunt like the original Hebrews in Shiloh did ==all the time== ?) Only pure herbivores get fat. Carnivores are always sleek.

You don't control "Judaism" any more than Naturei Karta or the Reconstructionists do. You wanted there to be a "Judaism" that is NOT a separate thing from Hebrew-ethnicity. You are hoist on your own petard. Stop whining.

Alan said...

Matisyahu doesn't know how to weld or to fix a jammed toilet. He's an entertainer. And he does have a family to support. Hence he does, and will do - whatever sells the most tickets. I don't keep track of how many tickets the Brooklyn Hareidim buy..... Matisyahu obviously does. He made his business decision. He merely went from stop paying attention to people who think they can be good Jews without ever seeing the inside of a Lishkat Giyus, to stop paying attention to people who think they cannot be good Jews without wearing a beard. Not a big change, really.B 18

Batya said...

Alan, a, sorry but you know nothing about nutrition and weight problems. Vegetarians get fat, very fat. I've lost 15 kilo and kept it off for three years after I stopped being vegetarian, and sorry but your knowledge of Judaism isn't much better. You also make Matisyahu into a cold and calculating celebrity businessman, and I don't think he is cold like that.
I don't care about his beard; I care about the fact that he looks sad and anorexic.

goyisherebbe said...

Alan, Jews don't hunt. Hunting makest the meat non-kosher. Do your homework before you shoot off your mouth or keyboard.

Batya said...

amen