On YouTube, you’ll find countless videos of men and women whispering into their microphones. Maybe they’re pretending to give you a skin examination or acting as a librarian helping you find a particular book. Or perhaps they’re just tapping hairbrushes, cutting up bars of soap, or running their hands across pillows covered in sequins.
Regardless of what they’re actually doing, their aim is to foster ASMR, or Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, a relaxing sensation that produces “tingles” (like what you’d feel if someone ran their nails lightly over your head) in those who are ASMR-sensitive (I am) and often deep discomfort in those who are not.
ASMR has gotten a lot of media attention over the past several years because of its surprising uptick in popularity. Lately, a study published in the journal PLOS One found that ASMR “may have therapeutic benefits for mental and physical health,” sparking a new wave of coverage from publications like Forbes and Newsweek. Just weeks before those stories came out, The New Yorker published a video about ASMR’s wide appeal.
It’s pretty safe to say that a trend this encompassing has to include a Jewish niche. And of course, it does. Below is a selection of Jewish-themed ASMR videos, for those who are sensitive to the phenomenon and feel like they want a more culturally relevant or even educational alternative to videos of people stirring homemade cashew milk. Or maybe you’re just curious, like I was.
1. Yiddish Storytime
Not super heavy on the usual ASMR aspects (light whispering, soft rustling sounds, etc.), this video from “tenderloving ASMR” (her YouTube handle) goes through the entire Hebrew alphabet. In the video, “Tenderloving” explains that she once took a Yiddish class along with her nursing school workload, in which she had to learn the whole alphabet in a couple of weeks as one of the only non-Jewish, non-Hebrew reading people in the class. During this explanation, she moves her hands slowly in front of the camera to spark ASMR in viewers before going on to flip through note cards featuring one Hebrew letter at a time. It feels a little more educational than relaxing (being quizzed on cue cards has never been my thing), but it’s kind of cool to hear her talk about how people assumed she was Jewish once they learned she was taking Yiddish lessons and how much she came to appreciate the language.
2. Counting in Yiddish
“Tenderloving” has another Yiddish ASMR video, in which she counts to 100 in the language as if she’s whispering in viewers’ ears to make them fall asleep. If you don’t experience ASMR, you’d likely classify this video as terrifying. If you do, the page flipping and tapping sounds might put you to sleep. You probably will not learn how to count to 100 in Yiddish, though.
Spoken in Hebrew, this ASMR video features a reading from, according to its description, “the Book of Creation (Sefer Yetzira), which is the most ancient and arcane book of Kabbalah.” Since I couldn’t understand a word of it, I cannot verify or dispute this claim. The video’s creator, called “ASMR Journeys” on YouTube, did a good job with the ambience — four candles, dim lighting, and draped burgundy fabric really set the mood for over an hour of whispering. English speakers in the comments noted that they enjoyed watching regardless of not being able to understand a word, which attests to the fact that ASMR is really more about sound than content.
4. The Purim story
“ASMR Journeys” ups the décor factor in her latest video from four months ago, in which she tells the story of Purim from the Book of Esther (also in Hebrew). I suppose a seated woman whispering the full story of the holiday provides a low-key alternative to the otherwise boisterous celebration of Purim, which usually entails dancing, costumes, and the grating sound of groggers (noisemakers shaken whenever the name Haman, Purim’s bad guy, comes up in the holiday’s tale).
5. Eating rye bread
I got about 30 seconds into this video (which I still consider impressively far) before I had to click away. Watching it made me feel extremely uncomfortable, which is how I imagine non-ASMR-sensitive people feel after watching 30 seconds of any video featuring someone whispering softly to you while slowly waving their hands around. The stopping point for me in this video was when the creator, “blossomlikearose” aka Sabiene, cooed, “I love this Jewish rye bread… mmm… yummy,” while chewing on a slice. The video proceeds like this for nearly 12 minutes. Clearly some people enjoy this, as it’s been watched over 1,000 times.
6. Gal Gadot!!!
In her ASMR interview with W Magazine, Gal Gadot seems perplexed. Perhaps you would be, too, if you were given a fidget spinner with the Wonder Woman logo on it and told to glide it in your hands between two microphones for an unseen audience. In the video, Gadot also unwraps some Hanukkah gelt and eats it into the microphone. “Very cheap chocolate,” she whispers.
Turns out Gadot’s video is part of a larger trend of celebrities doing ASMR. Thanks to W Magazine, you can also watch Aubrey Plaza, Kate Hudson, Salma Hayek, Jake Gyllenhal, and Amandla Stenberg whisper to you and, like, play with bubble wrap.
7. Hanukkah party
This video from December 2016 comes from a UK-based woman with the YouTube handle “MinxLaura123 ASMR” proposing to do your makeup so you’ll look “really, really, really glamorous” for your Hanukkah party. She starts with foundation and bright pink blush before applying more bright pink makeup and brushing your hair (a major ASMR trope). When she’s all done, “MinxLaura123” insists, “You look amazing, 10 out of 10.” Another hallmark of ASMR is personal compliments, so in a sense, she’s got the whole thing down. Mindful of inclusivity, she also wishes viewers a happy Christmas.
8. Jewish internet boyfriend
Before I watched this video titled “ASMR Jewish Internet Boyfriend,” I read the single comment beneath it. “I love boyfriend role plays they are so great,” wrote “Maurice Beltcher.” That seemed like a good sign… but then the video began with the creator, Joe Lucas, whispering about how he rarely showers and has yellow teeth. That wasn’t the deal breaker, yet. It was when he stared into my eyes and explained how everyone is afraid of dying alone that I had to stop watching. Suffice it to say, I was not relaxed. Still not sure if this video is a joke.
Folks, this is only a handful of the Jewish and/or Hebrew-themed ASMR videos out there. The well runs deep. After doing this important research, I can safely conclude that if you want someone to give you a whispered lesson of Hebrew, you will have no shortage of “teachers” to choose from on YouTube.