Thursday, May 04, 2006

The Mattisyahu Debate

Allright, new rant. was with a friend last night, and we got into a myriad of ridiculous discussions, the results of which will be most of the posts on this blog so far. topic of debate for the evening: Mattisyahu- savior of the disaffected, nearly-assimilated American Jewish youth, or the downfall of our nation?
arguments for Mattisyahu: awesome to have an Orthodox, committed Jew as a role model in mainstream American culture. the fact that he's making non-affiliated Jewish young ppl aware of basic Jewish concepts and proud of their heritage can only be a positive thing. think of outreach on a massive scale, directed at and succeding with a segment of the population that is nearly imposssible to reach in almost any other format.
against: being in such a mainstream and secular environment is a dangerous position to be in, and not just for reasons of culteral influence. such a visible position is a huge responsibility. every single action is examined, analyzed, picked to pieces. and one small mistake could spell disaster, even things that aren't your fault. for example, would anyone really have wanted Leiberman in the White House during and after 9/11? being high-profile has major consequences.
here's the thing. Leiberman didn't make it into office. and Mattisyahu did make it to international stardom. which is not the simplest thing for anyone, whatever your affiliation, beliefs, or strata in the entertainment industry. there's dozens of Jewish artists and musicians, even with albums out, who no one's ever heard of; and dozens more who aren't even that successful. than there are those who are moderately successful in the Jewish world, but who the greater secular world has no idea exist. this is also true of secualr musicians and artists- dozens of whom enjoy success on a modest scale, even enough to make a living off of, but who just never quite make it to the big-time. so the fact that Mattisyahu is currently working with high-profile performers from the secular music world, and who's music is also on the top-ten list of ipod downloads, did not come from nowhere. these things do not happen to just anyone, every day, in anyone's world. what I'm saying is, assuming the existence of G-d, and that He's actually in control of things (which I do assume), we've got to give Him some credit for placing people where He does, right? this kind of a position is a tool that, like any other, can be used for good or evil. If G-d chose to give this man this kind of astronomical success, then there is potential to say there's a reason for it. not to say that there's no danger in the situation. G-d's put men in high-power positions before, and they've made a mess of it. look at Bar Kochba, or Shabtai Tzvi, or any other number of influential political, social, or religious leaders. the potential for disaster is definitely there. that said - since G-d put him there, there's also clearly tremendous potential for good. the positive influence he's capable of having is unlimited. it is not up to us, who are not in control of these things, to decide that it is wrong for him to be where he is. he did not put himself there. the One who put him there clearly has a better idea of what's going on than we do. and since he has as of yet done nothing to shame or damage the Jewish community, done nothing but create positive images of our community in the greater secular world and create pride and a sense of connection in Jewish unaffiliated youth, I cannot see where we would get off, at the moment, saying he has no right to be where G-d has placed him.
that's my personal view. commentary is, as always, welcome.

8 Comments:

Blogger Tobie said...

I think the most interesting thing about this debate is the assumption on both sides that Mattisyahu is something major. I dunno. While it is pretty cool that there can be an Orthodox Jew at that level of fame, I don't personally see any sweeping, wide-spread effects, not even something like the Carlebach kiruv phenomenon. Is it possible that Mattisyahu is just a non-issue?

8:27 PM  
Blogger Miri said...

it is certainly possible that Mattisyahu is a non-issue. that remains to be seen with time. "Rome wasn't built in a day," and all that. I was only made aware that this debate existed at all bc of something a friend of mine said, and then we got into an argument abt it; and apparently, alot of ppl are against him. and it was something to write abt. hey, did you know that Carlebach was also a Chabadnik?

8:42 PM  
Blogger Tobie said...

he was? that's hilarious- it fits the stereotypes so well that it ought not be allowed.

9:56 PM  
Blogger chasid said...

how so?

6:24 AM  
Blogger Miri said...

because who but a Lubavitcher would be someone like Shlomo CArlebach? well,we all thought, Shlomo CArlebach was the exception to that rule. only, it turns out, he isn't. which is unexpected, bc you might have guessed it, but no one ever thought it was true.

8:32 PM  
Blogger chasid said...

Shlomo Carlbach was a Lubavitcher until he started violating halacha, like kissing and touching women (in public) and other things that are completely antithetical to Lubavitch and halacha in general, and then Lubavitch "disowned" him.

I hope Matisyahu does not do the same, me feeling is he won't.

However, you are right that Shlomo Carlbach was typical of a lubavitcher in that he cared a lot for other yiden and was the first to reach out when other misnagdim viewed non-frum yiden as goyim.

7:51 PM  
Blogger Miri said...

of course I didn't mean to imply that anything Shlomo CArlebach did that violated halacha could be credited to Chabad. my point was, there's a reason it tends to be Chabadnikim who end up doing things like end up in the international spotlight. No other sect of Judaism seems to be able to produce characters quite like these- as you said, no one else cares as much abt these ppl, at least not enough to reach out to them in this particular format. which I think is a positive refelction on Chabad, personally.

1:25 AM  
Blogger rokky said...

hey nice debate. theory of why it's usually the 'chabadnicks': we allow rselves to leave r homes in hopes of bringing pple back to faith. while doing so, we get influenced. (if u've heard anything about the way gals of labavitch dress u'll know what i mean).
also there r many dif veiws as to what qualifies as jewish music. some say it has to be written/played by a frum person. (u judge how frum u think they r). others say if it makes u move untznuisdinkly, it's inappropaite.

4:04 PM  

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