Behind the Rabbi’s Scenes

Behind the Rabbi’s Scenes

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What really goes on behind the scenes in Hasidic leadership is hard to know from the facade the rabbinic hoif portrays. The gabbais and the various staff/family of the Rabbi all comprise the unified effort to create a certain powerful and mysterious image of the tzadik, sometimes making the tzadik only available on a limited basis to his Hasidim, to prevent him from doing anything that will go contra the overall leadership’s efforts. This can especially be true when the Rabbi cannot lead due to old age. Instead of retiring leadership to his heirs, he will continue to be the official rabbi, and a host of powerful people will be the de facto leaders. When I grew up I had not an inkling that Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum suffered from dementia, even though I went to his major tishen and participated in rebbish events. I was well informed of the firestorm surrounding the heir to the Satmar dynastic throne, the split between Rabbi Aaron and Rabbi Zalmen Leib, but I did not know that all this happened while the father of the two rivaling sons was no longer healthy enough to make his own decision. What I knew about our grand rabbi was never direct; always edited and produced by the various leaders and administrators who carefully protected the image and derech of the Hasidic rabbis. As a child, I certainly knew nothing about the human side of our “living saints” and I’m not sure if I knew much more as an adult.

Are Hasidic rabbis indeed today’s leaders, or are they simply a front for other powerful personalities who manipulate the rabbis like puppets? I am not informed enough to know. I’d love to hear from the readers on this.

11 Comments
  • Mechl
    Posted at 05:36h, 09 July Reply

    Isnt it just both?

  • Shragi
    Posted at 06:48h, 09 July Reply

    I’m not informed enough either to know but isn’t this why The Making of A Gadol was banned? Because it showed gedoylim as humans.

  • sam
    Posted at 07:15h, 09 July Reply

    You Aronista !!

  • Plato
    Posted at 07:54h, 09 July Reply

    Its a fair deal. The followers want to follow and see things the way they expect then to see and the leaders (the whole gang) offer this service, while believing (in something) to the extent that it justifies whatever they do.

  • Shpitzle
    Posted at 09:20h, 09 July Reply

    “You Aronista !!”
    Now that’s a first!

  • Devorah
    Posted at 09:52h, 09 July Reply

    I think most chassidim like the aura that surrounds the tzadik, if it’s true or not. It’s comforting to the masses that they can get brochos and advice from a holy man, and it absolves them from making decisions. Therefore they don’t want the facade to crack. It will be highly disappointing and unsettling for most if it does.

  • Loren N Kaplan
    Posted at 10:39h, 09 July Reply

    I think the Rebbes of the various Chasidic dynasties run the show, they’re definitely “Charismatic Leaders” who the rank and file are fascinated by. Many Rebbes become full of themselves which comes out to appear to the rank and file to be further proof that this man is a great man and tzadik. It’s a vicious cycle. If the Rebbe says not to do something or go somewhere, his Chasidim blindly obey. Too much Rebbe fascination…in some groups it’s getting very close to idol worship (which of course we Jews are not supposed to do.) Look at Chabad…there’s an overwhelming theme of idol worship occuring there. I’ll leave Chabad at that since I have many issues with them and for that matter, I’ll end this long-winded response as well.

  • Leapale
    Posted at 17:04h, 09 July Reply

    The more erlich leaders had direct connection with the chassidim. and yidden. I was priviliged to know one, and 90% of what was important (if you were in Israel) was one-on-one.
    However, the successors are not made of the same stuff as the original post war generation, and (purportedly due to the size of the following) they delegate. This is a major issue.
    They also do not have the time, or the ambition, or the ability, to check the information they are fed for themselves. Another issue. Plus the ‘handlers’ favor one size fits all solutions, which wasn’t the case post war – even in Lubavitch!
    Or, for that matter, even pre-war. My informed hunch is that one of the largest hoifs pre-war was 1/4 chassidim without beards! But they were accepted by the Rebbe!
    Shpitz, do you think when your founding Rabeni Yoelish was ‘by the keilim’, he depended on meshamshim to do his work? Or did he craft individual solutions?

  • Leapa
    Posted at 05:54h, 10 July Reply

    And Shragi – one of the biggest mistakes of our generation is the ‘scrubbing’ of gedolim, which decreases their worth as examples.
    The banning of ‘The Making of a Godol’ is a tragedy inflicted on coming generations by people with small minds and petty ambitions.

  • Richard Cooper
    Posted at 18:31h, 10 July Reply

    Most of the new rebbes in the younger generation have computers in their offices for study, research, business etc. and some Chasidic courts are publicly known to have an Internet connection (and the rest are likely more discreet about it) – for various legitimate reasons, such as fundraising, publishing, and management of the rabbis’ wealth. This opens up a whole new world of possibilities for what they can be doing in their ‘alone’ time.

  • gedalye
    Posted at 19:40h, 10 July Reply

    The truth is only one.
    Anyone blessed with a brain knows exactly the situation with the Rebbe.
    Each Chasidus has its down-time, and individuals are taking over and exploiting the situation for themselves.
    But the truth is way good known for all.
    Since the only power these individuals have is nothing but the press, public newspaper or domestic posters. The general public has no interest and no good reason to fight back (everyone minds their own business), therefor the only history left is from the these individuals who has control the PR.
    And the system is already running like this for decades…
    We are not smarter then the generations before us, they thought the same, they just didn’t output it on paper.
    That’s part of the danger of internet, since everyone has the power of written words… LOL
    However, I will not pretend. Chasidim do hide the Rebbe’s bad situation, which is based, I think, on dignity, this can be understood.
    All the best, keep it up!
    See you.

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