Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Hairy and Hasidic No More

Sean O'Neal is the Newswire editor for the A/V Club, one of my favorite websites.  He is, to me, the undisputed master of the comedic headline.  I guess it's not for nothing to note that the A/V Club was started and is a subsidiary of The Onion.  My all-time favorite headline of his is:  "Man, who hath conquered the steed and harnessed fire to curse the darkness, will make Rollercoaster Tycoon into a movie."  The accompanying article is hilarious, too.  The other day, he came up with another gem:  "Hairy Hasidic musician Matisyahu is no longer two of those things."  The article is about a recent announcement from the until-recently hairy and Hasidic "reggae-rappper."

On his website, Matisyahu wrote:
Sorry folks, all you get is me…no alias. When I started becoming religious 10 years ago it was a very natural and organic process. It was my choice. My journey to discover my roots and explore Jewish spirituality—not through books but through real life. At a certain point I felt the need to submit to a higher level of religiosity…to move away from my intuition and to accept an ultimate truth. I felt that in order to become a good person I needed rules—lots of them—or else I would somehow fall apart. I am reclaiming myself. Trusting my goodness and my divine mission. 
Wow.  Some ripe theological fruit there.  For us, the most important line is that "in order to become a good person," Matisyahu felt he "needed rules -- lots of them --" or else he would "fall apart."  He says he approached this as his own choice.  In other words, he "chose" to submit himself to the Law (the rules) in order to try to become a good person.  So...did it work?  Well, a clean-shaven face and a renunciation of Hasidism seem to imply that it didn't.  More explicit is his statement that he "reclaiming" himself and trusting his own goodness.  I can't say that he's gone from the Law to the Gospel, necessarily, as he seems to still be relying on a goodness from within, but he does seem to have rejected the Law's ability to create goodness.

What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”  But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. For apart from the law, sin was dead.  Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died.  I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death.  For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death.  So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good. Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! Nevertheless, in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it used what is good to bring about my death…(Romans 7:7-13)

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