The letters of our thoughts are the ideas present in our mind before they come to realization . . . Thoughts that are, yet not felt . . . The words of the subconscious . . . of the soul . . .


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Matisyahu - Missing the Point of Chanukah

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.

He concludes:
"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 . . .


Benny said...

Mottel. Very nice analysis... You forgot to mention the bed scene at the opening of his 'vision'... Not too tznius!

Yossi said...

You are being extremely kind, in my view.

The video is nothing short of an atrocious chillul-Hashem. That's not hyperbolic, but descriptive.

A chassidishe looking Yid laying in bed as an untznius young lady stands nearby?! So much for the chamur'dike issur of histaklus-banashim.

Chassidim of all people are most makpid on matters of tznius, shimras-eynaim, shmiras-machshava, shmiras-habris, kedushas-Yisroel.

I never could have imagined a modern-Orthodox Jew making a video like this, let alone a chasidishe looking one with a beard and payos. Alas, one has.

Hashem yishmor.

I even sent an email to the Lubavitcher fellow who wrote the whole thing, credited in the end, sarcastically telling him the Rebbe must be so proud.

In truth, the Rebbe is weeping. This?! From someone who identifies with Chassidus Chabad?!

Oy Hashem have mercy.

And the Santa outfits?! The nutcracker?! The "Happy Holidays"?! Are you kidding me.

Unabashed goyishkeit!!!

Ironic, given the real message of Chanuka is a repudiation of goyishe culture.

May Hashem help all who stray return to Him in truth.

May He spare us from the temptations of our goyishe culture, enabling us to become true warriors for kedushas-Yisroel this Chanuka.

Yossi K said...

It's worse for religious people to see this than the non-religious. At least they see Chassidim as open-minded people for once. However this is no excuse for such behavior.

Yossi said...

To Yossi K., so it's good for the not-yet-religious to see chassidim as "open-minded" to non-Torah values and ideas?

Yossi K said...

In a way, yes. I see lots of not-yet-religious people feeling from this that religiousness doesn't need to be so abstract. However, as I mentioned above, this is not the right path to achieve this.

e said...

His essay isn't too bright.

Anonymous said...

Correct Yossi K., making a chillul-Hashem, embracing goyishe symbolism, and being machshil es harabbim is probably not the right path to achive this. Agreed.

Just like a guy said...

Hey, maybe the whole thing was meant to be ironic.

Rambler said...

I thought he was trying to depict the commercialistic "holiday season" as the enemy that the Maccabees fought against. He and his namesake were imprisoned by a nutcracker and forced to dress as santa, and surrounded by other cliche holiday imagery. What puzzles me is why the women were not covered up? Especially when it would have made normal for them to wear coats on the ice. I wonder if someone else on the project put that part in over his objection? Mottel, did your chassid friend who dances on screen for a moment consider refusing to appear together with a woman in such an impractically short skirt?

I suspect that he merely wishes that when he was a lonely, confused Jewish boy in public school inundated by all the "Holiday" fervor, he had heard a Hannuka song on the radio to tell him that there is a place where he belongs. He just can't pass on the chance to give that to other kids, no matter the price.

Yehoishophot Oliver said...

I have in general thought highly of Matisyahu's music and character until now, but seeing this made me feel like tearing keriyah. This is such a chillul Hashem from every perspective:

-immodesty--the exact opposite of the message of Chanukah, which is uncompromising purity in avodas Hashem, with the emphasis that the Greeks were defiling Jewish women, and that this was one of the reasons that the Jews revolted, with the encouragement of their righteous wives
-moral relativism, treating Chanukah and Cristmas lehavdil as equal--see here
-wearing a Santa Claus costume (would you wear a torquemada costume for fun? that's roughly what it's akin to, see here)
-a Yid disgracing himself in front of the goyim--the exact opposite of Chanukah, which is making a kiddush Hashem

Anonymous said...

i couldn't agree more with Yossi and Rabbi Oliver. a terrible chillul hashem.

Mendy said...

To say the video misses the point of the Chanuka is a grand understatement, putting it mildly.

C said...

I am generally not a Matisyahu fan, but I loved the song. Until I saw the video... and I was really turned off.

It's a shame though, cuz the song is a good one.

Batya said...

After I posted it, I received lots of negative comments.