This past Thursday night, I led a discussion of about 20 college aged students about a Kiruv Rabbi named Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi. Rabbi Mizrachi has been known to make many extremely offensive comments and uses his skewed, and just plain incorrect, interpretations of Torah and Chazal to back up his claims. Many of my friends, and other people that I know in Los Angeles, view Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi as their role model and teacher. Especially in the LA Persian community, Rabbi Mizrachi is very popular among students and young adults. As I have watched Rabbi Mizrachi’s fan base grow over the last few years, I felt that it was worthwhile to give a public Shiur and then write up a blog post summarizing.
So here goes!
The Vilna Gaon has a famous comment on the verse “The Torah’s ways are sweet and all its paths are peace” (Proverbs 3:17). He writes that if something is not sweet and pleasant then one must suspect that it is not Torah. While we can debate the exact meaning of his comment for hours (we all know many people who suffer daily due to their allegiance to the Torah), I take it to mean that the Torah and its teachings are supposed to be pleasant. This means that people who are not necessarily familiar with the Torah, or any of its teachings, should be able to listen to someone give over words of Torah and, even if they don’t believe in its objective truth, see that it teaches nice and positive lessons. Sadly, this is the opposite of what Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi does (concrete examples will be shown below).
To start off, the first major complaint that I have against Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi is the idea of Elu Ve Elu Divrei Elokim Chaim. This statement, appearing in the Talmud, tells us that there is no one correct opinion in the realm of Torah. This is true in regards to Peshat, Halacha, Philosophy, and basically any other subject of Torah. While we all know that we sometimes Pasken like one opinion over another, the minority opinion is still a valid interpretation of Torah, and there is still value in learning and discussing it (see the entire Talmud for more on this). Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi however begs to differ. He is infamous for rejecting and insulting anyone who disagrees with him:
“All those Hitlers who disagree with me is (are) going straight to Auschwitz for eternity”
“My critics are followers of Korach, They are condemned to burn in a hell much worse than Auschwitz”
These comments and many others display the fact that Rabbi Mizrachi does not value the idea of Machloket and conversation- the foundation that Judaism itself is built on. Rabbi Mizrachi will call anyone who does not believe in demons, reincarnation, spirits, and other concepts that have little or no support in classic sources, heretics. While an argument may be made for the existence of any of these things, no one in their right mind would call them a foundation of Jewish faith.
Alongside Mizrachi’s utter rejection of classic Torah values, the comments and insults that he spits out are horrible and completely antithetical to the entire idea and beauty of Torah (more on this later). It is ironic that Rabbi Mizrachi rejects the idea of Machloket and the idea expressed by Chazal that there are “70 faces to the Torah” because according to him, not only were Chazal perfect, but their superior knowledge of science and nature actually “proves” that the Torah is true. This brings me into my next complaint….
There is no proof that the Torah is true! Period. People like Rabbi Mizrachi (along with many other Kiruv groups) try and offer these short and very closed minded, specious, proofs that the Torah is true. I have personally gone through every single one of the claims made by Kiruv professionals and they are all problematic. There are enough blogs out there which go through each and every one of these proofs giving detailed refutations, so I do not wish to give any concrete examples here. However, I do wish to get across a few points:
1) Chazal did not have an infallible knowledge of science. One wishing to argue this, would be left with a lot more questions than answers. The vast majority of the statements in the Talmud regarding science, astronomy, and medicine are just plain wrong. While this does not discredit the Talmud – the Rabbis were just working within the realm of knowledge around at there time – it does not prove the Torah either. Just because there are 1 or 2 scientific statements in the Talmud which happened to be true, does nothing to help the case of the hundreds of others which are wrong.
2) Bible codes are wrong and stupid. Spoiler alert: it works with any book. Click here for more!
3) Besides for the morally questionable act of literally tricking people to believe in Torah under a false pretense, I think it is very dangerous when people accept Judaism under some very easily disprovable “proofs”. As my good friend Elon once remarked to me “That Habbakuk and Job did not fully get answers, but YouTube preachers feel qualified to give them in five minutes is only a symptom of larger problems.”
4) Just because there are no proofs that Torah is true, does not mean that it is not true. The Torah is not a textbook there to teach us about the number of stars or how to calculate moon cycles, rather the Torah is a moral guideline for us to live our lives by. The truth of the Torah is discovered every time it is able to uplift a broken spirit or make the world a better place. Conversely, when someone takes the Torah and uses it to scare, manipulate, and insult people I think that this is actually a very good proof against the Torah.
Finally, besides for Rabbi Mizrachi’s very close minded opinions on Torah and the way the world works, the comments he make are 100% unacceptable. A few examples are as follows:
“Mixed dancing events lead to cancer”
“Secular Israeli soldiers who die in battle are going to hell and have no Share in the World to come. Go and look how many Seons (a way of contacting the spirit world, which ironically is itself against the Torah) they did of these dead soldiers and they are all in hell”
“Down syndrome and autism in children is a punishment for sinning and gossiping in a previous life”
“The secular women in the Holocaust were not Tznius in the gas chambers; they were posing naked for the cameras”
No amount of context could make these comments acceptable. I do not wish to go through each and every one of these (and many other) quotes. I assume that any reader with any sensibilities will realize that people that talk like this must be stopped.
When an Earthquake struck Nepal about a year ago and killed nearly 10,000 people Rabbi Mizrachi happily posted a picture of ruins to his facebook wall, commenting that they will no longer be worshiping idols.
When I brought up the horribleness of this post, a supporter of Rabbi Mizrachi exclaimed that Nepal is a place where the majority of the citizens worship idols so they deserve to be killed. Besides for the moral acceptability of wanting every idol worshiper dead, is it not almost guaranteed that many people that were killed could have not been idol worshipers? Tourists, businessmen, babies?
Of course Rabbi Mizrachi could care less; all he cares about is his black and white view of the world which is pretty much: his view: Good Other’s views: Hitler. How far is this from Abraham challenging God to spare Sedom if even a few righteous people could be found!
In conclusion, people like Rabbi Mizrachi must be stopped. They are horrible people and they destroy the very idea and value of Torah. Not only should this man not be given a public podium, in which he is able to indoctrinate young minds that do not know any better, but he should be shunned. I call upon whomever reads this to reach out to their own Rabbis, friends, and communities in an attempt to stop this horrible trash from entering our religion.
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