Monday, January 11, 2016

Beware The Guru "Rabbis"!

A version of this article can now be found in The Jewish Press: "Beware the Guru Rabbis"


Rabbinic ordination is not a license to say what you want. Nor is it a free ride to spout nonsense and lies, or exhibit baseless hatred for other Jews. When a known rav distorts Torah concepts, it only magnifies the Chillul Hashem, which in turn necessitates an even stronger response. Unfortunately, since authentic chochma is rare today, as is the public’s ability to discern it, the masses rarely appreciate genuine talmidei chachomim. Instead of heeding the call of Pirkei Avot and designating for themselves a rav, many choose for themselves flawed men who bottom feed on the ignorant. 

Too many Jews seek out the latest guru rabbis who periodically pop out of the rotten woodwork. Some years back, one Sephardic “rabbi” became popular with his patented shtick: playing on the emotional appeal of women who were having trouble conceiving. During his lectures, he promised secular women in the audience that if they agreed to start covering their hair, they would eventually conceive. The cultish, pagan spectacle of choosing this one obligation above all else, and using it as a fertility rite in a public forum, screams of distortions of Jewish thought, and presents a disturbingly immodest scene. This particular guru remains popular today. Such an individual is a symptom of an ignorant age, where Torah is plagued with superstition. In a learned society, such a man would be exposed, despite the trappings of his garb and “simanim” which add to the supposed authenticity.

Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi is the latest “wonder rabbi” on the magical kiruv circuit, and his popular videos inundate the internet. Like all Jewish gurus, he specializes in glib, general statements pertaining to some of the most intricate concepts in Judaism. Mizrachi believes that he knows it all, and he presents complicated issues to simple-minded people as if they were aleph bet. He focuses on controversial, halachically problematic ideas, such as the popular distorted perception of Kabbalah as magic, the purported actions of alleged kabbalists, belief in reincarnation, etc.  Gilgul is particularly critical in his magical world-view, since it forms the spine of his approach to s’char v’onesh. He is popular in chareidi Sephardi circles, but has broad based support among English speaking Ashkenazim in the frum world. 

More importantly, his teachings are reprehensible. It is not just about the recent outcry over his obscene holocaust statements, where he reported that the Nazis murdered fewer than one million halachic Jews. A diligent study of his career shows a history of dangerous teachings, which should have made him a pariah long ago. He has earned our unrelenting ire.

In the first video of  his that I ever subjected myself to, he was lecturing the audience about a supposed critical issue in Judaism, the concept of gilgul, better known as reincarnation, which appears nowhere in Tanach, Talmud, or Midrash, yet the superstitious treat it as a fundamental belief. His arrogance was apparent when he denigrated those who quote Saadya Gaon as a proof against the belief, since Rasag rejected the idea as stupidity in his classic treatise, “Beliefs and Opinions”. What was even more frightening was Mizrachi’s supposed proof for the existence of gilgul. He cited an example of an innocent baby dying, and saw this as proof of gilgul, since G-d’s justice would never allow such a thing.  The sheer arrogance of someone who creates a ridiculous “proof” to explain the age-old question of tsaddik v’ra lo which the greatest gaonim, rishonim, and acharonim could not answer. Somehow, Mizrachi discovered an answer to this greatest of perplexities by resorting to gilgul, which very likely was taken from pagan culture! It seems unlikely that Saadya Gaon would have been unaware of the concept if it existed or was fundamental to Jewish belief. To suggest otherwise is an absurdity.

Most people are aware of the recent outcry, when video footage surfaced where Mizrachi questioned the fact that 6 million Jews died in the holocaust, and asserted that fewer than 1 million Jews were murdered. Not only did he disgrace the legacy of 6 ½ million kedoshim murdered by Amalek, in doing so, he empowered the holocaust deniers of the world with evidence of a “rabbi’s” holocaust denial. His foolish estimate was based on his distorted, non-scholarly unfounded estimates of assimilation in Europe which he surmised meant that most of the 6 million would not have ben halachically Jewish. No academic study, no documentation has ever claimed likewise. No normal Jew, religious or otherwise would ever utter such perversity. To engage with this non-scholar would be akin to arguing with the holocaust denying David Irving.

How to Recognize a Guru
There are signs to identify a “guru.”
  • The existence of a cult following comprised of the unlearned, and the psychologically troubled who know little if anything of Torah.
  • The complex network enabling the mass distribution and marketing of the guru’s lectures in the form of videos, audio. Websites featuring an impossible number of lectures expose the guru’s unrelenting speaking tours to disseminate his message.
  • The guru’s lectures invariably focus on questionable problematic notions that have become popular in Judaism, such as gilgul (reincarnation), magical segulos, demons, etc. The guru shares childish notions about complex Jewish subjects and makes outrageous generalizations that have no basic in Torah thought.
  • Beneath the veneer of the sacred, one notices an obsession with sexuality, and one hears crude statements that no genuine man of Torah would utter. Many of these self-appointed prophets of morality in "the Torah camp" are obsessed with sex. The irony is that in their pursuit of the sacred, their sexual obsession exposes a sex-preoccupied personality. The most private issues and human challenges are delivered with frankness and simplicity that are undignified. Things best discussed with one's rabbi or religious mentor are thrown in our faces, in all their crudeness. It begs the question: Who are the perverts?
  • The guru often displays a callous nature, and makes sweeping generalizations, which purport to understand all nuances of Divine justice. The sins (real or imagined) of the secular are emphasized, whereas outrages that occur in frum society (of which there are no dearth of) are ignored.
Mizrachi meets many of these criteria. One hears the frequent claims of his mass kiruv efforts to justify his legitimacy; claims which fall deaf on my ears. Kiruv? If a thousand pogo-ing mantra-spouting nutcases claim that a certain individual turned them into baalei teshuvah, I consider them AS religious as any group of inmates in an asylum. A kipah is hardly indicative of frumkeit. The same pertains to their teacher. This is not Jewish outreach. This is simply another version of being “off the derech.”

These gurus are a symptom of a sick age, where people are so detached from torah that they will latch onto anything. Magic men wear the cloak of Torah, but they are detached from chochmah. Moreover, their obsession with superstition show that they are as influenced by goyish culture as those they ridicule.

Mizrachis videos are a treasure chest of filth, including such outrageous statements as the following. Fortunately, many people are downloading and saving these videos, before they are removed from the internet. One could spend years dissecting the filth, but some of the more repugnant ones include the following:

  • His now infamous claim that the Nazis (yemach shmo) murdered fewer than 1 million halachic Jews.
  • His comparing “non-virgin women” to an opened bottle of coke. What Rabbi speaks this way?
  • His disgraceful claim that Down syndrome children as well as those with autism are reincarnated spirits receiving punishment for a previous life.
  • His perverse claim that religious woman hid their nakedness moments before the Nazis sent them to the furnaces, whereas the irreligious were immodest in the moment before their extermination. (When I saw this video, I nearly lost my mind.) What sick mind could see these terrible photos and even contemplate, let alone articulate, such a lunatic theory?  When I saw this footage, it crystalized for me the need to write an article.
Aseh l’chah rav. Chazal maintained that any reasonably intelligent, rational person with some knowledge of Torah had the ability to choose for himself a proper Rav. One who epitomizes Torah and chesed. The diligent Jew should ensure that they have a proper teacher of torah rather than a showman pop star who appeals to simpletons. Moreover, if one’s rabbi is obsessed with sex, sheidim, reincarnated spirits, or the supposed immodesty of Jewish korbanot ready to be gassed to death, find another rabbi. If the first thing your chosen rav finds imperative to articulate to the secular is not the knowledge of Hashem, ahavat yisroel, or chesed, but rather a hair covering (whose side benefit magically assists infertile women!) something is wrong with him. Any goyish shaman can do likewise with the same degree of success. The placebo effect works the same for all pagans. 

In the case of Mizrachi, thanks to YouTube, Facebook, and the general popularity of social media, his perverse teachings will outlast all of us. The essence of Chillul Hashem personified; since his lectures are now eternally archived in MP4 format. There is no way to undo his damage, save for an unrelenting campaign to expose him and others who share similar beliefs. 

In closing, I post one final video, which I just watched today. Outrageous and unbelievable. I watched the video from a Facebook page called “Exposing “Rabbi” Yosef Mizrachi.” Several of the links above connect to the corresponding YouTube channel. In this particular video, Mizrachi states that “secular” Israeli soldiers who die in combat have no share in the world to come. Moreover, he cites halachically prohibited séances as a proof! Evidently, he is unaware of the Halacha that a Jew who is murdered for being a Jew dies Al Kiddush Hashem. Not to mention that one who dies protecting Jews (even for a flawed army run by men who are far from Torah) is engaged in one of the greatest mitzvoth. The Chazon Ish stated clearly that most of the unaffiliated Jews of our times clearly fall under the category of “captured babies” rather than willful sinners. Yet Mizrachi in his arrogant hatred sees fit to damn them all to his goyish notion of hell. 

I have a message for Mizrachi’s apologists who insist that his words were taken out of context. There is no context to justify his pernicious views. His teachings are sick, and they expose a damaged soul. Those who defend such a man, whether overtly, or with the “devil’s advocate” method of apologetics and the undeserved “benefit of the doubt” say much about themselves. Let them do their research, and it will become evident that he really is THAT bad. In fact, he is worse. The fact that I need to write these things is perhaps the most tragic thing of all.

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