Friday, June 8, 2012
Matisyahu lessons. (Guest Post)
The descent of Matisyahu is a direct lesson for people in power, especially Shluchim who need programs to promote to their communities. The lesson: Never sacrifice an individual for community inspiration. Maybe that's a slight paraphrase of, "When working for Klal Yisroel, don't forget Reb Yisroel" - or in this case, Reb Matisyahu. Shluchim gave Matisyahu his platform. Not just his first platform, but year after year of platforms, which translated into press, and then Sony noticed him. Shluchim on campus noticed his attraction to their college-age crowds and started the trend, then communities picked up on it. Shluchim may believe that they have no responsibility to think through who they bring to entertain or lecture for their community beyond checking that the person is kosher. Shluchim may believe that they have no reason to consider the impact on the performer or lecturer themselves. They are wrong, wrong, wrong.
The first question every Shliach should have asked is the same question they would have asked about their own Baalei Teshuvah and community members - is this right for the Baal Teshuvah, for the person, not is this right for my community. Did no Shliach notice that he was back to doing drugs almost immediately? Did no Shliach realize they were propping him up as an example for their communities, and Lubavitch in general, when he had barely acquired anything of his own to give? The message became, don't follow Torah, Mitzvos and Chassidus, follow the celebrity and Sony contract. Shluchim vet visitors to their Chabad houses from other towns carefully. As they should, there are crazies out there. Witness the firebombing of the California Chabad house. Phone calls, references, some chatting to feel the visitor out, whatever it is, Shluchim check. The same vetting should apply to entertainment, not only for its value to the community, but for the value to the person performing. Matisyahu isn't the first person to inappropriately join the Chabad house circuit, only the most prominent. The problem takes other shapes as well, such as the direction given staff - bochurim or bochurettes - when they come to a community to run camps or programs. I don't know how far down the responsibility goes - rumor had it back then when Matisyahu started his career that his mashpia encouraged him in his path of celebrity, which is outrageous - but we are each responsible for every yid, not only the ones we want to take charge of.