Founder and first Rebbe of the chassidut Toldot Aharon was the Czechoslovakian born Rabbi Aharon (Arele) Roth. He was born in 1894 in the town of Ungvar. His father was Rabbi Shmuel Yaakov and his mother was a grandchild of one of the hidden Zaddikim at the time of the Baal Shem Tov.
Already at the very young age of nine, he studied at the Yeshiva of Rabbi Yosef Rothenberg in Krasnoye. Later he studied at Yeshivot in Galicia and under Rabbi Yeshayahu Zilberstein in Hungary. During World War I , he stayed in Hungary.
At the age of 22, he married Sima who was the daughter of Rabbi Yitzchak Katz of Budapest. Afterwards he lived in Satmar for a short period of time where he acquired a small group of followers. Although Rabbi Aharon Roth became a famous rabbi, he did not have any direct lineage to the Baal Shem Tov, as other chassidic rebbes and founders of chassidic dynasties used to have. Nevertheless, he had a very charismatic personality and was very learned. For this reason, many people chose him as their rebbe.
He had studied under many famous rabbis such as Rabbi Yissachar Dov Rokeach, Rabbi Tvi Elimelech Spira of Bluzhov, Rabbi Israel Hager of Vishnitz, Rabbi Yeshayah Silberstein of Weitzen and Rabbi Moshe Vorhand of Makov.
In 1925, he moved to Jerusalem where he acquired a new group of followers. Due to medical reasons, he returned to Satmar in 1929. There the self – appointed rebbe was not welcomed by other Chassidim and was seen as a competitor. He was forced to leave Satmar for Beregszaz (Beregovo) where he established a new Yeshiva with the name "Shomrei Emunim". Eight students studied with him and the yeshiva was supported by Rabbi Chaim Elazar Shapira of Munkacs.
All those years, his students from Jerusalem were still in touch with Rebbe Aharon Roth. In 1939, he left for Jerusalem where he established a very closed society called Toldot Aharon. He was an extreme strong opponent of Zionism, emphasized ecstatic and urged his followers to live according to his Takanot (laws).
Rebbe Aharon Roth died on 6 Nissan 1947 and is buried on the Mount of Olives. Rebbe Arele, the name his Chassidim called him, was the author of many books such as "Shomer Emunim" and "Shulchan HaTahor".
After his death, the majority of his Chassidim did not choose his son, Rabbi Avraham Chaim Roth, as their new rebbe, but instead Rebbe Aharon' s son – in – law, Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kahn.
Rabbi Avraham Chaim was not too pleased and founded his own group called Shomrei Emunim. He was born in Satmar in 1924, and is married to Beila Chaya who is the daughter of the Admor of Zhevil, Rabbi Mordechai Goldman of Zevil (Selutchov).
After the split into two groups Toldot Aharon and Shomrei Emunim, most former Chassidim of Rebbe Aharon Roth chose to stay with Toldot Aharon and their new Rebbe, Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kahn.
Today, the present rebbe of Shomrei Emunim is still Rabbi Avraham Chaim Roth who later on in his life moved to Bnei Brak. However, there is a Shomrei synagogue in Mea Shearim as well as a Shomrei Emunim neighbourhood.
Rebbe Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kahn was born in Safed. His father was Rabbi Aharon David and his mother was the daughter of Rabbi Moshe Deutsch of Sighet. Later on, he went to Hungary and studied in the yeshiva of R. Yoel Teitelbaum. There he got to know Reb Arele who chose him as son – in – law.
Under the leadership of Rebbe Avraham Yitzchak Kahn, many Toldot Aharon Chassidim moved to Beit Shemesh where they have a huge neighbourhood today. When you go to their Jerusalem Tish on Friday night, you will only see half of the Chassidim, as most of them live in Beit Shemesh.
Rebbe Kahn died during Chanukkah 1996, and was buried on the Mount of Olives next to Rebbe Aharon Roth.
He wrote the books "Divrei Emunim", "Derech Emunah" and "Tikvat HaGeulah".
His death caused a third split within the group, as he was succeeded by two sons who each wanted to be the new rebbe. The Toldot Aharon Chassidim chose the younger son, Rabbi David Kahn, as their new rebbe and the older one, Rabbi Shmuel Yaakov Kahn, founded his own group named after his father: Toldot Avraham Yitzchak.
Both brothers are very learned people. Rebbe Shmuel Yaakov had studied at the yeshiva of the Vishnitzer Rebbe Chaim Meir Hager (Imrei Chaim), and Rebbe David had studied under the Satmarer Rebbe, Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum.
Until today, both brothers are extremely friendly with each other and so are the Chassidim. It is said that Toldot Avraham Yitzchak are a little more open than Toldot Aharon, but so far, I also found Toldot Aharon quite open. The two groups almost keep the same customs and use the same Sidur "Beracha u'Tehillah". Additionally, Avraham Yitzchak use their own Sidur called "Tehillat Avraham Yitzchak". So far, I just had a brief look at "Beracha u'Tehillah" which has certain kabbalistic parts in it.
Both are members of the anti – Zionist umbrella organization, the Edah HaCharedit. Toldot Aharon has more members and a greater influence. Nevertheless, the great Rabbi Meir Brandsdorfer is a member of the Beit Din Zedek (Badatz) of the Edah, and he is a member of Toldot Avraham Yitzchak.
If you see the Chassidim of the two groups, you will not be able to tell which is which. Men and women wear the same style of clothes. The great synagogue of Toldot Aharon you can find in Shivtei Israel Street and the one of Toldot Avraham Yitzchak is located only a few meters far away; right in the Mea Shearim market.
The next article will be about the clothes and the rather complicated laws called Takanot.