Monday, March 28, 2011

I am a psychic (just like tractor driver Nir Ben Artzi)

I've actually kept silent about this all these years, but in reality, I have psychic powers. And I will demonstrate it to you.

1) I can predict the next Powerball lottery numbers. Are you ready to hear them? Sorry, just as I psychically know them, I also am in contact with Hashem, and he forbade me from revealing them. Pretty impresive, no?

2) But I can also read minds. Think of a number from 1 to 100? Got it? Great. Now, I know it, but again, Hashem has not let me reveal it. Too bad, on that score.

3) But this will surely impress you. I can predict the weather. Watch this: Sometime, next week, somewhere in the world, it is going to rain. Who else but a psychic could know that?!

Think this is ridiculous? Sure, but Nir Ben Artzi, tractor driver and psychic extraordinaire, makes claims no less ridiculous. For example, parallel to (1) and (2), Nir Ben Artzi psychically knows where there is gold! To cite Life In Israel, citing in turn other sources:
Bechadrei reports on the speech with some excerpts of what he said. Ben Artzi claims that he knows where gold can be found in Israel, just he is not allowed to say where. Hashem, he said, does not want it revealed right now.
He also is able to predict earthquakes. Thus,
Ben Artzi said that next week there will be a massive earthquake somewhere in the world. The quake will be one that is capable of wiping out cities in Saudi Arabia and Mexico.
As I commented at Shirat Devorah, where she noted that this seems to (finally) be a testable prediction, since we are given a specific time, this earthquake prediction somewhere in the world over the course of a week is no different than predicting rain. Just how common are earthquakes somewhere in the world? Let us ask the experts at the US Geological Survey.
The USGS estimates that several million earthquakes occur in the world each year. Many go undetected because they hit remote areas or have very small magnitudes. The NEIC now locates about 50 earthquakes each day, or about 20,000 a year.
As more and more seismographs are installed in the world, more earthquakes can be and have been located. However, the number of large earthquakes (magnitude 6.0 and greater) has stayed relatively constant. See: Are Earthquakes Really on the Increase?
They have a handy chart pitting magnitude against yearly frequency:

Frequency of Occurrence of Earthquakes

MagnitudeAverage Annually
8 and higher1 ¹
7 - 7.915 ¹
6 - 6.9134 ²
5 - 5.91319 ²
4 - 4.913,000
3 - 3.9130,000
2 - 2.91,300,000
¹ Based on observations since 1900. 
Thus, in terms of minor earthquakes, about 1.3 million a year. But let us just take a look at magnitudes of 5 and up. That is 1319 + 134 + 15 + 1 = 1469 per year, or about 4 each day. What about magnitudes of 6 and up? That is 134 + 15 + 1 = 150 per year, or about 2.885 per week. Thus, we can expect about 3 per week, somewhere in the world. If he "lucks out", it will be one of the 16 we can expect on average yearly, in which case people are really wowed. But even without that, there is zero chance that he will be proved incorrect.

To further bolster the point, here is a Japan quake map. There have been 150 in the past seven days. But this is not unusual. People just don't understand the regularity of earthquakes, particularly in Japan. I should cite the following, again from the US Geological Survey:

Are Earthquakes Really on the Increase?

We continue to be asked by many people throughout the world if earthquakes are on the increase. Although it may seem that we are having more earthquakes, earthquakes of magnitude 7.0 or greater have remained fairly constant.
A partial explanation may lie in the fact that in the last twenty years, we have definitely had an increase in the number of earthquakes we have been able to locate each year. This is because of the tremendous increase in the number of seismograph stations in the world and the many improvements in global communications. In 1931, there were about 350 stations operating in the world; today, there are more than 8,000 stations and the data now comes in rapidly from these stations by electronic mail, internet and satellite. This increase in the number of stations and the more timely receipt of data has allowed us and other seismological centers to locate earthquakes more rapidly and to locate many small earthquakes which were undetected in earlier years. The NEIC now locates about 20,000 earthquakes each year or approximately 50 per day. Also, because of the improvements in communications and the increased interest in the environment and natural disasters, the public now learns about more earthquakes.
According to long-term records (since about 1900), we expect about 17 major earthquakes (7.0 - 7.9) and one great earthquake (8.0 or above) in any given year.
So Nir Ben Artzi's predicting an earthquake over the course of an entire week somewhere in the entire world is no more impressive than my predicting rain sometime next week in the world.

But, of course, he has already claimed fulfillment of his prediction. Via Tomer Devorah, translating from Kikar Shabbat:
Response to the Skeptics

In the meantime, last night, HaRav Nir Ben Artzi envisioned in his weekly sermon that "two earthquakes needed to come, in the Galil, HKB"H stopped them."

HaRav Ben Artzi referred to things that were mentioned during the conference in Bnei Brak. "Earthquakes continue in the world. Also, next week. We said that there will be an earthquake, everyone went 'we'll see.' We still hadn't done it and already yesterday there was an earthquake.

"Wednesday, we said in Bnei Brak, and everyone went 'we’ll see, we'll catch him red-handed.' Everyone is on to the next hot thing. Next week also, there will be an earthquake."
I agree with the meshuggena. Next week also, there will be an earthquake. And the sun will rise in the east!


Creed Of Noah said...

You bring me the LOLs. I'm with you 100% on this issue. Why do other people not "see" (pardon the pun)what you and I see? Seriously, any layperson can make a generalised "prediction" considering how frequent all these natural disasters are occuring globally. There's an old proverb "A fools mouth is his undoing". Thanks for being the voice of truth exposing the deceptions against those who mislead the masses due to their ignorance!

quarkcherry said...

תתבייש לך

joshwaxman said...

Creed of Noah:

why not elaborate and explain WHY? do you disagree with any of my factual assertions, or do you disagree with the parallel to Nir Ben Artzi?

kol tuv,

Devorah said...
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Chanokh said...

A second prophet has arised! It's a miracle!

joshwaxman said...

indeed, somewhat heartening, i think. :)

squaell said...

Ridiculous but well people believe all kind of things if there is no truth in their hearts. But what troubles me is more his claim that Moshiach is in Israel. That could be the real danger all this theater is just preface, to get some popularity before he let the real dangerous Moshaich bomb drop.

quarkcherry said...

אתה לא מכיר אותו-לא דיברת איתו-ואין לך מושג מיהו-הוא לא מחפש כף או תילה-הוא הגון ושר ומדבר בפשטות מהלב-וליעדתך הטרטור שלו חונה מחוץ לבית שלו בתלמים-אתה סתם נטפל על אדם טוב וחבל מאוד שכך

vincent said...

Most earthquakes happen in remote area's and deep under ground. You never hear about them, they are indeed just a statistic. I presume he means a quake near a city or dam or something like that. Something dramatic he means obviously.
Although I envy your thorough Torah(way above my level) I do find your blog very legalistic, rational, maybe even cold. As such by pouring cold water unto everything you feed scepticism that way.
'There is more between the Heavens and the Earth, than man etc"

Moshe said...

אף אחד לא טוען שהוא לא תמים. הוא מאוד תמים. יותר תמים מאשר בני בן ה-10. הבעיה היא שיש אנשים שמאמינים לנביא שקר התמים הזה, שבאמת חושב שהוא מקבל נבואה מה'. בהתחלה חשבתי שהוא סתם תמים - עכשיו אני מבין שהוע על גבול הפסיכוזה - ואני לא בטוח באיזה צד של הגבול. בעבר, כחלק ממסלול לימודים שלי הייתי בבית חולים ספסיכיאטרי לתקופה מסויימת כמטפל. בית החולים היה מלא באנשים שהיו תמימים עד מאוד....

joshwaxman said...

as to the danger presented by Ben Artzi, however well-meaning he might be, that is for a separate post, already in the queue. (but for example, breaking up marriages and telling people to withhold medicine from a sick child based on his psychic observations are dangers.) but your objections do not address the POINTS I made. This is HIS response to the "skeptics", which is just ridiculous. and no, I don't think his tractor is still parked outside his home. he found it MUCH more lucrative to be a psychic, and so abandoned that honest work. I explained, at length, why I call him a tractor driver -- back then, he had, and even NOW, he HAS, no expertise in kabbalah or Torah. he is basically just a tractor driver turned psychic, and has persisted in this shtik for the past 15 years.

"I presume he means a quake near a city or dam or something like that."
the thing is, that is your *presumption*. he never said this, and so he has an "out". indeed, what was this terrible earthquake he is claiming already *fulfilled* his prediction? did you hear about that earthquake? how terrible was it? I certainly heard of nothing so "dramatic", as you put it.

i also forgot to mention that he is good at describing earthquakes that would have happened, but did not: "two earthquakes needed to come, in the Galil, HKB"H stopped them." ridiculous, and unprovable, just like the gold.

look, he is either the real deal, or he is a lunatic, or he is a scam artist. (this is typically called "lord, liar, lunatic".) there most certainly ARE lunatics out there -- in every psych ward; and there most certainly are scam artists out there. while this may feed skepticism, as you put it, it is also important to weed out the liars and the lunatics. so far, the "proofs" he has put forth are extremely questionable. Chazal would have laughed at him. The Rambam would have laughed at him. Pointing this out so that people don't follow the next Shabbtai Tzvi is a good thing, I would think.

Also, I think the quote is: "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

kol tuv,

quarkcherry said...

הוא לא טוען שהוא נביא-אתם הבאתם לו את הכינוי הזה ועוד אחרי ה משמיצים אותו עקב כך-הוא לעולם לא טען שהוא מישהו חוץ מאדם פשוט-יש לו מה לומר-שיגיד-למה אתם לא פוצחים פה על האוטיסטים-הואלא מוכר כלום-לא מעניין אותו כלום חוץ מהארץ-העם והקב"ה -אז באמת מספיק

joshwaxman said...

"הוא לא טוען שהוא נביא"
bull plop. of course he does. he has plausible deniability, by saying that he received a gift from Hashem that he cannot explain. and that he cannot reveal X and Y because Hashem forbade him. How, precisely, did Hashem forbid him if he does not receive some sort of message or understanding from Hashem? meanwhile, he tells us what Hashem plans and what Hashem wants.

this way, he can put forth his claims without technically being a navi.

but does an Adam Pashut really say that "he knows where gold can be found in Israel, just he is not allowed to say where. Hashem, he said, does not want it revealed right now."

this is precisely the same shtik that the autistics pull. and i HAVE challenged them on this. see for example this post, this post, this post, and this post. Those are just examples. I have written quite a lot more on those nevi'ei sheker, who are really just a bunch of exploited people with disabilities.

kol tuv,

vincent said...

Shalom, I do not know how he does it and why, or who, or what he is.
I do agree ther is a danger in all of this.
Everybody now watching the news waiting for the big one to strike instead of doing the normal thing. If it strikes are we happy and what if it doesn't?
I know from personal experience that unexplainable things such as these do occur in this world. That shouldn't even be the argument as far as i am concerned. What source is it from? How accurate is it? why now? who is he? What or who's next? That should be the argument.
I do feel that he didn't mean a far away quake somewhere remote. We will see. I know you won't be distrcted to much by the likes of him.
I will love the day when you proclaim someone Mosiach. That will seal it. (lol)

joshwaxman said...


so far, the strongest candidate I've put forth was David Ben Gurion.


Anonymous said...

I have two things to say: Rabbi Ben Artzi is not causing arguments. People unfortunately, find topics to argue about. In every one of his talks, he reminds Am Yisroel that we are one Nation that needs to forget our differences and unite. He promotes achdut, shalom bais, honesty in business dealings and basic tenets of emunah and bitachon in the HaKadosh Baruch Hu. Why not let your readers check out Rabbi Ben Artzi's website for themselves: and arrive at their own conclusions.
The other thing, and I am sure you are unaware of it living in the USA, but in Israel, at the bottom of your website there is a Hebrew ad that should be removed.

Devorah said...
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joshwaxman said...

in terms of promoting Shalom Bayis, I'll point you to the following quote from an old article I'll be discussing in a later post. It reads, in part:
בשנים ההן ליוו את בן-ארצי לא מעט האשמות שלפיהן סיכסך בין זוגות בעצותיו ובאבחנותיו, עד כדי פתיחת תיק גירושים. הרב אבינר כתב אז: "לנשים הבאות לקבל עצתו, יש והוא מדגיש באופן סמכותי את מגרעות בעליהן וכתוצאה מכך נוצרים סלידה וריחוק והקשר בין בני הזוג מתרופף". וגם: "יש והוא מודיע לבני זוג החיים בשלווה שאינם זיווג מן השמים וכך מופר שלום בית". ועוד: "מזווג זיווגים כולל לנערות צעירות מאוד ומפרק זיווגים. לרווקה מבוגרת הוא הודיע שעל פי שורש נשמתה אינה יכולה להתחתן".

Or, in English:
"In those years, accompanied Ben Artzi quite a few allegations that he messed up marriages with his observations and advice to couples, to the extent of even open a divorce case. Rav Aviner wrote: "To those women who came to get advice, he sometimes emphasized with authority the faults in their husbands as a result, produced dislike and distance in the relationship between the couple. And: "He announced to peacefully-living-together couples that they do not match from heaven and thus disturbed their shalom bayis." Furthermore, he "made matches including very young girls. And an older single girl, he informed that according to the root of her soul she can not get married."

This is what happens when crazy people or con-artists rise to a position of prominence. But it certainly does not seem like a promotion of Shalom Bayis, for these hapless couples.

In terms of removing the advertisement, I can only remove it if I know the URL it links to. Then, I can feed it into Google Adsense's 'Competitive Ad Filter'. I already do this for a number of missionary sites. Can you tell me where it links to, so that I can remove it?


Anonymous said...


I haven't followed your arguments against this Artzi fellow,because to me it is a non-issue. Could he be a prophet? IMO, I believe this so-called rabbi is blowing his own horn.

However, I do believe that these very unusual natural disasters that are occurring all over the world are coming directly from Hashem. He is preparing for the coming of Moshiach, and before he can come the whole world has to proclaim G-d's oneness. So, these disasters are the impetus for the goyiim to finally realize that was is happening is coming directly from HIm. We already see this from a comment made by the Prime minister of Japan, who made the comment that the earthquake/tsunami was a 'divine punishment'.

E-Man said...

Has there been an earthquake that has destroyed cities in Mexico or Saudi Arabia. Isn't that his prediction? If it doesn't happen doesn't that mean he is a false prophet and we are obligated to kill him?

joshwaxman said...


i have a post in the works on the tsunami and derech hateva, but of course, derech hateva is (or can be) a manifestation of the Divine Plan. Part of what I wrote above was addressing just how out-of-the-ordinary these disasters are. to a large extent, I think that it is much more that we have the Internet and a global reporting apparatus, such that we now KNOW that these things are happening, while in the past, they happened with the same regularity but we were not aware.

still, assuming the worst, that does not necessarily mean that Mashiach is surely on his way. even looking just at Japanese earthquakes joined with tsunamis, the 1703 Genroku earthquake, on December 31, 1703, killed over 108,800 people in Japan. And the September 1, 1923 earthquake, namely the 1923 Great Kantō earthquake, killed 100,000 to 142,000 Japanese. This present earthquake + tsunami killed "only" about 11,004, in comparison.

Compare this with other disasters in history. The 1918 flu pandemic killed 40 million. Not to mention WWI at the same time. And mashiach did not come then. So even if terrible times are here or are coming, that is not the same as saying that mashiach is surely here.

kol tuv,

Anonymous said...

Don't our sources say prophecy has ended?

joshwaxman said...

"Has there been an earthquake that has destroyed cities in Mexico or Saudi Arabia. Isn't that his prediction?"
nope, because he is slippery. he worded it thusly:
"Next week, there will be a severe earthquake in one of the places in the world. The earthquake can wash away whole small towns in Saudi Arabia and in Mexico," the Rabbi issued an updated forecast.

One can say that he was talking about the intensity, meaning its magnitude. The earthquake is such that it CAN wash away, not that it actually will. And a pretty low magnitude can wash away a small town in Mexico.

Indeed, he is already claiming fulfillment of his prediction, so presumably that is how he is spinning it.

If it doesn't happen doesn't that mean he is a false prophet and we are obligated to kill him?
chas veshalom! but, :)

first, we have no Sanhedrin to carry it out, and he would naturally have to be convicted in court. but secondly, he is slippery. besides the wording, he *technically* is not claiming to be a prophet, and he is predicting woe, where Hashem can always change His mind. but we can ignore him and his silly, silly predictions.

kol tuv,

joshwaxman said...

(the same as above? please choose pseudonyms, folks!)

yes, except in modified form to children and the insane.

however, to cite the Lubavitcher Rebbe:
"The return of prophecy to the Jewish people is therefore both a prerequisite and preparation for the messianic era, which is due to begin at any moment."

kol tuv,

Yeshivish said...

I really do not think that a person can be deemed false prophet unless he predicts something positive. Otherwise, the behavior of people can change the outcome of the prediction.

Creed Of Noah said...

I have family living in Bnei Brak. Out of curiosity I asked what the consensus of the people in Bnei Brak is on Nir Ben Artzi & what the deal was with "throngs" of people turning up to hear him.

Well, turns out these "throngs" were NOT there to support him but rather, "Anyone who came just came for entertainment. His consensus is subzero"...There you have it...feedbak directly from Bnei Brak! The crowd were there out of sheer curiosity. They don't take his words too seriously.

Creed Of Noah said...

BTW to all the Nir ben Artzi supporters here on the internet, can any of you back up the legitamacy of any of his "predictions"?

joshwaxman said...

It actually is one of the posts I have lined up in the queue, but I'll undermine it anyway.

in terms of "I really do not think that a person can be deemed false prophet unless he predicts something positive. Otherwise, the behavior of people can change the outcome of the prediction", I agree with you entirely. except for one point, which is the word "deemed".

a navi sheker is someone who says something, as a prophet, from Hashem, when he is not actually transmitting Hashem's words. even if he merely takes true words of prophecy from another prophet and repeats them as his own, he is being a navi sheker. separate from that is whether a Beis Din can catch him as being a navi sheker, and then punish him.

just like a pickpocket is a thief, even the thousand times he steals but is not caught. and just like a murderer is a murderer even if there are no eidim, or hasraah, etc.

the standards of halachic proof for convicting him in court and then executing him are pretty strict. indeed, as you write, since Hashem can repent of performing the evil. to cite Yonah 3:9:
מִי-יוֹדֵעַ יָשׁוּב, וְנִחַם הָאֱלֹהִים; וְשָׁב מֵחֲרוֹן אַפּוֹ, וְלֹא נֹאבֵד.
Who knoweth whether God will not turn and repent, and turn away from His fierce anger, that we perish not?'

Yonah certainly was no navi sheker!

But that is to convict and execute. That does not mean that we are not permitted to use our sechel and see that somebody refuses to validate himself as a navi emet, consistently gives vague and thus easily fulfill-able predictions, or no end date for fulfillment, or always negative prophecies so that he can never be caught. we are allowed to use our sechel and disregard the charlatan or lunatic. And we need not believe him or heed him until he submits to repeated falsifiable tests, where he can either be determined to be a navi sheker or a navi emet.

i cover this at some length in this earlier parshablog post, about Benefit of the Doubt.

kol tuv,

anahashem said...

Please excure my ignorance, because I don't remember the sources that I quote well at all. I invite anyone else to clarify my points and give sources.

It seems to me that Ben Artzi's insistance on everyone keeping specifically the 10 commandments is quite not in line with other Jewish sources (which I learned long ago but cannot remember where). Such as, the rejection of incorporating the 10 commandments into the tefila (or shema?), because that would create an impression that they are all that matter. Also, I remember that there are halachic opinions that rule that one shouldn't stand in shul for the laining of the 10 commandments for the same reason.


Anonymous said...

"Rashi commenting on the words, 'you must be wholehearted with the Lord your G-d', explains the results of total reliance on the Creator, he says:

Walk with Him in wholeheartedness and depend on Him. Do not seek to look into the future, but whatever befalls you accept with wholeheartedness, that you may be His nation and His portion.


Nachmanides [Ramban] elaborates upon the reason such wholeheartedness is required:

So that we unite our hearts to Him alone and believe that He alone is the Creator of all and He knows the truth of all that is destined to unfold. From Him alone shall we ask to know the future through the words of His prophets, and not from readers of the heavens...'


From the commentary of Nachmanides on Deut. 18:13

We're not to inquire of the astrologers or from anyone else, or by any means to trust that their words will be fulfilled. Instead, if we hear a prediction.. we should say, 'everything is in the hands of Heaven,' for He is supreme above all and knows all. He changes the set order of stars and constellations at His will, frustrating the signs of imposters and making their divinations into nothing. We are to believe that future events will occur according to man's drawing closer to His service. Therefore, after warning against inquiring about future events from diviners and of seeking about the living from the dead, He stated that you are to be wholehearted with G-d in all these matters and not be afraid of those who tells of things to come. Rather, you should inquire of His prophets, and to Him alone shall you hearken...that you not be found deficient in your fear of Him, for wholeness means the perfection of something...this is a positive commandment.

source: Signs of the times, by Gad Erlanger

study positive mizva 'you must be wholehearted with the Lord your G-d'


Devorah said...
This comment has been removed by the author.


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