Famed Hasidic reggae star sheds the Hasid part?
December 13th, 2011
05:45 PM ET

Famed Hasidic reggae star sheds the Hasid part?

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:

This morning I posted a photo of myself on Twitter.

No more Chassidic reggae superstar.

Sorry folks, all you get is me … no alias. When I started becoming religious 10 years ago it was a very natural and organic process. It was my choice. My journey to discover my roots and explore Jewish spirituality—not through books but through real life. At a certain point I felt the need to submit to a higher level of religiosity … to move away from my intuition and to accept an ultimate truth. I felt that in order to become a good person I needed rules — lots of them — or else I would somehow fall apart. I am reclaiming myself. Trusting my goodness and my divine mission.

Get ready for an amazing year filled with music of rebirth. And for those concerned with my naked face, don’t worry … you haven’t seen the last of my facial hair.

– Matisyahu

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?

- CNN Writer/Producer

Filed under: Judaism • Music

soundoff (135 Responses)
  1. Just Call Me Lucifer

    Popularity wanes, gimmick is discarded.

    August 26, 2013 at 1:58 pm |
  2. gregflets

    hi there im a little late but just back off holls, happy new year to yous all

    January 6, 2012 at 2:42 am |
  3. JKale

    There was no such things as hassidic jews in biblical days. I don't think getting rid of the hassidic look means the man is renouncing his faith.

    December 26, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
    • Joe

      not true at all. In fact the term 'hassid' comes from the bible

      December 30, 2011 at 3:03 am |
  4. shaun lotus.

    totally threw me off a little at shagri' la. lot of us down in the middle did. 🙂

    December 15, 2011 at 11:52 pm |
  5. Saby

    What a talent and I don't think it matters what the packaging is to most fans.

    December 15, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
  6. PaulMc1981

    "True spirituality comes from within."


    December 15, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
  7. Yisca Bat Yerushalayim

    The thing is what made you shave?
    The reason you did that is would look at... If it was to have a new look? Was it a new birth? Was it fruit of a real experience with Hashem?
    I think that will answer if your shaving had spiritual meaning and reason or you were looking to have another look.

    December 15, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
  8. DeeNYC

    Guess his career was going no where and his gimmick wasn't working. It's like those Christian heavy metal groups who bombed then tried dropping the religious stuff.

    December 15, 2011 at 9:49 am |
    • Tyler

      Hey, the path to self discovery is long and changing. If he does not feel Hasidism is not the right path I say good luck with your journey and keep making great music.

      December 15, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
    • DenverGrl

      Dee, people loved him as a Hasidic Jew. It's not a gimmick. His faith is real. He's just finding that the rules that he once submitted to are no longer required. Matisyahu is not anything like a christian rock band that it trying to convert people and make millions. They guy is just a Jewish musician that is able to express his love for Hashem through is music. It is a beautiful thing.

      December 21, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
  9. Reality

    And the music plays on:

    Recognizing the flaws, follies and frauds in the foundations of Islam, Judaism and Christianity, the "bowers", kneelers" and "pew peasants" are converging these religions into some simple rules of life. No koran, bible, clerics, nuns, monks, imams, evangelicals, popes, ayatollahs, rabbis, professors of religion or priests needed or desired.

    Ditto for houses of "worthless worship" aka mosques, churches, basilicas, cathedrals, temples and synagogues.

    December 15, 2011 at 9:29 am |
    • bigdoggie

      Amen to that!

      December 15, 2011 at 9:46 am |
    • .........

      for the best music hit report abuse to all reality bull sh it posts.

      December 15, 2011 at 11:08 am |
    • Reality Check

      How about recognizing the follies of being an angry, bitter, and lonely anti-religious bigot who's self-righteousness rivals that of the most extreme religious extremists on the planet? Live and let live hyprocrite. While you worship yourself alone in your mommy's basement (creepy candle lit pictures of yourself and Vaseline at the ready) others enjoy gathering together in praise and worship of a reality that your shallow / narrow world view is blind to. Get a life and stop concerning yourself with how others choose to practice their spirituality. Also try to expand your horizons to a point that you find the beginning of wisdom - acknowledging that you don't know what you don't know. Humility - try it on and see how it fits.

      December 15, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
  10. me

    hes still ugly

    December 15, 2011 at 7:54 am |
  11. Plug1


    December 15, 2011 at 7:05 am |
  12. Tom

    CNN needs an Atheist Blog to make this fair.

    December 15, 2011 at 2:12 am |
    • Reality Check

      Are you kidding? The CNN "Belief" blog is crawling with atheist trolls with nothing better to do than spew angry anti-religious rhetoric and intolerance. What the blog needs is some intelligent atheists (an oxymoron, since the only intellectually / scientifically sound position on the subject of God's existence is agnosticism). In other words, as Kant pointed definitively, we are limited in what we can know with certainty about God. Therefore, the battle between atheists and theists is one over unsubstantiated and improvable beliefs. The atheist BELIEVES, but cannot prove, that God doesn't exist. At least the theist (a learned one) knows that God is a "mystery" that transcends human understanding - that while faith and reason are not mutually exclusive, finite reason alone is helpless in the face of infinite mysteries, like the question: Why is there something rather than nothing? How did purposeful "Being" break out of the darkness of non-being, emptiness, and chaos? The God Hypothesis is legit from a pure reasoning perspective. The trouble is that the atheists are obsessed with shallow and primitive notions of theology - they tend to attack what amounts to a cartoon image of God (propagated by many shallow "believers") such that they entirely miss centuries of much deeper thought and contemplation on the subject of theology and ontology. It's sad that the God debate rages on between two extremes of dumbed down proponents on both sides of the argument.

      December 15, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
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