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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review May 23, 2006 /25 Iyar, 5766

And he shall build Jerusalem?

By Norman Lebrecht

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The rise of a neo-Hasidic Sabbath-observant Jew with an act based on the late Bob Marley says a lot about the spiritual vacancy in pop, believes one of the most widely-read modern commentators on music, culture and politics


http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | If anyone had told me that the next big thing was going to be a neo-Hasidic Sabbath-observant Jew with an act based on the late Bob Marley I would have reached for the copy of the Mental Health Act that I keep on the desk for persistent believers in analogue superiority and classical revivals. Still, Billboard doesn't lie.


Youth, the new CD by Matisyahu, entered the US charts at number four last month after a live album sold a cool half-million and spawned a radio hit, King Without A Crown. Whatever else this thing might be, it is pretty huge and moving fast.


Matisyahu, 26, is going global, he tells me, 'to Africa, China, Russia, everywhere'. This is messianic talk and no mistake, a beat-boxed message in a tangled beard and flying shirt-fringes. Like hand-baked matzah at Passover, this is going to take some digesting, and not only by matzah-eaters.


The music, early reggae with an explicit Jamaican lilt, betrays Marley influences both melodically — 'One woman for me' is a straight take on No Woman, No Cry — and in its psalmic yearnings for Zion. 'Jerusalem, if I forget you,' sings Matisyahu in his catchiest track, 'may my right hand forget what it's supposed to do.'


The personal touches are biddy-bom scats that come from Hasidic hymnody, a sweet high-baritone voice and a crisp elocution that ensures no word gets missed (to make doubly sure, lyrics are printed in the CD sleeve). 'The message,' insists Matisyahu, 'is all in the music.' But when he calls for the Temple to be rebuilt and chants 'I want Mashiach (Messiah) now', the homily turns revivalist and inescapably political. This is pulpit thumping with a hip-hop beat, a seductive musical attraction with a word-of-G-d sectarian agenda.


The artist known as Matisyahu is a born-again Jew who was born first in 1979 as Matthew Miller in the American dreamland of West Chester, Pennsylvania, to a pair of social workers whom he describes as 'non-practicing Jews'. His grandfather played pro basketball in 1930s Detroit and bequeathed the future singer his imposing height — six foot three and counting. The tall kid began rapping at high school and carried on at college in Manhattan. Troubled by the drug scene and searching for roots, he put in for a semester in Jewish spirituality, which gave him a list of synagogues to visit.


The first was a happy-clappy Upper West Side 'shul' founded by Shlomo Carlebach, a German-born, guitar-plucking rabbi who reached out to alienated youngsters with catchy tunes to Hebrew prayers. Carlebach, when I knew him, was shunned by Jewish orthodoxy for being inappropriately tactile and over-prone to sitting in student rooms where substances were smoked. He was, though, a gifted composer whose liturgies outlasted his death in 1994 and were transplanted with much hullabaloo to a Cool Shul in Maida Vale, London, sponsored by the Saatchi brothers.


The budding rapper liked Carlebach's tunes but not the laidback ethos: 'I felt pretty alone in terms of my take on the world.' He was drawn to an NYU chaplain, Rabbi Dov Yonah Korn, 'who came from a similar secular background to me — he was a person I could learn from.' Korn was a Chabad rabbi, an emissary of the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menahem Mendel Schneerson, half of whose followers thought he might be the Messiah and the other half believe he is still alive.


'It was just after 9/11,' relates Matisyahu. 'My grandmother was passing away in Florida and I had this little leather yarmulke in my pocket that Rabbi Korn gave me. One morning at breakfast I started to wear it, kept it on when I went left the house and never really took it off. I started growing a beard, wearing my tzitzis (fringes) and letting them hang loose.' Black hat and coat soon followed, along with a rigorous adherence to religious codes. His parents, he reckons, were 'pretty cool with it.'

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He married Tahlia, a protégée of Rabbi Korn's — 'because I knew I'd be around pretty women and I didn't want to tempt myself' — and he is the father of a baby boy, Laivi Yitzchak. He will not shake hands with female fans and takes a fridge full of kosher foods on the road. Back home, he spends his days in a Crown Heights, Brooklyn, yeshiva (seminary) for new Lubavitch Jews.


Religious awakening interrupted his college career, but not before a couple of classmates latched onto a demo tape and used it to get funding for a Jewish music label, Jdub Records. Jdub booked his first gigs, went platinum with his debut disc. Last year he defected to a new management and a Sony deal. Resentment welled in the Jewish press as Jdub's founders accused him of betrayal and ingratitude. 'Ben and Aaron were never my friends at college, they were acquaintances,' retorts Matisyahu briskly. 'They sent out my song to get a grant when I went to yeshiva. Next I knew they were booking concerts and saying they managed me.'


It is clear that he never wanted to be attached to the general run of Jewish music, least of all to Orthodox wedding and bar mitzvah pop that hitches biblical and Talmudic lyrics to a Beach Boys beat. 'Those guys are 20, 30 years out of date,' snorts Matisyahu. 'Their stuff is not particularly Jewish and they don't belong to now.'


His music, like Marley's, is a reflection of an esoteric faith, its strength sourced in the unattainable paradox of an earthly paradise. When Matisyahu sings of building a new Temple he is not out to inflame Christian and Moslem sensitivities, any more than his yearning for Messiah knowingly promulgates the Lubavitch claim to the Holy Crown. He appears, from the art itself and from our short conversation, to be a genuine naïve, concerned at most with the spirituality of the individual: 'A man is just a man, filled with faults and weakness,' he laments in Late Night in Zion, 'for a young Jerusalem, all alone and speechless.'


Matisyahu is not alone in offering an alternative to the mainstream sell of popular music, the sex and self context of arid consumerism. There is a flourishing field of Christian pop and many westernized Muslims are seeking fusion in faith and song. If Matishayu has hit on something, and the numbers suggest he has a serious hit on his hands, it is on a spiritual vacancy in pop, the absence of the beyond. At this point he is still a freak phenomenon, a novelty act. But the issues that Matisyahu raises have the potential for mass appeal and the music leaves a profoundly satisfying sediment.

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JWR contributor Norman Lebrecht is Assistant Editor of London's Evening Standard and presenter of lebrecht.live on BBC Radio 3. He has written ten books about music, which have been translated into 13 languages. They include the international best-sellers The Maestro Myth and When the Music Stops. His website is NormanLebrecht.com Comment by clicking here.

© 2006, Norman Lebrecht