Speakers and writers who tell us things we don't necessarily want to hear have risen in popularity. Some even have quite a large & passionate following.
The question is why?
Liar, Liar, Facts on Fire
How many of those people feel lied to?
How many of those people sensed something missing from their life (either early on or later), but feel lied to about what that was?
How many feel betrayed on some level by their former not-frum or not-Jewish society?
Here are some lies (both spoken & unspoken) people were brainwashed to believe:
- Killing unborn babies is not only completely permissible, but even compassionate.
- People who are pro-life are heartless fanatics who care nothing about babies or women.
- The Tanach is not true.
- Jewish Law is optional; feel free to pick and choose!
- God is optional.
- God is three.
- The movement for Conservative (which is actual very liberal) Judaism is a completely legitimate form of Judaism; in fact, they follow Hillel while those Orthodox Jews follow Shammai.
- The Reform movement is a completely legitimate form of Judaism.
- What God? What Judaism?
- There's no din and no Dayan; the most important thing is that you're happy.
- Premarital relations are perfectly fine and even ideal as long as contraception is used. There are no emotional or spiritual repercussions.
- Marriage & children are so undesirable and put such a damper on your life, they should be pushed off for as long as possible, and you should do everything else first.
- If you ever feel down or bad about yourself, it's only because you lack self-esteem.
- Feminism is only good and has only improved life for females; there is no downside to it.
- Vegetarians & vegans are morally superior to others. They are better people overall.
- Having a physical relationship with someone of your own gender is perfectly normal and should be sanctioned by society, including marriage, and any one who thinks otherwise is an ignorant phobic bigot who should be shunned.
- Republicans = Bad.
- Democrats = Good.
- Liberalism is The Moral Path.
- All you need is love.
- [Fill in the blank.]
People feel betrayed by the society that didn't care enough to give them basic morality.
People resent things they did, not realizing at the time how bad it was for them.
People resent things that were done to them because there was nothing in society that validated their quashed feeling that those things actually weren't okay after all.
For example, it took me a while to realize that the movement for Conservative (which is actual very liberal) Judaism is actually a form of spiritual abuse.
They teach you a lot of stories from Tanach, which for a child especially touches the soul. The soul senses that these stories are true in a profound way. Then they yank the rug out from under you by telling you that these events either aren't really true or that the heroes of these events are just regular Joes — or maybe even less.
(For example, people from this movement who do separate meat & dairy love to tell you that Avraham Avinu did not actually keep kosher due to the way a verse is phrased. Telling them how the mefarshim explain this does no good. Why? Because they have a great ego need to feel frummer. It justifies all their aveirot.)
So your soul knows it's true, but you're being quashed and repressed into this lie.
It's spiritual agony, but there's not outlet for the pain.
Searching for Answers
- Rabbis, rebbetzins, teachers, or advisers who misrepresent Torah.
- An "I'm okay, you're okay" approach to very serious aspects of Judaism that are not at all represented in any mussar sefer — and seem to even be against halacha.
- Religious hypocrisy
- Kosher-certified classes that claim to be derived from Torah and promise to be The Best Way to whatever you desperately need, yet not only don't work (no matter how hard you try) but you also discover that most of it is taken from Western psychology (i.e. the very world you left for Torah Judaism, if you're not FFB)
- No matter how much advice you followed & how much you prayed and did segulot, the person still died, you're still not married, the spouse still left (or is still extremely difficult), the child still went off the derech, the finances still went South, certain family members are still impossible to deal with, your life is one big disappointing mess, and so on.
- [Fill in the blank.]
When people not only can't get what they want, but can't get what they've been told is a huge mitzvah that Hashem wants (i.e., marriage, children, getting children into good schools, etc.), then it can throw them into crisis.
In this case, some people might prefer being told about heavy din or the harsh signs of Mashiach or how other people who either refuse to or can't improve (like Erev Rav or "Jews" who aren't actually Jewish if you check their yichus) are messing things up.
People (especially those who've suffered) Need Validation & Very Often, The Straight-Shooters are the Only Ones to Offer This Validation
These straight-shooters will readily acknowledge that certain cliches you've been fed are actually not true, that religious hypocrisy exists and is a problem, that not every person with rabbinical ordination is actually reliable, and so on.
Contrary to embittered former frummies who left the derech after facing problems, these people DON'T want to reject Hashem and His Torah.
They believe in Hashem and the Truth of His Torah.
They realize that problems and disappointments don't negate our obligations and the resulting din.
But they do need to find someone they can trust, someone who sees what they see, and does so without losing their religion. They want guidance on how to grow in emuna & bitachon despite all the challenges.
And the straight-shooters usually offer them that valuable combination.
I know that when I've read or heard something by Rav Shalom Arush or Rav Avigdor Miller that supports an observation I've had but never felt comfortable admitting, then that strengthens their position in my eyes.
It's like, "Oh! Someone finally said it! I'm not crazy; the emperor really ISN'T wearing clothes!"
And then I listen very closely to hear what else they want to tell me.
If I Can Trust Him to Tell Me the Bitter Truth, I Can Also Trust Him to Tell Me the Sweet Truth
But because it's increasingly sounding like hippie rainbow children, it's hard for people to know what's REAL JUDAISM.
So when, for example, Rav Avigdor Miller tells you that literally anyone can do teshuvah no matter what the sin, or that if you thought about Hashem for one minute in a shop, "You're a great person already!" or that even one minute a day of thinking about Hashem makes that entire a day "a success" and is "tremendous achievement" that means that "You’re one out of ten thousand (pg. 16)," you believe it because he also said things like:
"having a TV is like taking a pipe from the sewers and emptying it directly into your dining room" (source)
"If it wasn’t for the constant threat from the Arabs, then then the leftists would go ahead with their scheme to make Eretz Yisroel a non-Jewish country" (source)
"I know one rebbe, a milameid in the yeshiva mesivta. He makes a point of carrying The New York Times, so that people should respect him. If he would pick up a handful of dog droppings and walk into the mesivta, he’d be more respectable." (source)
"[Hashem] loves you a thousand more times than your mother loves you..." (source)
"Nothing compares to Hashem’s love for you." (source)
"When a man comes into the Shul and he doesn't observe much, don't shame him; you have to treat him delicately, because you can never know.
And I want to tell you something, that these people many times have more idealism than people who are in it all their lives.
People who are in it all their lives, many times are on the way out, and this man is on his way in."
"It’s not the spectacular deeds that will make you spectacular; it’s the ordinary deeds, the ones you do, that when accompanied with the devotion of the mind that truly makes a man great!" (source)
Is There Any Harm to a More "Gevurah" Approach?
If the speaker is a sincere person coming from the right place, then they also emphasize derech eretz & good middot toward others, and coming close to Hashem.
Furthermore, many tell-it-like-it-is speakers are much gentler when speaking one-on-one.
When you're speaking to someone face-to-face, you're looking them in the eye and any tochachah is no longer absorbed by a group, but it's very personal and direct.
Furthermore, when someone has accepted the mussar and is requesting further guidance there is no need to be tough with that person. They got it! Now they need to be brought close with the loving right hand.
If the tell-it-like-it-is speaker is just running on the steam of his or her own ego, then it's questionable how much real Torah you're getting.
But if it's real, it can be very good.
Because it's the Truth.
- People are fed up with being lied to.
- People are sick of obfuscations with regard to Torah (including by some frum people).
- People are sick of obfuscations with regard to morality (including by some frum people).
- People want to hear good & encouraging things — but ONLY if they're true and therefore, only from people they can trust to also tell them the bitter truths too.
- People who are trying very hard to improve are sick of those who could not be bothered to try, or who are even very bad, portrayed as getting a free ride (when they're actually not).
That's just my take on it. It would be interesting to see more reasons why many people are increasingly attracted to this style.