Call of the Puppet

I love this video — Yossi Berktin did a great job poking fun at the current controversy surrounding the Call of the Shofar program, masking it as the “Tent of Avraham”. It is really, really creative and funny.

What I find most poignant about the video, though, is that it reveals so much of the fear & ignorance many people have about the Shofar. What this video showed me is that most people’s fears can be boiled down to the same small list. And the good news, is that they are easy to assuage.  Let’s delve deeper.

Fear: Somebody (Simcha) is getting rich off the program, and in the process, ripping people off.

Truth: This nonsense has been address already, but based on the publically-available  published costs & schedule ($750/person, 22 people, 18 workshops/year) gross revenue is about 300K/year. Expenses for food & housing during the weekends are 33% , leaving 200K.  Subtract about $50K for all additional expenses to actually run the business (printing, travel, website, taxes, insurance, publicity, blah, blah) and you are left with about +/- $150K. This needs to be split between about 5-7 people (!). And I’m sure, expenses are much, much higher. Wow. Looks like you could make more money working at

Fear: The shofar is a spiritual substitute for Chabad, that has it’s roots in buddhism, taoism, and idol-worship.

Truth: The Shofar is not a substitute for Chabad or Chassidus. The Shofar is not a spiritual workshop, experience or religion. It is a self-help program, using Jewish theology as it’s framework. The program has been vetted by some very prominent rabbonim, and has never been accused of idolatry by any rabbonim at all. Further, there have been hundreds of very frum Yidden who actually have attended, many of whom are Rabbis, Shluchim, Mashpiem, and Talmudi Chachumim — none of whom have expressed any concern that Shofar is a substitute for Chassidus or is idolatry.

Fear: Shofar is a pyramid scheme. Everybody is telling everybody else about it, and getting people to go.

Truth: No, actually, it’s something brand new that only the Shofar invented – it’s called Word-of-Mouth Marketing. This happens when people are really excited about something that they found beneficial, and then they go and tell their friends. Again, this is completely unique to the Shofar, nobody else is doing it (especially Chabad).

Fear:  Shofar is a Cult – they restrict food, water, sleep, outside contact, and members are sworn to secrecy.

Truth: This fear has been dealt with already at length. But to point out the funny parts of the video,

  1. Tons of food at the Shofar. Tons. And it is really, really good.
  2. Staff warn and implore participants to get the full 8 hours of sleep (Rambam anyone?)  allocated each night. The only sleep deprivation I experienced was that I wasn’t able to get my Shabbos nap!
  3. What we did (all exercises) , what is taught (and all literature), and what I said and experienced I am free to share with anybody. No secrecy except as it pertains to who else went — this is simple derech-eretz.
  4. You are encouraged not to use your cell-phone at all for 48 hours (25 of which are Shabbos), unless it is an emergency (nobody takes away your cell phone). This is simply because the program really wouldn’t work if people’s cellphones were chirping & buzzing the entire time.

Fear: The staff is not trained as therapists and didn’t go to medical school. They are unqualified to give therapy and diagnose medical issues.

Truth: Shofar is not therapy. It is a self-help program using Judaism as it’s framework. There is no diagnosing of anything, or medicine, of psychoanalysis or whathaveyou. Although in certain cases the Shofar can obviate the need for therapy, if you have a diagnosable disorder, or need therapy, then go see a therapist. Shofar is for mentally healthy Jewish men who want to improve their relationships, and get more out of life.

Again, I really like the video. In addition to the humor, it really highlighted and expressed the fears circulating in Crown Heights — I keep seeing the same 4 or 5 issues coming up from everybody I speak with and on every website. And this is good news — knowing what your fears are is half the battle to a complete and healthy recovery!


3 thoughts on “Call of the Puppet

  1. Rav Shmuel Kaminetzky has removed his endorsement. See cots website. Its gone.
    Pirchei Shoshanim has revoked Simcha’s Semicha.
    Rabbi Dovid Cohen paskened that he has the status of a Kofer. (by the way, at the meeting Simcha admitted to not being able to read hebrew well. So how does he know Kabbalah Etc.).

  2. Please look up the teshuvos I sent you. The first was qouted by RDC. I appreciate your honesty in publishing my comments.

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