Using Sex To Sell Torah

I was doing some research on Rabbi Simcha Weinberg and found some interesting comments about his late uncle Noah Weinberg, the founder of Aish HaTorah.

I did not realize there was so much venom towards him.

I researched these attacks and heard this: You are quoting from a Lubavitch site who hated Reb Noach Weinberg, they think they have a monopoly on kiruv (outreach).

By the way how learned is the average Chabad shaliach (emissary)?

Here is the background. Rabbi and Mrs. Weinberg separated around a year before he got sick. They were not on the same wavelength for many years, she is very firmly right wing ULTRA orthodox, and he was too modern for her taste.

The separation was generally kept quiet, but certain people heard about and assumed that the “truth” must be sordid, and, depending on the version, had remarried. The rest is very silly, but all that had happened is that at first he moved out of the bedroom, into a different apartment in the same building and they were together for Shabbat, eventually he moved in with one of his children, but some evil people have decided that this would be a good excuse to accuse him of immorality.

In his own classes, he barely ever spoke about sex, and would not allow the word sex to be used in any publicity for a lecture, he wouldn’t let people sell sex even for outreach. He was once asked him if we could write S-X, he laughed and said no.

Rav Elya Svei was against anything slightly modern. That he attacked someone or something is of little meaning. If you don’t believe me, research what he said about YU, Rabbi Soloveitchik, Rabbi Norman Lamm.

Here’s one typical comment from this Chabad site:

Rabbi Weinberg’s work towards the goal of Kiruv was often accompanied by ziyyuf haTorah, the falsification of Torah which our sages teach is yehareg veAl yaavor. The teachings in the discovery seminar on the so called “Torah Code” which was at most the idiosyncratic and unproven idea of one prominent scholar (R’ Heme”d) given without context as a “proof.” Similarly, the discovery seminar promotes a false view of the textual perfection of the Torah (we do not know plene and defective spellings) which contradicts the Talmud and other sources up to our own time. Another damning example of ziyyuf haTorah is the minimization of dissenting views practiced by Kiruv people in general. The aforementioned examples all involve glossing over the words of many scholars, how much worse is this when, in order to secure funding, Aish promotes itself as a Zionistic yeshiva, which still hews to Haredi ideals? Worse yet is the idea that Rabbi Weinberg is famous for, the different levels of pleasure, which takes the Torah haKedosha and puts it in the tumahdikke keilim of pop psychology. This is worse than any distortion of the Torah UMadda camp, who never dared to equate RamHal with professional satisfaction or the Koach of Hiddush in Maharal with creative solutions in ones job as a computer programmer. I cannot imagine the punishment meted out to someone who rode roughshod over our Torah in such a manner for such questionable goals and monetary gain. When Rabbanim of old criticized Hildesheimer, JTS and even RIETS as being a factory for Rabbanim, they never imagined Aish, which puts out barely literate amei Haaretz as Rabbis in various communities. Honestly, this is worse than TT or YCT, as anyone who has met their respective musmakhim can attest to. Putting such people in Jewish communities in any capacity was a flabbergasting attempt at empire building at the expense of Torah; but all such mushmakhim need to know is the pablum of Artscroll halacha and the five levels of pleasure. Those who criticize the mushrooms like Shmuely and others who do so much to make Judaism look like the Trash culture of America should realize that Aish was the original dark moist pile of excrement where these fungi sprung from. We should hope that with the passing of their leader, this blot on kelal yisroel will break into various warring factions and hopefully leave us all alone.


Shlomo Carlebach (the singing rabbi) was also a pioneer of the kiruv movement and over time the complexity of his personality and approach has been put into greater perspective and has even been seriously questioned.

…Rav Noach and Aish spend a good part of their time talking about the levels of the “pleasures” of Judaism that sound more like the pleasures of sex and seduction? “Below the belt” indeed.

This was a factor that resulted in Rav Elya Svei, Rosh Yeshiva of the Philadelphia yeshiva and head of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah of Agudah in America constantly criticising and attacking Rav Noach and Aish’s derech quite openly many times. Everyone in the Agudah Torah world knows that Rav Elya Svei kept up a constant barrage of criticism against Rav Noach and even blockaded and blocked Rav Yaakov Weinberg from sitting on the illustreous Moetzes GeDolei HaTorah because he (Rav Elya Svei) was totally disgusted and opposed to Rav Noach’s and Aish’s casual attitude and open willingness to discuss (and use?) sex to sell Yiddishkeit.

There MUST have been alot more that Rav Elya Svei was privy too about Rav Noach, Rav Yaakov, and Aish, if he kept up a constant barrage against them at any opportunity and a few times attacking Aish in public for their non-Torahdikke approach to teaching Torah using non-tzeniusdikke sexual material and innuendo that came right from the top, Rav Noach himself blessed and defended by his older brother Rav Yaakov Weinberg the son-in-law of Rav Ruderman. Rav Yaakov succeeded Rav Ruderman as Rosh Yeshiva of the Ner Israel yeshiva of Baltimore, but Rav Elya Svei still blocked and vetoed him from joining the Moetzes which Rav Yaakov never attained until his death because of Rav Elya Svei adamant opposition to the whole Rav Yaakov-Rav Noach-Aish HaTorah axis of wrong haskofas and sexual hashpo’es used to seduce in and mekarev unsuspecting freie young Jews who don’t know any better that goes against the very basic Torah notions of kedoshim tiheyu.

This entire subject is actually a huge rift in the Anerican Agudah world between the Weinberg brothers and Rav Yaakov Weinberg’s controversial sons (like Rabbi Simcha and Rabbi Matis who use explict sexual talk to do kiruv and who was forced to resign for his own sexual advances against students in his yeshivas) and the many allegations of sexual wrong-doing that led to the doors of Ner Israel that have wracked the Baltimore frum community for years now.

Rav Yaakov and Rav Noach were geniuses, no doubt about it, and they were able to create walls of silence around their peculiar personal predelictions, but they never managed to fool Rav Elya Svei who never ceased his war against them, their habits and their non-Torahdikke hashkofas in order to win over devotees to Aish, that Rav Noach ran more like a cult than as an educational institution

…When a rabbi goes to offices, campuses, synagogues and private homes to give talks and shiurim and to “counsel” he can’t take his wife along like Adam had Chava on his back and it’s not even women’s work.

The rebbetzins of the kiruv rabbis still have homes to runs and Yiddisher kinderlach to raise. So by and large kiruv is still a man’s job.

“I limit my interactions with women at work for obvious reasons, and I don’t see how the yetzer horo is less just because one is teaching hebrew.”

Good. But it’s not easy. If kiruv workers can’t control their “urge to merge” they should leave the field instead of causing inevitable havoc and shame.

“V’Or Someach b’South Africa Yochiach.”

This is very funny because Ohr Somayach and Aish HaTorah are actually two horns of one bull stemming from the Ner Israel yeshiva to which both were tied. rabbi Nota Schiller of Ohr Somayach is a Ner Israel (and Chaim Berlin) product, just like Rav Noach of Aish was. In fact Rav Noach founded Ohr Somayach in the first place and hired Nota Schiller to be a fundraiser and then Nota Schiller ousted Rav Noach. But that is all not to the point. The episode of Ohr Somayach in South Africa that you bring up here was done by a non-Ohr Somayach educated rabbi, the Religious Zionist Rabbi Lewis Furman, who was hired to help develop an Ohr Somayach branch and later it was found that he was seducing women along the way. He was let go but the question was never answered why the Ohr Somayach leaders never did anything about him earlier when they surely knew what he was doing by seducing lady congregants in his study (the same thing that Rabbi Mordechai Tendler was accused of doing and was expelled for from the RCA for that).

But one thing has nothing to do with the other. Over-all Ohr Somayach is a pretty boring and staid place while Aish has taken off and become much more successful and and its heart stood none other than Rav Noach, backed up by his brother Rav Yaakov, and the two of them were evidently up to no good the way Rav Elya Svei saw it otherwise he would not have been so vehement and adamant in his attacks and criticism of the Rav Yaakov-Rav Noach-Aish HaTorah axis of bad hashpo’es covered up by tens of millions of dollars from students and celebrities who sucked up the Aish version of hip Judaism laced with pleasure/mild sex-talk, sexual innuendo and soft core themes to get Jewish singles of the ignorant masses to pucker up and fall in love with Aish.

It might be a good way to sell romance novels or ladies perfume but not a way to sell Yiddishkeit.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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