Sex, drugs, rock and roll — and ultra-Orthodox Judaism. What else could you expect from an essay written by Matisyahu?
“Akeda, the Binding and Unbinding…the Long Walk Back,” published in Medium, tells the moving tale of the formerly Hasidic singer/songwriter’s journey to overcome substance abuse, his religious struggle, his Bob Marley obsession, and more.
But the best line in the entire text comes when he tries to describe a niggun, or Hasidic melody, in layman’s terms.
I was dedicating myself to the cause. I moved to Crown Heights and gave up on the world. Happiness would need to come from within. I prayed and studied and prayed and studied and mikva’d and drank vodka, and ate chicken and drank vodka and sang niggunim (Chassidic melodies that sound similar to the scene in Star Wars when the bad guy’s ship is arriving). I wore the uniform (black and white just like the ideology). I believed there was something wrong with me that needed to be eradicated. That wrongness inside could be purified if I just tried hard enough.
Let’s just pause and reflect. Here it is again: “sang niggunim (Chassidic melodies that sound similar to the scene in Star Wars when the bad guy’s ship is arriving).”
If there was an emoji for a standing ovation, I would insert it here.
The title of the essay refers to the singer’s 2014 album Akeda (“binding”), which is itself an allusion to the biblical story in which Abraham binds Isaac to sacrifice him. Watch the video for his newest single, “The Hard Way,” below.
Read the rest of the essay here.
Anne Cohen was the Forward’s deputy digital media editor. When she’s not looking for the secret Jewish history of Voodoo in New Orleans, or making lists about Ruth Bader Ginsburg , she writes for The Assimilator. She graduated from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism with an M.S. magazine concentration in 2012.
The Hidden Gem in Matisyahu's Medium Essay