Monday, May 29th | 4 Sivan 5777

Close

Be in the know!

Get our exclusive daily news briefing.

Subscribe
December 26, 2014 4:35 pm

Placing Matisyahu Back Within a Life of Observance

avatar by Yonatan Gordon

Email a copy of "Placing Matisyahu Back Within a Life of Observance" to a friend

Matisyahu. Photo: Twitter.

Shining Light on Fiction

During the North Korea-Sony saga, we learned two important lessons.

Related coverage

May 26, 2017 1:03 pm
0

‘Wonder Woman’ Gal Gadot Dances to ‘Hava Nagila’ With Late-Night Talk Show Host Conan O’Brien

Israeli actress Gal Gadot danced to "Hava Nagila" with Conan O'Brien during an appearance on his late-night talk show on...

The first is that there are two sides to this story, and neither of them are correct because ultimately we should have neither inappropriate movies nor dictators.

The second is that we cannot remain entirely fixed on the religious world, but we also must see beyond the external, secular view of reality.

It’s important to ground our Torah-based thoughts into real-life activism. To view our act of shining light not in abstract terms, but as activism… to actively dispel the winds of Hellenism from the world.

Responding to Matisyahu’s Interview

With these thoughts in mind, we can also appropriately respond to Matisyahu’s recent interview in The Algemeiner.

First, the response is not to cast blame or speak against Matisyahu, a former classmate and friend of many of my common acquaintances. Instead, the first step is to educate the public on how not to make the same missteps. This is why I recently published the long-form essay, “The Jewish Approach to Fame.” Specifically, I would call your attention to the segments on the fallacy of fame.

The second is to realize that while the interview doesn’t seem favorable to us “close-minded” religious folk, there is a shimmering kernel of light there.

My Own Challenges and Struggles

I don’t want to go so much into the details of the interview, chiefly because I appreciate where the anger and resentment towards Matisyahu comes from – and because I don’t believe they do us much good.

Instead, what I want to discuss is the statement that Matisyahu felt “creatively” cut-off by the Orthodox community, and now as a “natural progression” he has left us “close-minded” and “judgmental” religious people behind.

Now indeed, there are some things that my mind is closed to. When I put on my gartel to pray, it is hopefully to guard my thoughts and to think about holy things. I once lent Matisyahu my gartel, probably the same one I use today, more than 10 years later. So this is my first response: that the havdalah, the separation stage can’t be circumvented. There is holy and profane, light and darkness, good and evil, and a person throughout their lives needs to stay conscious of the difference between the two.

But while this may appear to limit creativity and the freedom of expression, it actually enhances it. Our forefather Joseph is called the “revealer of secrets” (tzafnat paneach) in the merit of standing up to the test of seduction. In our present context, seduction can and does mean many things, but we begin by “tying our gartel” – placing boundaries for all our interactions with the world.

Aside from the very end, the Matisyahu interview concludes on a hopeful note. Now that Matisyahu has transitioned his art from “shiny upbeat music to make people feel better or feel stronger,” to music about his “own changes and struggles and things that I went through and real relationships,” the hope is that this progression will continue. The light that results from searching within oneself is called the light of Joseph – or what Matisyahu called in the interview, “artistic extension of what’s happening in my life.”

Thus my hope is that the progression from attempting to outwardly influence the world, to confronting his inner struggles and battles, will lead him back to a life of observance where both the outward creativity and inner constraints can be experienced together.

This article was originally published by InwardNews.com.

Share this Story: Share On Facebook Share On Twitter Email This Article

Let your voice be heard!

Join the Algemeiner
  • Since Alisha ben Avuya and before that by the Aigel and before that just a few hours after Adam was created people have been opting out of what HaShem wants for ‘better’ things. That’s how HaShem created them (us): with free will to avoid the truth if we want.
    To do what is true we must leave our comfort zone.

    The Rambam writes and I believe this with all my heart that for sure all the Jews will return to their senses and the redemption will arrive.

    • Pinchos Woolstone

      we are somewhat to blame a kid from the suburbs turns up at a BT yeshiva, quickly his hair is short the black suit and fedora is there, uncut beard too much to quick.
      like a cult…
      then he is being lauded as a Chabad success, while probably still dealing with the many demons.
      a disaster in the making

      • SZiskind

        Also he probably needed much more grounding before going right into a recording career and nisyonos that come with going on the road performing.

        And it didn’t sound like he had found his place and maybe needed more time to explore different drachim.

        I find that that type of exploration isn’t encouraged with burgeoning baalei yeshiva and yet, it’s useful to be exposed to other drachim.

  • chidonshabbat

    This hostility that this “Rabbi” Menashe Bonvit has, stems from a brutal loathing to frumkeit. I have seen people like that. Usually they aren’t Jewish and you can find them in cnn and the like comments sections wishing death to every jew just because of who we are. You can’t talk to people like that until they are willing to open their minds to another opinion.

  • Ron

    It’s his life, and his journey. We were all happy to encourage him to talk about his religious awakening when he seemed to be “on our side”, and now many of us want him to shut up?

    I would have preferred it if he had kept his private life and religious views to himself from the very beginning. And if we had not made him into some kind of weird mascot for our religion.

    To those that are angry at him for expressing his views: were you angry at him for expressing it before when his views benefitted you? If not, then be silent and leave him be.

    To those that feel sorry for his children: I say keep your fake sympathy to yourself. You could care less about the misery and suffering of Jewish children of divorce. You are inevitably the very ones who almost always insist on the very things that guarantee divorce.

    To those who feel pity for him for doing drugs: after having to put up with this nonsense I am surprised he doesn’t walk around with an IV drip!

  • Vicki TS

    I am not a follower of Matesyahu but did see him in concert at UCONN when he was dressed in Chasidic garb. I feel sorry for him.
    He is not such a young man and seems to want to live many lives instead of settling down and finding comfort as a Jew in a very tough world. May he find his path and from what I just read their are friends who are ready to catch him when he falls.
    May the love and the light of his Chasidic friends continue to hold out for him so he knows that just because he walked away does not mean that those who love him walked away from him.
    I am not orthodox but grew up in an incredibly structured world with more rules then G-d could of made up but if someone wants to live in that space because it makes them feel closer to G-d and makes them feel safe then why not? May Matisyahu find what works for him, his talent and most important his soul.

  • David Levy

    There is a movie, “The Jazz Singer”, which illustrates a lot of the issues a frum musician faces in the secular world.

  • Pinchos Woolstone

    artistic souls find a discipline like Torah Judaism very difficult…. but don’t we all.
    It is sad that he divorced for his children and it is reported that he is doing drugs, what a shame what a waste.
    May HaShem guide him to positive things.

  • Rabbi Menashe Bovit

    What a sanctimonious tool. Why not step out of your narrow minded self-righteousness and learn to respect others expressions of spirituality. The writer of this piece is no different intellectually than a Muslim fundamentalist.

    • I understand your concern, but I resolved after the death of Aaron Swartz not to remain silent. In Aaron’s case, although we lived a few short blocks apart in Crown Heights, I did not know him personally, and didn’t even know who he was until he tragically took his life. It was only afterward that I wrote several articles in memory of Aaron that forever changed the way I approached writing. It is in Aaron’s merit that this article was written to begin with.

      With Matisyahu, I wrote at the risk of sounding sanctimonious and fundamentalist in the hope that he should read it. While I am not concerned that you should agree, I am concerned that at least I made my best efforts. And although God willing he will turn around without this intervention, at least I made the effort.

    • Shalom-Hillel

      That’s very harsh. Did you read the same article I did? I thought Yonatan Gordon approached this subject with respect and thoughtfulness, while also being forthright about his approach to a spiritual life. Whether one agrees with him or not, I cannot help but respect his derech eretz. I don’t understand the hostility.

    • Pinchos Woolstone

      what a lot of nonsense you speak, some form of kumbaya dribble.
      of course this young man needs love and care and support; however, the so called spirituality is no more that self righteous narcissistic bunkum.

  • Alison Frutkin

    Using yiddishkeit as a sheild for sobriety will fail in all regards. There is no substitute for a 12 step approach to addiction. Yiddishkeit is not an A, B, C or D option. It is a life, a purpose, a commitment to Hashem, Torah, others, and ultimately, oneself. Leaving Yiddishkeit is leaving self and getting loaded is leaving self. I pray Matisyahu finds sobriety because any life lead in addiction is self-will run riot and the ultimate victory of the yetzer hara. He can run all he wants but wherever he goes, there he is. Judaism combined with the 12 steps is the greatest freedom from mitzrayim!

    • Michael Sigal

      Excellent point overlooked by most people who don’t understand his struggle with addiction.

    • chidonshabbat

      Well said

    • Naftuli

      Right Right and Right!!! The last sentence is so true. As a recovering addict sober for many years and still a 12 stepper. Hashem is my higher power. It works if you work it !! Great post Alison

  • Could Mattisyahu be a gilgul of Al Jolson?? If so… he got it wrong the second time too. Never heard of Jolson? That’s the point!!

    • Ben Gruder

      Tuvia Bolton writes: “Never heard of Jolson? That’s the point!!”

      Lots of people have heard of Al Jolson.

  • victoria brandeis

    I WILL NOT READ THE INTERVIEW…..I LOVE THIS SINGER NOT BECAUSE HE ONCE WORE A BEARD OR DANCED LIGHTLY ON THE STAGE WEAR HIS WONDERFUL GARBE OF BLACE WITH FLOWING BEARD.

    LOOK INTO THE MEAR MR. CHABAD…..PERHAPS HOW HE FEELS IS RIGHT…..TRUTHFUL…IF YOU HAVE A PROBLEM OF RELEASE THEN OWN UP TO IT….PERIOD….AND IF YOUR ATTACHMENT IS TO YOUR INVESTMENT THEN YOU ARE SHORT CHANGING YOUR THE AMOUNT OF INTEREST YOU WILL SEE…….REMEMBER…THIS IS NOT THE ONLY WORD…..

    I AM FRUM NOW BECAUSE I DESIRED TO BE PART OF THE WHOLE WITH MY GRAND KIDS AND I DON’T LOOK BACK….HOWEVER, RESIDING IN A FRUM WORLD IS NOT EASY….AND IS FULL OF JUDGEMENT…..I KNOW FROM WATCHING MY GRANDKIDS WHO DO NOT FIT BECAUSE OF A.D.D. AND BEING DIFFERENT.

    SO TO THE WRITER YOU ARE A SHAMEFUL ARROGANT INDIVIDUAL WHO IS PART OF MANY IN YOUR CHABAD….YOUR MOUTH IS FULL OF KNIVES…CUTTING INTO “Matisyahu ” WORLD AND THE WORLD OF HIS FAMILY,,,,,,HOW DARE YOU GO TO THIS PLACE ….HOW DARE YOU SPELL LASHON HORA IN CAPITALS AND SIGN YOUR NAME TO THIS NOTE.

    IF THIS REPRESENTS THIS NEWS BLOG OR CHABAD IN TRUTH THEN I AM HORRIFIED AS WELL…..BUT , THIS IS NOT ALL OF CHABAD IT IS THE CONSISTENCY OF ADDING NEW FACES WITH BROKEN MINDS HEARTS AND BODIES TO MAKE YOURSELF GREAT.

    MR. AUTHOR…WHEN YOU CAN SING LIKE A SONG BIRDS…..CAN WRITE LIKE A TORAH PERSON AND TRUE BELIEVER IN ALL SOULS AND WHEN YOU CAN PROVIDE YOUR FAMILY WITH ONLY NICE AND COLOURFUL CREATIVE WORDS AND SMILES …..THEN YOU CAN SHARE YOUR WORDS.

    YOUR A SHAMEFUL ADDITION TO PERHAPS A WONDERFUL ‘CHABAD’ GROUP IS THE PROBLEM…..AS IT NOW MAKES ME BELIEVE THAT THERE ARE TOO MANY DIFFERENCES…ONE HALF OF YOUR GROUP BELIEVES SHEERSON WAS A G-D AND THE REST SAYS ‘NO’

    THAT IS MY CONCLUSION……MATISYAHU YOU ARE THE BEST, YOUR HEART , YOUR WORLD AND YOUR IMAGINATION IS BEYOND AND ONLY STANDS ON PURE LOVE….SORRY SILLY FOOLS LIKE THIS SUPPOSEDLY NAMED BACHUR….DOES NOT SPEAK FOR ME…..FOR MY FAMILY WHO ENJOY EACH TOUR YOU EMBARK UPON AND THEY
    ALL WEAR BLACK…..WITH COLORFUL SMILES……AND FOLLOW DEEPLY INTO THE TORAH……

    SO TO THOSE WHO TARNISH ‘ CHABAD ‘….IT IS YOU THAT ARE SHAMED AND SINNERS…..

  • Ben,

    As you mentioned, the reason for writing the article was not to come out against a fellow Jew, but to issue a response so that readers aren’t left thinking that this is what orthodoxy or hasidic life is about. We shared similar interests throughout the years — friends, rabbis, and so forth — and I still would be very happy to sit down and discuss personally these emotions and sentiments that he has expressed. But since these statements were aired publically, I felt a public response was warranted.

    Yonatan

  • Dovid

    I did not read the interview, nor am I particularly interested in him or his music or his progression or regression musically. I will note that in ditching his connection with the closed minded Orthodox community, he also lost the grounding that a wife and family provides. Sad, that they had to be victimized by his search for his soul.

  • Steven

    With all due respect, while it’s impossible to generalize beyond a certain point, I do think most Orthodox Jews are too insulated from the rest of the world, which is a loss for them, but even more so, the rest of the world.

    • kayli melech

      i will only sat these:
      if is heart is in the right place and he is just hiding behind words.. (Which i strongly suspect) then i pray for him to get the most possible in is goal.

      may we all live up to the day ready

    • Ben

      Your opinion obviously depends on what ‘too insulated’ means. In many respects Orthodox Jews are identical with other Jews, Jews are are identical with other nations and individuals, people are identical with animals and we could go on. Where do you draw the line? We draw it at ideology and halacha. There are indeed deal breakers especially in today’s popular culture, and whatever degree of isolation we choose is our technique to cope with maintaining our core. In that sense the Hasidim have it the easiest.

      Within certain common denominators Orthodox Jews (let’s call them classical or baseline Jews) are more diverse than anyone else. There is no halacha requiring one to be a Hasid or focus on one specific approach. The reverse is true, “the Torah has seventy ‘faces'”, instruct the lad according to his (own) way”, etc. There are authoritative precedents and innumerable examples of movement between schools of thought and communities.

      Not to beat up on Matisyahu personally, but he made himself part of our lives, not the reverse. When he decided to bug out, all he had to say was that he had tried but found it unsustainable for himself. Fallen warrior and all that. You can always talk about yourself. Talking about others is whining. We would feel sympathy for him’; everybody struggles. That is the famous humility and ego subordination he lectured us about, and his evident humility was one of the appealing and familiar things we found winning about him.

      It does not hurt us for him to shave or take off his yarmulke, abandon Shabbos or get a tattoo or put a bone in his nose. But characterizing us as the problem , especially publicly, is arrogance and a betrayal. I personally spent much time defending him to those who had initial doubts, and I have to admit that they were right. In my opinion, going back to drugs did him in rather than any fancy philosophical struggles.

Algemeiner.com