Yosef Mizrachi is in the news. It began with his unbelievably ignorant comments about the Holocaust and soon moved into other outrageous things he said, both about the Holocaust and in general. Years ago I found another really offensive comment about the Holocaust, yet in this case the author was actually a well-known posek. In seeking to explain why the Holocaust occurred, R. Ovadiah Hadaya writes as follows, in words that sound like they could have been said by Mizrachi:
לפעמים יש הרבה ממזרים בישראל שלא ידועים ואז הקב”ה מוכרח למחותם וכדי שלא יתביישו משפחתם אז הקב”ה נותן רשות למשחית להרוג גם טובים עמהם בכדי שלא יורגשו מי הם הממזרים.
Just think about the implications of this statement. 6 million pure Jewish souls, including 1 million children, are destroyed, and R. Hadaya suggests this was done to get rid of the mamzerim. Furthermore, in order not to embarrass the families of the mamzerim all the rest had to be killed as well, as if the omnipotent God couldn’t come up with some other way to take care of this. I don’t think that this passage can even be called “theodicy”, as theodicy is the defense of God’s goodness and omnipotence in the face of evil. The theology of this passage, if accepted as true, would actually lead people to doubt God’s goodness and omnipotence.
One day, not long after I found this passage, I was in the National Library of Israel reading room, and there, as usual, was Prof. David Weiss Halivni. I was very comfortable talking with him, but I wasn’t sure if I should tell him about what R. Hadaya said. I thought it might really unsettle him, seeing how a rabbi could give this explanation as to why all his loved ones were slaughtered in the most cruel way. In the end, I decided to share it with him. All Prof. Halivni said, and this is applicable to Mizrachi as well, is that when it comes to the Holocaust Sephardim simply don’t get it. What he meant was that not having the personal connection to the Holocaust, their discussions of it are without the emotional intensity one finds in the Ashkenazic world. In the Ashkenazic world, detached explanations of the sort offered by R. Hadaya and Mizrachi would be too offensive to even consider….
I looked around a bit and found that from a religious standpoint, Mizrachi has said something regarding the Holocaust that is much worse than what he was called to task over, as his comment defames many great rabbis. In the video below he has the chutzpah to think that he knows why so many tzadikim were killed in the Holocaust. He explains – I hope you are sitting down – that they were not really complete tzadikim, and he identifies their supposed flaw. On the other hand, he states that the complete tzadikim were saved (and he makes the ridiculous statement that R. Aaron Kotler was a kiruv activist in Europe). Has anyone before Mizrachi ever made the appalling statement that survival of the Holocaust is proof that Rabbi X was more righteous than Rabbi Y who was murdered?
…The only explanation R. Weinberg could give as to why he was miraculously saved was that he was not worthy enough to die al kiddush ha-shem.
In my Torah in Motion classes on R. Elchanan Wasserman I discuss the false claim that R. Elchanan returned to Europe “to die with his students.” I don’t know how this yeshiva myth arose. R. Elchanan left the United States in March 1939, more than five months before the German invasion of Poland. He didn’t know what was coming and would never have returned to Poland if he did. (R. Elchanan’s son, R. Simcha Wasserman, is reported to have made this exact point. See R. Ari Kahn’s post here.)