Busted Halo

Monica Rozenfeld moves to Brooklyn with two roommates — a Catholic and an observant Jew — and they each seek understanding of what it means to be religious.

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January 15th, 2012

Is a man only worth as much as his beard?


As my friend Esther calls it, what occurred a month ago was the shave heard round the world. Yes, famed former Chasidic reggae star Matisyahu, aka Matthew Miller, did what the general public saw as a drastic act, a visible break from Chasidic Judaism, leaving some to question if Matisyahu was even Jewish anymore.

I saw the photo in the morning via comedian Ari Teman‘s comment on Facebook.  Yes, it was surprising, and it took me a minute to realize what I was looking at, but I don’t think I gave it more than 5 minutes of thought.  So he shaved off his beard.  So what?  Yet mine didn’t seem to be the popular opinion.  Soon posts about Matisyahu’s beard, or lack thereof, were all over my Facebook and Twitter feeds.  Gossip sites and news outlets were reporting on it.  Fans were in a panic, as if Matisyahu’s beard was responsible for his talent.  Religious Jews were scared that he was headed “off the derech (path)”, questioning his observance.  Even my friends were asking if I heard about it and what I thought this meant.  My only concerns were for his three young boys – that they should be able to understand that their dad is the same person even if he looks differently — and his wife – that their marriage should be able to sustain any other changes this external one might bring.

But other than that, I really thought everyone was making a bit too big of a deal.  After all, isn’t Judaism supposed to allow for change?  For growth and evolution, the ability to question, to try out different practices and find what’s right for you?  And shouldn’t this apply to everyone and not exclude “Chassidic reggae superstars” despite that our children look up to them?

A man can do whatever he wants with his facial hair and the rest of his external appearance.  His speech and his actions are what really count.

The Author : Farrah Fidler
Farrah Fidler is a publicist and social media consultant. A native New Yorker, and recent transplant to Brooklyn, she has always been a soul searcher and is constantly looking for new ways to connect with G-d.
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  • Joe

    I am 27 Years old practicing Catholic with my Debut Album coming out for Catholic Youth. If you would look into my music or website it may be of interest to your ministry. Its not what you may think so please just give it 1 listen. It has been featured on Catholic Online. Thank you and God Bless You. Joepots.com

  • Theisen

    I recently had a glorious beard with a mustache that measured almost a foot from tip to tip. I shaved it off in order for an interview. Then I didn’t get the job.

    Although shaving his beard doesn’t make him less of a good person, it does diminish his awesomeness. I wish more men had beards. I would like to see beards be popular enough to get elected for president. There hasn’t been a beard in the white house for a long, long time.

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