Machberes: Inside The Chassidish And Yeshivish World
By Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum
The growth of our chassidishe communities is phenomenal. We see chassidishe kehillos become so large that individual communities represent entire worlds. Leaderships of the larger chassidishe communities have been divided by sons and sons-in-laws. We are witness to Satmar, Spinka, Bobov, Klausenberg, Rachmestrivka, etc., becoming identifications that need adjectives. Which Satmar, which Bobov, which Klausenberg are almost instant queries in response to their mention. Vizhnitz has been defined by identification adjectives for decades. Seret Vizhnitz, Bnei Brak Vizhnitz, Monsey Vizhnitz are fully accepted as names of individual chassidishe kehillos.
The Israeli Vizhnitzer communities that were formerly only identified as Bnei Brak Vizhnitz are now two different kehillos led separately by Rabbi Yisroel Hager and Rabbi Menachem Mendel Hager, both sons of Rabbi Moshe Yehoshua Hager, zt’l, Bnei Brak Vizhnitzer Rebbe.
Two years ago, at 12:40 a.m., early Wednesday morning, March 14, 20th of Adar, 5772, the holy soul of Rabbi Moshe Yehoshua Hager ascended to the highest plateaus of heaven while intense mourning descended on Jews on Earth. The heavenly reign of the seventh-generation rebbe in the Kosov-Vizhnitz house of chassidishe leadership came to an end. Rabbi Moshe Yehoshua absorbed chassidishe heritage while on the lap of his grandfather, Rabbi Yisroel Hager, zt’l (1860–1936), beloved Vizhnitzer Rebbe and author of Ahavas Yisroel, who, in turn, was taught by his grandfather, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Hager, zt’l (1830–1884), Vizhnitzer Rebbe and author of Tzemach Tzaddik. Thus, Rabbi Moshe Yehoshua was a direct link to fountainheads of chassidism reaching back six generations.
He was born on Wednesday, June 14, 1916 to Rabbi Chaim Meir and Rebbetzin Margolis (Pearl). Moshe Yehoshua was their firstborn. At the time of his birth, during WW I, his father served as rav of Vilchovitz, then in Austria-Hungary and now in Romania, not far from Vizhnitz. The father later became Vizhnitzer Rebbe and author of Imrei Chaim. The Ahavas Yisroel directed that the child not be named after any of his antecedents, but rather of the first two leaders of the Jewish nation, Moshe and Yehoshua, who are mentioned in the weekly parashah of his b’ris.
Rabbi Moshe Yehoshua was the son of Rabbi Chaim Meir Hager, zt’l (1887–1972), beloved Vizhnitzer Rebbe who authored Imrei Chaim and settled in then Palestine in 1947, establishing the Vizhnitzer community in Bnei Brak and moving there in 1949; son of Rabbi Yisroel Hager, zt’l (1860–1936), Vizhnitzer Rebbe and author of Ahavas Yisroel; son of Rabbi Boruch Hager, zt’l (1845–1893), Vizhnitzer Rebbe and author of Imrei Boruch; son of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Hager, zt’l (1820–1884), Vizhnitzer Rebbe and author of Tzemach Tzaddik who was crowned as rebbe at the age of 24; son of Rabbi Chaim Hager, zt’l (1795–1854), Kosover Rebbe and author of Toras Chaim; son of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Hager, zt’l (1768–1825), Kosover Rebbe and author of Ahavas Sholom; son of Rabbi Yaakov Kopel Chosid Hager-Kapiletis, zt’l (d. 1787), Kolomayer Rebbe and disciple of Rabbi Yisroel Baal Shem Tov, zt’l (1698–1760), founder of the chassidic movement. As one of the principal disciples of the Baal Shem Tov, Rabbi Yaakov Kopel Chosid served as the shaliach tzibbur and his treasured nusach is used to this very day by all of his Vizhnitzer progeny.
Days before Pesach of 1972, the Imrei Chaim passed away and the mantle of Vizhnitzer leadership was passed down to Rabbi Moshe Yehoshua in Bnei Brak and to Rabbi Mordechai in Monsey. During Rabbi Moshe Yehoshua’s reign as Vizhnitzer Rebbe, Vizhnitzer Chassidus grew geometrically, with Vizhnitzer Torah institutions being established around the world. He immediately reached out to descendants of Vizhnitzer Chassidim wherever they were and invited them to join and rejoice in the warmth that their fathers, grandfathers, and great-grandfathers relished. His passion exuded magnetism and, every day, more and more joined the tefillos, tisch, and shiurim. The sweetness and joy of his Shabbos was contagious. Every Shabbos, thousands came from near and far and delighted in the passion and melodies of his tefillos and tisch. Torah scholars imbibed with relish his divrei Torah. Other chassidishe rebbes came and were intensely inspired. The divrei Torah comprise Sefer Yeshuos Moshe, the fruit of his Torah productivity.
The Yeshuos Moshe was survived by his second rebbetzin; son and successor Rabbi Yisroel; son and successor Rabbi Menachem Mendel; his daughter the Skverer Rebbetzin; his daughter the Belzer Rebbetzin; his daughter the Satmar Rebbetzin; and his daughter the Rebbetzin of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Ernster, Vizhnitzer rosh yeshiva in Bnei Brak. Rebbe Moshe Yehoshua was the glory of Vizhnitz. All who remember him are blessed.
Upon the passing of the Yeshuos Moshe, the huge chassidishe following that he built was passed to his sons Rabbi Yisroel and Rabbi Menachem Mendel, who inherited the mantle and chassidic throne of Vizhnitzer world command, becoming the eighth-generation successor rebbes in the Kosov-Vizhnitz chassidishe leadership. Rabbi Menachem Mendel exudes dynamic leadership. Sadly, for years prior to his death, the Yeshuos Moshe’s health declined and he was only occasionally able to attend tefillos, tisch, or a wedding of a grandchild or of a great-grandchild. Rabbi Menachem Mendel’s conduct of chassidishe leadership has electrified his Vizhnitzer following.
On Wednesday, February 19, the Vizhnitzer Rebbe will be leading the yahrzeit tisch commemorating the second yahrzeit of his father, the Yeshuos Moshe and, at its conclusion, leave his home in Bnei Brak and proceed directly to the airport. Arriving in New York, the rebbe will be received by thousands of chassidim who will be awaiting him in the midst of their yahrzeit seudah, Thursday evening, honoring the Yeshuos Moshe. The seudah will have the participation of chassidishe rebbes, rabbis, and roshei yeshivas who were privileged to be students and adherents of the Yeshuos Moshe.
Shabbos Vayakheil, February 21–22, will be grandly rejoiced in Williamsburg. The tefillos and tisch will be held at the Eden Palace, where thousands of chassidim are expected to participate. Motzaei Shabbos will have the rebbe leading a melaveh malkah at the Vizhnitzer facility in Boro Park, at 43rd Street and New Utrecht Avenue. The bar mitzvah of the rebbe’s grandson will be celebrated there. The grandson, Yechezkel Shraga Katz, is a son of Rabbi Moshe Mordechai Katz, son of Rabbi Usher Anshel Katz, Vienner Rav.
On Sunday, at noon, the rebbe will shepherd the hachnosas sefer Torah celebration, for the sefer donated by Simcha Simkowitz of Williamsburg in memory of the Yeshuos Moshe. The festive procession will lead to the doors of the Vizhnitzer Beis Medrash on Ross Street. The event will be followed by a formal seudah. On Tuesday, a fundraising event, titled Teruma LaShem, will be held in the Imperial Hall on Bedford Avenue, benefiting Yeshiva Tzemach Tzedek, the yeshiva in Williamsburg directed by the rebbe. v
Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum is the Rav of B’nai Israel of Linden Heights in Boro Park and Director of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. Rabbi Tannenbaum can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.