Two nights ago I started getting wind of all the windfall surrounding Matisyahu shaving off his beard. As expected, many Jewish sites jumped up quickly to post the news, with some reactions being pretty negative; while others focused on the deeper, halachaic significance. As I read the articles and blogs in earnest, I’m glad that I waited a bit before blogging about the subject myself.
That is because, like many people, I “react to scandal”; in that, yes, if a fight breaks out in public, I will stop to check it out. In all honesty, I am not thinking about the well-being (physical or emotional) of the fighters, but rather the excitement of the fact that you do not see that type of thing everyday. So the root of my initial interest is a selfish-one…not one that is comprised of care and concern for the subject.
In Judaism, there are rules regarding lashon hara, or “evil speech”. These rules not only apply to the speaker, but to the listener as well. This hearkens back to one of the main points of communication: to construct a message and deliver it successfully to targeted recipients. So at the end of the day, I wondered, “What does all of this discussion surrounding Matisyahu actually accomplish?” Yes, he’s a spiritual explorer and having been someone who has waxed and waned in regards to spirituality, it’s a psychological comfort to see a public figure, especially an Orthodox Jew, going through the same thing. But never, ever should my comfort, or the comfort, amusement, or self-glorification of anyone come at the expense of another person.
I am not saying that those who have offered an opinion, either formally or informally, regarding this topic are guilty of this. But it didn’t take me long to really feel bad for Matt Miller (Matisyahu). The world is so focused in on the presence or absence of his beard that they are totally and completely losing the focus on his true essence — his soul. And that soul is a Jewish one; one that cannot be erased by losing a beard and peyot.
As for all of those who focus on this act as proof that he was a charlatan, I pose the following question: Have you always been 100% sure about the choices that you made in life? As many divorcees can attest to, life throws you curve balls and people grow and change. So shame on the person who goes up to any divorcee, and proclaim that they were not sincere when they took their marriage vows. I equate that to talk about Matisyahu using chassidus as some sort of gimmick. That is not our place to decide. The only thing that we are responsible for, is to love him for being our Jewish brother.