Asher and I met Matisyahu last night. It was an I-can-be-a-cool-parent sort of opportunity, where I bought the tickets spontaneously so that my middle-schooler could meet a musician he admired.
We were wholly unprepared. There was the abstract idea of I-get-to-meet-a-rock-star. And then there was the actual meeting. First, we didn’t recognize him, bald and clean-shaven. We only knew the religious, bearded performer, so the first shock was in not being able to confidently rest on which person in the room was the superstar.
Then, Asher was first to meet him. He stepped onto the stage, said hi, and Matisyahu just sat there dully, not really saying anything else. He offered to sign something so Asher turned to me for a piece of paper. And that was it. Anti-climactic.
Because the thing of it is that someone you admire from afar and listen to on the radio is not a real person. They’re a symbol of something you’ve come to believe and so when they stand in flesh and blood before you, it’s almost always a disappointment.
No matter. We went downstairs to wait for the concert. Put in the earplugs. Sipped from our water bottles. Waited.
We Googled the performer on our phones and read about his tumultuous life. Dropped out of high school. Searched for himself. Became fast-lane-frum. Married quickly; father of three. Then he stopped aligning with the Orthodox rabbis who guided him to the straight and narrow, preferring a Chassidic community where ecstatic screaming of praise for God is common.
Hard-line vegan. Extreme to extreme, from hallucinogens and drugs in high school to no meat-cheese-animal products and founder of an organization to preach his position. Still searching for himself, I imagine.
Asher loved the music. And the fact that we stood at the foot of the stage made it even better.
I felt for the guy. At one point, the thumping, cheering crowd called for a song request. He said, in the quietest microphone voice I’ve ever heard, “But I want to play this song,” motioning to his band mates. The crowd kept requesting. He kept repeating, “I want to play this song. Maybe that one will be next. Or later.”
He didn’t want to do what they wanted. And it begs the question: do we perform because of the love of the music, to glorify the talent we’ve been given and enjoy it every step of the way?
What responsibility do we have to the crowd?
We left before the concert was over because yes, I had to be the mom. School night. First day of school today.
Asher was on a high. Exhilarated at hearing one of his favorites up close and personal. Wearing the red shirt with the big Jewish star that we bought to remember the night.
We had a great evening, my son and I. Walked away without questions of who we are or what we believe. Intact in identity, in family, in support. That’s the key to the straight and narrow. Normal amounts of yearning within the context of family and community. Safety for all involved.