Matisyahu came out with his new Chanukah song/Music video.
To be frank - I found it somewhat disturbing. The song itself is somewhat uninspired. It feels over produced and lacks the raw energy of Matisyahu's original offerings.
More upsetting, however, are the visuals that accompany the song.
A skating Matis, accompanied by two kids, bumps into a man dressed in the red hat of the Holiday Season™
The two are taken back to Ancient Israel to relive the Chanukah story.
And there it all falls apart.
The imagery is entirely derivative of Modern day consumerist Xmas. The Jerusalem of my mind doesn't have the pine tries and snow of Rankin/Bass holiday specials.
Soon a captured Matisyahu, himself now dressed like old S. Nich is held imprisoned by a nutcracker. Before escaping he exchanges tinsel covered presents with his Maccabee friend.
Before the Kitschy video ends, Matisyahu dances around a menorah with the Greek, Maccabbee, a Lubavitcher (a certain friend of mine) and others.
Coming to, he wishes the viewers a "Happy Holidays."
I would venture to say that the one redeeming merit of the whole video is that Matisyahu and the other performers seem to be having a blast . . . The best to you my friends.
However, perhaps even more disturbing then this video sell-out to seasonal consumerism is an essay penned by Matisyahu and posted on NPR's website.
In short he wonders why there's such a disparity in numbers between Chanukah songs and their non-Jewish equivalent.
Matisyahu questions if the complexity(?) of the Xmas message perhaps gives more room for folk song.
I quote: "Plot lines may be a part. The Christmas story has a lot of material to work with. There's Jesus and his birth, the wise men, their gifts and tons of frankincense. Then there's Santa, his reindeer, his elves and his drunken escapades over Grandma."
Chanukah is somehow lacking in his books due to its "straight linear story. The underdog Jews miraculously defeat the huge Greek army, and the Menorah in the Holy Temple miraculously stays lit for eight days. There's less to draw from, and if it weren't for Adam Sandler, Chanukah music wouldn't get any radio play at all."
I fail to see his point - does the imagery of a virgin birth in a barn (do I even want to picture that in my head) and Northern European paganist relics brought to America by successive waves of Dutch, British and German immigrants really provide more imagery a ink for the quill of the heart then the epic battle of the oppressed over throwing their tyrannical dictators. I for one find the victory of spirit of the few against the many, the single cruse of oil left pure and untouched in the Greek rape of all that's holy - to be a far more powerful image.
In reality the lack of Chanukah songs has less to do with the lack of imagery - or even Matisyahu's next answer - the so called /White Xmas syndrome' - and more to do with the fact that before the modern age where chanukah was used to battle 'tree envy' it really was a 'smaller' holiday.
That's not to say that I don't think chanukah shouldn't be broadcast in the public thoroughfare - just the opposite, its message is timeless and universal - but only to give a reason why we there seems to be a dearth of Chanukah songs.
"Is it possible that one day the tide may turn, that Jews and Christians will come together in the studio and start making Chanukah music? Will we ever get to hear Drake and Rihanna's hit single, "Chanukah's Sexy Love Lights"? Maybe, but it would take a real Chanukah miracle."
Somehow all of this, the music video, the analysis, betrays a deep ignorance or misguided, though well meaning, distortion of what Chanukah really is about.
Chanukah is about our return to the pure cruse of oil left untouched in our souls, the victory of a uniquely Jewish way of life over that of assimilation.
Chanukah teaches us to hold dear what is unique to us, and that through respecting our own traditions, we can come to a universal understanding of the unique qualities everyone posses.
Instead we are left with the feel-good but shallow belief that by sharing our traditions, by dancing with S Nich and holding out the belief that Rihanna will make a Chanukah single . . .
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Posted by Mottel at 9:06 PM