December 13th, 2011
05:45 PM ET
By Jessica Ravitz, CNN
(CNN) - Think Matisyahu, and there’s an image: A man in a long beard, sidelocks and a skullcap – an obviously and deeply religious man who became a music sensation, blending reggae and hip hop with the most traditional of Jewish themes.
But hear that record scratching to a stop?
The man behind the music issued a big statement Tuesday, when he blasted over Twitter the image of who he is now, thanks to a razor.
He explained on his website:
Now, a beard does not make a man Jewish. There are plenty of even Orthodox Jews who don't have beards.
But in Hasidism, a movement that is certainly Orthodox but was deemed revolutionary when it started in the 18th century, Hasidic men are usually identifiable by black hats, black coats and, yes, long beards and sidelocks – à la Matisyahu before his sudden makeover. That look is a deferential nod to Leviticus 19:27 in the Hebrew Bible, which Hasids believe bans the removal of facial hair by stating "Thou shalt not mar the corner of thy beard."
Matisyahu's shaving and statement set his fans aflutter.
Some didn’t hide their bewilderment.
“As a huge fan of your music and your personal voyage, I’m pretty confused right now,” wrote its AllGood. “So are you denouncing your Faith?” asked ConfusedFan. “Gonna go ahead and drop the question bomb, ‘So are you still Jewish?’ BOOM,” added Max.
Others expressed fear and regret.
“Very scary. … I wonder why and what happens with his family? His kids?” said SKramer. “It is disappointing that even Matisyahu (who makes millions looking like a real Jew) couldn’t avoid stumbling—away from Torah. The influences of our greek/roman/christian society proves to be too much for most American Jews. And this, just before Chanukah …” wrote Yefuneh. Added momBH about his shaved beard: “Why would you want to take it away? You have a beautiful son - what do you want to raise him with the hot hollywood parties or real spirituality.”
But plenty of fans offered support and thanked him for all that he’s done and all they expect him to still do.
“matis, you are an amazing artist, no matter what form (or lack of) your hair takes - you are LOVED!” said jeannie. “I don’t believe we will be judged by the hair on our face, but rather by the deeds we have done, the words we have said, and the lives we have changed. I am excited to see what you will bring us in the new year!” wrote Aedile. And added Ash, “Good for you. True spirituality comes from within.”
It wasn't just on his official website that fans weighed in; they came out in droves on his Facebook page as well.
And amid all the buzz, including those who vowed to boycott future concerts or said with his shaving they'd lost their Jewish inspiration, Matisyahu offered a line of comfort later in the day.
On his Facebook wall he wrote, "For all of those who are being awesome, you are awesome. For all those who are confused: today I went to the Mikva [Jewish ritual bath] and Shul [synagogue] just like yesterday."
So what do you make of this Matisyahu change?
About this blog
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team and frequent posts from religion scholar and author Stephen Prothero.