Ashdod, Israel – AP Report: Rich and Famous Flock to Wonder Rabbi

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     In this Monday, July 11, 2011 photo, a man kisses the hand of Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto, center, as he attends a wedding in Lod, central Israel. People, including some of Israel's wealthiest and most powerful, come seeking Pinto's blessing or his counsel on their business deals and personal lives. The veneration and consulting of miracle rabbis has a long history in Judaism, existing uncomfortably alongside a deeply rooted rationalist tradition. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)Ashdod, Israel – A few evenings every month, some of Israel’s wealthiest and most powerful people can be found in a living room in this seaside city, waiting to have a few minutes with a rabbi they see as an adviser, guru or miracle worker.

    Yoshiyahu Pinto is slightly stooped, his long beard and hair unkempt. He looks older than his 38 years, and speaks so softly you have to lean in to hear him. His remarkable rise in recent years has turned this living room of floral-patterned chairs and gilt sofas into an intersection of influence extending to Israel’s parliament, where a former defense minister believes the rabbi helped him emerge from a coma, and to high finance, where a real estate broker says Pinto steered him away from a bad deal that would have lost him millions.

    People come seeking the rabbi’s blessing or his counsel on their business deals and personal lives. Pinto has no business training and did not study at university. But he has “wisdom that is unlimited,” said Israeli businessman Ilan Ben-Dov, the majority shareholder in the cell phone company Partner, who has been consulting the rabbi regularly for five years.

    “He has not only his own life experience, but that of all of the generations that went before him,” Ben-Dov said. “Any attempt to describe him falls short of the reality.”

    The veneration of rabbis said to have miracle powers has a long history in Judaism, existing uncomfortably alongside a deeply rooted rationalist tradition. In Israel, the phenomenon used to be identified mainly with poor Jews of Middle Eastern origin. But in recent years, it has spread to the country’s secular elite, bringing into the limelight a number of rabbis who have an aura of otherworldliness as well as PR operations sophisticated enough to make sure their otherworldliness is well known.

    Pinto’s star currently shines the brightest.

    On a recent Thursday night – one of the several times a month Pinto sees visitors here – an Associated Press reporter waiting for several hours for an audience was joined by millionaire businessmen, professional soccer players, a few seemingly ordinary people, and one of Israel’s most famous singers, a pop diva who goes by the name of Rita.
    In this July 11, 2011 photo, Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto, center, attends a wedding in Lod, central Israel. People, including some of Israel's wealthiest and most powerful, come seeking Pinto's blessing or his counsel on their business deals and personal lives. The veneration and consulting of miracle rabbis has a long history in Judaism, existing uncomfortably alongside a deeply rooted rationalist tradition. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
    People who do not wait in line for anything wait in line for Pinto. Leaning against a wall, near the door to the rabbi’s office, was Jacky Ben-Zaken, the real-estate tycoon who told a reporter last year about Pinto’s last-minute advice to abandon his planned purchase of a company.

    Tzipi Livni, the opposition leader, had been here two weeks before. Billionaire Nochi Dankner, who owns Israel’s largest holding company and a daily newspaper, is a regular.

    Pinto is a scion of two rabbinical dynasties. On his mother’s side he is a great-grandson of a famous Moroccan-born mystic known as the Baba Sali.

    Pinto began amassing followers as a young man in the Mediterranean port city of Ashdod, helped by his family heritage and reputation for uncanny insight into human behavior. Some of those followers saw him simply as an unusually wise man. Others believed his wisdom was supernatural, that his blessings had power and that he could see the future and heal the sick.

    His fame slowly extended into the upper reaches of Israeli society, with the help of savvy assistants who cultivate celebrities and reporters.

    The rabbi has a ministry, Shuva Israel, that funds Torah and charitable work and owns the rabbi’s house in Ashdod. It also has property in midtown Manhattan, where Pinto, apparently unhindered by the fact that he speaks no English, has developed a large following and where he now spends most of his time.
    In this July 11, 2011 photo, followers surround Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto, center right, during a wedding in Lod, central Israel. People, including some of Israel's wealthiest and most powerful, come seeking Pinto's blessing or his counsel on their business deals and personal lives. The veneration and consulting of miracle rabbis has a long history in Judaism, existing uncomfortably alongside a deeply rooted rationalist tradition. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
    The rise of wonder-rabbis among the wealthy and influential here is linked to a more general rise in religious sentiment in Israel and to New Age trends, said psychologist and sociologist Yoram Bilu of Hebrew University in Jerusalem. A visit and donation to the rabbi offers an experience Bilu termed “instant redemption,” with none of the intellectual or practical demands of the actual religion.

    Bilu ties it to the uncertainties of Israeli life: “Israeli businessmen operate in a very stressful, unpredictable environment, and the whole society is in a permanent state of emergency.”

    Pinto stands out in part because he is more accessible to Israelis turned off by organized Judaism, said Shalom Yerushalmi, a veteran political analyst for the daily Maariv who considers himself one of the rabbi’s followers.

    Unlike most ultra-Orthodox rabbis, Pinto does not press his secular adherents to observe Jewish law and rejects the mixing of religion and government, he said. Pinto has also spoken out to condemn racism against Arabs.

    But not everything about the rabbi can be explained, said Yerushalmi: “I think he’s connected to places that we don’t even know about.”

    Israeli lawmaker Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, a former defense minister, credited Pinto with helping him survive a near-fatal bout of pneumonia in March.

    Pinto came to his hospital room when he was comatose, said Ben-Eliezer, who is 74. “I didn’t see this, because I was almost in the next world. He sat next to me for between four and five hours, crying. Then he stood up and said to the people in the room – he’ll wake up tomorrow morning.”

    And so it was.

    When the rabbi showed up at an opulent wedding this month, his name was whispered like that of a rock star among the upper-class Israelis in the hall. One man asked him about a potential investment in a 1,500-unit housing project outside Tel Aviv.

    “Go for it,” said Pinto.

    After a long wait in Pinto’s living room, an assistant hurried a reporter into the rabbi’s office, past the envious glances of supplicants left outside.

    The rabbi spoke softly and seemed distracted, as if he had just arrived from another world but was pleasantly surprised to be here.

    When he spoke, it was in simple-sounding Hasidic parables interspersed with astonishing streams of name-dropping that encompassed politicians, businessmen and celebrities in Israel and the U.S.

    The U.S. economy, Pinto predicted in an aside, “is on its way up.”

    Asked why a millionaire might consult with him, Pinto replied with a story.

    Once there was a king whose throat was sore. His advisers told him to drink oil, but this made things worse. Doctors told him to drink vinegar. This made it even worse. Then a simple old man suggested that he should just drink water, and of course this had been the solution all along.

    “People create their problems,” Pinto said. “The rabbi’s job is to explain, with love, that these problems are only small things. People think these things are great, but they are not.”

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    37 COMMENTS

      • On one level, I’m glad his followers are the “rich and famous” rather than the poor who flock to him for his “advice” and “magic” since they can afford to waste their time and money on his mubmo jumbo. The poor should be consulting someone who can legitimately help them and not going to a fortune teller.

      • The “poor and unknown”, by definition, are in no position to donate to this wunder rebbe’s bank accounts or to be used whenever Pinto might need a favor.

      • Look at the third picture and see how totally uninterested Pinto is in the man kissing his hand. The poor fellow might not even be there for all the attention Pinto is (not) showing.

    1. There are many who really believe what many of us may consider buba mesias and they are entitled to do so. However, if you have real problems on complex issues you probably ought to rely on experts in that subject area rather than some rav who holds himself out as a “mystic”. Its not apikorsus but certainly has some elements of machashefa.

    2. The rabbis who really are “in the know” do not see PR firms.
      We live in a society wherein a “quick fix” is the seeming solution to everything. Don’t put in the effort, don’t learn, don’t pray, just go to a mystic and get what you want. Instant gratification, Jewish style.

      • this is NOT jewish style. jews are facing alot of upheaval in this prolonged exile. sometimes its a form of escapism from the hatred of almost the rest of the world against them. and they fight great odds to survivie. let s not judge anyone.

    3. I belive its all hog wash. all these “wonderworking rabbis .should be lije baseball cards with “all” averages on the back including their failures in advises

    4. Rebbe worship, Kabbalist worship, idol worship, it’s all the same avoda zora. Very dangerous path to be on.

      Why does it seem more obvious when it’s a sephardi and not some Eastern European?

      • You have told the entire truth here. Only two more things need to be said
        1) There’s a sucker born every minute.
        2) When Charles de Gaulle visited the “wonderworking” shrine of Lourdes he looked at the huge pile of canes and crutches and remarked “Not one wooden leg.”

    5. I have seen Rabbeim including Chassidic and two Rabbi Pintos.
      There is some power hat can not be easily explained.
      #2 PLEASE READ This is not to say that you should not go to an expert first, but think of this as an extra.
      #1 PLEASE NOTE I went to see this Rabbi Pinto as a plain person. It seemed the Rabbis handlers were telling him that I might not be important but he was ignoring them. he does see plain people.

      • Please ,,what about charaide Rebbunim? thats not instant gratification? when you go get a brocha, thats what your hoping for, “yesuhas hashem k’herev ayin”
        even your rabbi would love the fame that this man gets…all rebbunim and rabbis believe that they deserve this kind of fame…the ones who speak out are just jealous that they cant attract such a following….its all a business….

    6. Was in Israel went to rav david told him I had a court case coming up he promised me I would win went to a few others got same promised not only did I lose the judge wiped the floor with me it was a blowout like 50 to nothing oops

      • This is in respond to no. 10 (Nussi Says).
        Two people go the a rabbi to get a braukha for children, about 9 or 10 month later
        one of the two who did not conceived a child comes back to the rabbi and complain.
        the rabbi told him the other one right after I give him a braukha he bought a baby
        garage he set up a room for the arrival of the baby, what did you do.
        In your case instead of accepting the rabbi David advise you went to a few other
        rabbis !!!!!!!!!!!!!

    7. R’ Pinto officially charges nothing, though I doubt you’d find someone who wouldn’t leave a donation when visiting. And that’s the custom with ANY Rabbi who’s advice, not to mention time, you seek out. I’ve been to him, I was certainly a ‘no-one’ but waited no more/less than anyone else in the room, including the wealthy. The skeptics who post so quickly here are no doubt skeptics of most/many things in life, so how much more so is it expected that they would be skeptical of anything that is more spiritual than physical/tangible. I know several people who have had some pretty unbelievable encounters with this Rabbi, and I’ve had my own – also with others. Before the usual bashers on this site bash, why don’t they go and try experiencing for themselves? As the saying goes though, you have to believe in some things in life in order to see and receive them. A skeptic usually sees a mirror where a more open-minded individual and believer will see a window.

    8. Whenever i’ve a problem,whenever I need something or whenever I need help I go to my rebbi, the rebbi of all rebbi’s,הקדוש ברוך הוא hashem,he dosn’t charge any money,no hand kissing & no lines ,he listens to me & helps me right away .

    9. First of all beleiving is most important ,,,, when getting a blessing you have to believe it will help than it will…also I started learning “ohr hachaim” daily and had seen mamesh miracles ……. It pays to try

      • People without religion use these characters instead of religion. People without religion enjoy bashing them to allay their consciences. Those who claim that it is witchcraft or idolatry are using religious terminology to justify scepticism without faith. Scepticism has its place within the framework of faith. In Judaism, the bottom line is the behaviour of the individual: How does he spend his days and nights? To say that he spend all day ‘helping’ or ‘advising’ others simply means that he is definitely not complying with the the foremost criterion of Torah Study. Without that, anything he says or does is suspect of the worst. If we are to accept that he is psychic – there are plenty such around, non-Jews and non-tzaddikim. If we are to accept that his blessings help – are they more successful than anyone else’s? Is his lifestyle really of such purity etc to guarantee his blessings?

        • My point is whenever some story that requires a little faith crops up, be it a wonder-rabbi or a dibbuk or any other story one could get a certain ‘chizuk’ from, people find it easier to bash rather see it as a opportunity to improve one self.
          As for your point “ To say that he spend [sic] all day ‘helping’ or ‘advising’ others simply means that he is definitely not complying with the the foremost criterion of Torah Study.” the article states “one of the several times a month Pinto sees visitors”.

      • QUESTION’s? Are we not suppose to consult the rightous for council, I suppose it comes down to the cridentials, right? And then who do we measure those cridentials to? Moshe right? And his resume is Torah? So we all fail to meet those measures or do we? But we must all try, right? So if we are trying, why seek out a human source? Then again we need to,or not and Why?
        All responces appreciated.

    10. i see bozos have alot of credibility among the rich and famous,it all makes sense the weirder you are the more youre accepted what a perverted world we live in.

    11. what a CHILLUL HASHEM,these ripp-off artist’s give YIDISHKEIT a bad name.
      these out and out swindlers and charlatans,take advantage of a lot of desperate ignorant and superstitious people to relieve them of their hard earned money,they are no better than the hundreds of these gipsy fortune tellers scattered all around manhattan.
      will not be surprised at all,if one day we wake up and read,that this guy has been arrested and is behind bars.

      CHAIM.S

    12. Only a vessel without holes can hold water. Often, the Rabbis require that one first correct aspects of themselves in order to receive the blessing. They don’t ask for money, but as with anyone seeking advice from a professional, one can expect to get what they pay for. See Gemara Brochos.

    13. The Chafetz Chaim’s son, said that his father was different than the other
      Rebbes, who perform Mofsim. By Rebbes it is Tzadik Gozer V’hakadosh
      Boruch Hu mekayem.By the Ch Chaim it was the opposite Hakadosh B”H
      Gozer v’hatzadik mekayem

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