Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi and Chabad

Chabad House

I recently watched two clips of Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi speaking about Chabad and I was reminded of the Mishna in Avot (1:11) that states:

“Avtalyon would say: Scholars, be careful with your words. For you may be exiled to a place inhabited by evil elements [who will distort your words]. The disciples who come after you will then drink of these evil waters and be destroyed, and the Name of Heaven will be desecrated.”

While being cautious in one’s words is good advice for anyone, the Tosafot Yom Tov explains that especially a scholar must be all the more careful, as people heed his words and take them seriously. It is for reason that he must be particularly careful, lest his words be taken out of context and he bring about the desecration of HaShem’s name.

Indeed, Rabbi Mizrachi must be all too aware of this. In a video entitled, “The Truth About The Lubavitcher Rebbe of Blessed Memory,” Rabbi Mizrachi discusses the sad fact that a listener only processes a quarter of the speaker’s words; thus bringing about a situation in which his words may be misconstrued to express something that he never meant.

This problem is surely exacerbated when the speaker’s words are clipped and spread over the internet. While, on the one hand, we need to judge the lecturer as having had good intentions in his words, on the other hand, this accentuates the tremendous importance of not saying something that can be misunderstood, especially in this age of the internet!

Some may attack the rabbi for his words, though he possibly meant no harm, while others may take a mistaken perception of his words to heart and eagerly spread them.

Since Rabbi Mizrachi stated that he has deep respect for the Rebbe, his Torah thoughts, and his empire of emissaries that span the world, one must assume he never meant to utter libelous accusations against these emissaries.

Rather, perhaps he misunderstood something he heard from a shliach, or does not fully appreciate the philosophy and methodology of Chabad in bringing all Jews closer to HaShem and his Torah. Surely, he couldn’t have intended to deprecate an entire community of rabbis standing in the vanguard of ensuring the continuity of Judaism!

This being said, as the rabbi is aware that one’s words may be taken out of context, it is extremely sad that he did not heed his own advice. Before heaping rebuke and admonishment against an entire community of Jewish rabbis and leaders, it would have been more appropriate to first investigate Chabad’s worldview.

Unfortunately, Rabbi Mizrachi’s words have been watched by perhaps thousands of viewers globally. Indeed, as he himself expressed the thought that, “People don’t realize or digest the power of the internet,[1]” one would expect that he realize the power he has for good or the opposite thereof.

In a conversation with a certain Rabbi, the 5th Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Sholom Dovber, expressed the precarious position of a public figure, especially a rabbi:[2]

“A Rav must remember at all times and at every moment that he always stands on the threshold between being one of those that bring merit to the public and, G-d forbid, one of those that cause the public to sin—the threshold between the loftiest of heights and the most abysmal depth. All issues must touch him at the innermost of his soul, literally, because his very soul is at stake.”

One would hope that Rabbi Mizrachi will clarify his position on Chabad and recant his defamatory statements. However, because there are those that may have seen his words, and believe them to be correct, we will attempt to clarify where it is his error lies.

In the numerous accusations of this short clip, Rabbi Mizrachi manages to express several spurious and defamatory points.

Rabbi Mizrachi states:

  1. For every two Jews that Chabad Rabbis bring close, they push twenty away
  2. That a non-religious Jew is a despicable creature guilty of the most heinous crimes
  3. That Chabad tells this non-religious Jew that by merely giving charity to Chabad he merits a spot in “Gan Eden” next to the Rebbe.

He ends by stating that for such rabbis, “Woe is to them, on the day of judgement!”

It is on this point that we will begin our remarks.

Judgement and Reckoning

The Mishna (Avot 3:1) states that if a person contemplates, “Before Whom you are destined to give a judgement and accounting,” they would never sin.

When examining this Mishna it is curious that it states, “judgement and accounting,” though we know that in a court case, one first gives an accounting and is judged after that.

The Baal Shem Tov teaches that how a person judges others is how he himself is judged. If a person judges others harshly and is quick to judge them, the Almighty judges him in kind.[3]

Indeed, the lamentation, “Woe to him on the day of judgment”, can surely be said about a person who is quick to pass judgment on his fellow Jews. On the other hand, a person who looks at the good in others and judges them favorably, will find grace in G-d’s eyes and will be judged favorably.

In this respect, it is not Chabad Rabbis who must worry about the Day of Judgment, but rather, one who is in the habit of being over judgmental about Am Yisrael.

To state that Chabad rabbis (who sacrifice their lives, move to even the most far-flung places on the globe, only to faithfully serve the Jewish People) must be worried for their day of judgment, is not only foolish and deeply offensive, but more so, it is antithetical to the statement that any individual who is a faithful steward of the congregation will receive ample reward. This matter is all the more so, when the individual dedicates his entire being to bringing Jews closer to HaShem and His Torah. To say about such Jews that, “Woe to them, for their day of judgment,” is incredibly appalling!

Like a Pomegranate 

Even more shocking is his incredibly cynical opinion about Jews who are not yet religious. To insult them of being guilty of the most heinous crimes and infractions, not only flies against the Talmudic dictum (Chagiga 27a) that, “Even the rebellious of Israel are full of mitzvot like a pomegranate”, but does not take the difference between someone who intentionally abandons his faith and someone who was never been taught the beauty of Judaism, into consideration.

About such Jews, the greatest Torah leaders of our generation, including the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Ovadya Yosef, the Chazzon Ish and others, have all declared that an individual that was raised without Torah by no fault of their own, cannot be classified as an evil person, but rather, as a Jew who sadly was not taught his own faith.[4]

As such, it is clear that one should not pass judgment upon such Jews, but rather have mercy on their spiritual situation of not fulfilling many mitzvot and amplify their soul and goodness.

This is reminiscent of an episode that occurred concerning the above Talmudic idiom:

Once, an individual recounted to the Lubavitcher Rebbe what he had heard from another rabbinical figure. The Rabbi had asked, “if these people are sinners, how can we say that they are full of mitzvot like a pomegranate?” The Rebbe responded, “indeed, I too am bothered about that section of Talmud, but my question is the opposite. If they are filled with mitzvot, how can they be called rebellious?!”

Indeed, the Rebbe’s approach was to find the good in every person—no matter how far from Judaism. For each and every Jew is bursting with good deeds, beauty and spiritual depth. If a person cannot see the goodness and g-dly soul in each individual—or at least try to see it—than it is perhaps the greatest marker that they are not fit to be a Jewish leader.

For, who is greater than our first leader Moshe, who fought with G-d himself and put his whole self on the line to protect a congregation of the greatest sinners! If such an attitude was good for Moshe, then it is surely should be our attitude as well.

If a shliach calls a donor a Tzaddik for giving a donation in support of Judaism, it is because doing so expresses of the donor’s true desire in the essence of his soul. Indeed, obviously the rabbi is not intimating that the donor need not do other mitzvot! On the contrary, he deeply hopes that as stated in the mishna (Avot 2:4), “The reward of a mitzvah is a mitzvah,” and that this will strengthen his connection in Judaism.

However, if indeed the person does receive his portion of the World to Come for a single action, why should it bother anyone?!

Indeed the Talmud (Avoda Zara 17a) recounts that when Rabbi Chanaya ben Tradyon wished to know if he has a portion in the world to come, Rabbi Yossi Ben Kisma guaranteed him that he would, because of one action that he was careful with giving charity! If the single act of charity can be the catalyst to bring someone to Heaven, then so be it! We should rejoice about this prospect, rather than castigate it!

So not only is it clear that Rabbi Mizrachi should apologize to Chabad and the Jewish people for his defamatory words, but more importantly, he should recant his attitude and learn to view the Jewish people in a positive light.

For, as someone who wishes to bring more Jews close to their father in Heaven, it is important to remember that one does not beat darkness with a stick, instead one lights even the smallest of candles.

[1] Video, ibid

[2] HaYom Yom (Kehot), 23 Adar II.

[3] Likutei MaHaran, 113

[4] Chazon Ish, Yorah Deah, 2:28, Darkei Halacha, Shut Yaskil Avdi 8:19

About the Author
Rabbi Dovid Markel is the director of the Neirot Foundation of Jewish Thought and regularly writes on current events from a Judaic perspective. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D in Jewish Philosophy.
Related Topics
Related Posts