Matisyahu was born in West Chester, Pennsylvania. His family eventually settled in White Plains in Westchester County, New York. He was brought up a Reconstructionist Jew, and attended Hebrew school at Bet Am Shalom, a synagogue in White Plains. He spent much of his childhood learning the various tenets of Judaism, but by the time he was a teenager, Matisyahu began to rebel against his upbringing . He started taking drugs and dropped out of White Plains High School. He became a self-professed "Phish-head," taking hallucinogens and following the rock band Phish on tour. He finished high school at a wilderness program in Bend, Oregon .
In the fall of 1995, Matisyahu took part in a two month-long program at the Alexander Muss High School in Hod Hasharon, Israel, a program which offers students first-hand exploration of Jewish heritage as a way of solidifying Jewish identity.
His experiences there led to his decision to adopt Orthodox Judaism. Initially he found his way to the Carlebach Shul on the West Side of Manhattan. Matisyahu then sought out Chabad of Washington Square, a branch of the large Hasidic movement also often called Lubavitch. Matisyahu began playing with the Jewish band Pey Dalid . At the age of 19, Miller formally joined the Lubavitch movement and took a Hebrew form of his name: Matisyahu.