Machberes: Inside The Chassidish And Yeshivish World
By Rabbi Gershon Tannenbau
Rabbi Mordechai Hager, born in 1922, is the Vizhnitzer Rebbe of Monsey and has a following of tens of thousands of chassidim. He is the son of Rabbi Chaim Meir Hager, zt’l (1888–1972), Vizhnitzer Rebbe and author of Imrei Chaim. Rabbi Mordechai married the daughter of Rabbi Yaakov Yosef Twersky, zt’l (1899–1968), late Skverer Rebbe, and together they had 14 children, 8 sons and 6 daughters.
Each son serves as rav of a Vizhnitzer congregation. The eldest son, Rabbi Pinchas Sholom, zt’l (1948–2015), served as the rav of the kehillah in Boro Park (he was succeeded by his son, Rabbi Yisroel); Rabbi Yisroel serves the kehillah in Monsey, New York; Rabbi Mendel serves the kehillah in Kiamesha Lake, New York; Rabbi Yitzchok Yochonon serves the kehillah in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Rabbi Aron serves the kehillah in Montreal; Rabbi Dovid serves the kehillah in London, UK; Rabbi Eliezer serves the kehillah in Jerusalem; and the youngest son, Rabbi Boruch Shamshon, serves the kehillah in Bet Shemesh.
The daughters are: Rebbetzin Tziporah married to Rabbi Avrohom Dov Twersky, son of Rabbi Yochanan, zt’l (1903–1981), Rachmestrivka Rebbe of Jerusalem; Rebbetzin Malka Chanah Rachel, married to Rabbi Yisroel Eliezer Fish, Biksader Rebbe in Williamsburg; Rebbetzin Hinda, married to Rabbi Yosef Ben Zion Rottenberg, son of Rabbi Meshulem Feivish Rottenberg, Kosoner Rebbe of 18th Avenue in Boro Park; Rebbetzin Chava Reizel, married to Rabbi Aaron Menachem Mendel Twersky, son of Rabbi Dovid Twersky, Skverer Rebbe and brother-in-law of the Vizhnitzer Rebbe; Rebbeztin Golda, married to Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Yechiel Mechel Moshkowitz, son of Rabbi Yosef Chaim, Shotzer Rebbe in Williamsburg; and Rebbetzin Bracha, married to Rabbi Nachman Yosef Twersky, son of Rabbi Zev, son of Rabbi Yochanan, zt’l, Rachmestrivka Rebbe of Jerusalem.
Baruch Hashem, with longevity, such a large family, and all offspring having large families, the number of simchas (weddings, engagements, bar mitzvahs, and b’risos) multiply. The reality, however, is that actuarial principles apply to every population, and every birth concludes in a death.
On Monday, June 8, thousands of chassidim gathered at the main Vizhnitzer beis midrash in Monsey to celebrate the wedding of the Vizhnitzer Rebbe’s grandchild. The chassan, Eliezer Hager, is the son of Rabbi Moshe; son of Rabbi Yisroel, rav of the Vizhnitzer Kehillah in Monsey; son of the Vizhnitzer Rebbe. Rabbi Yisroel is the son-in-law of Rabbi Eliezer Meisels, zt’l (1914–1995), Uheily Rav; Rabbi Moshe is the son-in-law of Rabbi Yisroel Eliezer Fish, Biksader Rebbe and son-in-law of the Vizhnitzer Rebbe. Thus, the chassan is a double great-grandson of the Vizhnitzer Rebbe.
The kallah is the daughter of Rabbi Chaim Meir Ernster, rav of the Yeshuos Moshe kehillah of Manchester; son of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Ernster, Bnei Brak Vizhnitzer Rosh Yeshiva; son-in-law of Rabbi Moshe Yehoshua Hager, zt’l (1916–2012), Vizhnitzer Rebbe of Bnei Brak (older brother of the Vizhnitzer Rebbe of Monsey). Rabbi Chaim Meir, father of the kallah, is the son-in-law of Rabbi Yehoshua Heschel Eichenstein, Zidichover Rebbe of Chicago.
The aufruf on Shabbos Parashas Beha’aloscha, June 5–6, took place at the main Vizhnitzer beis midrash in Monsey with the active participation of the great-grandfather, the Vizhnitzer Rebbe, together with the parents, uncles and aunts, and grandparents of the chassan and kallah. The Shabbos aufruf had all of its events energetically celebrated. The singing at the tisch was increased in honor of the aufruf. The placement of the shtreimel on the chassan before going to shul late Friday afternoon, the escorting of the chassan to the beis midrash with song and dance, and the Shabbos Kiddush in shul were all given the full celebratory treatment.
The aufruf Shabbos was also the rejoicing of the sheva berachos of the wedding of the Vizhnitzer Rebbe’s granddaughter that took place in Monsey on Wednesday, May 27. The chassan, Meir Yitzchok Spitz, is the son of Rabbi Aaron Taub, Seret-Vizhnitzer Rav of Boro Park; son of Rabbi Moshe Spitz, zt’l, Bistritzer Rav, and son-in-law of the Rabbi Eliezer Hager, Seret-Vizhnitzer Rebbe of Haifa. The kallah is the daughter of Rabbi Yisroel Hager; son and successor of Rabbi Pinchas Sholom Hager, zt’l (1948–2015), who served as the rav of the kehillah in Boro Park. Rabbi Yisroel, the father of the kallah, is the son-in-law of Rabbi Mordechai Stein, Foltechaner Rav of Boro Park. Rabbi Pinchas Sholom was the son-in-law of Rabbi Shmuel Zvi Horowitz, zt’l (1921–1997), Spinka Rebbe in Williamsburg.
Rabbi Pinchas Sholom Hager, zt’l (1948–2015), oldest son of the Vizhnitzer Rebbe and the rav of the kehillah in Boro Park, underwent back surgery at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan but succumbed to surgical complications and passed away on Thursday, June 4. He was universally beloved and respected. Tens of thousands attended his funeral in Boro Park and in Monsey. The procession from the main Vizhnitzer beis midrash to the cemetery was joined by the father, the Vizhnitzer Rebbe, and the aron (bier) was carried on the shoulders of his close associates. He was laid to rest in the Vizhnitzer Cemetery in Monsey.
Rabbi Pinchas Sholom was survived by his rebbetzin, three sons, and six daughters. His passing in the midst of Vizhnitzer simchas generated complications. Not all of his brothers were immediately informed, so as not to disrupt simchas that were under way. The Shabbos aufruf in Monsey had the Vizhnitzer Rebbe and family members observing shivah immediately before and after Shabbos, but not during Shabbos. The Vizhnitzer Rebbe and family attended the chuppah, as permitted by halachah. Immediately after the chuppah, they returned to their shivah. The many who came to nichum aveilim were directed by the Rebbe to return to the chasunah so as not to disrupt it. Needless to say, the Rebbe and his family were sorely missed, especially during the dancing and the mitzvah tantz.
When Rabbi Yisroel Hager, zt’l (1860–1936), third Vizhnitzer Rebbe and author of Ahavas Yisroel, passed away on Shabbos, the sons continued the Shabbos without any mournful hint. The tisch continued, the singing continued, the joyous tefillos continued. But with the end of Shabbos, heartbreaking, mournful wailing continued unabated through the shivah.
Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum is the rav of B’nai Israel of Linden Heights in Boro Park and director of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He can be contacted at email@example.com.