Itamar Ben Gvir
Itamar Ben GvirFlash90

What do a far left former Meretz leader and a certain Satmar-associated media organization have in common?

They both tweet and they both call other people Nazis. And they both need to stop.

It pretty much happens every year during yeshiva week (the time when many Yeshivots give days off – a winter vacation of sorts). There is some incident with an airline flight attendant or representative. The airline rep – reacts, possibly in a discriminatory manner. And we decide to make an issue of it.

Now, there is nothing wrong with standing up for one’s rights, as long as it is done properly and respectfully. But there is something wrong with name-calling and throwing around accusations of anti-Semitism. Often, the name-calling is someone in the media or someone posting a comment on a website.

A video went around on Tuesday this past week regarding a Monday Delta Airline flight from Fort Lauderdale to LGA wherein a flight attendant informed someone that he had too much carry-on and he needed to check some of the bags. In this case, the preliminary indication is that the stewardess was in the wrong. However, a Twitter account allegedly associated with a Satmar [Aroni follower] feed that reaches 15,000 people called for a boycott of Delta Airlines until they fire the “Nazi" staff member.

And it happened on Wednesday in Israel too,

Former MK Zehava Galon, once the chairwoman of the far-left Meretz party posted a tweet of a photograph of Israel’s National Security Minister Bem Gvir raising up his arm and compared him to Nazis. Shortly after the tweet was posted, Galon came under fire for the Nazi comparison even by some on the Left castigating the Meretz chief’s comment.

Galon was unapologetic, saying “I deleted the tweet,” Galon wrote in a follow up post. “I am still waiting for racism to be erased from the Knesset.”

Ben-Gvir responded, “The daughter of Holocaust survivors is cheapening and ripping up the [memory] of the holy Six Million. Zehava, what would your mother and father say about this?”

Although what follows is pretty obvious and would seem that it is something that does not need to be said, but we should never ever label someone a Nazi. This is true for a number of reasons:

  • It desecrates the memory of the six million kedoshim by equating the implementation of a harsh rule or policy with the murder and gassing of innocent people. It is just very very wrong.
  • It causes immense pain to holocaust survivors and their family members by minimizing their traumatic and horrifying experiences. Indeed, it is highly likely that it is a negation of feeling another's burdens called “noseh b’ol chaveiro.
  • It also contributes to something called “Terminology Inflation.” Just like in a school, when someone that deserves a mark of an 83 instead receives a mark of 99 or a 100, then what can one give the A plus student who did get a 99 or a 100? Ultimately, it renders his or her mark meaningless. By the same token, calling just anyone a Nazi makes it so that a truly murderous person can no longer be called anything.
  • Such excessive descriptions actually cause additional anti-Semitism.
  • The Gemara in Bava Metzia (58b) states that all the people who descend to Gehinnom arise from there with the exception of three kinds: adulterers; those who affix a pejorative name to another; and one who embarrasses his friend in public. These three never arise. This halakhah is stated in Shulchan Aruch regarding other Jews, Bnei Brit (Choshen Mishpat 228:5) and is nogaya – that is, practically applicable. The Rambam (Hilchos Teshuvah 3:14) lists these as one of the 24 categories of people that have no share in the World to Come.

Calling someone a murderer or a moiseror a Nazi is also the ultimate insult or embarrassment. Rabbeinu Yona in his Shaarei Teshuvah (3:139) discusses explains that embarrassing someone is abizraihu, an action ancillary to a specific sin, of murdering. He refers to the incident of Tamar and Yehudah and explains that Tamar preferred to be burned with fire – rather than embarrass Yehudah publicly. He implies that this is an actual halakha. Rabbeinu Yonah, citing the Gemorah in Bava Metziah 59a, states, “L’olam yapil adam es atzmo l’kivshan haAish v’al yalbin pnei chaveiro berabim – a person should always throw himself into a pit of fire rather than embarrassing his friend in public.”


There is, of course, another understanding of Rabbeinu Yonah’s citation. The text in our Gemaras (both BM 59a and Sota 10b) is different than that which Rabbeinu Yonah quotes. Our text states, “Noach lo le’adam sh’yapil – it is preferable for a person to throw himself etc.” The wording of preferable indicates that doing so is a stringency – rather than a requirement.

Indeed, this seems to be the indication of the Meiri in his comments on the Gemara in Sotah where he writes, “A person should always be careful not to embarrass” – the indication of his language and the fact that he refers to the throwing oneself as a “ha’ara” – a suggestion is indicative that he holds it is just an act of preference – a chumrah, so to speak. The Baalei haTosfos in their comments on the Gemara in Sotah, however, pose the question as to why this concept is not listed in the Gemara in Psachim (25a) among the three sins that one must forfeit his life for. The Baalei Tosfos answer that this concept is not explicitly written in the Torah. The implication of Tosfos is that they agree with the position of Rabbeinu Yonah that it is a full halakhic obligation.

There is perhaps a third possibility that we can suggest. Could it be said that our sages merely are indicating how very severe it is to embarrass someone and are speaking in hyperbole? We find that Chazal will occasionally speak in hyperbole in order to bring home the point that this is an action from which we should stay far away. Regardless of the actual understanding of the Gemara – we really need to change, upgrade our method of conversation and stop calling people Nazis. The Twitter Feed, if it is a Jewish tweeter, should remove its declaration and explain things in the calm, cool, and collected manner that we are known for. And Zehava Galon needs to issue a full apology.

Rabbi Hoffman is an educator and author. He can be reached at [email protected]