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. Lexington Modern com

    [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e1HBk1nQo8o&w=420&h=315%5D

    December 14, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
  2. Fitter Happier

    Who cares lol. No seriously ... who cares.

    The whole point is publicity, and everyone that posted here now knows that hes cut his hair and he's probably going to change his style or genre and the a new album and ... omg!

    That being said ... I'm curious what his new album will sound like? 🙂

    December 14, 2011 at 8:18 pm |
    • Jesus

      Hasadic rap??? What is that? I never heard it. Is this some kind of put on joke?

      December 15, 2011 at 12:04 am |
  3. J Lev

    What does it matter to anyone that someone decide to shave. The point of religion is to live by a set of moral codes. Religion is practiced through thought and actions and less so by appearance.

    December 14, 2011 at 8:12 pm |
    • Dan

      In some religions, appearance is important. It's an action that some believe God commanded. I'm not Jewish so I don't subscribe to his beliefs, but I completely understand that appearance can be associated with obedience.

      December 14, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
  4. AtheistDude

    I trimmed my pubic hair today! why is that not headline news??? CNN explain yourself! Faith Blog. What a joke!

    December 14, 2011 at 8:10 pm |
    • Dan

      Are you really so dense you don't see what this has to do with religion?

      December 14, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
    • Rags

      We weren't aware you had a pubic or that it needed to be shaved on occasion.
      So, why tell us? It's your pubic, I guess and we need know nothing about it or you.

      December 14, 2011 at 8:25 pm |
    • Jesus

      Shave away.It has nothing to do with religion.

      December 15, 2011 at 12:05 am |
  5. the_dude

    Never believed this was for real anyways. People do anything for just a little bit of noteriety.

    December 14, 2011 at 7:55 pm |
  6. Jez

    Dude – I think you're the bomb – beard or no beard. You certainly are much cuter sans beard though..

    December 14, 2011 at 7:52 pm |
  7. tinyprof

    It's not what's on your head, it's what's in your head! 🙂

    December 14, 2011 at 7:51 pm |
  8. HeLzYeAh


    December 14, 2011 at 7:51 pm |
  9. John


    December 14, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
    • .....

      TRASH ALERT – don't bother viewing this garbage, click the report abuse link to get rid of the pathetic TROLL!

      December 14, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
    • Michael deGive

      That was a beautiful piece. Did you write that? It is so pure and uncluttered.

      December 14, 2011 at 8:23 pm |
  10. Jill

    This is a warm and beautiful open letter. A must see.


    December 14, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
  11. Riki

    Publicity stunt all the way!!

    December 14, 2011 at 11:30 am |



    December 13, 2011 at 11:05 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline


      December 13, 2011 at 11:54 pm |
    • Boman

      And you are the authority on REAL muisic I take it?

      December 14, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
    • Just another guy

      hahahahahaha rap is real music. you're just not listening to the good stuff. you're just ignorant

      December 14, 2011 at 7:47 pm |
    • John

      Rap on these nuts. You freakin idiot. Im sure that your children are listening to rap when you're not around.

      December 14, 2011 at 7:57 pm |
    • Andrew

      Right...my organization produces an annual compilation of 44 local bands in Portland, from all kinds of different genres – rap, reggae, blues, classical, rock, folk, country, metal...you name it. We have a pretty good idea about what "real" music is.

      I happen to enjoy some Matisyahu as well (not all of it). Because that CAN happen. Sorry. You're just wrong.

      Also, biggots aren't real people.

      December 14, 2011 at 8:25 pm |
  13. Happy dance

    He understands that Judism is all about rules which is now no need for since Christ abolished the Law.

    December 13, 2011 at 10:19 pm |
    • The Phist

      To educate you, jesus is quoted in the bible as stating he wasn't here to abolish the old law. You should try reading your bible before posting again.

      December 13, 2011 at 11:02 pm |
    • claybigsby

      "To educate you, jesus is quoted in the bible as stating he wasn't here to abolish the old law."

      Jesus was never quoted by people who actually knew him, or saw him, or talked to him. Hearsay at best and your comment is moot.

      December 14, 2011 at 9:09 am |
    • Boman

      actually thought claybigsby, He was quoted close enough to actual events that there were still people alive that could have disputed and put the kibosh on the entire christian movement. And you are correct, Jesus did not say he came to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. To bad Old Test peeps are still blind to that.

      December 14, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
    • Grey, Atlanta

      Hilarious that the self-righteous Christians even post here about the Law and Judasim. It’s like second-graders trying to teach math to a Nobel Peace Prize winner in Mathematics.

      December 14, 2011 at 8:18 pm |
    • Jason

      "Jesus was never quoted by people who actually knew him, or saw him, or talked to him. Hearsay at best and your comment is moot."

      I guess everything said about Alexander the Great is hearsay too.

      December 14, 2011 at 8:18 pm |
    • J2012

      He never said he found Christ just that he is no longer a strictly observant jew.

      December 14, 2011 at 8:32 pm |
    • Dan

      Uhh, wrong.

      December 14, 2011 at 9:03 pm |
    • Jesus

      What? Jesus endorsed the Mosaic laws. Have you read your Bible...all of it? Jesus just was starting a new religion. He was a 1st century religion entrepeneuer. He broke away from the usual Judaic teachings and proclaimed himself as the One. He simply did back in the 1st century what Swaggert, Hinn, Robertson, Osteen and the rest of the religion businessmen are doing today. They all get "revelations" or messages from Gawd. It's the oldest scam on the planet.

      December 15, 2011 at 12:10 am |
    • md2205

      By the way, how could it be that after it states 24 times in the Bible that G-d gave the Torah (Bible) to Moses in front of all the Jewish people, that people can equate that with any person who comes along later and says G-d appeared to him in private and told him that the laws are no longer in force? You would think that G-d would be great enough that He doesn't make a mistake in the first place? But even if He would have changed His "Mind", so to speak, would He then only tell someone in private? Maybe the Jews wouldn't believe Him, and if it is so important that they now do the newest thing He just came up with, wouldn't He tell them all again together like He did the first time?

      December 15, 2011 at 12:28 am |
  14. Ungodly Discipline

    The next stop for this guy is a Hollywood slasher flick. No question. He can do the creepy sound track and be the "smart" one. Babes and Booze baby! (and T and A of course)

    December 13, 2011 at 8:08 pm |
  15. Sam Yaza

    what a shame dude you had an awesome beard and you made good music, I think losing the beard is going to affect your music, without it you seem to lack wisdom ,… oh well there’s always Dan le Sac

    December 13, 2011 at 8:03 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      Beard = Wisdom

      Sam, you are a conundrum.

      December 13, 2011 at 8:06 pm |
    • Badoomtish

      He's always the sam guy. Yeza!

      December 13, 2011 at 8:08 pm |
    • NOo..oON

      An awesome beard?
      I know they can't shave it, but can they not even comb it, sheesh?

      December 14, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
  16. George

    A priest and a rabbi were walking down the street. They saw some little kids. The priest says "Hey, let's screw them", and the rabbi says, "Out of what ?"

    December 13, 2011 at 7:31 pm |
    • Noel


      December 13, 2011 at 7:36 pm |
    • HeavenSent


      Matthew 12:36 But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.


      December 13, 2011 at 11:41 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      HS, I think George is on your side, but none the less, there will be no day of judgment. You just sit there sharing can food with your kitties and wait. Should be fun.

      December 13, 2011 at 11:57 pm |
    • gil

      I guess the priest got you...

      December 14, 2011 at 7:53 pm |
  17. Ungodly Discipline

    Who is this guy? Thank goodness he shaved that crap off of his face. That can't be very hygenic and it is cold and flu season. Enough with the straggly beards and spitting and everything. I can't even go to a Soup Plantation this time of year. Rap? Why? Rap sucks. How about some nice Jazz from the good boy, he should be so lucky to hear good music. Oy.

    December 13, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
    • Eggs

      Listen to his early music and then give us your opinion. An opinion based on ignorance is like fred / George.
      You don't wanna be like him, do you?

      December 13, 2011 at 8:05 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      Eggs, no I do not. I am a musician myself and if you will hook me up with some links (your faves) I will most definatily check the dude out.

      December 13, 2011 at 8:10 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Yes, you are a Frank Zappa fan. I've seen the references in a few of your handles before you began hijacking mine.


      December 13, 2011 at 11:42 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      HS: Hijacking yours? Really? You are retarded.

      December 13, 2011 at 11:58 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      HS: Are you actually retarded? It is ok, you can tell me I am not a bad person.

      December 14, 2011 at 12:00 am |
  18. Reality

    And the beat continues:

    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 13, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
    • .........

      continue the beat by hitting report abuse on reality bull sh it

      December 13, 2011 at 8:09 pm |
  19. GodPot

    "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.”

    That picture looks more like an Iraq vet than a hollywood partier, why is that look not also "beautiful"? Or do some Jews really think looking visibly religious is more attractive?

    December 13, 2011 at 6:06 pm |
    • Taiping

      With those bags under his eyes I'd say he hasn't been doing the healthy thing. Not all musicians act the same.

      December 13, 2011 at 11:33 pm |
  20. KlezmercenaryGoy

    All I know about the guy is the one music video I happened to see years ago. It blew me away it was so cool. But I was not into music much right then and forgot how to spell his name and so never got a chance to hear more. Will that do, Jessica? 8)

    December 13, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
    • John Richardson

      Nice handle!

      December 13, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
    • KlezmercenaryGoy

      8) Have you ever listened to Klezmer music? Its great stuff yo!

      December 13, 2011 at 7:00 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      I can live without it. Kind of like Blue Grass, it is impressive when it is played well, but I still can't stand it.

      December 13, 2011 at 7:41 pm |
    • John Richardson

      I have indeed and I love it!

      December 13, 2011 at 9:19 pm |
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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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.