What do YOU think about Matisyahu’s Decision to Shave Beard?

What do YOU think about Matisyahu’s Decision to Shave Beard?

A few years ago an excited neighbor mentioned that a famous musician named Matisyahu was renting an apartment across the street for the summer…

I’d never heard of this famous Matisyahu, but I was still curious enough to walk over and invite Matisyahu and Tahli Miller and their 2 young sons over for a Shabbos meal. So the Millers joined us for Shabbos lunch, and they were clearly such sincere, lovely human beings…Funny enough, it turned out that Tahli had read my first book Expecting Miracles, and we got together a few more times over the years, and she impressed me as a creative and supremely down-to-earth JewishMOM as well as an amazing and wonderful person.

So that is why I have a very warm place in my heart for this couple. And also why I felt a bit more disappointment than your average JewishMOM to read this week’s shocking headline “No more Chassidic Reggae Superstar.” What? Matisyahu isn’t going to be religious anymore? Chaval!

And then I found this interview below with Matisyahu talking about his controversial decision to shave his beard as well as his plans to remain a good, observant Jew.

The truth is that before I heard this interview, I had never heard these inspiring, Kabbalistic reasons for having a beard. It occurred to me that this interview about Matisyahu shaving his beard could actually inspire quite a few men to GROW beards!

What do YOU think about Matisyahu’s decision to shave his beard and his justification for it, JewishMOM?

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16 comments

  1. janice kenner

    I think he looks better with the beard.

  2. I think it’s his decision and none of our business, first and foremost…

    Shaving one’s beard (in a halachically permissible way) is not in any way a violation of halacha. Growing a beard is a minhag and nothing more. One may argue that because he is such a public figure doing such kiddush Hashem, that a radical change in his “look” may lead to wagging tongues and destroy some of his credibility, and that may have something to it. I have already seen secular articles waxing poetic on Matisyahu’s “returning to himself and listening to his intuition rather than an externally imposed set of rules”, and one might argue that this is a bit of chilul Hashem. (Such articles, of course, either don’t mention his later comments about going to the mikveh and schul the next day, or mention them very cynically with a “wait and see…” tone.) But that’s more a problem with interpreting what he wrote than what he did, and you just can’t win; people will always read what they want to read into what you say.

    I have seen a kind of “tshuva arc” in many ba’alei tshuva I know; at first they dig deep deep deep into the rules and chumrot to erase their former identity, and then as they become more comfortable with their new selves, they become more moderate and relaxed, defining themselves anew within the framework of halacha now that they are no longer running from who they were before. I think this is a healthy and natural process and it is ultimately a positive thing for them and for those around them. I would rather see a Jewish reggae star who is completely committed to Judaism and halacha in HIS OWN WAY, than one who is just a representation of an image that he no longer identifies strongly with.

    • I agree with you Chana. I think that he will inspire people to understand what the significance of the beard is all about…and if a beard has such a cool explanation maybe we’ll all want to look deeper into the other mitzvos we don’t normally give as much thought to. someone on a sincere journey for truth and self-actualization of what they are meant to be in this world should only be supported in my opinion!

    • bikores.blogspot.com

      Actually, not touching one’s beard is a halacha according to numerous poskim, Chassidic and non-Chassidic.

      Even according to those who permit shaving, it can only be done with certain shavers that don’t perform like razors.

      It’s no simple matter and certain not just a minhag. It entails several possible Biblical prohibitions.

      • “Numerous poskim” do not make something halacha. Numerous poskim also permit and prohibit many things that we do not hold today as halacha. The halachic status of shaving one’s beard–in a permissible way, as I mentioned in my previous comment–is that it is not assur, period.

        • bikores.blogspot.com

          Poskim decide what is halachically permissible and what isn’t.

          The halachic status of touching the beard in any way is deemed forbidden by many poskim. You don’t seem to like that or believe it but that doesn’t change the reality.

          The Torah forbids the “destruction” of specific parts of the beard. There are Halachic authorities who say that cutting any part of the beard, even without a razor-like implement, falls under the Biblical prohibition of cross-dressing.

          The Chofetz Chaim and the Chazon Ish, to name two famous non-Chassidic poskim, said shavers are forbidden.

          The sefer “Hadras Ponim-Zokon” by Rabbi Weiner documents the opinions and decisions of every leading Halachic authority of past and present generations concerning the cutting and growth of the beard. The
          overwhelming majority forbid all methods of removing the beard,
          including the use of scissors.

          You may follow a reputable rav who opines otherwise and that’s fine but it doesn’t negate the reality that numerous world-class poskim rule that it’s assur.

          • I understand now. You’re just trying to explain why my use of the word “minhag” was incorrect. I hereby withdraw it.

  3. I think he’s trying to be true to himself and his relationship to Hashem. I’m sorry people are using it to denigrate Judaism. I think he’ll appeal to more people without the beard. May he continue to use his talents to spread Hashem in the world.

  4. Hi Chana Jenny
    I just read your interview in the Nshai Newsletter and loved it. I read your book Expecting miracles but didn’t know about your website. This is my first time here. Thanks for sharing this video, I also enjoyed it and found it interesting.
    He has such a sweet voice! I’ve never listened to his music before.
    I love that you are into news as well as being a mommy. This is my new favourite site!!!
    All the best

  5. Why is this being discussed on jewishmom.com?

    • good question. I heard matisyahu’s explanation, and thought it was interesting and worth sharing. I was interested in hearing what other JewishMOMs think about the issue of beards in general.

      • Ah, so it’s a girl thing! Yay! So then my two cents are that I refused to let my husband grow a beard for 10 years until teshuva, and now he sports a very long beard. I see how it brings out his true neshama. I can’t look at pictures of him without a beard now. I feel the same for matis. But it was something he had to do, and I believe that in time he will grow it back for all the right reasons. And if he doesn’t, big deal. As long as he doesn’t give up his soulful words and music talent…. Hashem gave him those gifts.

  6. chana jenny, if you asked me what i thought of beards in general 30 years ago, i would have answered that it was a man’s personal choice, but i didn’t think most men looked good with a beard.

    30 years and teshuva later, i find it funny that when i look at jewish men without beards, they look sorta naked to me….

  7. This whole discussion is very interesting on many levels. I grew up religious but most men I knew didn’t have beards. Now, after being part of chabad for over forty years I too feel that men look somewhat nude without a beard. But aside from that I have seen many people do teshuva for many different reasons and some stay with it and some don’t. Slow and steady rather than fast and impulsive is generally wiser. Some people work from the inside out and some from the outside in! A beard is an external thing but makes a big statement. Men can become religious without growing a beard but taking one off is making a statement that seems to reject other standards as well. Men that withstood torture not to remove their beards are showing mesiras nefesh but not everyone is on that level. Nowadays, no one is forcing any one to grow or shave their beard so taking one off is even more of a visual slap in the face to Chassidishe minded people. It is interesting that there were many Chassidishe people who rejected his music in the past since his style was so ‘goiyish’ now they seem to be vindicated. I liked the messages of most of his music but am concerned where he is going on his personal journey.

  8. I just keep wondering what his family reaction was – what did Talli think and did his kids recognize him? When my husband cuts his hair my two-year-old gets stand-offish!
    And then there’s the beard’s perspective: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b8wi-MbnlnI

  9. I think that with all the passing judgement going on lately about who’s tzanua and who’s not our place is to accept people the way they are. As they say you get more bees with honey than vinegar. That is what we want, to make the Jewish people ONE. That wont happen with more judging eachother. As long as it is acceptable within the large scope of halacha and noone gets hurt or damaged who are we to judge? If we would all look as closely at ourselves as we do at others we would all be in a better situation.

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