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September 26, 2016 / 23 Elul, 5776
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Chassidic Rebbe Boycotting Weddings that Use Cameras

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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