The Shmooze

Matisyahu ‘Loosens the Knots’ of Judaism

By Michael Kaminer

  • Print
  • Share Share
Getty Images
Matisyahu throws out the first pitch before game between the San Diego Padres and the Los Angeles Dodgers on July 15

The clean-shaven singer in a loose white t-shirt barely resembles a 2006 snapshot of a bearded Hasid dancing merrily in a suit and shtramel. And indeed, Matisyahu today bears little likeness to his longtime “Chassidic reggae superstar” persona. While his transformation sparked much speculation in the blogosphere — Matisyahu dropped the bomb by posting a beardless photo of himself on Twitter last December — the choice was carefully conceived, as the performer tells the Times of Israel this week.

“There are so many rules in Judaism, and if you get into them and you get obsessed and you have the kind of life that I have, it can make you a very unhappy person,” Matisyahu told the Times in a backstage interview before a Stamford, Conn., concert last week. “It can make everything complicated and more stressful than it needs to be, so I kind of loosened the knots a little bit.”

The demands of religious observance apparently didn’t always fit the life of an in-demand pop star. “I’m not holding myself to it in terms of the rule aspect of it. It is more about an ideal. Ideally I would like to put my tefillin on every morning and daven mincha and daven ma’ariv [two of the three daily prayer services],” said Matisyahu, whose real name is Matthew Paul Miller. “When I make the time, I am a little bit more accepting, a little more patient with myself maybe than I was in past years trying to fit in putting tefillin on with, like, in the morning when I had to be at a radio station at 8:30.”

A new Matisyahu album, Spark Seeker, dropped this week. Music-review site Earmilk found it as tricky to shoehorn as the performer himself: “How should I categorize this album? Electronic-hip-hop-fancehall-pop-world? It has hip-hop elements, use of traditional Middle Eastern instrumentation, electronic production, dancehall riddims, pop hooks, spoken word and even ambient — all perfectly woven together like a Challah.”

Watch an Interview With the New Matisyahu:


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Matisyahu

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.