Monday, August 3, 2020

How Can The Banned Ban?!

I'm hoping that this will be the last of my posts about the dangerous craziness of Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi and Rabbi Yaron Reuven. There is a loose end to tie up.

Several people have criticized my campaign against Mizrachi and Reuven as being hypocritical. Did I not complain when three of my books were banned? How can I then propose banning someone else?

Some people say that this is too ludicrous an objection to be even worth responding to. But since apparently not everyone realizes all the reasons why this is a flawed and nonsensical argument, I will spell it out.

First of all, I have never had any objection to people condemning and even banning books. On numerous occasions I have said that I don't like it when people automatically side with me merely because my works were banned - how do they know that my books weren't banned with good reason?! If I had truly written dangerous heresy, then the condemnation would have been wholly appropriate! And in fact I even repeatedly stated that to the extent that my books were thought to be dangerous to naive ultra-Orthodox Jews, I was fully sympathetic to efforts to block them from reaching such people!

It was the content of the condemnation which I disputed. I do not believe that it's remotely heretical to say that there was an age of dinosaurs and that there are scientifically incorrect statements in the Talmud. As it happens, I also don't have a problem with people who believe that the universe is only a few thousand years old and the Talmud is scientifically infallible, as long as they don't claim that it's forbidden to take the rationalist approach. I do have a problem with rabbis who say that it is a mitzvah to hate those who take this approach and that they are resha'im who deserve execution. This is entirely consistent with my advocacy of this approach - it's not hypocritical! Similarly, I have a problem with those who say that they would like to kill people who challenge their lectures. And who tell lies to enable antisemitism by broadcasting that Hitler was justified in hating the Jews because their immorality and greed destroyed Germany. 

Thus, to say, "How you can you want to ban someone when you complained about banned?!" is like saying "How can the IDF shoot terrorists when they complain about the terrorists shooting them?!"

In addition, there is a world of difference between a ban and a campaign of condemnation. Those who banned my books did not give reasons why they were heretical; instead, they tried to use their authority to declare that my books were forbidden. In such a case, I (and my mentors) felt that it was procedurally wrong, especially since I had obviously written these books with good intentions and under the guidance of widely respected rabbonim and to great positive impact, whereas the banning rabbis had been given a warped description of me, my books, and the effects of my books. With Reuven, on the other hand, I am not using authority to try to ban him - I don't have any! Nor am I relying on hearsay and agitation from kanno'im. Instead, I am presenting clear evidence as to why he is a menace to society and should not be given legitimacy.

Anyone who think that banning someone as a heretic for quoting Rambam is the same as urging the de-platforming of someone who urges hatred for "heretical" rabbis, declares them worthy of execution, and justifies Hitler's antisemitism, needs their head examining.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly: Some people have utilized this or a similar argument to tell me why they needn't do anything about Mizrachi and Reuven. "You're a hypocrite! You're just a bitter ex-charedi!"

But it's not about me! The campaign against Mizrachi and Reuven is based on what they said, not based on what I say. If some guy yells "Look out, there's a fire!" you don't ignore the fire just because you don't approve of the guy pointing it out!

Of course, given that there are people who are foolishly distracted by the messenger and ignore the message, it would indeed have been better had a more mainstream figure than myself been leading this campaign. Alas, nobody else stepped up to the plate. I've been getting a lot of encouragement behind the scenes from mainstream rabbinic figures, but they do not wish to publicly push the campaign themselves. This is a pity. But it doesn't change the fact that the case should stand on its own merits.

I've presented a lot of very clear video evidence of Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi and Rabbi Yaron Reuven inciting hatred against respected rabbis, speaking repeatedly about how they deserve execution, fomenting a Judaism consisting of violent apocalyptic fantasies, and insisting that Hitler was justified in saying that "the Jews are our misfortune." Anyone who tries to change the subject to talking about my supposed hypocrisy is not only mistaken; they are also responsible for enabling this dangerous madness.

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  1. Well, as Yoda would say, this is where you fail. Maybe it's the American in me talking. (And now, that doesn't mean I need to have my head "examining" (sic), which, let's be honest, is kind of low.) I know that Europeans (and, of course, leftist Americans) have a far lower standard how far liberty should go. But I think it should go pretty far. Free speech means, by definition, free speech davka for *those you disagree with* and *those you find nasty*. No, those rabbanim were *not* right to ban you back then, simply because banning is never the way to go. You've always been far to generous too them. You could have been a literal apikores and they shouldn't have banned you. And it ain't right now.

    What is right? Education, I suppose. Although- and this may make you uncomfortable as well- Mizrachi and his ilk appeal to a certain segment of the bell curve which won't react well to education. And, unfortunately, the world has far too few people willing to say uncomfortable things that need to be said that a lunatic demagogue like Mizrachi can step up and fill the gap. Maybe co-opting is needed, but alas those wanting to displace him are probably not willing to go that far themselves.

    1. Yelling "fire" in a crowded theater has long been considered past the boundary of acceptable freedom of speech. Yelling "fire" when you mean "shoot" has got to be even worse.

    2. You really should look up the history of that expression before citing it. To make a long story short, it was an outrageous U.S. Supreme Court decision that has since been overturned.

      And we're not talking about government action here anyway. We're talking about right and wrong.

    3. True. The expression "freedom of speech" indeed refers to government action.

      So everyone negatively commenting that we should not censor has equally no leg to stand on (ie that we should stop trying to "censor" bc Freedom of Speech)

      And you pleasantly avoided my actual point - that in general we are OK with people saying anything until what they say causes a panic or hurts people.

      By the way, maybe one of your original points is right, that there ARE uncomfortable truths out there that need to be spoken, but if the ones speaking them ALSO behave dangerously, the fact that they might (might!) also be saying something unrelated that is valuable is quite irrelevant.

  2. Tried listening. Simply couldn't. He hosts a 'debate,' and when someone in the audience has trouble grasping the tenents of belief, he calls him worse than Hitler.

    So nonchalantly. Where did he take this from? Which of our Rabbonim spoke this way?? It's like he has no tradition. Speaks about oral law, oral law has been past down to us, not just in Sforim, but in tradition. My grandparents never spoke like that.

    He has the effect of pushing away much more than he might attract.

    I fear this sort of language will become normal in yeshiva circles now. (Watch how he's sitting with a regular yeshiva guy heading the Q&A, who quickly ads 'yes yes I agree with that')

  3. If it all comes down to opinions, then what's the problem? Obviously the people who banned you disagreed with you. They believe they had a good reason to do so. So basically all you're doing is arguing with them over whether the reason was good, or it wasn't good. In other words, spinning your wheels.

    The other approach - which is what WE'VE been saying - is that banning of books is bad, period, regardless of whether you think you have a good reason. Every side always thinks they have "good reasons" to ban the other. Our point is that the people can choose for themselves. That the answer to bad speech (that is, speech you disagree with) is more speech. Dont ban them - outargue them. Stated otherwise, in your view, YOU get to decide what the public gets to read. In our view, the public themselves read what they want, and decide for themselves what they choose to believe.

    (The business about "incitement" is beyond ridiculous, and does not call for any response.)

    1. If they'd write a book is one thing.

      These people are taking advantage of the title 'Rabbi' to preach in the name of our religion and tradition. Ruevan is now preaching in regular yeshivishe beis medroshim. My family got his cd's solicited on our door. I don't want my kids exposed to his warped egotistical agendas.

      Our Jewish community was never quite a democracy. Free speech rules that work in the greater secular world are totally misapplied in this setting.

      Separation of church and state means different rules and cultural norms for both arenas. Don't mix them up.

    2. I dont see any reason to distinguish either of them, writing books or church & state governance. The question is common to all, viz, what is right and what is wrong. Do we censor opinions we dont like, or do we allow people to choose for themselves? Clearly there is potential for abuse in either system; the question is which system is better, not which is perfect. To me, the long history of America proves pretty convincingly in favor of free speech, warts and all.

    3. DF,
      Rabbi Riskin's approach boils down to two things:
      1. The difference between hero and villain is the choice of cause
      2. Certain things are not acceptable societally and therefore should not be allowed to be published. These include racism and incitement to violence.

      You try to allow publication of mizrachi's dangerous mongering under the guise of 'freedom of speech' which most people recognize has limits.
      But I can't help thinking that you would also agree to banning the publication of material by neo-nazis on the Web that called for attacking Jews or denying the Holocaust and saying that anyone who perpetrated the myth of the Holocaust should be gassed if only such a thing were possible. Would you defend these types of comments as only an opinion?
      Or are you a hypocrite who just does whatever they can to defend their religious leaders?

    4. I dont know what Rabbi Riskin's approach to this is, I'm not responding to him.

      Re Holocaust deniers - they can say whatever they want. Actively calling for attacks on Jews is a different world altogether, and surely you can understand the difference. Nothing said by these rabbis is remotely similar.

    5. Mizrachi and Reuven say that various rabbis are classified as heretics and meysisim. They also say that heretics and meysisim deserve to be killed. They also say that the only reason not to do this is that one could get in trouble with the law. Ergo, if someone can get away with it, they should do it.

    6. הוי מתפלל בשלמה של מלכות, שאלמלא מוראה, איש את רעהו חיים בלעו

    7. I meant Rabbi Slifkkn, not Rabbi Riskin. My mistake, sorry.

  4. Why not just put in a complaint to the police for incitement? Seems that there is certainly enough evidence for an investigation.

  5. 3 points
    1. This seems to be a way that sefardic rabbis express themselves, and their followers seem to understand them differently than what we do. Case in point. Around 5 years ago, rabbi shalom Cohen, spiritual leader of shas party, said that Jews with knit kippas are Amalek. Yes, he really said that. There is an explicit halacha to kill anyone from Amalek. I am not aware of a single jew whom was killed as a result of this
    2. People looking for an account of Jewish misdeeds need look no further than the last few torah readings. It's hard to describe as something other than genocide what we did to Midyan and to the other nations living in Israel at the time of the conquest. Leftists clearly don't use these examples since they don't believe them, but even for a religious Muslim, these are well documented crimes
    3. There is a somewhat odd tradition in Judaism to blame ourselves for the tragedies that befall us. It is WE who are to blame for the destruction of our temples due to our grevious sins, not the Romans. That in my eyes is a stones throw from absolving Hitler, yimach shmo

    1. some sephardic rabbis express themselves this way.
      the stupid ones.
      if it's true that תלמידי חכמים מרבים שלום בעולם then it would seem that some of these rabbis are clearly not תלמידי חכמים

      And yes there is a tradition to look inside for ones sins when bad things happen. One of Judaism's best traditions. Mizrachi is doing the exact opposite of this he's blaming others rather than introspecting. wouldn't it be great (if unlikely in the extreme) if he said that our current troubles were a result of his own hate-mongering.

      as things are, they are probably a result of my sins.

    2. Maybe, but you shouldn't use Cohen as an example. He's clearly a potty-minded (literally) five year old.

  6. RNS
    I agree with you on these 2 individuals however i find it hard to accept that you are not using authority to try and ban them when you are trying to get Youtube to do exactly that.You are also trying to get them expelled from the rabbinical organisation they are part off. I would certainly call that authority...

  7. This is threatening to go on ad nauseum. I have still not seen one comment deriding Rabbi Mizrachi backed up with any substance. It's all knee-jerk, shallow reactions.

    1. OK, here's one. He advised people to scorch the insides of their mouths and throats with a hairdryer (to the point of pain) as a means to prevent infection with the novel coronavirus.

      It was widely reported at the time, but I can find links if need be.

    2. I'll do you one better. Mizrachi believes that you can be reincarnated as a plant!

  8. Elliot, one doesn't need to excessively document the ravings of a madman to know he's off the rails.
    If you can't see the problem with mizrachi, then you, my friend, need help.

    1. Please Fozziebear, back up your statement with facts and actual quotations instead of launching into the usual low grade rant. You're talking to someone who has listened to most of Rabbi Mizrachi's lectures for 11 years. You cannot just argue using unsubstantiated cliches.

    2. Eleven years!!!
      Of that garbage?????

      My goodness.
      I salute your devotion.

    3. Still no substance and no examples to back up your predictable comments; please give me your email address so we can debate this seriously, otherwise forget it and you just stay with your online lynch mob, hiding behind a name which matches.

  9. Stupid comment about the Beirut explosion coming from Mizrachi and Reuven in 5...4...3...2...

    1. Why don't you refute the claims rather than boasting to know?

  10. "Finally, and perhaps most importantly: Some people have utilized this or a similar argument to tell me why they needn't do anything about Mizrachi and Reuven. "You're a hypocrite! You're just a bitter ex-charedi!"

    But it's not about me! The campaign against Mizrachi and Reuven is based on what they said, not based on what I say. If some guy yells "Look out, there's a fire!" you don't ignore the fire just because you don't approve of the guy pointing it out!"

    I think you're missing my point. I was one of the people who referred to you as a bitter ex-charedi.  Yes, it matters who is doing the yelling- if they have a habit of screaming that the city is burning down every time someone turns the oven on. You may think that all of your ridicule toward the Charedi world (and I only linked to a few examples that I remembered off the top of my head; there are plenty plenty more) is eminently reasonable, but I certainly don't. And that leads me to question whether you're accurately presenting the threat level here. I happen to agree with the substance of your argument. Up to a point. I think what Rabbis M and R spout is despicable drivel that is equal parts nastiness and narcissism. But that's it. As several commenters here have noted, if they're really the menace you're making them out to be, then the answer isn't blog posts. It's a lawsuit or a criminal case. I think on some level you know what we all know. This isn't incitement to violence. Saying that you would kill someone if it were legal implicitly concedes that you can't kill them when it's not legal. Yes, extreme rhetoric can occasionally lead to horrible events. Those are rare occasions, and even then tend to be more a product of the perpetrator's mental issues than anything else. Your own examples tend to bear that out. But if so, you would have to outlaw a lot more than 2 nut cases on Facebook. In just about every western democracy, politicians regularly warn about the people who will die if their opponent e.g enacts Obamacare, repeals Obamacare, doesn't replace Obamacare with universal coverage,  or does replace Obamacare with universal coverage. Is that now incitement too?   

    Again, getting back to your analogy: A much better one would be the boy who cried wolf. The moral of that story isn't that the wolf never shows up. It's that no one listens to the boy when the wolf finally does. I think the analogy here is obvious, but just in case it isn't, I'll spell it out: I am disinclined to take seriously dire warnings about the dangers someone poses when the person doing the warning has already made clear that he regards the very growth of the Charedi community to be an existential threat to the state of Israel. 

    I do want to agree and compliment you on one point. I appreciate the fact that you generally attempt to argue your points rather than simply assert them. Reading this blog has occasionally forced me to at least clarify to myself why I believe what I do and how confident I can actually be of said belief. That's unfortunately an all too rare quality in today's world, particularly on the blogosphere. Kudos for clearly at least trying to make rational arguments, whether or not I agree with them or even find them reasonable. 

    1. Well said. We've already seen how "incitement" laws can be misused, particularly against rabbis. The better approach is free speech. Who cares that the concept has been articulated most often in government? Its the right thing in religious issues as well. Let Rabbis Slifkin and Mizrachi both say what they want. The public will decide for itself.

    2. SS agree with most of what you said.
      I would just point out that RNS hatred for Haredim has brought him to write some crazy Essays in my view ( I assume to sound controversial).
      One of them was when he called Darwin his rabbi (and put a Shtreimel on his head). I personally found it very difficult to believe that a Orthodox jew would call one of the very prominent atheist his "Rabbi". He also keeps pointing out that Chazal believed in the Spontaneous Generation Theory yet he did not mention that this was in fact Darwins view as well.
      Another one was when he seemed to imply that the MO community has a alarming rate of dropout from the Orthodox Community however it is still worth it.
      I have personally never seen him admit a flaw in the MO community which would suggest some degree of bias.

    3. RNS you wrote a humorous post on 9th of Jan. 2016 ( where you called yourself the Slifka Rebbe. On there you put a picture of Darwin with a Shtreimel where you wrote one of Slifka rebbe 's mentor.A mentor is the main person you rely on to give you advice and guidance, especially in your career.Now if your career is Slifke rebbe the he is your Rabbi or Rebbe.Furthermore you put a shtreimel on him which also suggests he is a Rabbi.
      Do you still believe this to be true???

  11. It seems democracy is the answer - question is how far? And who is to define the limits - because this is where the problem gets worse, if the wrong ones are in charge of defining the parameters? And their decisions are simply based on their own conclusions again which clash as normal with others. Expounding on the limits of free speech a bit more, this is the problem that faced me: Mizrachi ad Reuven quote from Talmud and Chazal for their authority to condemn and even to kill. Now we read even in the Written Word of HaShem in Deut. 13:7
    "If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, that is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying: 'Let us go and serve other gods,' which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers; ... v.10 thou shalt surely kill him; thy hand shall be first upon him to put him to death." Now this can surely be used by these Rabbis and their hot headed followers as their 'Divine authority' to preach that hatred? I'm sure there exists much writing to explain away or justify this outright authorization - but yet, we read it in Scripture ...? The conclusion for me seems to be that the ultra super democracy of HaShem allows such text to be even in our Sacred Writings in order to do the real sifting. If you are inclined to evil, you have all the 'authority' that you require. Question is" How do you run a country, a community or a nation with such super Democracy?


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