Jewish Music Blog

July 8, 2005

Matisyahu Rant

Filed under: Uncategorized — jewishmusic @ 12:16 pm

What’s wrong with this picture:

I get an e-mail informing me that Matisyahu will be performing at a certain bar in a college town where I’m in graduate school.

Now, I know for a fact that there are hardly any orthodox Jewish people in this city, although there are many unaffiliated Jews. Does he really think he’s speading the word about Mashiach or whatever he’s spreading by performing in bars across the country where the majority of attendees are definitely non-Jewish?

Regardless of the fact that he may be doing this with the right intentions, is he that naive to think that he has credibility to spread his message? It seems to me that his whole allure is that fact that he’s merely the “Reggae Rabbi”, much like a “Rocking Priest”.

I recently saw a video of an interview he had on ABC. About the only words I could make out from his singing was the occasional sprinkling of “Mashiach”. Oh, yeah, now I’ll become orthodox.

This seems to me to be another example of the Jewish people saying “Me too!”.



  1. Your attacking mainstream music and modern music?

    The way I see it, his main goal is not mekaraving yidden. His main goal is to spread his music, which for him was a spiritual vessel to bring forth his own return to yiddishkeit.

    You want to have issue with him performing in a bar? I can understand that, maybe people who aren’t involved in Lubavitch affairs have a hard time understanding what Chabad does. Chabad goes into many situations, agree with it or not, that are conisdered very tumadike places. Maybe he will find jews there, ya. So? Who say’s he is only targeting semi frum Jewish kids?

    He feels, as he has said numerous times in his interviews and stories about him, that he feels like he is able to spread a positive message with his music. He is not trying to run a Chabad House or be a Rabbi. He’s just trying to “do his thing” if you can’t respect that, than that’s something you gotta decide on your own. Since this is your blog, your free to rant all you want, positive or negative. But you’ll find I usually come to Matisyahu’s defense. Quickly 🙂

    I don’t think you should question his “creditability” if you want to start questioning Jewish musicians credibility, there are a dozen or so in the mainstream JM world I could throw at you, doing a lot worse than thinking their spreading a positive message.

    Also, I did not understand the “me too” quote, who’s saying me too, Matisyahu?

    Comment by LIFE-of-RUBIN — July 8, 2005 @ 1:25 pm

  2. Regardless of the fact that he isn’t necessarily trying to spread a message and merely expressing himself, I don’t know if a clearly very Jewish looking person should go around to bars perforimg. The entertainment industry isn’t exactly known for its morals, and it reflects on the person if he associates himself with that group.

    Comment by keyboardguy — July 8, 2005 @ 3:07 pm

  3. That Aryeh, explains why your not a Lubavitcher. You don’t subscribe to a way of life that involves frum people going into a non holy places hoping to effect change.

    It may not be his main goal, or his entire focus, but it is part of his belief.

    I know guy’s who have gone on summer shlichus programs to Montana and Wyoming, where there are maybe 10 Jews in the whole state. No minyan, no kosher restaurants, no daf yomi shirs.

    Your opinion reflects your views that if it isn’t holy, a Jewish person shouldn’t be there.

    His view (and mine) based on the Chassidus of Chabad, is that if your trying to effect change spiritually, you go wherever there are people who need that change to occur. Yes, Even if it’s a bar.

    I don’t see this as a Jewish Music Issue, as much as I see it as a philosophical religious issue.

    Comment by LIFE-of-RUBIN — July 8, 2005 @ 3:22 pm

  4. Now I’m confused. You first said that Matisyahu isn’t doing this for religious purposes. Now you’re saying that the Lubavitch way of life is to go out there and hope to effect a change, which justifies Matisyahu. I can hear going to the middle of nowhere to hope to bring people closer to Judaism, but just taking the Lubavitch concept of going to nowhere and transferring it to the mundane doesn’t seem right.

    Comment by keyboardguy — July 8, 2005 @ 3:28 pm

  5. In addition, as I said earlier, if you want to talk about “morals” in music, there are quite a number of folk in the JEWISH music circle that have some issues of their own.

    In EVERY single non Jewish review of Matisyahu, they ALL talk about how mentchlech he is, and how his message is positive, and he makes a Kiddush Hashem everywhere he goes.

    To me, that is worth far more than selling out Chol Hamoed Concerts in Brooklyn College, or having your song sung at “All the Chassenehs”

    Sometimes, it’s about more than just getting your album on the cover of Country Yossi and Lifestyle magazines.

    Comment by LIFE-of-RUBIN — July 8, 2005 @ 3:30 pm

  6. I said it may not be his main goal. It’s something that he talks about being imprtant to him. Spreading his message through his music.

    There arent any Jews in bars?

    Comment by LIFE-of-RUBIN — July 8, 2005 @ 3:33 pm

  7. Now you’re not addressing my argument, so you go after other Jewish performers. I’m not saying that there isn’t anything wrong with other aspects of Jewish music; that’s why this is a “Matisyahu Rant”.

    Also, I purposely left out the concept of Kiddush Hashem because I really don’t fully understand the concept. All I’ll say is that just because non-Jewish people say how nice a Jewish person is isn’t necessarily a Kiddush Hashem; it may still be a Chillul Hashem. But we’re not discussing that.

    Comment by keyboardguy — July 8, 2005 @ 3:35 pm

  8. As far as I know, there aren’t any Jews in bars who have long beards and wear hats. I may be wrong.

    Comment by keyboardguy — July 8, 2005 @ 3:37 pm

  9. Aryeh, you are thinking of MAtisyahu as a Avraham Fried, MBD, Miami Boy’s Choir JM artist. So yes, if Shlomo Simcha or Dedi went into a bar and started doing his show, I’d also think something was wrong with that picture. He isn’t one of them, he never claimed to be. He is a man, wh became frum through this music. Yes he is Jewish, but why does his audience have to also have beards?

    YOUR opinion is, it isn’t a Kidush Hashem, I am also a frum Jew and I disagree, I think what he is doing is a HUGE KLIDDUSH HASHEM, one of the biggest a frum person has made in decades. we’re allowed to disagree, it’s not shocking two Jews will disagree on something, I usually disagree with people with your philosophy.

    YOU may have not brought up other JM artists, but I AM in my response to your rant. I’m saying let’s worry about the money stealing, backstabbing, and other crimes that certain people went to jail for in the JM world be our main focus. Not if Matisyahu is committing some sort of evil sin by singing to people in a bar.

    Comment by LIFE-of-RUBIN — July 8, 2005 @ 3:47 pm

  10. and I still see this as an argument against a philosophy not a Jewish Music argument.

    I think that’s where we disagree.

    Comment by LIFE-of-RUBIN — July 8, 2005 @ 3:50 pm

  11. Ok, I have other places I have to be both off and online, hope you don’t take any of this personal. Now you know me 🙂 I’m veyr passionate and will fight strongly for something I beleive in.

    I don’t know if you’d actuall took the time to read this, so if you havent, why don’t you print it out and read on shabbos. Maybe it will help you better understand what he is all about.


    After 2 years in the “sticks,” the 19-year old Matisyahu returned to New York a changed man. He moved to the city to attend The New School where he continued honing his musical craft, and also dabbled in the theater. During this time, he happened on the Carlebach Shul, a synagogue on the Upper West Side, well known for its hippie-friendly vibe and exuberant singing. This encounter further fueled his soul-fire, turning him on to the mystical power of song in Hasidic Judaism. Now, instead of beat boxing in the back of the classroom, he was leaving the classroom to pray on the school’s roof. (Religious or not, this guy ain’t made for the classrooms.)

    While studying at New School, Matisyahu wrote a play entitled “Echad” (One). The play was about a boy who meets a Hasidic rabbi in Washington Square Park and through him becomes religious. Shortly after the play’s performance, Matisyahu’s life strangely imitated his art. Indeed, years after the initial sparks were lit, Matisyahu met a Lubavitch rabbi in the park, spurring his transformation from Matthew to Matisyahu.

    A person who was once skeptical of authority and rules, Matisyahu began to explore and eventually fully take on the Lubavitch Hasidic lifestyle. He thrived on the discipline and structure of Judaism, making every attempt to abide by Jewish Law. The Chabad-Lubavitch philosophy proved to be a powerful guide for Matisyahu. It surrounded him with the spiritual dialogue and intellectual challenge he had been seeking for the past decade. The turmoil and frustration of his search subsided, and now, 2 years later, Matisyahu lives in Crown Heights, splitting his time between the stage and his yeshiva.

    Combining the sounds of Bob Marley and Shlomo Carlebach, yet remaining wholly original, Matisyahu’s performance is an uplifting, powerful experience for all in his presence. Even the most pessimistic in his audience is inspired by his ability to so honestly convey such a delicate, topic as faith/spirituality. It is his dedication to his belief and openness to others that compels one to respect his artistry and message. It’s in that fleeting moment when our skepticism melts and our souls open up, that Matisyahu enters with his booming sound of faith.

    taken from:

    Good Shabbos.

    Comment by LIFE-of-RUBIN — July 8, 2005 @ 3:59 pm

  12. Better question- Why is he quick to book a bar in the middle of nowhere, when he hasn’t managed to book a chicago show in over 3 years of performing…

    Comment by Anonymous — July 9, 2005 @ 1:34 pm

  13. I don’t see what the big deal is. The Ba’al Shem Tov wandered all over the forests of Eastern Europe; Reb Leib Sarahs went to the market places to fix neshamos that were ‘lost’ or otherwise needed fixing; Rebbe Simcha Bunim of Pshis’cha was a pharmacist, played cards with people etc. to bring their neshamos around.

    As I’ve mentioned before, R. Shlomo Carlebach was the first Chabad shliach, sent by the “previous” Lubavitcher Rebbe to college campuses to mekarev Yidden. He too played in bars [who can forget “Live at the Village Gate”?] and at Rock Festivals [Berkeley Folk Festival, 1966(?)].

    A brief story: a girl who had been on an Indian ashram somehow found her way back to Judaism & came to a Carlebach group, I think in San Francisco. When they started singing Reb Shlomo’s niggunim, she told them she knew them, too. How? “We used to sing these melodies on the ashram.” And how, indeed, did they get to the ashram???

    Story #2: When R. Shlomo Carlebach heard how upset his former Rosh Yeshiva, HaRav Aharon Kotler ZT”L was over the fact that he had begun to go out to college campuses, he started to have his doubts too. He confided them to the Lubavitch Rebbe ZT”L who told him that “self-sacrifice on behalf of the Jewish people means total devotion, giving oneself body AND soul to the cause. ‘An errand of mecry is its own protection,’ he added, to speed Shlomo on his way.” [“Reb Shlomele”, p. 26]

    Regards from Yitz

    Comment by Anonymous — July 11, 2005 @ 4:45 am

  14. Hi, Yitz again. Chaim, you’ll really like this one, hopefully everyone else too:

    The Rebbe Rashab [Reb Shalom Ber of Lubavitch] was once asked by a Chassid: “Why do you so emphasize the quality and value of simple Jews; how can they be compared to the obvious greatness of the esteemed scholars and the pious?” Knowing that the Chassid was a diamond merchant, the Rebbe asked him to display several diamonds of different values. The Chassid complied. Though he was surprised at the request, he knew that the Rebbe’s wishes had deeper meaning. The Rebbe studied the diamonds for a while, picked up one of them and exclaimed: “Ah! This must be the most valuable of the bunch. Am I correct?” The Chassid did not want to contradict the Rebbe even though this particular stone was not the most precious. The Rebbe persisted: “Is it or is it not?” The Chassid relented and said no. “How could that be? It looks so beautiful. So large and bright.” “Well,” the Chassid continued, “only a trained eye can appreciate the true value of a diamond. The naked eye is unable to discern the diamond’s worth—its cut, carats, clarity and color.” The Rebbe smiled and said: “My dear friend, the same—and even more so—is true with souls. The naked eye cannot see the value of souls. One needs a trained eye to be able to distinguish the true value of a soul.”

    Who knows what kind of diamonds Matis will find in some forsaken bar???

    Comment by Anonymous — July 11, 2005 @ 7:02 am

  15. Yitz, we cool. 🙂 Good stories.

    Comment by LIFE-of-RUBIN — July 11, 2005 @ 10:38 am

  16. Told ya we could be friends, Chaim. Any way you can get me a copy of that tape mentioned on Blog in Dm of the Lubavitcher Rebbe ZT”L singing a wordless version of R. Shlomo’s “Mikimi”???


    Comment by Anonymous — July 11, 2005 @ 11:05 am

  17. I havent heard of it. I just know of the famous picture of shlomo sitting next to the Rebbe by his basi lgani – yud shvat maamar.

    Comment by LIFE-of-RUBIN — July 11, 2005 @ 11:38 am

  18. Yitz-

    Chaim said in an above post that Matisyahu’s purpose was not to be mekarev people. So you can’t compare this to the Baal Shem Tov or whoever.

    Comment by keyboardguy — July 11, 2005 @ 10:46 pm

  19. Aryeh – What Chaim said may or may not be correct. He also said “his main goal,” and in a later post he said, “You don’t subscribe to a way of life that involves frum people going into a non-holy places hoping to effect change. It may not be his main goal, or his entire focus, but it is part of his belief.”

    I would think that in this case, his objective in performing in a bar is to find lost souls there, much like the other examples I gave.


    Comment by Anonymous — July 12, 2005 @ 12:19 am

  20. Yitz here again. I did forget one more very modern-day example. He’s known to many as the “Discotheque Rabbi,” Rabbi Yitzchak David Grossman of Migdal HaEmek, who was known to have gone into many discos in that town and brought many kids closer to HaKadosh Baruch Hu. And Rav Grossman is a Lelover Chassid, although his wife is from a Chabad family. It should be apparent by now that Matisyahu is doing much the same thing.


    Comment by Anonymous — July 12, 2005 @ 3:45 am

  21. Check this out:



    Comment by Anonymous — July 12, 2005 @ 8:09 am

  22. Yitz – Amen Brother.

    Aryeh – It’s not black and white. It isn’t either he is trying to mekarav or he isn’t. He certainly isn’t performing so that Shwekey and Dachs will start singing all his songs at the weddings they do, nor is he aiming Country Yossi’s top twenty.

    Yes there is a business aspect to what he’s doing, but he also would hope to have some sort of positive effect on people in said unholy places.

    Comment by LIFE-of-RUBIN — July 12, 2005 @ 10:10 am

  23. I know I’m not going to convince either of you, but just to clarify my position:

    If he is doing this to be mekarev people or find neshomos or whatever, then what type of credibility can he have (Reggae Rabbi)?

    If he isn’t, then maybe he shouldn’t because of the “Me too!” factor and because he shouldn’t be in those places. Or he shouldn’t necessarily wear a hat and beard, thus broadcasting to his audience, either explicitly or implicity that he represents ultra-orthodox Judaism.

    Comment by keyboardguy — July 12, 2005 @ 12:51 pm

  24. Yitz here again. Look Aryeh, R. Shlomo Carlebach was known as the “Dancing Rabbi” or the Singing Rabbi; Rav Grossman as the “Disco Rabbi.” Sure, to many “straight” people it was weird or whatever, but many people found it refreshing, something they could relate to, and this brought them closer to Hashem. AS long as Matis is spending his time in the bar singing and not drinking — well, what’s wrong with that???

    Comment by Anonymous — July 12, 2005 @ 2:02 pm

  25. All the Rabbis you quoted either did it
    (a) for the purpose of being mekarev people or
    (b) performed for Jewish audiences.

    Matisyahu definitely breaks new ground.

    Comment by keyboardguy — July 12, 2005 @ 10:23 pm

  26. Reb Shlomo Carlebach went to ashrams, interfaith conferences, music festivals, etc. – everywhere he could to help Jews find their way back to Hashem and His Torah. As mentioned, Rabbi YD Grossman went into discos.

    Certainly, in their time, they were “breaking new ground.” I see Matis as doing the same. I would definitely give him the benefit of the doubt that he hopes to find a Jew or two or twenty there, and bring him closer to Hashem. As Reb Shlomo would often say, “You never know!”

    — yitz

    Comment by Anonymous — July 13, 2005 @ 4:55 am

  27. Hey guys,

    My opinion in this matter lays somewhere between aryeh and life-of-rubin. I think Matis is extremely talented and unique in what he does. I don’t think the chabad leaders actually approve the fact that he has become so popular amongst the goim, going to bars and stuff. But this doesn’t not means that he deserves a cherem because of what he’s doing. It seems to me that he is walking alone in this, but he’s not necessarily doing a bad thing.

    Regarding the stories about the rabbonim itzy wrote I think is unrealistic to compare Matis to them. He just made teshuva and he is not (yet?) a rebbe.

    Also, it’s hard to compare Matis to Carlebach. Shlomo didn’t start going around doing kiruv just a couple years after doing tshuva. And many things Shlomo did were criticized by the gedolim.


    Comment by Anonymous — July 14, 2005 @ 12:46 pm

  28. Aryeh – why u don’t update the reviews website? I like your reviews and hope you keep on writing


    Comment by Anonymous — July 14, 2005 @ 12:47 pm

  29. The primary reason is that I don’t have easy (free) access to recent albums, and I can’t buy every album that comes out. When I do get ahold of an alubm, I do try to write reviews.

    Comment by keyboardguy — July 14, 2005 @ 5:50 pm

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