Monday, July 27, 2020

Extraodinary Apologies

Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi and Rabbi Yaron Reuven have both issued apologies!

Well, sort of.

First, a recap of the back story: For years, Mizrachi was publicizing statements about various suffering being due to specific sins (Downs Syndrome children are being punished for their sins in a previous life, blind people are being punished for watching pornography in previous lives, people contract cancer as a result of sexual licentiousness and "dirty thoughts," etc.) As a result, sixteen rabbis, from a broad spectrum of Orthodoxy, signed a public letter (not a ban) urging shuls to think twice before having him as a guest speaker. In response, Mizrachi hurled abuse at them, calling them "evil wicked haters of G-d." Subsequently, he and Reuven came up with a "Black List" (sic) of fourteen rabbis who are reshaim and heretics, including some of the 16 rabbis who had criticized him, along with several others - among them, the former and current Chief Rabbis of Britain. Mizrachi and Reuven produced (with the Igud HaRabbonim symbol) a notorious video, "Erev Rav Inside Anglo Judaism," in which they thundered about people who deserve to be stoned to death and segued to the "Black List of 14 Heretics."

And now the story continues. Mizrachi, in a video uploaded to YouTube last week, recounts a phone conversation that he had with Rabbi Efrem Goldberg, the outstanding leader of Boca Raton Synagogue. (You can see Rabbi Goldberg's take on this conversation at this link.) Brokered by a senior rabbi from the OU, the conversation was aimed at reconciliation. Rabbi Goldberg apologized for not reaching out to Mizrachi before issuing criticism, and Mizrachi conceded that he should attack ideas, rather than attacking people, but claimed that because his audience is so unlearned and won't recognize heresy when they hear it, he had to spell out for them which rabbis are spreading heresy(!). Nevertheless, he said that he won't do it again, and things should be kept respectable. Extraordinary!


Yet there are two serious problems with this so-called "apology." First is that Mizrachi evades all responsibility. He introduces it by saying that "sometimes when two rabbis are arguing, they don't get punished; the ones who get punished are all the fools who constantly spread poison to the argument and make it worse." But it wasn't his followers (that he calls "fools") who spread the poison - it was Mizrachi himself! He was the one who referred to his critics as "evil wicked haters of G-d" whom "it is a big mitzvah to hate" and who deserve the death penalty. As my friend Rabbi Scott Kahn put it, "As if he didn't pour the gasoline and light the fire. Only the "fools" who actually take him seriously are going to be punished!"

Second, if Rabbi Mizrachi truly regrets referring to respected rabbis as "evil wicked haters of G-d" and "heretics who deserve the death penalty," then it's not just Rabbi Efrem Goldberg to whom he should be apologizing - it's all the people in the lists of 16 and 14 rabbis.

Still, for someone with such an inflated and fragile ego as Yosef Mizrachi, I think that this apology does represent progress. It remains to be seen whether there will be a significant change in his lectures. It's not very promising that just a few days ago, Mizrachi posted a video on his Facebook page, co-produced with Reuven, about "The Final War Against The Erev Rav," even though he doesn't mention any specific names.

Meanwhile, Yaron Reuven, the self-styled "Speaker of 100% Backed-Up Truth," was called out on two specific and very blatant slanderous statements. One was his false claim that Rabbi Sacks had denied the historicity of the Exodus, and the other was his false claim that I had personally been put in cherem. He responded by releasing a video about "apologies," in which he admitted that he might not have been correct!

And yet his apologies were likewise severely lacking. First of all, while admitting that Rabbi Sacks did not actually deny the Exodus, he stresses that Rabbi Sacks is nevertheless a heretic for other reasons, and comes up with whole new piece of slander: that Rabbi Sacks described Chava, Adam's wife, as a prostitute! (This absurd slander results from his misunderstanding a statement by Rabbi Sacks about the Mitochondrial Eve of 200,000 years ago; what Rabbi Sacks actually said was that this Eve was not the Chava of the Torah, because, to paraphrase a medieval play, the wench is long dead!)

His "apology" to me was also deeply problematic. Although he describes what he did as an apology, he didn't actually apologize. What he does is admit that it might not actually be true that I was put in cherem. But this is accompanied by a lengthy insistence that his accusation is unlikely to be false, because if Rav Elyashiv had indeed said that I'm not in cherem, then there would be evidence of that. Not much of an apology! And of course it goes without saying that his argument is absurd. First of all, he can simply contact Rav Aharon Feldman, who heard the details explicitly from Rav Elyashiv. Second, his claim that a "denial from Rav Elyashiv that I am in cherem would be accompanied by a detailed halachic pronouncement" is upside-down - rather, it is putting someone in cherem that would be accompanied by a detailed halachic pronouncement! Reuven can't produce one, and never saw one - because it doesn't exist.

And here's the greatest irony. Earlier in this video, Reuven stresses the seriousness of the punishment for heresy - nidduy/cherem - so that people will take his condemnations of various rabbis more seriously. He says that it's so serious, that if you say that someone is in nidduy, and it's not actually true, then you yourself have to go into nidduy! Well then, Rabbi Reuven, you have hereby declared yourself to require being put in nidduy!

But it gets even wilder. The title that Reuven picked for this video in which he is forced to retract his slander against Rabbi Sacks and myself? "Apologies to Resha'im"!

These two rabbis attract thousands of followers. They indoctrinate them with sickening theodicy and hatefulness to others, and incitement to violence. If they do not change their ways, they should be condemned and shunned.


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32 comments:

  1. Natan you keep lowering yourself deeper into the pit by responding in such a petty way. Sometimes I wonder if perhaps you enjoy these sort of controversies.....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. He is responding to people who use the internet to twist and vilify Judaism and Jewish leaders to a massive audience of Jews and Gentiles. His responses are not petty, but responsible and relevant. Should Jews also not respond to the slurs of anti-semites?

      Delete
    2. Maybe Jews should just stay off of the internet; especially social media.

      By the way, can anyone recommend a good Zoom for kinnos this year?

      Delete
    3. Nonsense. You haven't been publicly targeted in mass scale. Your criticizing him, imagine someone who publicly slanders you. You don't strike me as the type to be quiet.

      You basically have two options.


      Sit back and take it, while letting it turn you resentful, until you get immobilized with helplessness and fear - depression.

      Or assert yourself in a forthright yet noble and civilized way. Then sit back knowing you did yours. That's truly empowering, having stood up for yourself without turning into your opponents.

      Delete
    4. Moish, I appreciate your arguing on my behalf, but the truth is that by this point in my life, I really couldn't care less about someone like Reuven slandering me. But it's an opportunity to illustrate what kind of person he is, which helps discredit him for the much worse and more dangerous things that he is doing.

      Delete
    5. Hear, hear.

      P.s. Borough Park and other parts of Brooklyn woke up to three CDs of Mizrachi and Yalon, mass solicited in front of their doors. Mine was on my doorstep. Main topics were Hashkafah and Shmiras Habris among who knows what.

      The timing, seems like they're seriously launching their preaching agenda/program.

      P.p.s. The funny thing was my father calling to tell me he just got three apparantly amazing Jewish CDs for free....

      Delete
    6. I also got one in Lakewood Yesterday. I never even heard of him till i read your blog. Weird.

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    7. @RNS my block got them this past week.

      Delete
    8. I still own two Mizrachi CDs that I bought way back when.

      Delete
  2. It seems that both Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi and Rabbi Yaron Reuven have offered apologized. Maybe its time to put it to rest, so long as they change their ways. However, the title of the video "Apologies to Resha'im" seems not promising and problematic at best. It seems that at this point, Reuven will always find a defect with you or Rabbi Sacks.

    Be it as it may, I think Reuven became upset wth Rabbi Sacks when he saw the debate with R. Sack and Richard Dawkins. In the debate, R. Sacks mentions a Mitochondrial Eve. He seems to explain that the "Garden of Eden" story is a parable (Maimonides). I wrote to Rabbi Jonathan Sacks about this and he warmly responded that he did, in fact, believe that Adam and Eve were real people, but that given the circumstances, he did not have the time to explain it to Richard Dawkins, who would only ridicule holy truths.

    I'm glad Reuven issued an apology for you and Rabbi Sacks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I find it ironic that when I try to post to this site, the captcha asks me to click a box to confirm that I AM NOT A ROBOT. However, it becomes more obvious every day, that those who post to frum rational blogs should hesitate before clicking that box.

      Delete
    2. Ah. So he knew the truth but didn't have the time to explain it in a non-hysterical way. Yes, I can understand why everyone respects him so much. In 1000 years, this "debate" (they were probably actually on the same side) will go down in the anals of The Disputation at Barcelona.

      Delete
    3. I agree, it was a great debate.

      Delete
  3. It would be great if someone respected worldwide like Rav Sacks issued a public condemnation of these two imbeciles! Since there isn't a Jewish Vatican with its strict hierarchy of clergy,there is no central authority able to silence them;hence the only solution is that someone very big puclically declared them dangerous cretins not to be listened to!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Worldwide respect, indeed. Anonymous lives in a very small shtetyl.

      Delete
    2. I think there's a reason R. Sacks doesn't waste his breath on these muppets.

      A. Anyone who would listen to the condemnation doesn't need to be told.
      B. Don't give fools airtime or publicity.
      C. If you want fight them then do it the same way you fight Holocaust deniers: a) by presenting the facts properly without reference to the imbeciles and b)through the courts (in this case for incitement to violence).

      Debating these idiots is damaging as it gives the impression they might have a valid point; whereas in fact they are just spouting a load of stupid, inaccurate,dangerous garbage.

      Delete
  4. In reading the rantings (and postings) of various very small minded individuals who arbitrarily use titles to boost their popularity, I am reminded of something very relevant:

    The eminent Henry Kissinger (born to frum parents, and lived in Washington Heights among the Yekkies and KAJ) once wisely remarked:

    "Academic politics are so vicious because the stakes are so small."

    ReplyDelete
  5. RNS: I will not allow these guys back on my Torah page until you give a 100% approval. While you have expressed they have some contrition, it looks more like the 'donations have stopped.' Please update when you are satisfied with their teshuva.

    ReplyDelete
  6. isnt it historically true that getting banned is the road to stardom?

    ReplyDelete
  7. Go to the 50:00 mark in the R' Goldberg video to address the topic.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Who is the rabbi of Yaron Reuven whom he refers to?

    ReplyDelete
  9. Go to the 14:20 mark in the R' Reuven video to address the topic.
    Oh, by the way, R' Slifkin: check the spelling in your headline.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Oops, make that 13:20 (my typo)

    ReplyDelete
  11. I assume that Rabbi Sacks was referring to Christopher Marlowe's The Jew of Malta, Act IV, scene 1:

    Thou hast committed—
    Fornication: but that was in another country;
    And besides, the wench is dead.

    The play is Elizabethan, not medieval, but close.

    ReplyDelete
  12. " If they do not change their ways, they should be condemned and shunned."

    They haven't done enough already, to be condemned and shunned? They need to repeat their charges (as my daughter said) "one more last time" ?

    ReplyDelete
  13. How is it that the person so victimized by rabbis cancelling him now declared jihad on rabbis that he himself disagrees with? You've become the very thing that you always spoke out about.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're right! There's no difference whatsoever!

      Delete
    2. Only that the Slifkins' of the world don't feed antisemites as the Mizrachis' and Reuvens' do.

      Delete
  14. I don't see that YOU are on the list....yet. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  15. Should we really accept Yosef Mizrachi's apologies? How can we know if they are sincere? Here's what Mizrachi had to say about apologies. Albert Einstein's quote, "G-d does not play dice with the universe" is well known, but not his apology. In other words, after his critics disparaged his statements, he retracted and allegedly repudiated them. But Mizrachi was convinced that we should reject his apologies since the former was his true view. Mizrachi explains on a YouTube video, 50:11 mark here: https://youtu.be/UgnDHjfvQHY?t=675

    So by his own admission, we should not accept but reject Mizrachi's apologies!

    ReplyDelete

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