Since the latter days of Meyer Lansky till now, Israel seems to embody in the minds of sinners, charlatans and other hypsters a place of redemption and moral repentance. Most of us if we sin, find ways of repenting quietly, in private. But there are others in this world, largely gangsters, celebrities and others of that ilk who need to do everything writ large. And for some reason, they’re drawn to the Land of Israel as a special place, a land of last chances and lost causes, a land that embraces misfits and turns them into something pure and worthy.
Now add to the list the rapper Shyne, ne Jamaal Barrow. Not content merely to serve his ten years in prison for wounding club patrons in a gunfight, he’s got to tell the world that he’s taken his repentance to a whole other level. In fact, he’s taken his case directly to the man Upstairs: he’s converted to Judaism. And not just any Judaism, but black-hat ultra-Orthodox Judaism. And I’ve got to say that I’ve never seen anyone look more elegant in Haredi black hat than Shyne. He’s really stylin’!
But there are a few holdovers from his former life that Shyne can’t seem to shake:
“There’s nothing in the Chumash that says I can’t drive a Lamborghini,” and “nothing in the Halacha about driving the cars I like, about the lifestyle I live.”
A bit of explication is in order. Of course, his Haredi guides love his Lamborghinis and would tell him Judaism has nothing against them, because they know that one of theirs who drives a Lamborghini will have lots of money left over the fund their various Haredi yeshivas and other charities. Both sides here are exploiting the other: Shyne is using Judaism to wipe his slate clean of some nasty behavior; and Shyne’s ultra-Orthodox teachers are exploiting his fame to advance their own agenda. They’re hoping he’ll drop a big check in their lap one of these days.
I do so love the comment about the Chumash not prohibiting him driving a Lamborghini since the first one wasn’t built until 1963, while the Chumash is at least a few years older. I don’t even think the Model T was a gleam in Moses eye, myself. But maybe Shyne knows better. And as for halacha and Jewish ethics, they do have quite a bit to say about the ways in which one should present oneself in society and truly observant Jews are never ostentatious in the way Shyne is. Nor do they brandish pistols and shoot people in clubs. That’s a definite no-no in our halacha.
But I do have a suggestion: if he wants to become a truly good shot he might consider enlisting in the IDF (which would also love to exploit his fame as much as haredim). The army could turn him into not just a gangsta and a killa, but a cold-blooded assassin. It might even be conducive to a future rap career. Imagine the Palestinian “kills” he could brag about to his audience.
I wondered why Shyne came to Israel after exiting prison till I read in the article that the U.S. deported him, as he was not a citizen. He is appealing his deportation. In other words, his conversion is a shameless publicity stunt meant to aid in his regaining his U.S. residency while also keeping his career in the news. When he was deported where else could he go? Belize, where he was born and where his father is prime minister? Guess daddy didn’t want his son the gunman making things hot for him there. So he turns to Israel as that pure and holy place which will purge his sin in the eyes of U.S. immigration authorities.
We’ll see. But even if the U.S. doesn’t budge, there is a flourishing hip hop scene in Israel, even among Orthodox Jews. So maybe he can find a home for himself. But if you ask me, Israel is a waystation, a way to get where he really wants to go, and that ain’t Jerusalem.