Here is the new Hanukkah video by Matisyahu posted yesterday. Notice the interplay of Christmas and Hanukkah, first assault, then imprisoned in the culture of Christmas, oppressed by nutcracker, victorious in hockey, then appreciated for his own infinite miraculous light. Finally Greeks, Jews, Hasidim, Christians, Antiochus, and Santa dance together. (Thirty years ago, the organization Gesher was risque by having the lights of Hebrew and Greek letters dance together to show there can be a Greek-Torah synthesis.)
There is a blurring of holiday spirit and commercial making of music, hanukkah festivities and the internet, a mix of particular Jewish pride with universalism, and a very hip holiday spirit. The hanukkah message is the miracle to solve our struggles and falls, to win our fights. Dont miss Matisyahu in Santa Clause costume with tzitzis.The video “Miracle,” was produced by Dr. Luke protégé Kool Kojak (Flo Rida, Katy Perry, Ke$ha). This is real entrance into American culture. (And ej – as production and popular music goes this is top of the line. Just compare it the several local frum groups that issued videos yesterday.)
Matisyahu will be playing at YU tonight, Thursday. He will certainly sing this song. Attendees will learn it by heart on their ipod, and probably break out into cheer when he sings it. I have no question that I will be able to go around Teaneck this shabbos and hear people sing this as their hanukkah tune. We have come along way from singing dreidel, dreidel and the debate between modern and non-Zionist Jews about singing MiYemalel Gevurot Yisrael. Any thoughts on the role of popular culture in the community?
I posted the video because it relates to what I am writing/editing today. As stated in my previous post on pop culture, this certainly expands horizons of Jewish music, interfaith relations, role of the Orthodox Jew in America, Christian view of the Jews, and meaning of the holiday. So, how will all those young Centrists process the relationship of Thursday nights performance and the shiur given in the morning? Which will stick in their mind this week? During the course of their lives at points of “struggle and fall” will they turn to the message of shiur or to that of the Thursday night performance? Are their lives, as actually lived, very much different than than the video? Back to Certeau, how does a video like this allow them to accept the hierarchy, power structure, and vision of Centrism and then subvert it?
As a side point, Matisyahu as an ex-lubavitcher, ex-chasid- is an OK influence for YU. His religious views and cultural synthesis can serve as a mirror to people and a guide for navigating personal decisions. Notice how popular culture can work in ways not allowed to high culture.
Jonathan Sarna speculated about his future potential:
The comparisons to the late Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach were almost automatic, wrote Jacob Berkman in 2005 in the New Jersey Jewish Standard. It was Carlebach who started playing in Greenwich Village coffee houses in the 1950s. His audiences were typically disconnected young Jews. This movement took off for Carlebach during the Peace Movement of the 1960s and ’70s. “Matisyahu is really how Carlebach was in the ’50s,” said Dr. Jonathan Sarna of Brandeis University in the Jewish Standard piece. “Carlebach only really began building on his followers and creating communities in the ’60s, by which time he had already established his musical reputation. But looking at the trajectory of Carlebach, one could see in Matisyahu somebody who, if nothing else, could have a similar kind of trajectory. For those of us interested in the constant renewal in Jewish life, here is a figure who we may look back upon and say, ‘Yes, he helped renew American Jewish life.’ from here
From an interview in a Christian magazine:
(W)ithin evangelical Christianity thereâs a big lack of appreciation for the Jewishness of Jesus as a rabbi, as a prophet and so on and so forth.
But one thing that is known is that He could see that there was corruption and He got turned off by it, which is understandable. And then He kind of started a new wave of Judaism, but it didnât work, which is kind of a danger, I guess, with anyone that starts a movement, you know, a breakaway kind of thing.
Interesting to see Matisyahu refer to Christianity as “a new wave of Judaism,” as if it were the Reform movement. – from here.