Monday, March 14, 2011

How Rabbi Akiva differs from delusional tractor driver Nir ben Artzi

This tractor driver is also non-delusional.
Why do I keep referring to Nir ben Artzi as a tractor driver? I've already explained, at length, that this is an way effective way of highlighing that he is no kabbalist or rabbi, but rather a psychic am ha'aretz. But in this post I'd like to consider it from other angles, and elaborate a bit.

In a recent post, Tomer Devorah wrote:
You do have to wonder though what is behind this obsession with Rabbi Ben Artzi having been a "tractor driver?" When was Rabbi Ben Artzi driving a tractor? More than fifteen years ago? What was Rabbi Akiva doing at the age of forty when he had yet to learn the aleph bet? How many people do you suppose wondered to themselves, andout loud, "...that Moshe ben Amram,...that David ben Yishai,...that Akiva ben Yosef, he's been a shepherd, smells like the animals, what could he ever turn into?"
Perhaps Tomer Devorah is simply unaware of Nir ben Artzi's history. He started his 'kabbalistic rabbi' career because he was a delusional tractor driver. That is, in the early 1990's, he was driving a tractor, and he was (purportedly) able to psychically see things that others could not. He warned people not to dig in certain places, because there were underground pipes, such that it was dangerous. People were impressed with his psychic abilities, and soon he began to attract followers. At this point, he quit driving the tractor and moved to the back of a little store in an Ashkelon mall and began to receive audiences. He joined with Rabbi Shmuel Shukron (one of his eventual abductors / torturers) and then assumed for himself, with no basis, the title Rabbi, and became the leader of this community of cultists / followers. All of this is in this video which appeared on Channel 2 in Israel and which Nir ben Artzi put on his own website, because it tells his side of the story. See in this hour-long video -- a lot of what I said above appears at 7:44 and on in the video.

17/10/2009 22:10

It is worth watching the video in full. The same video, which is on his website, and tells his story, states that he does NOT have semicha and that is what Rabbi Shukron brought to the table, that Shukron is at least officially a rabbi. The makers of this show were trying to tell Nir ben Artzi's side. He certainly could have told them that no, he does have semicha. And he could have proved this by showing them the klaf, of telling them who granted the semicha. He did NOT. Rather, it is clear that he does not have semicha.  I stress this point to counter Tomer Devorah, who is insistent on remaining ignorant:
From the time that I first learned of his alleged lack of smicha, (because to date, I do not know if he has or he hasn't!) I have referred to him only as "Rabbi," not Rav and not HaRav. 
It is indeed a good trait to be dan lekaf zechut, and I commend Tomer Devorah on this. Though there are halachic parameters for being dan lekaf zechut, where it is appropriate and inappropriate to do so. One would think that if she is unclear on this point of Nir ben Artzi's rabbinic status, instead of personally calling him Rabbi (for other reasons, as she states -- namely Rav Shmuel Eliyahu's approbation), and translating his parsha sheets and thus presenting to the public that he is "HaRav ... shlita", thus confusing the public, she could have asked the same people she received permission to translate whether he was or was not ordained.

So he is a delusional tractor driver / tractor driver psychic and he has continued in his same shtik for the past thirteen years. Before turning to the case of Rabbi Akiva, I'd like to repeat Tomer Devorah's quote:
You do have to wonder though what is behind this obsession with Rabbi Ben Artzi having been a "tractor driver?" When was Rabbi Ben Artzi driving a tractor? More than fifteen years ago? What was Rabbi Akiva doing at the age of forty when he had yet to learn the aleph bet? How many people do you suppose wondered to themselves, andout loud, "...that Moshe ben Amram,...that David ben Yishai,...that Akiva ben Yosef, he's been a shepherd, smells like the animals, what could he ever turn into?"
Well, now you know. "When was Rabbi [sic] Nir ben Artzi driving a tractor?" Yes, About thirteen to fifteen years ago, as far as I can tell. But he jumped to psychic immediately. That he continues the same shtik and is no longer a tractor driver means nothing.

What was Rabbi Akiva doing at the age of forty, when he had yet to leard the aleph bet? He was a shepherd. If at that point, Akiva decided to start paskening shaylos and drew a following of the gullible, and then wrongfully assumed the title Rabbi and persisted in that practice for more than fifteen years, Chazal would have criticized him. And it would be wrong to say "well, he was a shepherd over fifteen years ago!"

Maybe, though, Nir ben Artzi is now learned, while he was not more than fifteen years ago? Just because Rabbi Shlomo Aviner said:
"ניר בן ארצי אינו תלמיד חכם אלא עם הארץ, עד עצם היום הזה. כמו כן, אינו המשיח, ואינו מבשר המשיח, ואינו בעל רוח הקודש", כך פתח הרב שלמה אבינר את "גילוי הדעת" הראשון שלו בעניין. ברשימות הבאות מוסיף אבינר ומבהיר ש"אין מדובר בתלמיד קטן שלא הגיע להוראה, אלא בעם הארץ גמור שלא למד מאומה", וש"לצערנו כת משיח השקר ניר בן-ארצי הנם הוזים". 

To roughly translate:
"Nir ben Artzi is not a Torah scholar but rather is an ignoramus, until this very day. So too, he is not mashiach nor an announcer for the mashiach, nor is he one who possesses ruach hakodesh... We are not speaking about a small student who has not reached the level of being able to rule, but rather of an ignoramus who has not learned anything... To our pain, the messianic cult of Nir ben Artzi, they are hallucinating."
This was from HaRav Aviner, shlita's, sefer, Ben Or Lechoshech, published in 1999, and he writes "until this very day". Well, now it is 2011, so perhaps Nir ben Artzi is no longer an utter ignoramus, and perhaps he now knows gemara and kabbalah?

Well, why assume that he was acting as a psychic rather than scholar and kabbalist then, but he is saying the same things and a scholar and kabbalist now? It is the same shtik!

Further, if he were a great talmid chacham now, it is very easy to demonstrate. Let him actually speak words of Torah, instead of deranged prophecies of gloom and doom!

I will bring here the words of Rabbi Yaakov Mosheh Hilel:

, particularly the stomach-ache point. 

The quip is that a Talmudist is like someone with a fever, while a kabbalist is like someone with a stomach ache. The fever can be measured with a thermometer, but there is no way to verify the claim of a stomach ache. Similarly, a Talmudist can be tested; a Kabbalist cannot.

Yet, a Talmudist can be tested. Someone does not just get the "benefit of the doubt" that he is a great Torah scholar! This is a testable attribute. One need not grant someone this when he has exhibited no Torah knowledge in the past. And especially when this purported Torah knowledge is used to bolster claims to leadership, or claims that his dire psychic predictions are based on Torah, somehow!

Next, I'd like to analyzing the words of someone else who thinks I am doing wrong by making clear just who Nir ben Artzi is and is not. In a comment one of the previous posts, Concerned Jew wrote:
The fact that HaRav HaGaon Shmuel Eliahu, who everyone in both camps in Israel (Chareidi and Dati-Leumi) respect has tacitly endorsed the person under discussion, it is disrespectful to discuss his name in the way you, he being a "Real Rabbi" or not. My assumption is that he probably knows more Talmud than yourself as many Cab Drivers can probably be accredited scholarly status as well.
I will not address Rav Shmuel's tacit or explicit approbation of Nir ben Artzi in this post, even though both Concerned Jew and Tomer Devorah raised this point. This would require another lengthy post of its own. But don't think I am evading the question -- it is on my queue, and I do indeed have a good answer.

Concerned Jew made the "assumption" that Nir ben Artzi probably knows more Talmud than I do, since many cab drivers in Israel can be accredited scholarly status. Here is why I think Concerned Jew is wrong. (1) You don't operate on 'probably' when according such status, especially where there are wide-ranging repercussions from such an assumption. If I wanted to know whether a chicken was kosher, I would NOT approach any random tractor driver or cab driver to ask my shailah, because they 'probably' have greater knowledge than my local posek. That would be ridiculous. (2) Some cab drivers are very learned, but that does not mean that someone is learned by virtue of being a cab driver. There was a study about a decade back in which many, many Israeli high school students thought that Shaddai meant "my breast" and that Gedalya of Tzom Gedalya was a Member of Knesset. (3) Cab drivers don't have the opportunity to manifest their knowledge. Nir ben Artzi functions as the leader of a community, and sends out weekly "parsha" sheets entirely devoid of Torah content. That this is missing is strange, if he is really a great Talmudic scholar. This is enough to make one question this very weak tacit assumption. (5) We have Rav Shlomo Aviner's statement stating the opposite.

Finally, Ben-Yehudah wrote:
I find it disturbing, not so much that you go after Ben-Artzi, in such a negative fashion  (I've done much worse, so I can hardly criticize you for that), but that you use tractor driver as a negative.  Would you have done the same if he were a doctor?  We need Jewish tractor drivers.  If we had more, perhaps the two terrorist attacks by Arab tractor drivers would not have occurred.  It is an an honest job.  I know more than a few tractor drivers in the Shomron who are Torah-learned.  I am disturbed by what appears to me to be an artifact of American, Galuthi, Ashkenzy, classism and snobbery... If this was not your intention, by all means, please correct me, and consider writing a clarification on this matter.
I tried to clarify in previous posts that this was not rabbinic snobbery at play. We need Jewish tractor drivers. And the Chafetz Chaim was a shop-keeper! The reason I repeatedly call him a delusional tractor driver is because that is his entire claim to fame. He is the psychic tractor driver! After a while, I am supposing, he saw that he could garner a greater following if he called himself kabbalist and rabbi, and so he did this.

I will say, though, that being a tractor driver does not require any great intellectual effort. One can possess a great intellect, be a Torah-learned individual, who happens to drive a tractor for a living. And I am sure there are such individuals, and kol hakavod to them! But someone who is unlearned, and spends day in and day out driving a tractor, and suddenly out of nowhere describes himself as a psychic, and then, takes for himself the title HaRav ... shlita without the years of learning -- one should perhaps point out that at the end of the day, he is either a psychic or delusional tractor driver. Perhaps there is some element of intellectual snobbery, just as even Rabbi Yochanan thought it remarkable that his Beham could answer a Samaritan opponent when he was at loss for an answer.

Still to come, in other posts, I need to address Rav Shmuel Eliyahu's approval and I need to demonstrate that Nir ben Artzi did NOT predict the recent tsunami in Japan, just as Rabbi Shimon Dahan did not predict a tsunami.


Moriya's Place said...

I enjoy your posts about the fascination with gloom and doom among the nations from doomsday naysayers from the Holy Land. Thank you very much for being steadfast. People have to realize the harsh realities of living in Israel and the low levels people would stoop down to to earn a shekel. When some people live in Israel for while, the culture gets to them, and they become "negative" like them. חבל!

Anonymous said...

Your criticism of Ben Artzi - whether or not he is a rabbi, borders on obsession. This constant ugliness pouring out of your pen is casting a very bad light on you. Why do you focus on this? Stop, please. This is beneath you. Arrogance has a grip on you, please let it go. Your behaviour is exactly what the Jewish nation DOES NOT NEED right now. I hope you are prepared in all of your self righteousness to be judged mida kneged mida by Hashem...

joshwaxman said...


Look, I tend to be very wordy. If I had written ONE post covering all the points I wanted to cover, no one would have read it, because it would have been 80 pages long. And so, I divide my thoughts into chunks, which I am releasing at intervals.

Calling it "obsession" is an attempt at ad hominem -- undermine me, so that people don't listen to my logical arguments.

Meanwhile, Tomer Devorah and Yeranen Yaakov are NOT falling silent. Indeed, Tomer Devorah has a declaration that Mashiach is here! -- a dangerous statement. And both of the above discussed how Nir ben Artzi did, or may have, predicted the tsunami. If one side falls silent, then ALL people hear is the other side.

"Your behaviour is exactly what the Jewish nation DOES NOT NEED right now."
In your opinion. I think it is JUST what they need right now, so that they don't fall into some lunatic apocalyptic cult. And so that they don't make catastrophic life decisions (e.g. selling their home frantically because the end is nigh, only to discover that they cannot support their family in Israel, and have to move back, impoverished).

I don't accept your mussar. Especially not from Anonymous cowards.

kol tuv,

E-Man said...

Josh, I was starting to wonder why you were spending so much time on this, but I guess the truth should be out there somewhere on the internet if someone is researching this tractor driver. I am glad someone is putting to rest a possible shabtai tzvi personality.

In the end of the day, do I personally really care about these posts, no. Do I understand why they are necessary and important, yes.

Moriya's Place said...

I watched the hour long video. This is what I have to say...

Obviously, Moshiach does not give advice to people, especially chilonim on how to earn lots of money and be successful in business, so that he too can get a cut. Moshiach's job is to teach Torah and inspire Jews to do teshuva. These crazy things can only happen in Israel. There are plenty of other crazy things too, after you live in Israel for a while, you will see it and hear about it. But nobody wants to know about the harsh realities when they prefer to hear about doomsday news affecting only Jews in the chutz. The fascination with running to Israel out of fear of natural disasters simply means they are more afraid of disasters then the One Who brings the disasters, i.e. Hashem. There really is no place to run to except Hashem. There is something really wrong with the Jewish people today. We are sick, really sick. Hashem Yerachem.

Anonymous said...

Moriya's Place: There you go again saying things about Jews living in the Land that you should not be saying. Shame on you and to anyone who listens to your destructive words. Didn't anyone teach you the power of negative words and the power of positive words? On a very superficial level, in one of the books published by Hidabroot, there is a picture of a magnified snowflake that looks beautiful and stunning in its perfection. Good words have been said next to it. There are other pictures of snowflakes which are ugly and distorted. Harmful, destructive words have been said next to them, they changed their shapes, shrivelled up as if in pain. The Jewish people today are Baruch HaShem, not sick. We are healthy and beautiful. We love life. We are dynamic and vibrant, bringing with us wherever we go, scholarship goodness and kindness. We openly demonstrate our love for the Ribbono Shel Olam and for Am Yisroel more and more, every day. May our love and attachment to the Land that HaShem gave us in love, continue to grow, bringing millions of us home to Eretz Yisroel, to live in peace and holiness!

Note to Josh:
1. People who write Anonymous are not cowards, stop calling your readers unkind names.
2. It seems you do have an obsession writing about Rabbi Nir Ben Artzi, maybe you should do some soul-searching and ask yourself why.
3. The only reason I read your blog is to remind your other readers to guard themselves against writing derogatory words about other Jews.
If you stop writing unkind things you shouldn't be writing in the first place, I will stop, bli neder, reading your blog and stop writing comments signed, "Anonymous" or "Anonymous A".

Yonatan said...

Moriyahs place: Wow, you have an absolute obsession with writing harsh things about Israel. I can see why you had to turn off the comments on your own blog, I'm sure you were getting absolutely torn to pieces on it. Just because YOU have a hard time in Israel and cannot seem to find YOUR spiritual ground, doesn't mean that many others don't find an entirely better life here.

Josh: I agree with anonymous - I don't go to your blog very often, because every time I do I find you tearing something down instead of building something up. I don't want to get into the whole Rabbi thing, it really doesn't matter to me. The gist of what he says rings true to me. I have asked you before to comment on the financial situation that the US and the world finds itself in now. You think that Jews are going to be better off riding that storm out in the US...I think that is ridiculous. I believe that Hashem has graciously provided a "slow motion" train wreck in the financial world so Jews that were previously so comfortable will finally wake up to the fact that He has given us our land back and is watching over us - its time to go back home!

joshwaxman said...

my blog is NOT just about tearing things down. it is quite often about analyzing the parsha, analyzing Rashi, analyzing gemaras, etc. (sometimes that involves analyzing other positions and pointing out difficulties with those positions, in order to demonstrate why the proposed position is better.)

but I DO point out when people are being foolish. for example, back when everyone was promoting the dybbuk, I said that he was just crazy or a fake, more or less what Rav Shternbuch said. And I was blasted back then by Anonymous commenters for being negative, and by folks who thought that one could not oppose the Gedolim on this. It came out that this fellow, just like the previous dybbuk dealt with by Rav Batzri, was a hoax.

that YOU don't want to go into the whole Rabbi thing is OK, for you. but if he is falsely presenting himself as a Rabbi to the public, surely I can point out that he is no rabbi. It DOES matter to some people.

"I have asked you before to comment on the financial situation that the US and the world finds itself in now."
I don't have to. That there are economic troubles does not mean that the sky is falling, and that the apocalypse or the mashiach is here. It was worse during the Great Depression.

"You think that Jews are going to be better off riding that storm out in the US."
I never said this. My assumption is that SOME people will ride it out as they ride it out in different countries. And that it is a great mitzvah to make aliyah, and if you can do it, kol hakavod! But that this is not necessarily financially possible for all people. I'll pull an example out of a hat. Someone with a family of six, who has an academic position due to having a PhD, but who went to YU and so has a year in Israel for college credit, wants to make aliyah. Israel presently (unless things changed) does not recognize the college degree because of the Israel credits, and so does not recognize the masters or PhD either. He wants to move to Israel, but if he works at many universities, he will be paid only as a high-school graduate, not enough to really support his family.

Another example. There was an article recently about how elderly workers are discriminated against in Israel for hiring, such that they cannot find good jobs. Someone is over that age range and cannot find a job in his trained field, and cannot support his family.

Another example. A family has a teenage son and daughter (say, 13 years old each), who do not have a great facility for language, and who stumble over a pasuk in Chumash. Israeli religious schools are all taught in Modern Hebrew, and the kids will not have hatzlacha in their learning. Should one drop everything because the sky is falling, at the expense of his children's education and religious upbringing?

I could go on. It is plausible that there are difficulties, and those difficulties will eventually cause people to move back to America. Which is why, while aliyah is a great thing, it ought to be done with sechel and with consultations with one's religious advisors and financial advisors. NOT because of a proclamation from an insane and uneducated Israeli tractor driver.

"I think that is ridiculous. I believe that Hashem has graciously provided a "slow motion" train wreck..."
But I don't know who you are, that I would grant credence to your thinking this is ridiculous. I think YOU are being ridiculous, and thing that YOU don't know Hashem's master plan. You are not a navi either. And some people who believe in insane tractor drivers are themselves not the best at evaluating world situations in a non-insane manner.

kol tuv,

joshwaxman said...

Anonymous A:
"3. The only reason I read your blog is to remind your other readers to guard themselves against writing derogatory words about other Jews."

Wow, you mean in order to write derogatory things about me (e.g. that I am "obsessed")? How is this different from MY reading the words of the insane tractor driver in order to remind readers to guard themselves from falling into his cult / false messianism?

The fact is, we both agree that there are things in this world to warn other people about. If "Rabbi" Elior Chen was still operating, as a danger to society, I would hope you would also see fit to warn the gullible public who would fall into his dangerous cult. No?

It is then just a matter of deciding what merits warning the public about. You presumably think that "Rabbi" Nir ben Artzi is the real deal, has ruach hakodesh, and is the harbinger of mashiach. If so, it is WRONG to falsely warn the public against him. But if I disagree with this premise, can you see how I could differ with your conclusion?

kol tuv,

Anonymous said...

hi my name is yoav I live in boston im 40 and unmarried . I believe ben nartzi is a a false prophet ! I believe the land of israel is not the answer returning to Hashem is !

Creed Of Noah said...

In these critical times, when nations are challenging one another and violence is increasing in an unbelievable manner, the Jews have the power to bring about peace in the entire world.
In order that the entire world should be orderly, it is essential that each and every one of the "seventy nations" should be influenced so that they will work on settling the world through spreading the Seven Mitzvos & influencing the nations to keep their mitzvos, in order to assist our task of making the world into a dwelling place for G-d, and help bring about the arrival of Moshiach. Every individual must do everything possible to hasten his coming. In order to bring awareness of these Seven Mitzvos to the world I have recently created a blog for this sole purpose

Please add this to your blogroll (& encourage your fellow bloggers to add my blog or add it to their social networking sites) to help spread the awareness of the existence of these Noahide Commandments.

Yonatan said...

As I said I don't go to your site very often, I just looked at it further and see your parsha postings. Very nice, kol hakavod on the work you put in on it! I was probably pulled to your site by a link when something controversial was posted.

As far as me being a "delusional tractor driver" believer goes, its not that I believe him per se, its that what he is saying lines up with what is actually occurring (This was before the Japanese tragedy). I'm not advocating that anyone do anything on the basis of what he says, rather they should be doing something on the basis of what they see unfolding before their very eyes. There are other actual rabbi's that have made similar pronoucements about needing to come to Israel post haste (Rabbi Shalom Arush come to mind). His statement was very strong.

Without thinking of any of the above, you still don't address the current world financial crisis and how that will affect the Jews living in the US going forward. All is going to be peachy keen?

The cases that you list about those that may want to come to Israel but can't are sad. I don't have an answer if you truly can't come - but in a lot of cases its not really can't but won't. The measurement has been made and giving up comforts that they currently have are not worth it to them to come.

joshwaxman said...


Rabbi Shalom Arush, Rabbi Lazer Brody, and Rabbi Amnon Yitzchak are certainly a huge step up from Nir Ben Artzi, though I still remain unconvinced by their take on the world situation.

As to whether Nir ben Artzi has predicted in the past and whether he recently predicted the tsunami, see my most recent post.

I didn't say all will be peachy keen. I have no idea. It certainly is possible that bad things will continue to happen. Or, they might pick up.

These examples are not just sad examples. They are examples of how things might well NOT work out if one suddenly ran to Israel because the sky is falling. Look, if the sky really IS falling, in the way Nir predicts, then it is certainly possible -- probable, even -- that regardless of these complications, it would be better in Israel. Better a live pauper in Israel than a dead rich man in America. But I don't think that this is the case. And two years down the line, when everything has fallen apart, people who have moved to Israel *frantically* (rather than, say, with a carefully thought out five-year plan), because of the false prophets (note the plural) will regret ruining their financial futures.

And I freely admit that aliyah is not everyone's priority, and that some people make excuses. The solution is to convince people how great a mitzvah it is, of yishuv eretz yisrael, etc., etc. The solution is NOT to scare them with false information.

kol tuvm

Moriya's Place said...

To Yoav:
hi my name is yoav I live in boston im 40 and unmarried . I believe ben nartzi is a a false prophet ! I believe the land of israel is not the answer returning to Hashem is !

Hi YOAV: You are RIGHT ON!

To Yonatan, et al: I'm not going to argue with you. I'm doing teshuva. But thanks for all your negative comments about me. Your credits (if any) now belong to me, and my sins (too much to list) now go to you! THANKS!

Thanks to Shirat Devorah for posting this:


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