Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Lying and Omission: Permissible to Make Jews Religious

  Yosef Mizrachi, the ultra-orthodox kiruv rabbi known throughout the orthodox world for his use of inflammatory rhetoric in his shiurim, or lectures, states in the above video that deception is permissible in order save someone's soul for the purpose of kiruv, or Jewish outreach. While he doesn't want people to think that it's okay to lie, he does claim that if in the desire to point to truth, it causes Jews to stop observing, then maybe it's better to lie (so they'll maintain observance)--which he then says is never okay and is forbidden in the Torah. Mizrachi then mentions that when the Chazon Ish  (a famous Haredi leader who died in 1953) was asked if a person was allowed to lie in order to make a non-religious Jew religious, the Chazon Ish said that it should be done to save his soul. Mizrachi finishes by explaining that it's always better to omit information so that people won't be discouraged from becoming orthodox. (Transcript available at the end of the article.)

  Justifying the use of deception for the purpose of Jewish outreach doesn't win Mizrachi any awards in my book, but sadly, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to offensive utterances within the body of his lectures.

  Mizrachi, who also preaches that: people who don't observe Shabbat according to orthodox practice shouldn't say kaddish for dead relatives,1 that "Down Syndrome, autistic(sic), and any other problem is a punishment as a result of [gossiping during] a previous life",2 and that God specifically afflicts women with breast, brain, and uterine cancers and men with prostate cancer and brain cancer as punishment for not observing the laws of Shabbat and modesty,3 is most recently the subject of a petition requesting that his lectures be removed from the Torah Anytime website, after an irresponsible speech in which he claimed that only one million Jews were killed in the Holocaust and that "the other 5 million people included in the numbers of Jews killed by the Nazis were intermarried and not Jewish."4 While Mizrachi has since issued an apology for this particular incident, his hurtful words have already circulated around the internet, drawing even more negative attention to the incendiary speeches he is known for giving. This is also not the first time he's said disparaging things about Holocaust victims. In a video entitled Manners--The Right Way to Behave, Mizrachi rants about the immodesty of secular Jewish women during the Holocaust just moments before their deaths. He explains that minutes before the women were going to be taken to the gas chambers, the religious women huddled together for modesty, while secular women "they stand like this, completely in front of the photographer [Mizrachi pantomimes frontal view on video] crying that they're going to die. So they're thinking that I don't want to die, who cares? Put my picture all over the world."5

 Mr. Mizrachi's irresponsible speech is reminiscent of the story illustrating how spreading lashon hara, or gossip, is akin to cutting open a feather bed and scattering the feathers to the wind. This story is often taught to potential ba'al teshuvahs and newly religious Jews as an example of the far-reaching effects of gossip and how one can never take back all of his/her words. In our modern world, one can easily substitute racism, sexism, ageism, heterosexism, classism--and too many others to mention--with "gossip" and realize that irresponsible speech, especially now with easy access to information, has the power to do damage not just to those who are targeted by hurtful language, but to those who spread such ugliness from the start.

Transcript of Above Video

:08 First of all: why would you say something? Let's start like this: what did we gain by this? What did we gain by this? Does your desire to, if it were, point to the truth immediately justify that you bring down tens of thousands of Jews that started to keep Shabbat and behave like those who keep mitzvot so you brought them down in the name of truth? Was that so urgent? I didn't, God forbid, say that it is allowed to lie. It's forbidden to lie, God said so explicitly.

:35 "By the way, they asked the Chazon Ish if it's allowed to lie to make a Jew newly religious. Rabbi Shwadron, one of the greatest speakers, asked this to the Chazon Ish. What's the answer?
:47 "He told him: "For sure, kal vachomer ("all the more so" argument.) If an irreligious person was about to die now, would you be allowed to desecrate Shabbat for him? To save him is allowed, this is the halacha [Jewish law]. He says: If now, to break the Shabbat, it's the sign with the creator of the world, it's the greatest mitzvah with the most extreme punishment, you may desecrate it in order to perhaps save someone's life. Perhaps he will die regardless, despite having desecrated the Shabbat--there are no guarantees. Even if there's a percentage of a percentage chance that it may save his life we desecrate the Shabbat for him. Even if you save his life for [another] ten minutes, he would perhaps die anyway because he's got, let's say twenty bullets in his stomach, and now you desecrate the Shabbat and you give him, let's say, oxygen, and now he will live another ten minutes, what did you gain by this? He will die anyway--they pumped twenty bullets in him! You are allowed to desecrate Shabbat for him even for one more minute that he may still live. That's how important a minute of life is. (1:42) So, the Chazon Ish told him: All the more so, to lie to an irreligious person in order to save his soul which is much more important than his body--if to desecrate Shabbat so that he may live--What does 'to live' mean? He will continue to sin!

1:58 "It's allowed to save his soul though a lie. Everyone knows that a lie is less [severe] than the desecration of Shabbat. There is no capital punishment of stoning or "cutting off" but on desecrating the Shabbat there is a heavy punishment and it [still] is allowed, all the more so [are you allowed to lie] he answered him simply. Nevertheless this is not our way. We don't need to lie and to distort and not even to exaggerate, we don't sit and lie, there's enough words of the truth and the Torah--we don't need to lie and to distort and not even to exaggerate--but if there is something subject to dispute . . .

2:26 "Let's say it's something subject to dispute . . . some say yes and some say no, why would you need to say anything? What did you gain by this? Tell me one thing that you gained by this. That now another 10,000 or 1,000 or 100 or 20 that already started to [strengthen their observance] and they are on fire and they're starting to listen to Torah lessons, suddenly they write that all was rubbish, all was bluff (sic), and they will leave the path--what did you gain by this?6

1. Mizrachi, Yosef. You Should Not Say Kaddish for Dead Relative if Not Shomer Shabbat. Yosef Mizrachi. Shademanvendetta. YouTube. Dec. 31, 2014.
2. Mizrachi, Yosef. Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi on Down Syndrome and Autistics. Dan Cohen. YouTube. Jan. 1, 2014.
Mizrachi, Yosef. Mizrahi explains why women and men get cancer. TubeChop.

4. Sharon, Jeremy. Orthodox rabbi: Only One Million Jews Killed in Holocaust. Jerusalem Post. Dec. 30, 2015.
5. Mizrachi, Yosef. Manners--The Right Way to Behave. YouTube. Jan. 8, 2014. Holocaust discussion begins at 1:41:26.
6. Mizrachi, Yosef. It is Permissible to Lie to Make People Religious. Undercover Kofer. YouTube. Jan. 6, 2016.