While we American Jews enjoyed the long holiday weekend strolling in our cities, my daughter and countless others who live in Tel Aviv spent the weekend being advised by the police to stay indoors since the Friday murderer was still on the loose.
It’s bad enough that we American Jews have not yet publicly marched in significant numbers to protest the near-daily murder of Jews in the holy land, but it’s much worse when we find theological reasons to justify Jewish suffering.
I believe that as Jews we are obligated to challenge God in the face of seeming divine miscarriages of justice. Let Muslims bow in submission. Let Christians take their leap of faith. We Jews are a feisty bunch, charged by God to be Israelites – “he who wrestles with God and is ultimately victorious.” Victory will not come until God stops allowing righteous individuals to suffer and die. That’s why the Lubavitcher Rebbe was adamant about demanding of God a more perfect, Messianic world where no woman is ever widowed and no child is ever orphaned.
Sadly, the direction of some in the rabbinate today is to identify sin as the cause of Jewish suffering. I devoted an entire book, The Fed-Up Man of Faith, to refuting such “punishment-from-sin” drivel.
Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi, the Israeli Jewish outreach “expert” now based in New York, is one such misguided soul. I once attended a bar mitzva where he said women who were being lined up to be gassed by the Germans did not care about their modesty as their clothing was taken from them by the Nazis. I had never heard anything so disgusting in my life. He said it by way of explaining that the martyrs of the Holocaust were not so righteous as we might otherwise suppose.
But Mizrachi was all over the Jewish media last week for outdoing even these loathsome ideas. This time he denied that the Holocaust even happened.
In 1984 Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas wrote a study based on his doctoral dissertation where he attempted to prove that the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust “might be much smaller – even less than 1 million.”
Abbas, the Palestinian dictator, has the blood of countless Jews on his hands, so his vile comments must be seen in context. But I was pretty shocked to read that Mizrachi joined him by posting a YouTube video that said, “In every place, we have become used to hearing that six million Jews were murdered... But the truth, I am telling you, is that not even one million Jews were murdered. Not that this is an insignificant number, chalila. It is a tremendous number.
But there is a difference between six million and one million.”
Scholars immediately spoke out to refute this ignorant hate speech and Mizrachi was forced to apologize. But what was going through his mind when he thought it OK to dishonor the memory of six million innocent human beings murdered by the Germans? Did he consider that Holocaust deniers will now forever be quoting with glee that even an Orthodox rabbi believes the six million are a myth? Mizrachi’s despicable statements about Holocaust victims are par for the course.
He describes the Holocaust as “five years of punishment to many wicked people [from God].” He also says that the reason why it happened to the Jews in Europe was because many of them became less religious and stopped keeping kosher and the Sabbath over the years.
Mizrachi’s reasoning, of course, is easily refuted hokum.
In 1933 there were approximately 522,000 Jews living under the Reich.
Beginning in January of that year, the Jews experienced public beatings and humiliations. Businesses were boycotted and synagogues desecrated. Then in 1935 the Nuremberg race laws were enacted, followed by the 1938 horrors of Kristallnacht.
During this entire time, the Jews of Germany were trying to get out. They could see with their own eyes that if they didn’t leave, they were doomed. At the start of the Second World War, 304,000 had emigrated. And though most nations of the world refused to accept them, a majority were able to finally escape.
Those Jews who did not escape Hitler’s ovens were, among so many other millions, the Hassidim and ultra-religious Jews of Poland. They had no idea of Hitler’s plan to invade via blitzkrieg on September 1, 1939.
Are we to believe that these devout and pious Jews, who observed the smallest details of Jewish law and who prayed three times a day, were punished with death while a majority of their “sinful” German Jewish brothers and sisters survived? Mizrachi also states with confidence that the reason Sephardic Jewry was spared the Holocaust is due to their continued observance of Jewish ritual, just as the Ashkenazi Jews had historically been accustomed to do until the years leading up to the Second World War.
What about the 1190 massacre of the Jews in York, the Rindfleisch massacres of 1298, the Chimielnicki massacres of 1648-1657 and the countless other pogroms and murders of Jews across Europe and Russia? And let’s also remember the more than 40 major massacres over the past 1,300 years against the “religiously protected” Sephardic Jews living in Muslim lands.
Mizrachi has said in the past that children with “Down syndrome, autism and any other problem is a punishment as a result of a previous life... That’s pure punishment, those kind of people don’t have a test anymore, its punishment 100 percent.”
Mizrachi also claims to know why children are born blind.
“A person is born blind, poor kid, was born blind, why? God? What do you know? Did you know how many dirty movies he was watching in his previous life? Now he’s blind.”
He claims to know why people get cancer and why accidents happen.
“Mixed parties bring tragedies to our children. There’s more accidents, there’s more cancer, every minute there’s a new Jew who gets cancer in the world, every minute, and that’s because of the way the women dress, and that’s because of the sins that guys and girls make together. That’s because of all the dirty phone calls, that’s because of the Facebook connections, and all the drugs and the alcohol and all the problems around, that brings all these tragedies to us.”
Mizrachi and rabbis like him are a menace. Just think about how many people might otherwise embrace Jewish tradition were they not absolutely revolted by this cruel twaddle that is fraudulently passed as authentic Judaism.
I ask Rabbi Mizrachi to take heed of the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe who said of the Holocaust, “To say that those very people were deserving of what transpired, that it was a punishment for their sins, heaven forbid, is unthinkable. There is absolutely no explanation or understanding for the Holocaust.”
As for those rabbis who say that the Holocaust was a punishment, the Rebbe said, “No scales of judgment could ever condemn a people to such horrors.”
In last week’s Torah reading Moses’ challenge to God over the Jewish enslavement in Egypt was this: “Why have you acted so wickedly to this people and from the time you have sent me you have done nothing to save this nation.”
As the murder of Jews once again becomes a near daily occurrence, Diaspora communities should be shaking the foundations of the heavens, demanding from God that they be protected, demanding of our State Department that they stop the balderdash of “both sides” needing to de-escalate, and demanding of rabbis that they lead the charge in defending Jewish life.
The author, “America’s rabbi,” whom The Washington Post calls “the most famous rabbi in America,” is founder of The World Values Network and is the international best-selling author of 30 books, including Wrestling with the Divine and The Fed-Up Man of Faith, both of which deal with the problem of human suffering. Follow him on Twitter @ RabbiShmuley.