Friday, July 27, 2007

Like a Runaway Truck

August 6th 2007
Matisyahu, the Jewish rapper, often takes the stage in full Hasidic regalia. But yesterday, the man born Matthew Paul Miller opted for khakis, a powder-blue suit jacket and a fedora, soon removed to display a yarmulke underneath. The inclusion of a percussionist in his five-piece band elevates Matisyahu's reggae from the usual monotonous beats, and his rapid-fire rapping streams in a mellifluous flow.

Songs such as "Youth" and "Time of Your Song" contain uplifting messages about controlling one's destiny and battling self-destruction, and Matisyahu makes it obvious that he takes his religion seriously.

He introduced "Got No Water" as a cover song written by King David and began by chanting in what sounded to be Yiddish.

The 10,000-plus people attending his set waved their arms in the air appreciatively, seemingly taking something from his message.

August 2nd

Matis addresses the crowd.

"People are asking...

'Am I a Chassid, am I not a Chassid?' that, all I have to say is this....

Tzoooooma L'chaaaa Naaaafshii...."

His refusal to get caught up in the meddle, and resisting a "screw everyone" attitude is, well, expected from him.

August 1st

A creative artist with a message that is not his own.

Supported and cherished by the community he seems to represent.

This community then feels like they own him.

They talk about him to all their friends. They try and get him to do shows.

“Matisyahu? Oh yea, he’s Lubavitch.”

All of a sudden, everyone is so proud to be Chabad.

Then, an unverified quote rocks the community.

Matisyahu doesn’t only identify with Chabad?

What? He feels boxed in?

Then, something strange happens.

In the name of Chabad, people slander his name.

In the name of Chassidisheit,, they judge.

Believing that someone’s famousness gives permission for such harsh gossip and misguided conclusions, people get a little crazy.

Sure, people care, and are trying to protect. But the method is crass, and the approach self-defeating.

If the non-Chabad and “irreligious” people affected by Matisyahu’s music could hear the folks from Crown Heights speak on the matter, they’d be appalled, even turned off.

When a Queens college student recently asked me, "Whats the deal?" he wasn't asking about Matisyahu, but the Chabad community's out-of-line reaction and embellishment on a simple statement.

So, it appears that Matisyahu’s feelings of being “boxed in” were more than warranted.

I don’t know all the facts, and I certainly can’t tell the future.

However, one thing seems pretty clear to me.

While Matisyahu is being falsely accused of separating from the Chabad movement, it’s very clear who’s abandoning whom.


July 27th

Yesterday, I found myself chillin' with with my brother and sister on a bus with kosher pots and pans, a crib, and a picture of the Rebbe.

No, it was not a Mitzvah Tank.

It was Matisyahu's tour bus.

Well, so yea, it was a Mitzvah Tank.

As part of his "Unity Tour" with the band 311, he gave an energized show - or experience - to 15,000 people last night. The show tonight was "one huge farbrengen." In between songs, he spoke about "Chabad chassidus." To a crowd of thousands of youth, he explained the concept of tzimtzum, and how it happens that we come to exist in a world so great. He sang niggunim. Tzoma L'cha Nafshi. He swayed throughout. And afterwards, he gathered yidden for maariv.

On and offstage, Matisyahu's presence is humble, enlightening, and real.

You know, there are some things you just can't fake. It would be impossible to be a fiery light of inspiration and meaning to thousands of people day after day...unless you're light is coming from a higher place.

You know, Matisyahu's spiritual and religious standing is really none of our business. But, since he's in the spotlight, and holds the hearts of many, people care to speculate. I myself, in my die hard support, am doing that right now.

But then there's people who are just bored.

Or blind.

You know, when you see someone doing something good and making a positive impact on the world (something that, since yesterday, I'm convinced Matisyahu is doing), all you need to to is add fuel to the flame.

Or just step aside.


I have much to say, but I'll let Matisyahu speak.

The following personal message was written for Matisyahu's fans. As the sun was setting yesterday, I helped my brother (Matisyahu's current Street Team Leader) hand out fliers. The words on the paper are straight from Matisyahu's pen - not botched by a newswoman or twisted by an ill-motived Chabadnik.

Thousands of people pocketed Matisyahu's insights, and hence a clear message from the Rebbe. Handing out the fliers, I didn't feel like I was doing something for a cool musical artist. Like Matisyahu, I was doing something much bigger.


Summer 2007
Message from Matisyahu

Redemptions Coming Like A Runaway Truck

Week 4 and it’s starting to feel like Groundhog Day. Anyone ever feel like that? If you thought, (like I did) that the way out of getting a 9 to 5 was either become a mystic living in the hills or a rock star, well you’re wrong. Sorry to ruin anyone’s imagination of what it might be like to travel around the country and play music, but every amphitheatre across America is built the same way, like some kind of strip mall. Sooner or later thy all start to mesh together as one. With the exception of a few: The Gorge in Washington state, Red Rocks, and can’t forget my new favorite, Mud Island in Memphis. So first off, my apologies to those at the show in Charlotte. I’ve been sick since the tour started a month ago and it came to head the other night, so if you noticed me cracking during choruses and such, my apologies. I’m feeling better and tonight should be back on track. On the bright side, I feel there is a solution to this feeling of being stuck in life and lies in humility. For myself in becoming a better person, serving the Master of the World, and making music for you. In all those matters I feel that I am just an infant starting to figure things out. Like a child who is just starting to discover the world. I think this is the key: if one feels that he’s already there, then he is dead. When one feels that he is just starting out in life, no matter how old, and realizes his potential to truly leave his imprint in this world and not just die quietly into it, then each day becomes a lifetime unto itself. This world is incomplete, as in each one of us. Being that we are created in the image of G-d then it would seem that there is some place within Hashem that is also incomplete. We are all sick, including our Father, and we have the potential to heal even G-d, by bringing completeness to this world with music, with mitzvah’s, and with Torah. We will be the first generation of Moshiach, the first generation of completion. Peace and love. See you on tour.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

A true loss

Today is the saddest day on the Jewish calendar.

There. Mimi the robot has repeated the designated Tisha B'Av slogan.

This is all getting a little monotonous.

Year after year.

No eating. Sit on the floor. Do this. Don’t do that. Our Temple was destroyed.

Yesterday, with the fast approaching, I was bothered that I left my Crocs at work. I got home, looked at my non-leather-shoe options, and let out a loud, “aaaaauuugh!”

And this morning, I slammed my finger in my bedroom door.

It hurt real badly, and I cried. Hard.

Yesterday, I was not overly bothered by the approaching fast.

And during the reading of Eicha last night, I did not shed a tear.


Today, all I feel are my missing Crocs, and a slightly swollen finger.

Yet, today marks a day that meant destruction, exile, and estrangement for a nation constantly desiring closeness with G-d.

As Jews, we're meant to contemplate the meaning and feel the reality of the loss.

But, admittedly, I feel a little detached.

I see no ashes, no fire ascending to the sky.

I am hungry, but not for G-d’s Palace.

This heart does not ache in longing for what’s been lost.

And now I am forced to pause.

My eyes are wet.

My honesty right now is the first thing to pierce my heart all day.

And, as someone constantly striving to be in tune, my insensitivity is smacking me in the face.

Talk about a loss.

Today, when the whole world mourns what’s missing in Jerusalem, I really mourn what’s missing inside of me.

Today, I grieve because, after thousands of years of soul-numbing exile, my Crocs and aching finger cause me more distress than the absence of the Bais Hamikdash.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Just Build

[Today is the 17th of Tammuz, when we fast to mourn the breaching of Jerusalem's walls.]

The Jew is caught in the delicate balance.

To build.

To break.

To build the good.

To break the bad.

To build up, to create, to add.

To break, to erase, to destroy.

To teach, to inspire, to give, to smile.

To prevent, to reproach, to shout, to regret.

To move forward, and give strength to the light.

To look backwards, and highlight the loss.

To see a mountain.

Or to see a ditch.

So here goes the Jew.


And breaking.


And breaking.

Sweat boiling on his forehead.

But he is going nowhere.

Everything he builds, he breaks.

He is ready to fall apart.

And he's crying.

Along comes the Rebbe.

He says, Just build.

Stop sweating to break.

Just build.


And build.

And build.

You won't notice the ditch.

Just build.

And build.

And build.

Light mocks the darkness.

And build.

And build.

Evil will vanish.

So, don't stop.

Don't fall in the ditch.

Just build.