Jon Taub

When Mega Is Malign

Reading a few different articles on the parsha this past week, a piece about Yaakov Avinu on his deathbed by Rabbi Ari Kahn stood out: what was Yaakov’s biggest fear is as all his sons all stood before him?

Yaakov thought: maybe some of my sons are like Yishmael and Esav?  

Why was Yaakov so afraid of this?  In a certain sense, the conflict between Yosef and his brothers almost mirrored what happened with Yaakov’s brother and uncle: they were permanently detached from the family’s mission because of an irrevocable split between siblings.

Rabbi Kahn details why the fear might have manifested itself: Esav and Yishmael each exemplified a particular corruption of as aspect of the mission represented by the first two Avos, and Yaakov Avinu thought that corruption might have filtered into the shevatim.

To wit:

Avraham Avinu represents chesed; Yishmael represented the corruption of chesed, using chesed to seduce women, who ostensibly “owed” him the “chesed” of “free love”.   According to one medrash hunted and abused both single and married women, and may have even abused [or attempted to abuse] a very young Yitzchak [based on the term “metzachek”].

Yitzchak Avinu represents Din and gevurah; Esav, as Rabbi Kahn explains, corrupted din by twisting self control into control of others, including his penchant for murder and rapine, which itself turns “gevurah” into crude strong-arming.  It made sense that Esav married Yishmael’s daughter: he had a lot in common with his father in law.

Esav and Yishmael came to mind with the recent arrest of mega-influencer Andrew Tate, the revelations that he seems to have backed up his proudly proclaimed misogyny by allegedly engaging in human trafficking, and the further disturbing revelations that he’s amassed a cult-like following among school age males seem to indicate that not only does Tate represent a modern day-“marriage” of Biblical Esavic and Yishmaelite tendencies, but his cult-like persona recalls some of the worst tendencies of  of Bilaam, and pagan tendencies of the “Voluptuaries” of Bamidbar 11 and 12.

Let’s start with the paganism first, as that was how Tate got caught in the first place: aside from Tate’s penchant for lauding his financial wealth and his sexual conquests, Tate was apparently so obsessed with his collection of Bugattis that he felt compelled to tweet at a girl half his age about how many he possessed and their “enormous emissions”.  Rav Joseph Soloveitchik [“The Rev”] used to refer to the incident at Kivrot Hataa’vah as “The Graves of the Voluptuaries” which he asserted was a paradigm of paganism: in the people’s frenzied collective attempt to collect heaps of quail, “infinite gathering became an end in itself”.

The persistence of Tate’s paganism might be more ironic considering Tate’s recent public religious conversion and his professions of “women are precious” in the face of his alleged rapine and slavedriving.  These are reminiscent of the fake religious persona Esav presented for his father Yitzchak [“How do we tithe straw”?]  It also matches with the sentiments of Bilaam: “tamus nafhsi most yesharim” —let me die the death of the righteous [as long as I don’t have to live like one.  St. Augustine—before he became a “ba’al teshuva”—once said “Give me chastity, but not yet.”  Tate apparently never planned on getting that far.]  While some of Tate’s new co-religionists—female ones, particularly—have seen through the ruse of his his ostensible spiritual transformation, others—especially those who celebrate terrorism and theofascism—have celebrated it, and he himself has sung the praises of the Taliban enough that they expressed “worry” about his arrest.  Again: a perfect marriage of Esav and Yishmael.
And another: Esav and Yishmael were both hunters; Tate has parlayed his MMA championships into his career as a violent exploiter of women, as well as his expressed sentiments in interviews that ultimately violence is the only solution to anything.

One more look between Tate and Esav is how Esav admired [to a point] his father, so much so that Chazal occasionally hold up Esav as a model of “kibud av”.  However, Esav also was known to hate his mother, despite the fact that—as Rashi notes—he trusted his mother more than his wives. Tate admires his father: what about his mother who raised him after their parents divorce? [Esav Harasha and Andrew Tate: serious mommy issues?

Further, take both Esav’s and Yishmael’s penchant for rapine, and Yishmael’s aforementioned possible tendency toward exploitation of children: taking into account both Tate’s statements about younger women and the allegations that he may not even drawn the line that high, and we have yet another parallel.

Finally, Tate’s cultic following on and off the internet brings to mind “Bilaam”, the “worldly” prophet sought out by everyone for his presumed powers who essentially set himself up as the “guru” or amorality in his time. The Talmud [TB Sanhedrin 106] notes that “any possible explanation you can derive to Bilaam’s detriment, always derive to his detriment”. It is imperative that one derive what can about Tate to his absolute detriment in a Balaamic sense.Too many adult men—and, more disturbingly, too many school-age males [and, unfortunately, a few yeshiva boys]—admire this man and have been manning the barricades to defend him.The man has no redeeming qualities, and it must be made apparent that if you admire him to the point that you think he can help you with your life, you’re a sucker, and if you genuinely admire his ideology and way of life, you have a serious character issue.

For starters.

About the Author
Jon Taub is an ex-Upper West Sider, now-married Riverdalean who has two MA's, plays three instruments, and consults for biostartups.