Three months ago, singer Matisyahu, formerly known as Matthew Miller, posted a picture to his Facebook fan page of himself at age 16 with beaded dreadlocks, ripped denim shorts and a Star of David necklace, in mid-bite, with a sandwich in hand.
The picture’s caption said that Matisyahu had “shared a good laugh” with the friend from Alexander Muss High School in Israel, who gave him the photograph after a recent performance.
It was during that two-month high school program in Israel that Miller, a product of a liberal Jewish upbringing, first connected to Orthodox Judaism. Later on, in college, he connected with the Lubavitch movement of Hassidism, grew a beard and became Matisyahu, the Hassidic reggae-rapster. Now, years later, he appears to be eschewing Hassidism, having cut off his hair, dyed it blonde and shaved his beard, as well as moved to Los Angeles with his wife and three kids.
Yet something about the old photo must have moved his imaginative soul, as the same photo is pictured at the start and end of his latest video — for “Sunshine,” off his upcoming “Spark Seeker” album.
In the video, the newly shorn, kippah-less and beardless Matisyahu romps through Israel on motorcycle, bicycle and mule, from an overlook of Jerusalem’s Old City to King Solomon’s cavernous mines (the only scene where he has a visible kippah on his head).
As the video ends, Matisyahu takes the photo, now with burnt edges, out of the smoking ashes, and smiles back at his 16-year-old self and then looks off into the distant desert sunset.
Will it be the woven dark dreadlocks of 16-year-old Matthew Miller or the greying beard and side locks that define reggae-rap superstar Matisyahu? Only time will tell, because in the words of Matisyahu himself, “When I was 18 and I shaved my dreadlocks to let go of my identity, I was returning to a time prior to religion or rules or right, a place where truth shows itself in beauty and balance and I felt it was time to walk a new path.”