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Matisyahu, Clean-Shaven for the First Time in 10 Years

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Matisyahu on Soundcheck Matisyahu on Soundcheck (WNYC)

Jewish rapper Matisyahu shocked fans this week by shaving off his trademark beard.

He posted a picture of his clean-shaven face on Twitter and a message on his Web site: "No more Chassidic reggae superstar. Sorry folks, all you get is me ... no alias."

Matisyahu, who grew up in White Plains, joined John Schaefer on WNYC's Soundcheck Wednesday to talk about his recent transformation. He said he's still practicing Judaism.

In explaining his reasons for keeping his beard so long — ten years of not shaving — he cited mystical tradition in the Kabbalah, which describes the beard as representative of the 13 attributes of mercy.

Shaving it, he said, was part of a personal evolution.

"The idea that God's mercy is connected to whether or not I shave is ludicrous and I need to just trust myself, and that, you know, if I'm deserving of God's mercy, I'll get it, regardless of, you know, my beard," he said.

He also took some time to talk about contradictions.

"We're so quick to go to make things black and white, and to put things in their box," he said. "But everything is this mixture — and that's what this world is — is this blend of different things."

Matisyahu kicks off his annual Hannukah concerts, in honor of the eight-day Festival of Lights, next week at the Music Hall of Williamsburg.

Watch video of the Soundcheck interview below.

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Comments [8]

micha from Passaic, NJ

In Orthodox Judaism, both Chassidic and non, we do not perform the commandments because God needs them done. Rather, they are a discipline God provided us to refine us. What makes God "happy" (so to speak) is not whether or not someone shaves (which isn't obligatory in the full sense of Jewish Law) but having a son who is the kind of person who would choose not to shave. (So as to remember Divine Mercy, in Matisyahu's prior case.)

Now Matisyahu is exploring other visions of the ideal person that Jewish practice is trying to produce, and so beard growing is less important. And in fact, confusing, as it would be an attachment to one community and its approach while in reality following a somewhat different vision.

Dec. 16 2011 11:12 AM
MFan from NYC

Yes. The idea that "God" cares about the way you style, prune or otherwise modify your dermal follicles is ridiculous on its face. What century are we living in?

Dec. 15 2011 12:25 PM
Aaron

Great interview

There are probably hundreds of thousands of Orthodox Jews without beards. The idea that this is somehow a contradiction is ridiculous on its face.

Dec. 15 2011 12:20 PM
Brad Gorman from San Francisco

Guy just flits between severe cults (Marley, Chabady). Possibly growing up in the Westchester bourgeoise makes some grope for distinctiveness beyond tattoos and drug dazes. The excellent interviewer might have asked why he removed to L.A.. I'm wonder if there's not some strong connection to this move. Well, his voice sounds better than his forced Yiddishizing. Hope his kids and wife aren't too hurt by his immaturity.

Dec. 15 2011 09:34 AM
Abraham langer from Jerooshalayim

The real story is the infinite wisdom of the Torah and mitzvoth . Shaving leads to the removal of wisdom teeth.

Dec. 14 2011 11:38 PM
Eli

@Yefunah

Not keeping shabbos is not at all similar to shaving a beard. One is a commandment from god, the other is just a nice thing to do that is not at all mandatory.

Dec. 14 2011 09:15 PM
Yefuneh from Des Moines, IA

Too many contradictions: Should we say that Torah commandments (beard, pe'ot, tsitsit, food, Shabbat, mo'edim, etc) are "optional" because it is "ludicrous" to think YHVH was serious? Is He serious concerning His covenant with Yisrael? Yahushua said "if you love me, keep my commandments". What you "believe" is not nearly as important as what you do ("emunah"). Be brave, be strong. Shalom.

Dec. 14 2011 08:40 PM
R

It's just friggin' hair! What an idiotic article.

Dec. 14 2011 08:03 PM

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