Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Guest Post: How People Get Sucked In

Dear Rabbi Slifkin, 

I wanted to reach out to you about your stance on Yaron Reuven. I wanted to share my experience with you with regard to Yaron Reuven, maybe it can add some insight into what you have been saying for some time. 

I picked up one of his CDs from a pizza shop about a year ago. I wasn’t looking for Kiruv or anything, I was born and raised a religious Jew and have learned for many years. I was just looking for something to listen to in the car on the way to shul and back that wasn’t music. I figured Torah was Torah and why not?

At first I didn’t see much wrong with what he was saying. His delivery was a bit different than what I am used to (many of my Rebbeim got Smicha from YU, so they are pretty different from someone like Yaron Reuven), which I didn’t think was a bad thing. He was a bit more Charif than most, but nothing too crazy (so I thought).

As I continued listening, I realized a trend in his “shuirim”. Most would start off mentioning a Mishnah in Perki Avos, then he would go on a tangent about some Rabbis or people (he wasn't specific about which Rabbi he was talking about) he thought were awful and were leading people astray. I didn’t think much of it, maybe he was right, how would I know, he wasn’t being specific. Over time I realized he went on these tangents a lot, like, a lot alot. Basically every “shuir” was bashing specific groups (like Chabad or Satmar) and saying how awful they are. For a shiur that is meant to be about bettering myself, I felt more like “well, at least I’m not as bad as these people.”

I then started realizing he was quoting Gemaras completely out of context and making conclusions based on his own assumptions, all the while calling it “the Torah” and saying stuff like “none of what I say is my own opinion, it’s all the Torah!” The irony of that statement is he is the most opinionated person I have ever listened to.

A specific example of misquoting a Gemera (which he did on multiple occasions) was the story of how Yashu went off the derech. Now, I am no fan of Yashu, I’m an orthodox Jew who davens with a minyan and learns daily, I am in no mean a Yashu fan, but the Gemara he quotes is entirely out of context. He uses the story in Sotah 47a to trash on Yashu. The problem with his explanation is that he completely ignores the context of the Gemara, which was discussing what Yashu’s Rabbi did wrong (the Gemara immediately before it discusses what Elisha did wrong and how he was pushed for it). Instead of teaching the lesson of “don't push away a student with both hands” he uses the story to trash Yashu. 

Him ignoring the message of the Gemara has practical ramification. Yaron himself pushes away people with both hands. Calls them Kofrim, Minim, etc, and way worse if they disagree with him. The exact Gemara he taught incorrectly is the Gemara he himself should be learning! No wonder he didn’t mention that part!  

He also has a very narrow understanding of the concept of “Tinok Shenishbah” which is a well debated concept and who falls into that category. He says it only applies to people who have never heard of Judaism before. I am not an expert in the area, but I have learned before that the definition is much broader than that. By narrowing it so much he causes people to view any non-religious Jew, who was born and raised non-religious as “someone who hates G-d” or vice versa. 

He also mentioned multiple times that someone who sleeps with a Nidah is doing something worse than sleeping with their own mother. Now, I have been through all of Shas and nowhere does it say that….. Sooooo, I don’t know where he gets that from, he doesn’t quote any source for it. I reached out on Facebook for clarification, but I haven’t heard back from him….. Doubt I ever will.

What really got my attention was a shiur (from a couple of years ago) where he started by mentioning that “the leadership of BRS (Boca Raton Synagogue) was making a horrible mistake by bringing a Christian missionary to speak there.” As someone who has been listening to Rabbi Efrem Goldberg for years, and who I have met personally, I was very confused about what he was talking about. I immediately googled it and found what had happened. Yaron was lying about what had happened and slandering the entire BRS community in the process. I may have known to look up what the truth was, but many aren’t going to do that. Especially after listening to one of Yaron's 4-hour “shiurim”. It was then I found your articles and realized how much worse the problem actually was and that I wasn’t the only one thinking “what wrong with this guy?”

His video about Rabbi Dweck (posted last week) where he bashes him for saying Dovid and Yehonatan were gay lovers (which I heard the audio of what Rabbi Dweck says, and its not true at all). I compared the audio Yaron played in his video to Rabbi Dweck's actual words and Yaron skips the part that Rabbi Dweck explicitly states Dovid and Yehonatan were NOT gay and that was the entire point of his shuir! I know Yaron did something similar with Rabbi Sacks shiur about the exodus. (I got into a debate with some of his followers on that video, they didn’t seem like they were going to listen to reason).

The point of my message is to explain my experience with listening to Yaron. It started with a refreshing new way of discussing Torah, which quickly became about people bashing and hatred. I can understand why people listen to him and believe everything he says. He’s very charismatic and entertaining, but, as you know all too well, also very dangerous. 

I hope you find my experiences and examples worth reading. I hope you can use them to help prevent further damage. 

Note from NS: Someone produced a powerful video which compiled some of the most damning of Yaron Reuven's statements. However, Reuven has managed to get it taken down from YouTube whenever it is posted. If someone knows how to host it online, or is willing to fight YouTube regarding it being fair use, please be in touch; I can send you the video. It can also be shared on WhatsApp.

28 comments:

  1. I'll be very curious if Facebook weighs in on sleeping with your mother or sleeping with a nidda. I wasn't aware that this was part of their Terms of Service, but this is very important so I hope that they take you seriously and respond quickly.

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    1. You are being idiotic on purpose. He clearly means he "reached out" to Reuven "on Facebook"

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  2. You may be able to get this video posted, and get it to stick, if you send it to a variety of places that host pornography

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  3. The whole issue of David and Jonathan being gay lovers is complete Dweck, and everyone knows that. "kol me sh'amar..."

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  4. Funny how Natan Slifkin's own blog has become a place to bash different groups of Judaism such as chareidim. Talk about irony!

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    1. Um... not "chareidim" per se. But whackjobs, who also happen to be chareidim. You may as well say he is bashing Israelis or men or people with beards.

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    2. Slifkin's criticism is explained thoroughly, nuanced and most importantly OPEN FOR DISCUSSION. Its a forum. Its no coincidence that Yaaron Reuven hasn't issued a detailed response to any allegations to provide context. He'll say its beneath him, but the truth is that there is no context that would help him. His shiurim are all off the cuff and poorly sourced and reasoned.

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    3. @Big Mouth

      k'shemo, kein hu.

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    4. Disagreeing with someone is not the same as calling him an apikores deserving of death. R' Slifkin has never called for that.

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  5. Why dont you host the video on this site.

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    1. Host the video on uptobox.com and share the link. No need to publish this comment.

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    2. Why bring attention to things you don't think should be seen?

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  6. You can always post the video on bitchute.

    I would like the Reuven supporters to explain how his comments are different from DeSean Jackson's. Both of them are ignorantly asserting that "Hitler was right."

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  7. I agree and wish people would pay more attention to empirical evidence and less to charisma or authority

    For example, in an earlier post recently a commentator suggested incidence of Corona was not problematic in chareidi cities.
    See the actual data here:
    https://www.ynet.co.il/article/Bkz02FZzP#autoplay
    Secular cities have the lowest rates / incidences of infection. The worst off cities are the Chareidi ones.


    these idiotic rabbis get their followers by telling lies and distorting facts.
    If only we the public, would be more careful about who we listed to.
    And you have to wonder who are the fools that really do get taken in by these speakers. Clearly something is wrong with them.

    Perhaps a rationalist approach would focus less on the troubling leaders and more on the troubling masses. How does a rationalistjudaism approach explain that phenomenon?

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    1. We can all wish that people would pay more attn to evidence and data (you know, the things that should guide rational, informed decision-making) but, unfortunately (and frustratingly), the evidence itself has demonstrated time and again that it is not logic and reason that sways people.

      In fact, there is a fascinating cognitive bias called the Dunning-Kruger effect (readily observable in "real life") which, in layman's terms, effectively says that the stupider someone is, the less capable they are of recognizing their own stupidity (and hence changing--or being persuaded by reason to change--their stupid ways of thinking). Below are some lay articles about the phenomenon:

      Dunning-Kruger effect (Wikipedia)

      Incompetent People Too Ignorant to Know It

      Why incompetent people fail to recognize their incompetency

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    2. That's hilarious and brilliant. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. Now I'm worried about how much I do this.
      Shabbat shalom

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  8. משתוממים הם הרעיונות מפני שטף הדעות הזרות ההולכות ושוטפות, ביחוד דעות זרות של עבודות זרות. פורצות הן בשטף אל תוך המחנה, לוקחות לבבות רבים ומעותות את הדרכים, ומטות רבים מצעירינו מדרכי חיים לדרכי מיתה, המגינים על הדעות של היהדות מרימים קול צוחה, מבטלים את הדעות הרעות, מגלים את זיופם ושקרם ע"י בירור גדרי היהדות. אבל הדבר מסופק מאד אם בסגנון זה יעלה בידם להשיב אחור את מה שהחל להתפרץ כהר פרצים.

    ביחוד, טועים הם המבקשים להגדיר את היהדות בהגדרות ידועות, מצד נשמתה ותכנה הרוחני, אף על פי שאפשר להגדירה מצד תוכן הגלוי והמוחש ההיסטורי שלה. היא כוללת כל בנשמתה, וכל הנטיות הרוחניות, הגלויות והנסתרות, צפונות הן בה בהכללה עליונה, כמו שכלול הכל באלהות המוחלטת .כל הגדרה כזו לגבה היא קיצוץ בנטיעותיה ודוגמא להקמת פסל ומסכה לשם הצביון האלהי.

    Appalling are the ideas regarding the flow of strange notions, which are flowing continuously, in particular strange notions coming from foreign worship. They burst into the camp, take many hearts and twist their ways, and tilt many of our young from the ways of life to ways of death. The protectors of thought of Judaism raise their shouting voice, they cancel the bad ideas, discover their forgeries and their lies, while clarifying the boundaries of Judaism. However, it is a very doubtful matter, whether things of this nature will enable them to put back what started to erupt on the mountain of bursts.

    Particularly wrong are they who seek to define Judaism by known definitions, in terms of its soul and its spiritual content, although it is possible to categorize it in terms of its visible content and of what is historically tangible. Its soul contains all, and all spiritual leanings, overt and covert, are hidden in its ultimate universal form, like everything is contained in universal divinity. Every definition concerning this is a truncation of its branches, and is akin to the erection of an idol and a cast in the name of the divine will.

    רב קוק, אורות ,זרעונים ו, למלחמת הדעות והאמונות

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    1. He who cannot think mindlessly quotes.

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    2. JJR, the quote was for you. You see, rationalism is one of the spiritual leanings that has a place in Judaism. But the fanatic way, that makes the thinker desolate.

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  9. There is a quandary regarding the concept of “Tinok Shenishbah”.
    This term was introduced in a context of atonement offering (קרבן חטאת) rules. A person who is unaware that a specific day was Shabbat and carried out a couple of forbidden actions, should bring only one offering: because all his or her actions were due to the one mistake. In contrary, one who knew that the day is Shabbat bit was not aware that some types of actions are forbidden, should bring a couple of offering, following a number of types he/she did: each type of actions was a separate mistake and hereby counts one offering. There are many other details, but I hope you got the point.
    Now, following the same logic, if one did not know anything about Shabbat, of he/she was aware about Shabbat but he/she thought he/she is not a Jew and therefore it does not apply to him/her, he/she should bring only one offering for all his/her Shabbat violations: because they all were due to the only one mistake.
    The example the Sages give us how a Jew might be unaware about Shabbat or unaware that Shabbat applies to him/her too is a little child who was kidnapped, or fell into captivity, and grew up among his/her captors.
    The discussion about secular Jews is completely another issue. A secular Jew transgresses Shabbat intendedly and the offering does not expiate his/her sin. He/she is a sinner and he is a wrongdoer. However Rambam (and many others that agreed with him) claimed that since he/she was raised by his/her respective parents in such the way from beginning, he/she is similar to one who was kidnapped when he/she was a little child and who therefore is a victim rather than a sinner, and we should not hate him/her.
    As you see, the question is whether the “Tinok Shenishbah” heard about Judaism or not is completely irrelevant. Even id he/she is well informed about Judaism:
    - the true "kidnapped child" might commit sins because he/she mistakenly things that he/she is not Jew, and he/she is a victim rather than a wrongdoer
    - the secular Jew might commit sins because he/she mistakenly things that our entire tradition is malformed and not reliable.

    Whatever is going on in a mind of a secular Jew who was raised by secular parents, he/she is rather a victim (like "tinok she-nishba") rather than a malicious, that's why we should not hate him, but, in contrary to true "tinok she-nishba", he is a sinner and not an innocent one.

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    1. Your elementary-school level of understanding has resulted in a mish-mash of words that construct to nothing. You really aren't entitled to have a public opinion until you learn something. You really are compleltely speaking out of your.... neither regions. Go learn something.

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    2. JJR, your response consisted of dismissing the comment and nothing more. If you expect to be taken seriously and for your claims to be taken seriously, you'll have to point out what in particular (if anything) was mistaken about the comment, and what in particular brodsky "hasn't learned" that would have made his opinion different than what he wrote. Rather than just spew insults out of your nether regions.

      Your contribution of ad hominem here is worthless.

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  10. Not directly connected but...
    you know what is going to be fun today?
    Listening to non-rational Orthodox Jews who normally talk about how the Arabs are sub-human and can't be trusted and will always hate us, suddenly start talking about how brilliant it is that Bibi has made a peace agreeement and what a great leader he is for bringing peace with people who yesterday were our mortal enemies.

    (The indirect connection... people who spout tripe all the time with great conviction.)

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  11. Thanks for posting this. I think it's important to distinguish between 3 different groups.  There are people such as the author of this post who listen to Rabbis R&M because they aren't aware of the insane things they say (or weren't originally). There are people who listen despite being turned off by the outrageous things they say because they consider their general message worth hearing. You might be able to sway those 2 groups. Then there are the true believers who listen because of that kind of stuff. These are the people who would stick with him even if he shot someone on 13th Avenue. You're wasting your time trying to talk to them.

      I'm still not sure that this is the issue you think it is. I suspect that your (self described) life trajectory doesn't provide you an accurate picture of the issue. I think it's significant that the author of this post also seems to be from a more modern background. I think that the average 'charedi from birth' relates to them with some combination of amusement and annoyance. (I want to be clear that I'm not claiming that CFBs or MO flipouts or Modern Orthodox are any better or worse. That's completely beside the point I'm making here. I'm simply noting that your perspective on the issue is likely going to be informed by your background.) I don't think that very many stable and well adjusted people are suddenly going to start a Jewish version of ISIS because of some cranks who preach in English despite not even having a real command of the language.

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