Browsing reddit one day from the passenger’s seat during a drive home for Thanksgiving, I saw a notification informing me of a recent post that had been getting quite a bit of attention on the /r/religion subreddit. The post, from Redditor /u/Least-Ad-8472, was simply titled “Jewish Messiah Here?,” and read as follows:
“Who has been hearing about the Jews allegedly finding a highly possible candidate for their Messiah?
In Islam this person will be considered the Ad-Dajjal.
In Christianity this would be considered the AntiChrist.
Interesting times considering the current state of the world.
I bring this up because I’m open to hearing others perspectives that are aware of this possibility.”
Needless to say, I was intrigued. Upon looking through the comments I found that the post was about Rabbi Shlomo Yehuda Be’eri. Be’eri, who was born in Spain in 1988, is a Hasidic rabbi living in Israel. His followers claim that he is a Torah prodigy, having a high level of proficiency in various areas of Torah study and the ability to recite large swaths of Torah and Talmud text from memory. Because of this perceived genius, his followers gave him the title of the Yanuka, which comes from the Jewish mystical text the Zohar in reference to a child with prodigious knowledge of Torah. Like many Hasidic rabbis, he also seems to attract a devoted audience, with large crowds gathering when he speaks, and other devoted followers using the internet to get his message out to a wider audience. It was likely through videos uploaded by followers to the Spanish-language “Punto Breslev” channel, and a Hebrew and English-language channel set up by a follower named Aryeh Gold, that Christians became aware of this man’s existence.
I searched “Yanuka” on YouTube and found a video titled “*END TIMES PROPHECY NEWS- THE FALSE PROPHET? – JEWISH MESSIAH? Yanuka Rav Shlomo Yehuda. *” The video now has just over 272,000 views.
The video was uploaded by a creator named Tina Golik. She begins the video by saying that the Yanuka is causing a stir in Israel, which Christians should focus on as a barometer of “how close we are” to the end times. She points to the crowds that Be’eri draws, and claims of miracles and faith-healing attributed to the rabbi by supporters. The clips she uses are out-of-context, featuring neither audio nor subtitles: footage of prayer services and even what appears to be a bris are used to imply that the prayers and supplications of those around the Yanuka are being offered to him.
His Torah proficiency is also used to compare him to Jesus. Golik claims that because nobody else in history has been as proficient in Torah as Jesus and the Yanuka, he is a likely candidate to be declared the Jewish messiah. Golik also speculates on how the Yanuka could be both the Jewish and Muslim Messiahs, which is essential for the antichrist, and she determines that he will likely be in league with the false Messiah of Islam. In another video, she speculates that author Yuval Noah Harari may be the antichrist as well, but appears to decide that he is merely paving the way, instead.
Based on the description of the video, one might be driven to think that Golik’s channel is something akin to Infowars. But surprisingly, Tina’s channel is far more focused on her lifestyle and crafts than her apocalyptic religious beliefs. She cites her love of the Dollar Tree, garage sales, Goodwill and DIY home projects as the inspiration for the channel. Her four most popular videos are focused entirely on crafting: a DIY project for iron-pressed garden botanicals has over 1 million views, followed by similar guides for a glammed-up cake stand, Dollar Tree Christmas decoration ideas, and a “laundry hack” for ultra-bright whites (which I might actually use, so I guess proselytizing to Jews is effective.)
The next video that the YouTube algorithm recommended was titled “HE PERFORMS MIRACLES!!! Israel’s Messiah?? The Yanuka Rav Shlomo Yehuda | Messiah Revealed 2022,” Posted by the Youtuber Sling and Stone, who has 138,000 subscribers.
Sling and Stone’s channel is a much more classic example of end-times televangelism: the videos are sharply edited and contain crisp audio quality compared to the uneven audio and awkward visual edits I encountered on Tina’s videos. The content can best be described as “apocalypse of the week” videos. Along with the Yanuka, potential antichrists or false prophets in other videos include Donald Trump, Barack Obama, Emanuel Macron and the Pope. In one video, he speaks of fallen angels from the Book of Revelation being hidden beneath the Vatican and Antarctica (though he admits he can’t prove this due to the 1961 Antarctic Treaty, which leaves the land mass open to scientists only). The inclusion of the Vatican in this video is reflective of a broader theme of anti-Catholic bias and conspiracy within his videos.
The video I watched has over 386,000 views. Sling and Stone makes many of the same points about the Yanuka as Golik does in hers: his proficiency is nearly inhuman, he is credited with miracles, and he attracts large crowds in Israel. Sling and Stone is particularly concerned about the miracle claims, which he criticizes for being attributed to the Yanuka instead of God. Unlike Golik, Sling and Stone does not believe that the Yanuka will declare the Muslim Mahdi: instead, Jews and Muslims will both declare their messiahs, the two will unite to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and then the Antichrist will take over in the Third Temple. In the video’s comments, Sling and Stone seems unsure as to whether or not the Yanuka is the antichrist foretold in the Book of Revelation, or a false prophet leading the way.
Sling and Stone frequently acknowledges that his predictions may be untrue but says the events he describes are still paving the way for the true biblical end times. For example, in a video about how Elon Musk’s Neuralink would lead to the enshrinement of Emanuel Macron as the antichrist, he says, “with all these things, this may not be the actual fulfillment of these last day’s prophecies, but they are clearly setting the stage and paving the way.”
Sling and Stone claims to have become aware of the Yanuka through a channel called Wallytron101, which piqued my curiosity, if only for the unusual name. And so I searched for that channel, unaware that this story was about to get stranger.
Both Sling and Stone and Tina Golik seem to focus primarily on scriptural evidence and religious hypotheticals, making their work come off as relatively tame. Wallytron101, who has over 50,000 subscribers, could not be described in these terms. His bizarre presentation style becomes immediately apparent when one browses the videos on his channel: Wallytron doesn’t seem to know much about scripture. While Sling and Stone videos jump fluidly from current events to biblical prophecy in a way that’s both impressive and darkly engaging, Wallytron begins one video on how the Yanuka is the antichrist by reading verbatim through an MSN slideshow labeled “What You Might Not Know About The Antichrist.”
His views are, by far, the most extreme of the YouTubers that I watched. Among other things, Wallytron states that the European Union is the reconstructed Roman Empire, that Glenn Beck is in league with the devil, and both Trump and Netanyahu are other potential antichrists (specifically describing Bibi as the political antichrist.) In the last three weeks, Wallytron has uploaded more than 15 videos mentioning the Yanuka in the title. This is not including videos on his back-up channel, which likely provides him an easy means of circumventing YouTube’s terms of service. Comments on his videos are mostly positive, with one user writing, “I honestly didn’t think we’d be here to see any of this…Rapture has to be sooooooo very close…I was sitting here thinking there’s no one left to send this to…they’ve all told me to stop…family & friends don’t want to hear anymore….ugh!” Another user says of the channel: “Lately whenever i get feeling freaked out by life, i read the comments on this channel and i feel better knowing there are people out there who still have faith in everything, and we are all in this together, no matter what happens.”
As the comments and viewership numbers show, this content is indeed popular. And in this corner of the internet, extreme and conspiratorial ideas spread to a six-figure audience that is potentially being pushed further and further toward conspiratorial thought: it is easy to envision a less wary viewer curiously following the same the journey I did, from Golik to Sling and Stone and finally Wallytron.
There is a common thread that ran through the out-of-context clips of the Yanuka himself, easy-to-google misunderstandings of Judaism that include the claim that Chanukah is the Jewish New Year, that head tefillin is “the same black cube that the Muslims march around,” that Rosh Hashanah in 2001 was on 9/11 (it began on the 17th), and the general conflation of Israelis with Jews. In each case, Jews, both as individuals and a group, are immaterial. Jewish people, actions and beliefs exist in a prophetic context, solely to prepare the way for the rapture. Information that does not fit the narrative can be disregarded, discarded, or distorted.The fact that Jews are a diverse community that is as prone to fundamentalists, fraudsters and personality cults as any other religious group is not even considered.
It is likely this same attitude has alienated Yanuka-antichrist believers from other eschatologically motivated Christian Zionists. Even Israel Today (not to be confused with the Adelson family-owned Israel Hayom), which states in its mission statement “We believe that the existence of the State of Israel is a fulfillment of Bible prophecy and a plumb line for the purposes of God for these times,” labeled the beliefs within this corner of the religious internet as a “misunderstanding by end-times prophecy-watchers.” In the same article, the publication refuses to link to a video from the creator of the Punto Breslev channel denying that the Yanuka is a Messiah claimant.
Whether in the form of the Messiah or the Antichrist, end-times prophecy has always been a part of Abrahamic religion. But the internet can supercharge this tendency. Both unmanned algorithms and word-of-mouth on other channels can lead people down further rabbit holes, from Golik, to Sling and Stone, to Wallytron101. And significantly, we now live in a world where any semi-public Jewish figure can be accused of being the antichrist, and audiences of 50,000 or even 150,000 subscribers will receive this message.