Matisyahu, the commercially successful Hassidic reggae singer, is on a mission. With the release of his Hanukkah song, “Miracle,” he has started a campaign on behalf of Hanukkah music, a category he finds extremely lacking. “Where is it?” he ponders on NPR’s All Things Considered blog. Even relative to the small Jewish population, he notes that Jews have produced an insignificant number of Hanukkah songs. This discrepancy, he argues, should be addressed by Jewish musicians: the more Jewish musicians invest in writing and producing quality Hanukkah (and Jewish) songs, the greater the likelihood that they will be bought and listened to by folks in the Jewish community.
Though creating Hanukkah music might seem like a petty competition with Christmas, it is in fact an avenue to Jewish life and cultural expression. In his NPR interview, Matisyahu rightly sums up music’s role in Judaism by quoting the Hassidic teaching that “music is the quill of the soul.” In other words, music engages the soul, and Jewish music engages the Jewish community.
JOI has highlighted Matisyahu’s efforts to save Hanukkah music because the Festival of Lights marks a time when many in the community are thinking about their relationship to Judaism. Since music can stir the soul or rekindle a connection (as reggae music did for Matisyahu’s relationship to Judaism), any opportunity should be taken to provide that experience with Judaism. Matisyahu and his song “Miracle,” or the Maccabeats with their 2010 viral video, “Candlelight,” have taken it upon themselves to make Judaism accessible, relevant, and meaningful. Their songs have increased Jewish pride in Hanukkah and helped remind us why it is a worthy and important holiday to celebrate.
These songs have gained a following because they are modern and catchy. The songs’ reception on the blogosphere reiterates that people will respond to great Jewish music and it may even stir their souls. If that’s the response to individual songs, imagine what a great Hanukkah – or any Jewish holiday – album could do.
No comments yet.