Does Orthodox Judaism promote compassion and non-judgment or fire and brimstone? As a secular Jew growing up, I believed it represented the latter. There was nothing appealing to me about it. Then, I began to learn and meet Orthodox Jews and discovered that the Torah is “D’rachecha darchei noam v’chol n’tivotseha shalom.” (Its ways are those of pleasantness, its paths are those of peace.)
But what about public speakers who focus on the punishment, claim to know the mind of God, and condemn those who disagree with them? Unfortunately, such voices exist in the Orthodox Jewish world. For these reasons, several months ago, we posted a warning on Facebook about a popular speaker, Yosef Mizrachi, who employs such methods. While we normally promote kiddush Hashem at Jew in the City, in the face of grave chillul Hashem, we feel we have a responsibility to speak out against it. My rabbi is a big believer in the teaching of the Talmud “shtika k’hodaah” (silence is tacit approval).While many of our readers supported our statement, we heard from some who were outraged that we could say such a thing. Who gave us the authority? We had spoken to trusted rabbis who had ruled that we should warn our readers, but that didn’t seem to satisfy some.
Too often we hear at Jew in the City that Orthodox rabbinic leadership is not willing to stand up for what’s right. That the “good” rabbis remain silent and allow our Torah to be represented by those who say hateful things. We’re delighted to report that a letter has just been sent by some of the leading rabbis of our generation to a venue in Los Angeles that is scheduled to host Yosef Mizrachi for a speaking engagement this shabbos. The Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) posted the letter as well
The signatories are a diverse and prominent group of rabbis spanning the Sephardic, Yeshivish, Hasidic, Kiruv and Centrist Orthodox world and include:
HaRav Gedalia Dov Schwartz Rosh Beit Din, Beis Din of America and Chicago Rabbinical Council
Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein Editor, Cross Currents Rabbi Shalom Baum President, Rabbinical Council of America
Rabbi Yosef Benarroch Rosh Midrasha, Midreshet Eshel Mara D’atra, Adas Yeshurun Herzliya Synagogue Winnipeg, Canada
Rabbi Moises Benzaquen Mara D’atra, West Coast Torah Center Rosh Hayeshiva, Harkham Gaon Academy Los Angeles, CA
HaRav Mayer Alter Horowitz, Bostoner Rebbe of Yerushalayim
Rabbi Joseph Dweck Senior Rabbi of the Spanish and Portuguese Sephardi Community of the United Kingdom
Rabbi Daniel Feldman Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary
Rabbi Ilan D. Feldman Mara D’asra, Congregation Beth Jacob Atlanta, GA
Rabbi Efrem Goldberg Mara D’asra, Boca Raton Synagogue Boca Raton, FL
Rabbi Micah Greenland International Director, NCSY
HaRav Michel Twerski Mara D’asra, Congregation Beth Jehudah Milwaukee, WI
Rabbi Shaya Karlinsky Rosh Yeshiva, Darche Noam Jerusalem, Israel
Rabbi N. Daniel Korobkin Mara D’asra, Congregation Beth Avraham Joseph (BAYT) Toronto, Canada
Rabbi Avi Shafran Media Liaison, Agudath Israel of America
Rabbi Yitzchak Shurin Rosh Midrasha, Midreshet Rachel V’Chaya
The statement says:
As rabbonim and mechanchim, we are greatly concerned about the popularity in some circles of a “kiruv” approach that does not bring honor to the Torah ha-Kedoshah but, on the contrary, creates considerable chilul Hashem.
Earlier this year, Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi apologized for one particularly offensive statement he made on several occasions. But he has voiced, both before and since that apology, many things that reduce complex issues to simplistic and misleading sound bites. He has also repeatedly arrogated to “know” why unfortunate things happen to various people and has presented subtle statements of Chazal in superficial and deceptive ways.
That method may entertain and even stimulate some audiences, but it does no justice to the Jewish mesorah. And, especially with the worldwide audience enjoyed by any public speech these days, misleading assertions even when offered with the best of intentions, are particularly objectionable, and even dangerous.
Jewish institutions must be discerning about the credentials and the histories of those to whom they offer the honor of acting as teachers of Torah. We urge all shuls and organizations to act responsibly and take seriously decisions about whom they invite to address their gatherings.
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Would you please share a link to the original warning you posted on Facebook? I’d like to look into this further.
Thanks for your comment, Bookworm120. We looked to find the Facebook post through google but it didn’t turn up. It’s similar to what is mentioned above.
Wow this should get intresting . Can’t believe it’s a gang up . He has his # posted and answers emails . Have any of those on the letter prove of prior engagement to resolve this issue. This must be an embarrassing for him although am hoping not. Will watch closely . May this all be for the Best Outcome
Thanks for your comment, Richard. I don’t see this as a gang up. Rabbi Shafran said they approached him privately beforehand to address his rhetoric. http://www.vosizneias.com/256290/2016/12/08/new-york-advisory-warns-synagogue-to-carefully-vet-speakers-criticizes-international-lecturer-for-provocative-remarks/ Unfortunately, instead of hearing their critique, he insulted a group of very respectable rabbis. Shame.
I have a serious problem believing that prominent rabbis authorized wide-scale lashon hara on blogs and facebook against another prominent rabbi. They could have a disagreement as to his approach and that can be dealt with professionally among them. But I have a very hard time believing what amounts to personal attacks against Rabbi Mizrachi, who despite people’s misgivings, is dedicated to the Jewish people and is successful in his approach with many people. If his approach is not for everyone, then those people are not being forced to listen to him. I also find that these accusations are unfounded. I don’t remember his ever claiming to “know the mind of G-d” or “know why things happen to various people”. If you listen to how he speaks, he makes suggestions of possibilities but he indicates that these are possibilities and as far as I know has never claimed to know. And this blog is “delighted” to report that the rabbis wrote a letter to dissuade an institution from hosting Rabbi Mizrachi? Do you enjoy to help in machlokot? What happened to the “darchei noam”?
Thanks for your comment, EstherAsna, but we are actually supposed to speak out against problems according to the Torah. Next to the prohibition of Lashon Hara is the mitzvah of not standing idly by your neighbor’s blood. This respected and learned group of rabbis, apparently, found his rhetoric problematic enough to comment on it publicly as per the RCA’s statement https://www.facebook.com/419126724825332/photos/pb.419126724825332.-2207520000.1481236839./1304645422940120/?type=3&theater If you’d like to see a smattering of his most offensive statements, please check out http://mizrachiwatch.blogspot.co.uk
This guy makes people believe that they are the gate keepers to hell. I had a nervous break down because of him, believing that hashem no longer cared about me.
Very disappointing that this has been posted (especially from jewinthecity) I truly respect rabbi Mizrachi and everything he says. Whether you like it or not he is certainly inspiring to many individuals. His love and fear of Hashem is beautiful and awe-inspiring. We don’t live in a world where we can just be ‘laa-dee-daa”. There’s more
Intermarriage and idol worship than ever before. The left wing liberals are taking over and placing their values of atheism and assur agenda on the world. This is partly why I became observant. Both myself and my Baal teshuvah husband look up to and respect Rabbi Mizrachi because he is truthful and real and doesn’t sugar coat. I connect more with his shiurs than that of any Aish Or other kiruv mission. Maybe his “style” doesn’t work for you, but it is capturing, motivating and ultimately makes me become more of the Jew I want to be! g-d fearing, loving, true to myself and true to this world.
Shavua tov everyone! Hope you had a meaningful Shabbos ❤️?❤️
Thanks for your comment, Sarah, but just because his style works for you doesn’t mean that he isn’t turning off countless Jews. He is, we have heard from many of them. Also, this is not a “group of liberal rabbis,” this list includes HaRav Michel Twerski – a great rav and legend in kiruv, the Bostoner Rebbe, Rav Gedalia Dov Schwartz. Mizrachi called this holy sages “evil, jealous and said they have lost their share in the world to come.” It is shocking he could speak of these rabbinim in such a way.
You’re right Allison I was never so ashamed to be a Jew after hearing a Mizrachi lecture. It actually put me in a bit of a depression at one point as well.
He knows Torah well … but if a person in an audience doesn’t know Torah and is listening to his lectures may misunderstand what he is saying when he does a comparison like “someone who doesn’t keep Shabbat is considered a murderer”… heard this many times … it’s not right to say. So why the Rabbi’s don’t mention the reasons why we Do Keep It… it sustains the world because the 6 days of the week are dependent on that day … why throw the words on people and say who they are – .. many people really have no clue – say it’s part of the contract between Israel & Hashem for taking us out of Egypt … why call people murderers? (Because he’s thinking if Keeping Saturday sustains the world than not keeping it ultimately destroys it) …hence “murderers” ??? Still most of his audience are people who are not religious and becoming more observant, I really don’t see any harm … & instead of gathering the Rabbi’s to request he change his method of Kiruv and speak in a different tone – they release a letter & sign it ! Terrible . would you disown your family for saying things that hurt you or would you try to tell them – to help them change – Telling the world about your family member is Lashon Hara.
Thanks for your comment, Rachel, but according to this interview http://www.vosizneias.com/256290/2016/12/08/new-york-advisory-warns-synagogue-to-carefully-vet-speakers-criticizes-international-lecturer-for-provocative-remarks/ the rabbis did reach out to him beforehand. Instead of him considering their rebuke carefully, he has called them evil, jealous, the handiwork of the satan who have lost their share in the world to come!
In this clip, he comes off as arrogant and obnoxious with no remorse nor contriteness for his actions and words. On the contrary, he accuses the Rabbanim of sullying his character and being agents of the Satan.
You can watch his “talks” links below. He has a youtube channel.
Please watch and see for yourself what he has said.
Mizrahi is a sick puppy