Saturday, June 03, 2023

How a rabbi accidentally went viral in a two-minute Twitter video, and why his quotes continue to resurface.

The frum Twitter (jokingly, yet controversially, referred to in some circles as “fritter”) community is still preoccupied with “rishus” cold seltzer, nearly two months after a video of a yeshivish rabbi from Monsey — expressing his fervent love for the soft drink — went viral on Orthodox Twitter in late May.

Rabbi Aryeh Moshe Leiser, a resident of Monsey, New York, starred in the video using a combination of yeshivish slang, Hebrew, Yiddish phrases and English to animatedly express his heartfelt desire for an “Arvei Psachim with a Rabbeinu Dovid” (a 13th century commentator on the 10th chapter of Masechet Psachim), as well as a “riiiishus cold seltzer” (“rishus” meaning “wicked” in Hebrew) and asserting that, with these two things, he “just want(ed) to check out of life.” He specified that the seltzer needed to be in plastic cups — “no styrofoam,” he stressed firmly — followed by singing (briefly interrupted to apologize to a neighbor for the noise) and finishing, “God bless you all, and just remember: the bottom line is, it’s the horvanya (Yiddish for “strenuous work”) in learning! Blood! Sweat! Tears!”

The video instantly blew up across the fritter community, with people sharing tweets, memes and hastily photoshopped images starring the nonexistent brand of “rishus” cold seltzer and referencing quotes from Leiser’s impassioned speech. Eli Neuberger (@thevoos) tweeted: “#ElonMusk must be upset [that] more people are talking about Leiser on Twitter than they are about him,” and award-winning YU basketball coach, Elliot Steinmetz (@elliotsteinmetz) posted, “Anyone know how we get this guy to give a pregame speech next season? I’m ready to run through a wall and I don’t even know what he said.”

“Rishus” cold seltzer products even really went up for sale on teespring.com shortly after the video went viral, with the phrase printed on a pint glass, a stainless steel water bottle and a mug and the product description set as, “Perfect for Arvei Pesachim with Rabeinu (sic) Dovid. Blood. Sweat. Tears. ” The products are still available on the site.

Although the original video was taken down, “rishus cold seltzer” references continue to resurface many weeks later and have even made their way outside the fritter community, with New York State Senator, Zellnor Myrie, getting involved by tweeting about wanting a “rishus cold seltzer” on a hot day in early July and a verified company Twitter account with over 90,000 followers (@DansDeals) continually referencing “rishus cold” drinks in their Twitter advertisements. Why has this one video taken such a strong hold on, and even outside of, the fritter community?

Yaakov Langer, an active fritter poster with over 14,000 Twitter followers who runs the Living L’chaim podcast network and hosts its “Inspiration for the Nation” podcast, attempted to address the meme’s unprecedented popularity, calling Leiser “a breath of fresh air,” and explaining that he fell in love with Leiser’s unaffected authenticity: “I don’t even like seltzer, and just the way he described seltzer and the exact sefer that he was suggesting, like — I wanted to be in that environment, and he described it so well and it was so authentic; I think that’s why people loved it,” he told The Jewish Link. Langer added that Leiser also provided a charming, unfiltered one-minute and 46second lens into the yeshivish way of life: “It’s very rare to see someone so yeshivish express himself in such a great way on social media … I think he didn’t realize or understand how far that clip would go, and it was just great to see someone so authentic.”

As for why the meme won’t die, Langer said that while many social media users “are faking it too much,” Leiser’s video was “as straight up as can be.” Langer elaborated, “We live in a time where there’s so much hock, there’s so much fakeness, there’s so much stupidity out there, and to have someone like him authentically professing his love for Torah and cold seltzer, it’s something that people want to see, and they’ll want to see it in 2022, they’ll want to see it in 2023, and they’ll want to see it in 2030. Instant classic legend icon … I hope he’s enjoying a cold seltzer right now.”

By Brooke Schwartz

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