Music

Matisyahu Opens Up About Religious Journey, Substance Abuse

“I asked myself, can I leave this religion or the parts of it that I feel trapped by?” Read More

By / February 9, 2015
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Formerly Orthodox singer-songwriter Matisyahu (A.K.A. Matthew Paul Miller) has penned a heartfelt, raw, honest essay for Medium about his religious journey, musical development, and struggle with substance abuse—which started when when he was just 14.

“I found company in Bob Marley and his music,” writes Matisyahu of his high school years. “I was depressed and alone, feeling misunderstood by kids, coaches, teachers and parents, so I retreated into the confines of my room in the attic with weed and music. I began to search. Summer of junior year I went into the wilderness out west and felt the gnawing gaping hole in my chest more vast then ever, and I began to think about God in relation to the void. Am I alone?”

The answer, he decided, was no. God “was with me always like an all-powerful invisible friend.” He became a Phish groupie, experienced homelessness, went into rehab, saw numerous therapists, but still “couldn’t seem to get it right.” Eventually he fell into Orthodox Judaism, got married, committed himself to his music, and became an alt-rock reggae superstar—and darling of the Hasidic-hipsters the world over. But all was not well. Dissatisfied, he chafed against the restrictions the of movement, until he found his guru—”an anti-establishment renegade Russian therapist/original thinker/Chassidic and Kabalistic creative wiz with a heart of gold and no fingers”—and a shul where he could “scream and sing during prayers and not be judged.”

It’s a compelling piece of writing, which neatly ties in with the release of his latest single, “Hard Way,” from his 2014 album Akeda (“binding”)—an allusion to the biblical story of the binding and near-sacrifice of Isaac. Read the rest here.

(Image: Matisyahu performs in Park City, Utah, January 2014. Credit: Jason Kempin/Getty.)