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Exclusive Holocaust Day interview with Rabbi Chananya Weissman: 'Obligation to say the truth'

This rabbi refuses to be silent in the face of tyranny

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Sarah Perron

Sarah Perron

Sarah Perron

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January 25, 2023

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07:38 AM

Exclusive Holocaust Day interview with Rabbi Chananya Weissman: 'Obligation to say the truth'

Rabbi Chananya Weissman is boldly daring to speak out against the COVID narrative and all forms of tyranny in a way that few have over the past three years. In his prolific writing on recent world events, he is truth-centered, no-nonsense, and unconcerned with popular opinion.

Although he describes himself as “quiet and shy” in his personal life, Rabbi Weissman feels strongly about speaking out when injustice rears its head: 

When I see something I think is wrong and I see a void that needs to be filled or something that needs to be said, I’m not going to be afraid to say it. And from a very early age, I really had that.

Rabbi Weissman grew up in New York (he now resides in Israel), one of seven children in an Orthodox Jewish family. While providing a strong grounding in observant Jewish life for all their children, his parents also made a point of treating each child as an individual with different needs and inclinations. The Weissman siblings were encouraged to think for themselves and be “the people [they] were meant to be.” This gave Rabbi Weissman a foundation of freedom from which to develop and start expressing his own unique thoughts about the world around him.

As a college student in his early 20’s, Rabbi Weissman began speaking out in a big way. Over time, he had noticed problematic attitudes and teachings developing within the Orthodox Jewish world of dating and matchmaking and began a grassroots campaign called “End the Madness” in response. Rabbi Weissman observed that no one else was speaking up about these issues and stepped up to fill the void.

Rabbi Weissman was a self-described “nobody” at the time — a college student who was not yet an ordained rabbi — but he didn’t let this stop him. He courageously challenged prominent rabbis for declining to address the issues and for presenting views on dating that he felt had no precedent in Jewish history, law, and practice. This thought empowered him: 

What am I doing studying the Torah if I’m not capable of thinking for myself and at least questioning what people are saying? If they’re saying something that’s obviously wrong with what I’m learning . . . we have to be able to judge that for ourselves and we have to have the courage to say something.

“End the Madness” received considerable attention and media coverage. As it gained more publicity, many people encouraged Rabbi Weissman to “tone down” the messaging, warning that speaking about the issues in such an unabashed and at times harshly critical way would turn people off. Rabbi Weissman emphasized his goal of speaking truth, rather than attracting large numbers of supporters: 

I said, ‘Look, the world is full of people who are playing that game, who are trying to soften the message and be people-pleasers. The world has to have room for one person who is going to say the truth like it is, even if it turns people off.’

I think it’s very important that if people are going to speak out about an injustice, they have to really feel strongly about what they’re saying, feel strongly that it’s the truth, and even if it’s an unpopular opinion, they’re not trying to cater to the crowd or win people to their side per se. They’re trying to say the truth even if people don’t like them for it or punish them for it. They’re saying it because it needs to be said and not because people want them to be saying it.

Fast-forward to today: Rabbi Weissman’s priority of speaking the truth has served him well with the emergence of COVID and global tyranny. His current activities focus largely on writing about the Torah perspective on world events, and guiding people, based on the Torah view, as it relates to COVID, masks, shots, and beyond. He sees this as a void that very few rabbis have been addressing. Among many other topics he writes about the messages God might be sending us through world events and looks at medical treatments and the role of doctors through the lens of the Torah.

Rabbi Weissman comments that the article that seems to have made the most impact thus far is entitled “31 Reasons Why I Won’t Take the Vaccine”. The article is written from a simple, common-sense perspective on “why it just didn’t seem like a good idea.” The rabbi sent the article to his email list and to his surprise, its reach spread rapidly from there. The next day it was posted on a blog he’d never heard of, and then he started receiving emails from people around the world who found it helpful. Many shared with him that they were on the fence about taking the shots, or were under pressure from others, and that his article had given them the clarity and strength to say no. Rabbi Weissman comments, “Knowing that there are lots of people in the world who didn’t take these death shots because of an article I wrote is very gratifying.”

Rabbi Michael Dov Weissmandl

Rabbi Weissman has been compared to another rabbi who also bravely spoke out for truth on behalf of others: Rabbi Michael Dov Weissmandl (1903-1956). Rabbi Weissmandl was a Slovakian Jew who worked tirelessly with underground groups to try to save European Jewry during the Holocaust. He passed direct evidence of what was happening to the Jews in the Nazi concentration camps to the Allies and other world leaders, imploring them to bomb the crematoria. Tragically, this lone voice speaking truth was largely ignored.

Rabbi Weissman comments on the comparison:

I’m not trying to emulate [Rabbi Weissmandl] per sé — although of course, he’s an inspiration — I’m just trying to be me. So, I don’t think [the comparison] is fair for him because he’s much greater than I am, and I’m doing my own thing. But in terms of principle — people speaking out and [others] largely not paying attention — it doesn’t bother me much anymore because I realize throughout Jewish history we’ve had prophets — people much, much greater than me — who have given much more authoritative warnings than I’m capable of giving, and they were also ignored or treated much, much worse. So, I can’t take it personally or be bothered too much by the fact that not everybody’s listening to me. It’s very hard to change anyone’s mind about anything today. People are so stuck in their ways and the propaganda’s so strong that all you’re able to do is put some knowledge out there, give people the opportunity to consider the information that you’re giving them and if they want, they will change their own minds. I’m not going to get hung up on changing other people’s minds because it’s impossible. . . . We have an obligation to say the truth and do the right thing even if nobody listens to us.

What words of encouragement would Rabbi Weissman give to someone who wants to make a positive difference in the world today, but feels held back by fears, self-doubts, or even laziness?

He says the first step is to recognize that these feelings come from the negative side of us, rather than the true positive core of who we are, and that we need to and can work to overcome them. Rabbi Weissman observes that often the hardest part of moving from negative thoughts and feelings into positive action is simply getting started. Once you take a few small steps forward, the process usually starts to flow more easily from there. 

Second, Rabbi Weissman notes that it is vital to identify your unique path for making a difference. What are your natural, God-given gifts, talents, and abilities? Feel confident about doing something that is the best fit for you, rather than trying to be something you’re not. For Rabbi Weissman, choosing to express his thoughts on the world’s direction through writing that utilized his Torah knowledge was a natural path to take; those were areas he knew he had skill in and gravitated toward. He comments:

We live in a time where people are naturally unsatisfied with their identities, with what they’re doing in life. They’re having crises . . . making changes . . . instead of people embracing the talents and the gifts that God gave them. . . . If people are born with a talent for something or they particularly enjoy something, that’s a subtle sign from God that that’s where He wants them to go in life. . . . [T]he only way that we’ll be truly fulfilled is if we are who we are meant to be and if we’re using the gifts that God gave us instead of letting them lie dormant and knocking our heads against the wall to try to be something that we weren’t meant to be.

Rabbi Weissman emphasizes that making space for some regular quiet time in our lives can help enormously on the journey toward discovering how we can make our unique contribution. Turning off the TV and the phone, stepping away from the hectic busyness that encompasses so much of our lives, and taking quiet moments to think about the bigger picture of who we are and what we’re here to do in life is vital. 

Third, Rabbi Weissman stresses that you don’t have to be a big public figure in order to make a difference. Focus on speaking to the people immediately around you — family, friends, your social circles, fellow congregants at your place of worship — and just try to “plant seeds” of information in their hearts and minds:

You don’t have to be a warrior who’s fighting the whole world. The job of most of us is to try to make a difference amongst those who are immediately around us. . . . Be the one who speaks out to those people. . . . Try to make a difference, try to open up people’s minds a little bit, and even if they’re not going to listen, you’re planting a seed in their minds. . . . You never know how that seed might sprout at a later time.

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