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Matisyahu Explains His ‘Evolving’ Spirituality in Heartfelt Letter to Fans

June 6, 2012 10:39 pm 14 comments

The photo of Matisyahu released on Twitter that caused some orthodox fans to express concern. Photo: Matisyahu/Twitter.

Popular Jewish reggae artist Matisyahu, who has recently come under criticism from some in the Orthodox Jewish community for appearing to shed some of his trademark traditional Jewish garb and practices, has published a heartfelt letter to his fans on his Facebook page.

 

In it he shares his feelings about his spiritual evolution and his belief system, pledging, “To those who feel betrayed by my choices or my look, don’t worry, I think they will continue to change and evolve–that is the awesomeness of life.”

The artist encourages fans to listen to his new record “Spark Seeker” to gain some insight into his “reflective journey full of transition and growth,” calling the release a “reflection of his inner landscape.”

The full text of the letter can be read below.

To My Fans-

I will try to write a couple of ideas and thoughts, but I prefer to speak in my native language, the language of the soul, Music. So I will preface this piece by asking that before prescribing judgement to some pictures, please wait and listen to my new record “Spark Seeker” from start to finish. The record is infused with both Jewish and universal inspiration, as it is a reflection of my inner landscape over the past 2 years of its making. From visions of the Bal Shem Tov to Kabbalah references, prayers in Hebrew and stories in Yiddish, this record was both a spiritual and reflective journey full of transition and growth.

That being said, I believe there is a higher level…a level where there is no divisiveness. Where there is complete unity, and that is what I am mirroring. There was a time when I felt it was necessary to show the world what I believed in through my physical appearance. I think this can be a wonderful thing, but as my faith has evolved I have come to believe there are many other ways to show my spirituality and Judaism. Ways in which our humanity is emphasized over our differences. This was my aim for the music. This was always my aim. During the making of this record I began to feel that I was shedding something, and with that I chose to shave. Just as when I was 18 and I shaved my dreadlocks to let go of my identity, I felt as if I was returning to a time prior to religion or rules or right and wrong. To a place where truth shows itself in beauty and balance and I felt it was time to walk a new path.

What that exactly means or looks like I am still figuring out, and will be for the rest of my life, I hope. To those who feel betrayed by my choices or my look, don’t worry, I think they will continue to change and evolve–that is the awesomeness of life. I think that through patience, in time you will see we are still on the same team. We are ALL on the same team. I am so excited for you to hear my new record I hope it will explain and inspire so much more then my words here can.

Sincerely In Love and Truth,

Matis

(leave your questions in the comments below, I’ll be chatting back with you for a bit on Facebook)

14 Comments

  • Matisyahu,
    I have read your statement to your fans and I have read all the comments on the online blogs in reaction to your recent “evolution.”
    I myself am an Orthodox Jew and please let me explain to you from my perspective the point you may be missing here. I must begin by saying anything you do is your decision and by no means should anyone be telling you what to do with your life. However, you seem to be missing a major point. However much this may suck and you may not like it, you made yourself our liason to the secular world. What you are doing now reminds me of what Charles Barkley always says “Just because I’m famous doesn’t mean I have to be a role model.” In your case this is 100 times less true. You established yourself for more than 10 years as a source of hope for young orthodox Jews and the thought that runs through every jewish teenagers mind as they grow up: Is it possible to continue serving Hashem and be out in the secular world? You finally became our living example that maybe it could be done. By doing that you made yourself our role model, our leader in this respect. You showed us that with all your talent you can withstand the temptations of assymilation. This is something every Jew who gets up and goes to work every day struggles with: Can I do it?? You showed us that if I, a reggae star, can, how much more so can all of you. For years you guided us in that path. Now that you have “evolved” you have dashed all our hopes. It’s not about the beard, the garb and all that crap. It’s about the frustrating reality that you have publically established: that the temptations of secular assymilation are just too much to bear. You cover it up with all this poetic “evolution” mumbo jumbo but when stripped down to its core thats what it is. Music is not the language of the soul Matisyahu, Avodas Hashem is the language of the soul; and yes it could be expressed through music but you are omitting all the beautiful thoughts and feelings that we loved from your music. We don’t wanna hear songs that have minor references to kaballah but tell the message of how you are “evolving” away from us into yourself. We have no interest in watching you evolve away from klal yisroel into some “spiritual” person who is in touch with the music in his soul. We want songs about Jerusalem and the struggles that our Youth face to stay frum. So what? now that you still “infuse your music with kaballah bla bla bla” on your next album, are we supposed to still believe that we can live in a secular world and serve Hashem to our highest potential? That dream is crushed. You were are public messageboard for our plight. Now you are just a public messageboard for your own plight: Getting as far away of what you used to stand for because the temptations and pressures were to great.
    I know these are strong words and maybe they are exaggerated in your mind or in the mind of many. But trust me this is what is going through our minds. I don’t think any of us would have been able to stand the temptations you face for as long as you have. You are strong and we respect that. But that doesn’t take away the pain of another failed attempt at being part of both worlds, something we all struggle with daily.
    Whether you like it or not you made yourself our leader and now our leader has changed sides.
    You went from the semblance of an angel to the semblance of a washed up 90’s rap artist. I finally understand why it hurts people in clevelend so bad to see lebron in a miami jersey. Now I go to your concerts and see you in a vanilla ice jersey… no more kippah and tzitzis. It hurts.
    It’s been real Matisyahu, hope you see through the smoke and mirrors of your current life and return to the warmth of avodas Hashem which you once embraced so tight.

  • I stand corrected by my soul, the part of me which is not at battle with my ego. I think sometimes we are quick to point out things we see in others that we are afraid of on some level. It is important to love Matis and others, including ourselves through the journey. Impermanence is amongst us.

  • I think that what drew many of us (Jew, Christian, Hasidic, Secular) to Matisyahu was his intoxication with God. His spiritual love and connection with the Almighty, his almost mystical ways and prayer-like music, seemed so pure and untainted by the mundane nature of this age. I do not judge nor fault him…but, I do think he has significantly diminished, if not completely forfeited, his stature as mystical and religious leader of many. Now he’s just another Pop Music entertainer with a cool Reggae sound. But, maybe that’s what he wants?

  • Turning into a vanilla ice look alike – is that how one defines evolving spirituality? Is this evolution kind of like Darwinism? Universal inspiration? The real matisyahu ( of the maccabees) saw a clear distinction between judiasim and ‘universal values” and fought very hard – sacrificing his life and the life of his entire family- to ensure that the two don’t get blended. It’s a strange irony that you chose to take on his name and also started your “evolutionary” journey around Chanukah time. Even more ironic that you made such a big show and public spectacle of shaving off your beard under the guise of stating that sporting a beard was superficial and “it’s not all about the exterior of a person,” well, if it’s not all about the exterior, then why make such a public show over your new appearance?

  • I’m not certain that I feel betrayed, I’m not sure what you would call it, I just know that I used to be in so much awe that he kept such spiritual discipline, not only in a secular world, but in the entertainment industry, which is full of all sorts of craziness. I agree that there is nothing wrong with evolution on a spiritual path, but I just hope that his “evolution” is not motivated by greed, as in trying to gain the acceptance of the masses. I am nobody to judge anyone and I will always love his songs like King Without a Crown, Jerusalem, and One day. I really do wish him well.

  • BS. U just want to get laid

  • Fallen warrior for his soul, or king without a crown who keeps fallin’ down. sounds like apikoursos to me.

  • Say it like it is. I am not angry at you. I will buy your next CD. I like your music. As for the whole life change. It is your life. I will say, you wrote a flowery and romantic spin on your feelings. Mathew, or Matisyahu, you know why spirituality evolves and eludes you? It must be grounded. I think in all honesty that is a challenge for you. Probably for a host of reasons, including chemical ones. You are blessed with great talent. I thank you for you sharing that. There’s no shortcut for taking spirituality and harnessing it within the boundaries of Torah and Shulchan Aruch. Deep down you know it. If you want to talk, I have all the time. You can email me via this site. Stay within the boundaries and enjoy the awesomeness inside of them, no matter how difficult the challenge. “Bound to stumble and fall……” Yes, I believe in you. I believe in the miracle you are.

  • Matis,
    I dig your music. We’re all on the same team agreed. But I think you used to be a captain in a league above the majors and that doesn’t feel like the case anymore. I don’t feel betrayed; I just don’t feel the same connection or DESIRE to listen to your music as I did. Is that weird?
    Best,
    Zalman

  • The thing about ‘Grace’ is this: It is always followed by commandments.* We are to be about the work of our Father and that work is Tikkun Olam indeed; but the vehicle for the Tikkun will always be the Taryog Mitzvoth. Even Yeshua said as much. The above quote from the letter to Titus has nothing to do with Torah, which is immutable and eternal. You’re famous so that’s a big responsibility; people are watching you. But Redemption is from Klal Yisroel. If the nations are to “flow into it”, it will be because the Jew has kept the Grace gift of his Jewishness, and therefore, the commandments that follow.
    *Noach ‘found grace in the eyes of HaShem, who said, “Noach you better build a boat!” He did not reply “Oh, I don’t need a boat! I’m saved by grace!”

  • Shannan Badgett

    Shalom! I was wondering where to get another copy of “No Place To Be” because the CD now does not play. Be strong! Do not let rampant anti-Semitism bring you down. You are a talented artist who can help bring about tikkun olam. Thank you!

  • Titus 1:13-14 This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith: Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth. *Luke 17:5 And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith.

  • no one gives a crap about your blonde hair, man…. THey are more concerned about the joint you are passing with your mate. You have so many people who found their spark in their Yiddishkeit b/c of your inspiration, they saw a person who was unapologetic in their Judaism, and still could groove. Now they see someone running from that. What’s supposed to comfort them? How’s the family?

  • Matis,
    I’m sure your getting a billion comments and questions and I don’t even know if this will even get to you personally. But, I’m not really sure how I feel about all of this. I understand that people grow and change an find themselves but I’m almost nervous to watch what will become of your story. I’m don’t mean that to criticize you but, there are just so many sources out there talking about you and what they think of you. I’m happy to read this letter though.
    Basically, I’ve recently come to really admire and become inspired by your music. Its become almost personal to me. Because of that, I really don’t want to have to give it up… but sadly, Im scared that I will have to if it’s going to glorify you and not God. Your music was is beautiful as you spoke to God. I hope you are not loosing your relationship with Him. Because He’s jealous for you. He wants you to worship only Him. He wants your heart completely.

    Now, I know I’m just another fan (for the time being) and again, I dunno if this means anything to you but it is true that God is after your heart. He’s jealous for His bride, O Israel. You are His chosen people.
    I love you, Matis. Your music has been a part of our family for years. I will listen to your new album (or read it) and decide if im at all involved with it. I hope so much that I am.
    I’ll see you around, brother.

    -Grace
    17
    Christian 2 years
    Saint Paul MN

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