Matisyahu and the Nine Days

Posted on August 4, 2011 by


I wrote this post yesterday as an introduction to my coverage of the Matisyahu concert:

Today is my sister’s birthday, and a few days ago, her friends and I decided to celebrate by taking her to a Matisyahu concert. Only once we had bought the tickets, however, did we realize that the concert, which is happening this evening, falls within the “Nine Days” – the period between the first day of the Jewish month of Av and Tisha B’Av, the day on which we fast to commemorate the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem. These are some of the most somber days of the Jewish calendar, during which it is customary for Jews to refrain from such enjoyable activities as eating meat, swimming, and listening to live music. But we’ve already bought our tickets for tonight. Now what do I do?

But wait – Matisyahu will be there! Aside form his music, he’s probably best known for being an Chasidic Jew, so you’d expect him to know about the pseudo-prohibition against live music during these days. Perhaps he has found some halakhic loophole through which he finds his circumstances permissive. Or perhaps he doesn’t expect any other observant Jews to be present tonight. Personally, I suspect that he considers his performance to be of greater value to his own community and to other people than observance of a repressive custom, albeit an ancient one.

So I’m going to the concert – the rationale for which I, too, must deeply consider – to see what a Matisyahu show is all about and to ask whatever Jewish folk are there how they rationalize their presence. It’s also going to be interesting to observe whether his fans are generally Jewish like himself or not.

Just like many of us here on campus, Matisyahu is a Jew charged with reconciling his observance with a rapidly-changing modern world. We all confront our challenges in unique ways. There are certain to be things we can learn about our society by talking to people at this concert and getting their take on how Jewish “time” is to be observed.

Updates to follow. And as always, your comments are encouraged. Stay tuned!