It has been just over a week since Orthodox Jewish reggae star Matisyahu, tweeted a photo of his newly-shaved face, bare of his trademark beard and peyos along with a message that he is changing his image.
When Matisyahu Miller started becoming more connected to his Jewish roots 10 years ago, he started growing a beard and peyos, both integral parts of Chassidic Judaism. Now, he has decided to shave away his facial hair, but his decision does not come as an attempt to cut himself off from his Judaism. In a blog statement following the shave, he wrote, “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” now it seems that he is breaking free, trying to live and be a good person without necessarily requiring stringent rules that do not inherently make you a better person. As avid fan Shira Jason pointed out “A beard does not define a person, it is a physical not spiritual thing” not having an outer feature does not mean you are lacking on the inside.
As Matisyahu rose to the forefront of the reggae scene, his facial hair became less his religion and more his identity, causing many to question if this is the real Matisyahu. As critic Daniel Seriadski wrote in HEEB magazine, Matisyahu’s “iconic hasidically - garbed appearance was oft stated to have had more to do with his rise to stardom than his talent alone”. Many others believed as well, that it was not the real Matisyahu performing on stage. After shaving his beard he showed the world indeed it was not the full him, and admitted to his fans, “Sorry folks, all you get is me…no alias”.
After this radical change, many people are skeptical about Matisyahu’s future as a successful artist and his ability to inspire other Jews. Many critics considered his beard a novelty and are now doubtful about the prospects of future success, but Matisyahu assured his fans that this will be “an amazing year filled with music of rebirth”. A testament to his continued success with his new look is evident in his nearly sold out “Festival of Lights” concert series, that has been illuminating Chanukah for thousands of fans across the country.