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Belz – Satmar Reconciliation
On Monday, January 17, a distinguished group of Belzer chassidim visited the ohel in Kiryas Yoel. The group approached the gravesites of Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum, zt”l (1886-1979), founding Satmar Rebbe and author of Divrei Yoel, and, his nephew and successor, Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum, zt”l (1914-2006), Satmar Rebbe and author of Beirach Moshe.
At each gravesite the group gave charity, lit candles, recited Tehillim, and read aloud a letter from Rabbi Yesochor Dov Rokeach, Belzer Rebbe in Jerusalem, seeking forgiveness, as outlined in the Shulchan Aruch, Orech Chaim 606:1 and Rambam, Hilchos Teshuvah 2:9-10.
Included in the delegation were Belzer dayanim Rabbi Moshe Shimon Bineth, Rabbi Asher Eckstein, Rabbi Mordechai Galitzky, Rabbi Shimon Wolf Klein, Rabbi Shalom Pesach Langsam, Rabbi Wolf Ber Lerner, Rabbi Tuvia Watenstein; Belzer leaders Rabbi Ezriel Hecht, Rabbi Yosef Langsam, Rabbi Gavriel Menzer, and Rabbi Moshe Yosef Moskowitz. The letter was read by Rabbi Shimon Wolf Klein, the Rebbe’s gabbai.
Though no explanations were given, much unofficial speculation has been offered. There is still anger over a speech given in Jerusalem by the Belzer Rebbe on Motzaei Shemini Atzeres/Simchas Torah 1981, shortly after the passing of the Divrei Yoel. The Belzer Rebbe was 33 years old at the time and had been serving as Belzer Rebbe since 1966.
Belzer Rebbe, Early Years
Born in 1948, today’s Belzer Rebbe married Rebbetzin Sarah, the daughter of Rabbi Moshe Yehoshua Hager, Bnei Brak Vishnitzer Rebbe. At the time of the wedding, Rabbi Moshe Yehoshua’s father, Rabbi Chaim Meir Hager, zt”l (1887-1972), Vishnitzer Rebbe and author of Imrei Chaim, was still alive. The Belzer Rebbe resided in Bnei Brak for one year. In 1966, he moved his residence to Jerusalem, where he assumed leadership of the growing Belzer kehilla. In 1972, the Vishnitzer Rebbe passed away and Rabbi Moshe Yehoshua succeeded his father as Vishnitzer Rebbe in Bnei Brak.
Childless for several years after their marriage, the Belzer Rebbe and Rebbetzin visited the United States to seek the blessing of the Divrei Yoel and, presumably, to seek medical assistance. In 1975 they had a son, Aaron Mordechai, their only child. The two names are in honor of the child’s great-uncle, Rabbi Aaron Rokeach, zt”l (1880-1957), fourth Belzer Rebbe, as well as of the child’s grandfather, Rabbi Mordechai Twersky, zt”l (1902-1949) Bilgorayer Rav.
Belz-Eidah Hacharedis Differences
In 1981, the Belzer kehilla established its own beis din and kashrus certification. In effect, the Belzer kehilla seceded from the Eidah Hacharedis of Jerusalem, which was then a coalition of Toldos Aaron (today Toldos Aaron and Toldos Avrohom Yitzchok), Satmar, Dushinsky, etc. The move toward independence on the part of Belz and its then-realignment with the Agudah, Ger, Vishnitz, etc., was loudly condemned.
That year, when the Belzer Rebbe visited New York, the police, fearing violence, discouraged him from visiting Williamsburg. The Belzer Beis Medrash in Williamsburg had been ransacked and hundreds of chassidishe youths were stationed on roofs along the Belzer Rebbe’s expected route of entry. The Belzer Rebbe chose to forgo the Williamsburg visit.
The Divrei Yoel passed away on Sunday, August 19, 1979. In addition to serving as Satmar Rebbe, he also served as chief rabbi and president of the Eidah Hacharedis. The Beirach Moshe, as nephew, Sigeter Rav, and obvious successor, was not anointed as Satmar Rebbe until months later. In addition, until the first yahrzeit the Sigeter Rav chose to be called the Satmar-Sigeter Rebbe.
In 1979 the Divrei Yoel had invited Rabbi Yitzchok Yaakov Weiss, zt”l (1902-1989), Manchester av beis din and author of Minchas Yitzchok, to join the Eidah Hacharedis as rosh beis din. When the Divrei Yoel passed away, the Eidah Hacharedis appointed Rabbi Weiss as its chief rabbi. The position of president was given to the Beirach Moshe. Today, Rabbi Tuvia Yitzchok Weiss (no relation), former rosh beis din of Antwerp, is the chief rabbi of the Eidah Hacharedis; Rabbi Moshe Shternbuch is the rosh beis din, and Rabbi Dovid Soloveitchik, Brisker rosh yeshiva, is the current president.
Reportedly, the Belzer Rebbe has long sought to reconcile with his brother-in-law, Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum, Satmar Rebbe. They are sons-in-law of the aging Bnei Brak Vishnitzer Rebbe, as is Rabbi Dovid Twersky, Skverer Rebbe. The old adage applies here: Those that know are not speaking, and those who are speaking do not necessarily know. Some are hinting that the Satmar Rebbe welcomes the Belzer Rebbe’s current outreach but declined to reciprocate until forgiveness was asked of the Divrei Yoel and the Beirach Moshe in accordance with the Shulchan Aruch.
Now that the Belzer Rebbe has formally, in adherence with Shulchan Aruch guidelines, asked forgiveness, many speculate that the Satmar Rebbe, who will be visiting Israel shortly, will openly meet with the Belzer Rebbe. Others maintain that Satmar will not warmly embrace Belz but will grant the same ceremonious cordiality as is given to Vishnitz, Ger, Modzitz, Boyan, etc.
Rabbi Yesochor Dov Rokeach is the fifth Belzer Rebbe. Since 1966 he has led the worldwide Belzer kehilla, with large communities in Israel, the U.S., Canada, and Europe. In addition, the Belzer Rebbe has engineered the construction of the huge Belzer Beis Medrash, a prominent ornament in Jerusalem’s skyline. With seating for more than 6,000 it is considered one of the largest synagogues in the world.
Today’s Belzer Rebbe is the son of Rabbi Mordechai Twersky, zt”l (1902-1949) Bilgorayer Rav. He was anointed at the age of 18 in 1966 as the successor to his father’s older brother, Rabbi Aaron Rokeach, zt”l (1880-1957), fourth Belzer Rebbe who escaped from the Holocaust but whose wife and three sons were murdered. Rabbi Aaron arrived in Palestine in 1944. Rabbi Mordechai passed away when his son was but one year old. Rabbi Aaron raised his nephew, preparing him to become the next Belzer Rebbe. Sadly, Rabbi Aaron passed away while Yesochor Dov was only nine. Other important Belzer chassidim continued the education and tutelage of the future Belzer Rebbe.
Rabbi Aaron succeeded his father, Rabbi Yesochor Dov Rokeach, zt”l (1854-1926), third Belzer Rebbe who was the leading chassidishe Rebbe in western Galicia; son of Rabbi Yehoshua Rokeach, zt”l (1825-1894), second Belzer Rebbe; son of Rabbi Sholom Rokeach, zt”l (1779-1855), founding Belzer Rebbe, renowned as the Sar Sholom.
Tiferes Yechezkel Chassunah
On Thursday, January 26, Shlomo Zvi Mertz will marry Freidel Sheindel, daughter of Rabbi Yekusiel Moshe Simcha and granddaughter of Rabbi Alter Simcha, Vishnitzer rosh yeshiva. The chassan is the son of Rabbi Yaakov Mertz, rav of Kahal Tiferes Yechezkel in Kiryas Joel.
The chassunah celebrations began on Shabbos Va’eira at Kahal Tiferes Yechezkel, when the Friday night tisch was dedicated to the forthcoming marriage. The aufruf on Shabbos was followed by a grand kiddush attended by hundreds. The beis medrash was recently enlarged and final details, moldings, decorations, painting, lighting were completed just in time.
The kabbolas panim of the chassunah will begin at 6 p.m. at Pardes Faiga Hall, 243 Keap Street in Williamsburg. The celebration will be stately with many important chassidishe rebbes, rabbis and roshei yeshiva anticipated.
The chassan is the grandson of Rabbi Yechezkel Shraga Mertz, zt”l (d. 1970), author of Tiferes Yechezkel, who was greatly respected and warmly befriended by the previous Satmar Rebbe. The Tiferes Yechezkel was the son of Rabbi Yoel Zisman Mertz, zt”l, author of Har Yiroa. Rabbi Yechezkel was beloved by everyone and highly regarded in the chassidishe world. He predeceased the Satmar Rebbe and was buried immediately alongside the ohel that was originally designated as the Satmar Rebbe’s burial place in the Satmar cemetery in Floral Park, New Jersey. In the interim, the new community of Kiryas Yoel was established and blossomed in Monroe, N.Y., and became the final resting place for the Satmar Rebbe.
Rabbi Shimon Roshan, rosh yeshiva in Jerusalem, is visiting New York. He has in his hands tefillin parchments that were written by a certain popular sofer, herein referred to by the initials SK, who actually had the tefillin parchments laser printed and then added ink on top of letters by hand (a violation known as ksav al gabei ksav) to make it look handwritten.
Investigators accept that prior to 1999 SK was an outstanding sofer and that the tefillin, megillas, and mezuzahs (known collectively by their initials STaM) sold before then may have been in full compliance. However, STaM written by SK after 1999 are not kosher. Rabbi Yosef Sholom Elyashiv has ruled on the matter and his decision is binding.
The Sephardic scribe wrote mostly in Sephardic fonts. But he also wrote in Ashkenazic fonts that were sold in Litvishe circles in Jerusalem and beyond. Proclamations have been posted in all neighborhoods in Israel and New York where the scribe’s products may have been sold. A statement has been issued by the Vaad Mishmeres STaM detailing procedures to verify the kashrus of writing by SK.
Should a person wonder whether his STaM were written by SK, he should match handwritings. If one purchased a Sefer Torah, megillah or mezuzah before 1999, he should have a professional scribe ascertain whether there is writing on top of the printing. Indications of laser printing are equal width of all letters, equal space between letters, lighter or darker letters at the corners, and double stems on some letters.
Again, STaM written by SK and purchased after 1999 are not kosher, according to Rav Elyashiv.
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