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. fran

    Belief is in ones heart and in ones head no matter what that religion is. Jewish rules were written for a number of reasons, one of which was to keep the sect together. These guys read into the scripture and came up with their own set of rules which in their eyes, created order. No jew needs to follow those ultra orthodox rules, nor does any religious or spiritual person need to follow what humans put down as their rules. The man has followed his path and has come to the conclusion that the material and specific part of the rules are stupid. God doesn't reside in long black jackets and long beards. God resides inside.

    December 14, 2011 at 10:41 pm |
    • Canadain

      yes... religious belief is 100% psychological and 0% supernatural!

      December 14, 2011 at 10:46 pm |
  2. Canadain

    weird.. its such an attractive, appealing look. Why would anyone want to shed rotten side-burns and a stinky little obnoxious beanie?

    December 14, 2011 at 10:39 pm |
  3. HisNoodlyAppendage

    All religions are cults and shams. If you believe in 'God', do it directly, without all the man made dogma and nonsense people kill each other over!

    December 14, 2011 at 10:24 pm |
  4. chstrig

    Seriously? This guy was not even remotely famous. Hassidic what? It is some peripheral story to say the least.

    December 14, 2011 at 10:19 pm |
  5. Robzira

    Who cares? Religions are all fiction, just symbols, pacifiers.
    He can do what he wants and be what he wants regardless of any religious symbols.
    Get over it people. Evolve already!!

    December 14, 2011 at 10:13 pm |
  6. William D

    Who cares? I mean really... Some guy who is all jewish makes an album, and raps and regges his way into some peoples hearts and he decides "This isnt for me anymore, this look" and people make a spectacle and start dragging in his kid into the mix? Pathetic. Most people in the world arent who they claim to be and most are fake anyway, why would this come as a surprise to anyone? Jewish or not, hes just a person who made money off an image.

    December 14, 2011 at 10:07 pm |
  7. Robert

    I think it's sad when you yield to the pressure of the popular world and sacrifice your deepest beliefs. If he thinks he will be better off in the next world by giving into the temporary fads of this world, then he is sorely mistaken. A faith that doesn't require the sacrifice of all things does not have the power to save.

    December 14, 2011 at 10:05 pm |
    • bajadelmar

      Wow you really have that tin foil hat strapped on tight!

      December 14, 2011 at 10:11 pm |
  8. Andrewx80

    Maybe he'll do a cover of Ziggy Marley's "Love is My Religion". LOL
    .. right on dude.. follow your heat that is where the creator speaks to us.... not in books written down by men.... the burning bush is within us... and every person must follow there own path to it....alas .. I prefer to smoke my burning bush 🙂

    December 14, 2011 at 9:58 pm |
    • chizzomp


      December 14, 2011 at 10:13 pm |
  9. King of Men

    I'd rather listen to Gregory Issacs anyway.

    December 14, 2011 at 9:57 pm |
  10. eugene Park

    its called a yamakah not a skull cap (might have mispelled as i am not jewish)

    December 14, 2011 at 9:54 pm |
    • Chris

      Skullcap is perfectly fine. So is kippah. The word you were looking for is yarmulke.

      December 14, 2011 at 10:12 pm |
  11. carolyn

    what??? reggae???? who said anything about reggae? Do we need to get some music consults for the Belief section??? Or does all non-luturgical music sound alike?

    December 14, 2011 at 9:51 pm |
  12. Brock Linahan

    Is this REALLY not an article from The Onion?

    December 14, 2011 at 9:47 pm |
  13. Alfredo

    The Kosher kid reggae on man....

    December 14, 2011 at 9:27 pm |
  14. Reggie Kelly

    What do you say?

    December 14, 2011 at 9:21 pm |
  15. DefyTheGods

    Name: Matisyahu
    Profession: Artist, Musician
    Race: Human

    December 14, 2011 at 9:02 pm |
  16. Ken

    As a Jew I find so much of the conversation about Matisyahu's change in appearance rather entertaining in its own right. For example, many fans (obviously not Jews) are upset because his new look seems to undermine his "brand". People: Judaism is not a commercial endeavor. Faith is not something one markets for personal gain, and it has always been my pleasure to respect Matisyahu for always remaining true to that message. So even if his new look does seemingly undermine the fulfillment of some mitzvot, I see the change as being for the better. It's caused people to ask questions about how one goes about expressing their personal faith outwardly. The Torah teaches us the best way to do that is to live our faith, not just to proclaim it. Matisyahu's statements about the change seem to indicate he's now committed himself to something deeper than the mere outward trappings of his religious affiliation, and in my opinion, there is nothing more genuinely Jewish than this.

    December 14, 2011 at 8:59 pm |
    • Mrs Johnson

      Well said, Ken. How difficult it must be to be on this journey and to have to deal with the court of public opinion. Shalom, Matisyahu.

      December 15, 2011 at 8:23 am |
  17. Maty

    Matisyahu's music is like nails on a chalkboard, face hat or no.

    December 14, 2011 at 8:57 pm |
  18. Granite Sentry

    It was just a gimmick in the first place. And the media wonders why we don't take their climate change reporting seriously.

    December 14, 2011 at 8:56 pm |
    • mike

      Yes, it was a gimmick. The old grow a beard and follow the strict rules of hassidic judaism for ten years rouse. You've got everything figured out, huh.

      December 14, 2011 at 9:04 pm |
    • chris

      a connection between matisyahu and global warming. well done that was retarded

      December 14, 2011 at 9:21 pm |
    • Pointless1

      Yes.. it was a gimmick... How many other Orthodox Jews did you see hitting the stages rapping away to the bank? Was and is he good? It's only up to the person who listens to make that call. As for a person he his? Again.. subjective to those who only know him. Either way it doesn't matter what journey you choose in life as long as you don't always follow the same path will you find your own way....

      December 14, 2011 at 9:52 pm |
    • Gimmick Review Board

      After reviewing the case and having taken your statement under advisement, we find that as you said Matisyahu's religion was all just a gimmick. A terrible disgrace to Americans everywhere.

      *The Gimmick Review Board was formed to help differentiate between natural successes and those fueled by gimmicks, such as Majic Johnsons AIDS and Michael Jackson's child molestation.

      December 14, 2011 at 10:20 pm |
    • Jason

      Actually, those of us with a fully functional brain do know that climate change is real. And for your information, the media is only reporting what 99 percent of all scientists on Earth are telling us...you know, the people who actually know stuff.

      December 15, 2011 at 10:48 am |
  19. joe

    Looking forward to his next album wth songs like "If only pork were kosher", "She's so hot, she's nothing like my mother" , and "We usually don't eat bread on Passover, but week we be on vacation mon".

    December 14, 2011 at 8:56 pm |
    • Rob

      hahaha. rich

      December 14, 2011 at 9:00 pm |
  20. This is better than Matisyahu by FAR, people. Wake up!

    [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DjpN9gj9WHY&w=420&h=315%5D

    December 14, 2011 at 8:55 pm |
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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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.