The Need For A Religious Jew To Talk To The World

An Orthodox rabbi writes an open letter to reggae singer Matisyahu:

When your beard came off and your large black yarmulke remained I took pause, but your reassuring Tweets kept my hopes high. The pictures you recently Tweeted of you and Wiz Khalifa – you with dyed blond hair sans yarmulke and Wiz smoking a joint – made me realized that you are no longer singing z’miros in Reggae. You are singing a different song.

I drive by the Windstar World Casino often. It is just across the Texas state line, in Oklahoma, built on an Indian reservation where the Judeo-Christian values of the Heartland don’t have jurisdiction, but close enough to tempt the millions in the Dallas Metroplex to turn gelt into glitter, savings into flashing lights. The dreamy theme of the building is a concrete version of the joint Wiz was smoking. It is not the place to offer even the most watered down Jewish values.

Your transition followed a path that has been traveled before. A creative Orthodox message becomes a broader universal message, and a broader universal message becomes a self-centered message. What was “Look at God” becomes “Look at me.”

“Me” is the currency of our pagan-light pop-culture.

I grew up in New York where God is glorified in the religious community but chided and derided in the surrounding culture. 12 years ago my wife and I left the Northeast to move to Dallas where we joined the Dallas kollel and subsequently started a meat business. It is a land like I have never seen growing up; God is revered and Jews are respected.

Over the years, I came to the conclusion that we need not be as insular as we were in New York and can speak values to the world around us, as our Patriarch Avraham did. The culture is utterly receptive; if it is listening, should we not speak? You, Matisyahu, were an example of what could be done if only we would speak.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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