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Religio Fascism


I have often expressed my frustration with politics – in particular, Israeli politics. I dislike dogma and extremes on both sides. This week, I am turning on the Right in Israel. They are a very broad camp. They include economic conservatives, laissez faire economists, secular idealists, religious fanatics and, yes, religious fascists. Specifically, I am focusing on someone I consider to be a very dangerous man and has done untold damage to traditional Judaism and Israel’s case abroad.

Yitzchak Ginsburgh is an American born Chabad Rabbi who heads a movement called Derech Chaim – The Way of Life. But the question is – whose life?  His movement ought to be called The Way of Death. 

He is certainly knowledgeable, prolific and, some say, charismatic. His Gal Einai institute publishes his self-help and other books – over a hundred in all apparently. Gal Einai means Open Your Eyes. I fear he is the perfect example of “none so blind as he who will not see.” And he is the darling of the Nationalist Religious Right Wing because he has excused the 1994 massacre of 29 Muslims praying at the Hebron Tomb of the Patriarchs by Baruch Goldstein. 

He wrote a book, Barukh Ha-Gever, devoted to the proposition that the massacre was justified as an expression of divine intimacy with terror as a mystical technique. Other works,reiterate his views in favor of violence even if there are innocent victims. He has become the godfather of national religious fascism justifying violence against non-Jews and non-Jewish property. His views are heterodox and a distortion of the sources.

In 2009, two extreme students of his, Yitzhak Shapira and Yosef Elitzur, published a distorted tract (Torat Hamelech) justifying violence towards the Palestinians.  It quoted sources claiming they permitted killing children “if there is a good chance that they will grow up to be like their evil parents.” Ginsburgh approved it and wrote an approbation for the book.

Ginsburgh has said that the commandment “Thou shalt not murder” does not necessarily apply to non-Jews. He has referred to Arabs as a “cancer” – a remark that led to him being charged, but never convicted, with incitement. Last year, a recording was released of Ginsburgh encouraging students to carry out a “strong retaliatory act” two days after Palestinian gunmen killed Rabbi Raziel Shevach in the northern West Bank.

Ginsburgh and his students have responded to the controversy over his views by claiming that his concepts are taken from the Kabbalah and Chasidut. But the same could be said of both the False Messiah Shabtai Zvi and the morally corrupt Jacob Frank. A distorted mind can twist anything.

This past week, two Right Wing members of the current Israeli government (I pray they won’t be in the next one), Education Minister Rafi Peretz and Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich, supported a gala held to honor Ginsburgh.  In the event only Smotrich stayed for the award. This was much to the disgust of most Israelis from across the political and religious spectrum. 

The Palestinian leadership also expressed horror. (Their hypocrisy is breathtaking as they glorify and reward those who kill Israeli women and children and name squares after them). The vast majority of Jewish organizations have condemned the event including the moderate Orthodox rabbis and scholars of Torat Chayim which issued a stinging condemnation.

In every society there are extremes – including our own. We get very worked up about Arabs and Muslims who call for the death of Jews and support jihad. We say how primitive and disgusting it is. But sadly, we have our own lunatics. And instead of enabling us to hold the high ground, our enemies love to find excuses for tarring us with the same brush.  

I have a former pupil, an intrepid explorer, who travels widely around exotic places and blends in with locals. He once told me about his travels in Persia and how welcoming, hospitable and gentle his Mullah hosts were, in true Muslim style. After the meal they revealed another side and they invited him to see their public whippings and executions they thought their religion required. Some people jump to Ginsburgh’s defense saying what a kind, sweet generous man he is in private”. And, like the Mullahs, he may well be. But that does not detract from the danger in what he represents.

Ginsburgh also illustrates the Jekyll and Hyde nature of Chabad. They are the most devoted, dedicated and welcoming sector of the Jewish community worldwide. Yet, for all the good they do and all the warm, lovable people they produce, they also have their fair share of criminals and dangerous out of control crazies the late Rebbe would never have accepted.

Ginsburgh claimed that the late and great Lubavitcher Rebbe told him to be “melamed zechut,” – to give the benefit of the doubt – to Goldstein. Of course, giving people the benefit of the doubt is a good thing unless it does even greater harm. Goldstein’s massacre was on Purim 1994.  The Rebbe died on the 3rd of Tamuz 1994 (about 3 ½ months after the massacre) after two years of paralysis and inability to speak during which the only communication he was capable of was via the movement of one arm. Making claims of what the Rebbe thought at that time is as ridiculous as the claim that, even today, the Rebbe sends personal messages to each bride and groom based on those he wrote 25 years ago.  So, leaving aside that this “message” to Ginsbugh would go against the Rebbe’s very character, greatness and positive stance on non-Jews, I have my doubts. Ginsburgh not only desecrates God’s name but also that of their late great Rebbe. 

            Most Torah scholars agree with the Tania d’be Eliyahu Raba 28: “The Torah was given to sanctify God’s Name…one who sheds the blood of a gentile will in the end shed the blood of Jews. The Torah was only given to sanctify God’s Name…God will be honored among the non-Jews.” And with R. Meir Simcha of Dvinsk (1843–1926) known as the Meshech Chochmahwhen he says in Mishpatim:When a Jew kills a gentile, there is, in addition to the sin of murder also the sin of profaning God’s Name…and for this there is a [Divine] death penalty.And with Maimonides in his Hilchot Teshuva1:4: “One who profanes God’s Name, even though he repented and Yom Kippur comes and he is still repentant and has suffered, he does not achieve full atonement until he dies.” 

            I guess, like all fanatics, Ginsburgh thinks he is right and everyone else is wrong.

11 thoughts on “Religio Fascism

  1. Israel has a very poor record of holding politicians accountable. Even if they get convicted and serve time in jail, they seem to bounce back and stand for election again. I don’t understand how this happens actually. It used to be in the UK that any hint of a corruption or criminal scandal and that was the end of your political career. Maybe things have changed in the UK too now?

  2. Sadly you are right! There seems to be no remorse, angst, regret or guilt. And it ruins right down from Presidents, Prime Ministers ministers and Members of the Knesset right down to rabbis of all denominations and statuses , convicted and bouncing back is if nothing mattered.
    It is true that it has always been this but nowadays its much more difficult to hide it though Lord knows they don’t even seem to care.
    Time to clean there stables.

  3. The late Rebbe, incidentally a cousin of my late grandfather, was a man of peace and wisdom whom, I think, would condemn wholesale many of the ideas of Rabbi Ginsburgh. I still fervently believe that religion and politics should never be bedfellows and this covers any country and any religion.
    Shabbat Shalom, Jeremy.

  4. Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch® said:

    The Qur’an depicts the Jews as inveterately evil and bent on destroying the well-being of the Muslims.

    They are the strongest of all people in enmity toward the Muslims (5:82); they fabricate things and falsely ascribe them to Allah (2:79; 3:75, 3:181); they claim that Allah’s power is limited (5:64); they love to listen to lies (5:41); they disobey Allah and never observe his commands (5:13). They are disputing and quarreling (2:247); hiding the truth and misleading people (3:78); staging rebellion against the prophets and rejecting their guidance (2:55); being hypocritical (2:14, 2:44); giving preference to their own interests over the teachings of Muhammad (2:87); wishing evil for people and trying to mislead them (2:109); feeling pain when others are happy or fortunate (3:120); being arrogant about their being Allah’s beloved people (5:18); devouring people’s wealth by subterfuge (4:161); slandering the true religion and being cursed by Allah (4:46); killing the prophets (2:61); being merciless and heartless (2:74); never keeping their promises or fulfilling their words (2:100); being unrestrained in committing sins (5:79); being cowardly (59:13-14); being miserly (4:53); being transformed into apes and pigs for breaking the Sabbath (2:63-65; 5:59-60; 7:166); and more.

    They are under Allah’s curse (9:30),
    and Muslims should wage war against them
    and subjugate them under Islamic hegemony (9:29).”

    SOURCE: Sharia Professor: “If you are a Muslim
    who believes in the Quran, you must believe that the Jews
    are your enemies”
    by Robert Spencer, 2019 August 4

  5. No one doubts how much anti semitism is coming from the Muslim world and how sources are both used and misused to demean us. My point is that we should not descend to their level of moral guilt.

  6. I want to publish a reply I gave to a criticism of my article. I value disagreement and respect the author of the letter. But here is my response.

    Thank you so much for responding. I really value your comments but let me respond.

    Everything I said about the gentleman was based entirely on reading texts that he has written or issued.

    I do stand by my comments about Chabad which I admire and value but not without reservation.
    Are not the Meshichistim a bunch of crazies? I think so.
    I have an endless list of first hand experiences of financial irregularity, on three continents, of vicious infighting, of lies and distortions about my father and the Rebbe as well as Chabad rabbis going off track. I don’t want to get too personal and of course I want to avoid Lashon Hara and so I do not give details in public. But believe me I write entirely in the basis of my own experiences.

    I agree I have a love hate relationship with Chabad.I admire and value the good they do beyond any other group.
    The Rebbe who I had two ychichudesses with was the greatest Jew I ever encountered ( apart from my father perhaps).

    But I have always disagreed with a lot of his views ( particularly on Creation) and indeed much as I admire Chassidus I also in my own very small and insignificant way disagree with a lot of its ideas and there is a Litvak streak in me that I use as a counterbalance. I like golden means..
    I do not believe in perfection. I am certainly far far from it. But neither do I believe in tying to cover up, or pretend there are no problems.

    But thank you gain. I always needs to be questioned and challenged.

    Kol Tuv

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