I just read this article about Matisyahu, and the, well, let's call them public changes he is making in his life. I'm having a few (well, at least three that I can articulate) issues with both the article and its content.
1. I'm wondering what his announcement will mean for the public face of observant Judaism. A lot of his Jewish fans look to him as an example of the possibility of straddling both the secular and religious worlds-- if he can do it, maybe I can as well? Plus the music is rockin', and gives "kosher" messages to boot- does it get any better??? Maybe if they served kosher food at his shows.... well, a girl can dream, can't she?
Now he is clean-shaven, blogging about "... reclaiming myself. Trusting my goodness and my divine mission." Is he giving up chassidus, or observant Judaism altogether? I certainly pray that it is not the latter. You can be chassidic, yeshivish, modern orthodox, on "the path" or any point along the ortho-spectrum and it matters naught, but once you hold the belief that 1) the Torah came from G-d and 2) Mitzvot are His way of telling us how He wants us to connect to Him, what must happen to make you give that up??????
If you say that it is his right to believe what he wishes, I certainly won't disagree. Everyone has the right to believe whatever they wish about G-d. Matisyahu became a public figure, however, in large part due to his persona as an observant, ba'al teshuva Jew. More needs to be said by him soon, because the world-at-large may well interpret that observant Judaism can be cast off as easily as picking up a razor and buying a new suit. To allow that perception to spread unchecked would be a tragedy, a chillul Hashem (desecration of G-d's name).
2. Matisyahu and his choices aside, I did take offense at one statement in the article:
"Heeb congratulates Mr. Miller on his momentous decision and on the bravery of his public honesty. We also look forward to seeing him at Chulent with all the other recovering kiruv victims."
Recovering kiruv VICTIMS??!! As someone who has benefitted from the inspirational kiruv (literal translation-"bringing close") efforts of many, to see the kiruv movement portrayed in such a one-sided way hurts me deeply. Heeb's seeming celebration of "his momentous decision" reveals a not-so-subtle bias against Torah Judaism. I don't doubt that there are cases where kiruv is not performed so well, but to make such a sweeping, casual statement trivializes the work of great men and women like R' Noah Weinberg zt"l of Aish HaTorah, R' Menahem Mendel Schneerson zt"l of Chabad Lubavitch, and Rebbitzen Lori Palatnik of the Jewish Women's Renaissance Project, among many, many others.
3. One last thing is lingering in my head.... the timing of this. Matisyahu. Chanukah. The original Matisyahu was a central character in the Chanukah story, which carries the central theme of triumph brought to a group of Jews who held fast to their beliefs, who refused to assimilate even for appearance's sake. and his namesake is brought to the public eye during this Chanukah season. Coincidence? I think not.
Come on, Matisyahu, don't leave us hanging. Tell the world you're still you- beard or not. You tweeted that you went to the mikva and shul today, "just like yesterday." Let that be your new truth- that you can be an observant Jew without looking like everyone else That's a message I'd listen to.