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January 22, 2017 / 24 Tevet, 5777
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Chassidic Rebbe Boycotting Weddings that Use Cameras

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A crowd of Vizhnitzer Chassidim (on Purim). The Rebbe decreed: no cameras in his wedding ceremonies.

A crowd of Vizhnitzer Chassidim (on Purim). The Rebbe decreed: no cameras in his wedding ceremonies.
Photo Credit: Dror Garti / Flash90

There’s an ongoing war inside the Vizhnitz Chassidic dynasty, not over territory or power, as in other dynasties, but over principles, Kikar Hashabbat reports.

Apparently, the Vizhnitzer Rebbe, Rabbi Yisroel Hager of Bnei Brak, who was staying in Manchester England until today, Monday, on the occasion of the wedding of the daughter of his relative, millionaire Jacob Adler, is vehemently opposed to photographing major events in his court.

But now the Rebbe has reiterated his long standing ruling that no Chassidic events are to be photographed, extending it to wedding ceremonies in which he is the officiating rabbi.

“I won’t agree to officiate at a wedding if the Chupa is photographed,” went the Rebbe’s edict.

This has also been the custom of the Rebbe’s uncle, Rabbi Mordechai (Mottele) Hager, the Vizhnitzer Rebbe of Monsey, who avoids the weddings of his Chassidim if they invite a video or stills cameraman to document it.

Now, I disagree with the exulted Rebbe on a few issues, most notably his aggressive approach against the IDF draft, and the fact that he is planning to join the vast delegation of Haredi rabbis who are flying to America to say loshon hora against the Jewish State. But I tend to respect and even admire his call on no cameras at weddings.

It coincides with the rather harsh edict reputably issued by Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, which, supposedly, renders invalid a wedding in which one of the witnesses owns a smartphone.

My own life is not run by fatwas, so my decision making process is highly individualistic, but I’ve reached similar conclusions on my own. After many years of using a smartphone in New York, I’ve decided, in Israel, to switch to a dumb phone that gets calls and texts, but no emails and no Internet. Not because—unlike the Rebbe—I think those things are evil, but because I’ve experienced first hand how they removed me from life when they were tagging along on my person via the smartphone.

In the same vein, I know that people behave vastly differently with and without a camera in their midst. We’ve been practically desensitized to cameras all around us, and I believe this is a spiritual loss for all of us.

Privacy is so precious, the ability to act naturally in intimate social events is so important—why ruin it by acting to the camera?

Also, I believe nostalgia is the scourge of the human spirit. It’s an addiction which drags us away from the moment and into a haze of delusion about past realities. And so, to imagine these participants in a wedding wasting their future time leafing through fat picture albums is most unappealing.

So, honorable Vizhnitzer Rebbe, I totally dislike your anti draft hullabaloo, but I totally dig your awesome camera-free weddings.

Yori Yanover

About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.

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  1. Ch Hoffman says:

    Next, they'll require that all participants arrive in donkey carts

  2. when i go to a funeral, i leave my phone in the car. i sit and listen to the hespedim to learn about the deceased.

  3. They are trying to make a point that our weddings have become too opulent It’s back to basics. Take the pictures before and after the Chupa.

  4. Jonathan Weber says:

    Cool. Do we get to dress like Moshe Rabeinu too?

  5. Rabbi Hecht, they’re trying to make a point that too many guests are texting, playing games and taking selfies instead of observing the mitzvah of sameach chassan v’kallah. The Viznitz Rebbe has his eye on the audience.

  6. Moishe Pupik says:

    This kind of a call to modesty is welcome.

  7. I personally know a photographer who is hired by families of rebbes who ban wedding photography. He basically brings bare bones gear and has had his life threatened many times when caught shooting. Poor guy gets paid well but it’s a dangerous job.

  8. This was the most idiotic post i have seen from you since I have read this blog.

  9. David Shlomowitz says:

    To all those who have complaints against the Vizhnitzer rebbe Shlit"a, #1 he is the student of his Uncle and follows his uncle's rulings, #2 no one forces you to ask him to be mesader Kiddushin, you can ask someone else, #3 as far as the phone goes Yori Yanover himself sees the wisdom of not having a smartphone: but because I’ve experienced first hand how they removed me from life when they were tagging along on my person via the smartphone. This is the reasoning of the gedolim,they just try to get everyone to comply by saying the word "evil" but the true reason is because smartphones and the internet become the masters of one's life. The cartoonist from the cartoon Pickles brought that point home when Earl answered his smartphone while he was sitting on the pot.
    Once again, no one is forcing you to ask the Vizhnitzer Rebbe to be mesader kiddushin, and if this is what his chassidim want then they have to respect his conditions, ther e are plenty of other Rebbes and rabbonim who do not require this so chose between a photographer and the Vizhnitzer Rebbe. His son R' Chaim Meir who is the Vizhnitzer Rav of Boro Park announced that he will not have in mind for shofar anyone who has a smartphone so you have an option, either get rid of the smartphone or daven elsewhere. Plenty of shuls in Boro Park , no?

  10. all of religion is nostalgia – so I guess religion, in your definition," is the scourge of the human spirit. It’s an addiction which drags us away from the moment and into a haze of delusion about past realities."

  11. Anonymous says:

    Technology, cameras , video etc can and almost always is intrusive, and detracts from the kedusha of the moment. So, in this regard I agree .. however taking photos before and after should not be prohibited.
    There is a unseen danger of moving forward to prohibit things. All things created contain both good and evil. To prohibit the use of things can cause us to loose our personal ability to use our `free wiill`in choosing to use something for the good in an appropriate Holy way. Yes… the cell phone, computer, technology et al etc can be useful and appropriate tool .

  12. Chaiya Eitan says:

    I feel sorry for these people. No photographs to be put in a wedding album to show the children and grandchildren later on. They have more in common with that other religion.

  13. Leslie Sherman says:

    Shame on all of you! This decision is up to the couple. Future generations will want these pictures and you are robbing them of their family pictures and memories. It was bad enough that the Europe did this and now we have no records let alone pictures of our families but one it is the Rebbe's taking our past away.

  14. Ita Benjamin says:

    Leslie Sherman, you are so right! When my grandparents, ob'm, fled Poland ahead of the Nazis, they buried their family documents and photos in back of their house. When my aunt (their daughter born in the US after the war) went back decades later, and wanted to dig them up, the family living there refused – even though she offered them a large sum to recover them. ALL of us in the family feel the loss of this, to this day! If we lose our past, our future is in jeopardy; my bothers and cousins are named for people they never knew and never saw, so where is the continuity?

  15. Ita Benjamin says:

    Even Jezebel never boycotted a Jewish wedding! Is the obligation to “gladden the heart of the bride,” “dance before the bride” or “treat the bridal couple as royalty” invalidated by the use of a camera? I guess so!

  16. Ita Benjamin says:

    Wow! Even Jezebel never boycotted a Jewish wedding!

  17. Is nothing sacred? Why SHOULD the chupah be photographed? It is supposed to be a holy, intimate, sacred covenant between a man a woman and HaShem. Pictures are plentiful so why desecrate what is meant to be unsullied?

  18. Dan Silagi says:

    Exactly! Our wedding photographs are very much treasured.

  19. Norm Grafstein says:

    My general comment would be that, as long as the camera doesn't interfere with the ceremony, making a vido of it creates a precious memory for the Chasan and Kallah. As you can appreciate, when they are under the chupah, they are in a different world and would likely welcome the opportunity to see the ceremony together, on their own, to celebrate.

    As far as the carmera during the rest of the evening, you say, "…the ability to act naturally in intimate social events is so important—why ruin it by acting to the camera?" No one is asking anyone to act for the camera,. So the person taking the videos comes by your table and asks you to wish a mazel tov to the Chasan and Kallah. What a nice thing to do for 30 seconds.

    Read more at: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/chassidic-rebbe-boycotting-photographed-weddings/2013/12/30/

  20. Yechiel Baum says:

    It is time for his return to Vishnnitz Europe to join in the Loshon Hora against the Jewish State of Israel. Apparanently, he is a moran oo Nazi

    no more donations to the vishnitz leaches on Judaism. let them earn their own upkeep.

  21. Mark Trencher says:

    This is not a comment by him on technology. Given his position, this will be interpreted as a p'sak of some sort. So, frumkeit moves further toward … I don't know what.

    He is redefining your religion. Are you OK with that?

  22. Ari Kadish says:

    No. And I couldn't comment or like your other article on woman Ortho rabbis, but I couldn't agree more with you

  23. uh !!!!!….can someone tell me why?????……so now a 1000 words will be replacing pictures?????….imagine you could have replaced this article with one single picture!!????…..give me normal lubavitch any old day !!!

  24. Dad… I really can't read this sh*t….. it's physically painful to me that these are even issues ppl are wasting their time making"laws" about. Oh wait. …. this fits in nicely with my rant about how most everything in orthodoxy is a "siyag l' whatever the hell" and NOT actually a real Jewish law. Just a law a rabbi came up with that then somehow becomes "halacha". Seriously, rabbis need to stop adding rules to an already obsessively rule filled religion. Can u tell this is a trigger for me!?! Hmmmmm

  25. I'm sorry for being negative. Hugggge trigger…. Rabbis making MORE rules. Sorry

  26. THESE Hassidic Rebbe want to live and make the people to live in the 14 th. century like the Arabs with their Charia law.

  27. Well. It sounds like you. You want people are being in 14 century. Treat people like a slave.

  28. Alan Lattke says:

    Interesting article. I was unaware of the position on smart phones… after seeing some of the stuff, like this (link follows) – it is a great chessed. Easy to criticize – harder to think (yes the source in this case if Fox, but if that is detracting you – understand it is not just Apple or Google…). http://www.foxnews.com/tech/2013/12/31/nsa-has-complete-access-to-your-iphone-leaked-docs-show/

  29. Eyal Levy says:

    And that's why they allowed this picture ot be taken for the jewishpress…joke!

  30. Mark Trencher says:

    This may be a file photo of another wedding. The issue I have is that this is not really a religious ruling, but more likely this guy's pet peeve of some sort.

  31. Myriam Obadia says:

    I am wondering about that island we were supposed to buy from the Greek. Can we proceed with the purchase and make it a Medieval Jewish reservation, so the rest of us can practice Judaism in peace and without interference from the Flat Earth Society Ayatollahs?

  32. Eileen Graber Weinberg says:

    I can't believe that. On what grounds???? Halachik that is???

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