A while back, the popular but controversial so-called Rabbi Y. Mizrachi caused yet another stir when he denied that 6 million Jews were slaughtered in the Holocaust. Although he subsequently apologized for this, it is worth analysing how and why such crass stupidity was ever publicised.
The lecture, given in Hebrew begins with him “revealing a secret” (sod). He then says that the “emet” (truth) is that less than 1 million Jews were killed. This figure is in line with holocaust deniers, revisionists and neo nazis – whom he supposedly opposes. Why has a man who claims to be a rabbi, who allegedly studies and teaches Kabbalah, and speaks in Holier than thou language to everyone else – fallen to such a low, even in his own poor history of offensive remarks?
I suggest we try to reconstruct some of his world view.
He tells a story of how he left school and then left the army, to look for work in the USA. Here he got a job in a bagel shop. Working at the till, he claims that he calculated the receipts of customers in his head, without using the till itself. By this he implies that he is some unrecognised mathematical genius. However, he has no formal education, and has no credentials or recognised mathematical or scientific qualifications. He also has no formal training in statistics, so he is not a reliable person to pontificate on matters so grave as the Holocaust and its victims.
Next, he repeatedly barks at his critics, claiming that he has brought more people back to “Orthodox Torah” than anyone else in history. Again, a tall story. However he has signs of arrogance and megalomania, and has hidden messianic pretensions. This same line was used by the followers of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, who claimed him to be the messiah. It was also part of the Shabbetai Zvi movement, which initially gained many followers, who became religious and fooled even the some of the leading rabbis of thee time.
In the same lecture, Mizrachi claims that the American DJ Howard stern is not Jewish, because his mother is allegedly not Jewish. However, this is false. Stern's parents both were Jewish (although he may have joked about being half Jewish at some point). Now Mizrachi is not a qualified Rabbi, and is also not a Dayan, so he is not someone who can answer halachic questions or make decisions regarding Jewish status. But his comments show that he has an arrogance way above what his actual capacity and status is.
So what would possibly motivate a person to come to with such nonsense?
Here are some possibilities:
1) Simply, he has to create material for his lectures, so he has a fertile imagination. He has no scientific research programme, these are all conjectures, perhaps ideas that come to him when he is traveling from one lecture to another.
2) He may have delusions of grandeur. This is supported by the terms he uses. He didn't present this claim as a theory or hypothesis, but he presented it as a “secret” ans as the “Emet” or truth. The evidence was self generated, i.e. the workings of his own mind. So a serious researcher, historian or scientist would not make such grandiose statements without having them verified by independent experts. Thus, it seems he has a superiority complex, and that also explains how he reacts to people who criticise him. To him any idea that comes into his head must ipso facto be true, and that is how he makes such insane comments, and tries to back them up by appeal to religion or “Divine Information” (the name of his website).
3) It is not clear where his influences come from. He mentions Satmar, Neturei karta , but also criticizes them at times. Yet he is repeating the same kind of Holocaust denial that Neturei karta made when they visited Iran. They said on BBC news that they felt only 1 million Jews were killed, because they held that 6 million was a figure created by Zionist propaganda. He is anti-Zionist, so some of these negative influences may well have come from the NK .
There are also false allegations made by Mizrachi that Theodore Herzl wrote to the Pope with a programme for mass conversion of the Jews. This is another false claim, but it comes from the same type of Neturei Karta/satmar sources, who have a pathological hatred for Zionism. Just as he himself has criticised NK for attending a holocaust denial rally in Tehran, and prayed for the health of the PLO terrorist, so he himself (Mizrachi) had fallen into the trap of Holocaust denial.
It is important to note that he tried to make a public apology to a Holocaust survivor, but the survivor attacked this man's nasty behaviour.
The sad thing is that Mr Mizrachi does have some worthwhile thins to say. I find that listening to a 1 hour lecture of his might actually have 1 or 2 very interesting points. One such point is that it is forbidden by the Shulchan Aruch to listen to a Rabbi who is nasty – that means insulting, offensive, arrogant, extortionate, or dictatorial. Unfortunately, by applying this principal to Mizrachi himself , which a lot of people will intuitively do, it would mean we should not listen to anything he says, even if some of his ideas are valid or true.
If I had one message to give to Mizrachi, it would be to check his own arrogance, and wonder why he has aroused so much anger, unparalleled by any other rabbi on the current scene. He could potentially be a truly righteous person, and not drive away so many people. He has been banned from the UK for example as a hate preacher. Part of his own defence mechanism is to see everyone who opposes him as evil and impure – but he has made the most evil statements, which are on the same level as those made by neo nazis and holocaust deniers. This perhaps refutes his claim that everyone who opposes him is evil.