Matisyahu has been on repeat this weekend at our house 🙂 and I finally got to visit Crown Heights, the Hasidic community he is from, a few weeks ago while in NYC. Also, he is one of the FEW musicians I’ve seen live. This past year he played at the House of Blues, Orlando!
Introduction to the Hasidic Movement & Matisyahu
The Jewish Hasidic movement was born somewhere between the 1690’s and 1760’s. The Hasidic movement, founded by Rabbi Israel Ben Eliezer, focuses on the spirituality and joy in the worship of G-d. Hasidic Jews are deemed “ultra-religious” and follow Orthodox rules to a meticulous point, they are so Orthodox that they are set apart from more mainstream Orthodox Jews.
Matisyahu was not born in to Hasidism, he was born Matthew Millerov on June 30, 1979 in Westchester. In his early life Matthew liked to rebel against his parents and his traditional religious values. He did this because he considered himself a hippie during the 80’s. At age 14 Matthew had some kind of revelation and reconciled himself with his Judaism. In an effort to make Matthew happy, his parents sent him away to a wilderness school. There he was able to study Hasidic law, but most importantly, that was where he fell in love with reggae and rap.
Matisyahu’s use of Religion in his Lyrics
One of his most famous songs, “King Without A Crown” is a clear example of how deeply connected to G-d Matthew is (All the following lyrics are taken directly from the song “King Without A Crown”).
- Line 1: “You’re all that I have and you’re all that I need.” In this line he says that G-d is his true creator and it’s all he needs to feel complete.
- Line 2: “Each and every day I pray to get to know you please.” In this line he acknowledges that he prays so that he can meet his creator when his time comes.
- Line 3: ”I want to be close to you, yes I’m so hungry, You’re like water for my soul when it gets thirsty.” In this line he refers to a hunger and thirst for G-d’s wisdom on a spiritual and not physical level.
- Line 4: ”Without you there’s no me.” In this line he refers to the fact that Matisyahu’s identity would not exist without G-d.
- Line 8-12: “With these, demons surround all around to bring me down to negativity but I believe, yes I believe, I said I believe I’ll stand on my own two feet. Won’t be brought down on one knee.” In these lines he talks about the negative feelings like depression and anxiety; the “demons” he refers to are all the things that try to pull him away from G-d but he remains faithful.
- Line 13: “Fight with all of my might and get these demons to flee.” In this line he talks about a spiritual battle where victory represents resisting temptation and again remaining faithful.
- Line 21-22: “What’s this feeling? My love will rip a hole in the ceiling” In this line he describes how overwhelmed he is by the feeling of love towards G-d; it’s so strong he can’t contain it.
- Line 25: “Want Moshiach now so it’s time we start revealing.” Moshiach means ‘messiah,’ this refers to the prophecy of a savior to mankind.
Matisyahu leaves the Hasidic Community
Matthew Millerov, a.k.a. Matisyahu, recently decided to leave Hasidic life He decided the leave the strict lifestyle because he felt that he had lost his purpose within the community. Matisyahu is still deeply connected to Judaism and some elements of his Jewish practice, but no longer identifies himself as a Hasidic Jew. Many of his fans were very upset because they thought that this meant the end of Matisyahu but it wasn’t.
His lyrics are still very religious but no longer reflect prayer, now they reflect a man who’s trying to find his spiritual path. His latest album, “Akeda,” reflects this stage of his life which he called the “unbinding” or separation from religion, getting out of his marriage and community relationships.