"Chanukah Redux"

Here is a good post from Jewish Israel about the holiday confusion in galut (the diaspora), symbolized by the so-called Chanukah video by Matisyahu.

People may not understand why an American who loves America would consider leaving this great country to live in a tiny little, old-new country such as Israel.  If I were a Christian, or another non-Jew, I would be out of my mind to leave this country.  But I am a Jew.  I want to be in a country where my holidays, my religion and my culture are prominent, and are the "official" ones of the land in which I live.  That is why my long-term goal (hopefully shorter than longer) is to move back to Israel.  Although I love seeing the lights, colors and decorations of the holiday season--I have always loved lights and colors, my artistic nature craves it--I ache to see chanukiyot in people's windows and in doorways.

This excerpt of the Jewish Israel article might help explain some of my feelings to you, my loyal readers:
Despite the tragedy of last week's fire, this is the time of year when a Jew is especially grateful to be living in the land of Israel. One of the great joys and miracles of making aliyah is that we Jews can clean our system from Christmas imagery. We get to escape the trappings of America's holiday season and the feeling that somehow Hanukah and Christmas have been unwillingly pitted against each other in a grossly unfair competition. Alternatively and, perhaps, even more upsetting is when the holiday rites and customs of the Judaic and Christian faiths are mixed and assimilated to the point of Hellenistic absurdity.
 I posted earlier about the YU a cappella choir, and how in my opinion it was better than another band of singers.  What I hadn't mentioned in my post was Matisyahu's Chanukah video, which I had viewed.  And didn't appreciate.  I have no idea what his intent was--I think he is a talented and an observant Jew, so I can't figure this one out--from this video mixing Christmas imagery with Chanukah.  But it did not promote Jewish values and have any Jewish meaning to me.  The impression I got was that Matisyahu was looking to please his non-Jewish fans by sticking in non-Jewish holiday jokes, garb and general references.

This sort of sums up what I feel:
Mixed and Ironic Hanukah Messages

Perhaps the ultimate irony this Hanukah is that a Hasidic reggae singer Matisyahu, named after the hero of the Hanukah story, produced a video version of his Hanukah song "Miracles" which is loaded with Christian imagery. After viewing the Santa outfits, endless evergreen trees, and snow - not to mention one hedonistic "babe" – Jewish Israel was at a loss as to which "miracle" the video was referring to.
Jewish Israel entered the talkback fray at Shiloh Musings and, in a nutcracker, felt that Matisyahu's video serves to reinforce a Hellenistic (melting pot) culture. The very people who need definition and clarity - assimilated Jews - aren't getting it, and it's a shame that the talented and Torah observant Matisyahu didn't rise to the challenge and produce a dynamic and catchy video with an unambiguous and authentic Jewish message. That would have been a major Kiddush Hashem.
A Kiddush Hashem in A Capella
Yeshiva Univeristy's a capella Maccabeats appear to have overwhelmingly trounced Matisiyahu with their new Hanukah video "Candlelight" - based on Mike Tompkins' version of "Dynamite".
The talented YU singers appeared live on CBS, were featured on the Today Show, and received publicity from the Wall Street Journal , CNN , and the Washington Post. Matisyahu's video made it into Haaretz, whileTime and the Huffington Post posted on performances by both Matisyahu and the Maccabeats.
As of this blogging, the Maccabeats YouTube video is enjoying over 2 million hits and 4,500 comments, compared with Matisiyahu's 340,000 plus hits and 1700 comments.
Could the popularity of unadorned singing bochurim indicate that American Jewry is hungering for latkes accompanied by simplicity and authenticity, and that American society appreciates a genuine, no frills Hannukah story (even if it is a musical imitation delivered a capella style – which in Italian means "in the manner of the church")?
Here is one American Jew hungering "for the latkes accompanied by simplicity and authenticity...[and] a no frills Hannukah story."


Batya said…
I love the post. And I'm thankful for G-d giving us the intelligence to invent internet and blogging.
Yonatan said…
Thank you for the post. You write something that I felt also about Mattisyahu's video. I respected and liked his work up to that point, but I couldn't even complete watching this video. It made my stomach turn. Like you, I didn't know where he was trying to come from with this, but I know how I felt.
Lady-Light said…
Batya: Thank you for the compliment; I absolutely love technology and the internet and blogging. And thank Ribono shel Olam for creating us with BRAINS which we should use for good purposes (the internet being one of them, heheh).

Yonatan: What you say is very interesting (and sad). I just loved Mattisyahu when he started out. He believed firmly in Judaism (he was mekurav through Chabad), and I think the vast majority of his audience respected him for not wavering from his Orthodoxy.
Now, it seems as if he is slowly slipping away from frumkeit, towards 'the mob,' if you know what I mean.
It's almost as if he is poking fun of, or worse--ashamed--of his Jewishness. As if he wants to be like...everyone else.
What happened to the pride? I'm wondering whether life in "show biz" has gotten to him...?
Tennis Guy said…
Nice expressions

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