Good afternoon/erev shabbos to you all. We interrupt your shabbos preparations to bring you this shocking (unless you’ve heard about it already) story.
I just read in The Jewish Week (which, BTW, I have NEVER read before) that Matisyahu no longer considers himself lubavitch. You should be able to read the article yourself here.
I have to say that I didn’t see this coming. Perhaps it is because I follow Matisyahu’s music, not so much his personal life (except I do know, because we have some common acquaintances – how’s that for name dropping? – that he has 2 children and has started wearing glasses on stage. We can get to that later.) so to me its a big shock.
I guess part of the reason this is a surprise to me is that there are 2 big issues (in my opinion) within the lubav community. I don’t know how widespread they are, I am not making generalizations here and EVERY community has its issues, but these 2 specifically belong to Chabad.
- The moshiach thing. It’s big. Dead people are not moshiach, and Rebbe Schneereson, zt”l is dead. There are rules against proclaiming that someone is moshiach, they have to prove it. And dying sort of eliminates them from the running. (Even bigger, a few freakish people think he’s a god. I saw a bumper sticker in Yerushalayim that has a picture of the lubav rebbe’s eyes, and says “Yechi ELOKEINU…” Hello avodah zarah! THEY are going to hell. If they’re lucky.)
- The whole not allowing converts/baalei teshuva to marry lubavitch FFBs. You’re NOT allowed to discriminate in this way, its an issur Torah, and yet some people find this to be perfectly acceptable since they consider it to be the ‘community standard,’ whatever that means. Poor excuse.
Anyway, you have to be deaf, blind and dumb to miss the moshiach thing, and since Matisyahu is NOT an idiot, AND since I have heard him refer to the rebbe as “the Rebbe, zt”l”, I know that he is aware of this controversy and has intentionally taken his stance.
As for the oppression of BTs and converts, he’s married. So I had just assumed (though we all know that that’s never a good idea) that he either knew – he’s married and did the lubav dating scene after all, if he was going to find out about it, that’s as good a time as any – or he didn’t, in which case, why would it come up now?
He has not quoted either of these reasons for leaving the lubavitch label/sect/group/whatever you want to call it, these are just my own primary concerns and so I am projecting in a big way for no reason.
He says he feels “boxed in” or something. Well, welcome to the Jewish world. This is what it means not to have moshiach. You can either let it get to you, or not. Granted, the push for conformity is stronger in a highly traditional community, though as far as chassidish communities go, Chabad is kind of…roomy. Not as boxy. There’s space. But its true of any community that there are expected standards of conformity, though they differ from person to person based on their standing and personal situation, where, if you meet those expectations, you will be accepted, and if you don’t, you may not be. (For example, a fresh BT will be treated with sparkles and niceties when they first discover shabbos, even if they don’t keep it, but after 6 years, if they keep coming over for meals and don’t make even an attempt to be shomer shabbos, someone is going to give them a dirty look, and maybe more.)
So maybe Matis reached that stage of expected conformity, and didn’t want to buy into that, and felt some judgment. Or maybe he has his other reasons. Whatever they are, it’s a big deal. (I’m ranting, I know, and it’s time to stop.)
People are now speculating whether, if he’s suddenly turned his back on chabad after becoming somewhat disillusioned, is he going to ditch the whole frumkeit thing all together? Will this be like the new Dr. Laura situation?
I wonder how his wife feels about the whole thing. In such a close community, there isn’t really room for one spouse to announce that they’re out, and for the other to stick around. Especially in such a high-profile situation. Was Tehilla herself ideologically committed to chabad? Or was that something she was ‘going along with’ and doesn’t really have strong feelings about herself? I wonder.
The other issue is, of course, his fans. For sure this is going to have some impact, and it will affect different sectors of his fan base in different ways. For the non-jewish crowd my guess is that it will be more of a curious ‘water-cooler’ discussion – ok, his fans are young, ‘soda machine’ discussion is more likely. It may change ever so slightly how they look at the lubav community but probably after a week or two it will fizzle away to nothing and not really have much lasting impact. For the hardcore lubavitch kids who are into his music, chances are they are going to feel disillusioned by their role model, assuming they consider him one. For a tiny fragment of these kids, it MAY open their eyes to the acceptability of other jewish groups. It depends where Matis goes with this.
For the secular jews – could it be a strike against lubavitch? Could this interfere with their kiruv efforts? I wonder where this will go.
I also kind of wonder about everyone else, including people like me, big Matis fans who never really identified with the lubav aspect of him, who kind of drew out the jewish essence of what he was doing and sort of glossed over the chabad part. Especially for the people with the anti-chabad sentiments out there, Matisyahu may have been considered either an example of what some people consider to be the ‘minority good lubavitch’ and for others was the exception to the rule. And now that he is dis-affiliating himself from chabad, this may be one more affirmation of the “Chabad-is-evil” sentiment (which, by the way, is rather unfair.)
Ok, I have better things to be doing erev shabbos. I am just feeling a bit shaken. That’s all. Does anyone else have any speculations on the matter?