Sunday, May 9, 2010

"Tish in Toldot Avraham Yitzchak" or "A Baal Teshuva wearing Socks"


It looked like there were not too many Tishes going on last Erev Shabbat, as everyone seemed to find his way to the Tish of the Toldot Avraham Yitzchak Rebbe in Mea Shearim. Only one group this time consisted of male national religious Yeshiva students who probably came to Jerusalem in order to celebrate "Yom Yerushalaim" this upcoming Wednesday. Groups are rather disliked in Mea Shearim and it happened in the past that they got attacked. Not the really frum groups but the rather modern - Orthodox incl. Shlomo Carlebach stylish looking participants.

This upcoming Shabbat is also Rosh Chodesh and quite a few Tishes which are usually not regularly celebrated will be on. However, about those events I am going to write next week.

The Toldot Aharon Rebbe was not on last Friday night, and, as I said, hardly any disturbing groups touring through Mea Shearim, were around. With a friend I went to the Toldot Avraham Yitzchak where we were basically the only outsiders. The only ones neither wearing a Sheitel nor a Tichel. I was concentrating on Rebbe Shmuel Yaakov Kahn who had already started eating his meal. He was praying and greeting his Chassidim. Then I noticed an elderly Chassid sitting at the Rebbe's table but a little further away from him. He very much reminded me of Rabbi Me'ir Brandsdorfer but, of course, it couldn't be him, as we were just commemorating his Yahrzeit but I suspected that his may be his brother Aharon. I asked one of the Avraham Yitzchak women and she explained that he may look similar to Rabbi Brandsdorfer z"l but wasn't related to him in any way. The Chassid is simply a brother - in - law of the Rebbe.

I was watching the Chassidim; especially a younger one standing right in front of the window to the Ezrat Nashim. He looked familiar but my friend said that it is not the one I thought he would be. A Baal Teshuva from a Western European country we both know. 
"It is not Y.", she insisted.
"Yes, it is !"
"No !"
"Yes !"

We tried to see his face better and after some time, he moved a litte further towards the middle of the metal benches where the Chassidim stand on. Finally we saw his face and it was our acquaintance Y.
A few years ago he came from Europe and joined a rather freaky hippie Yeshiva in Jerusalem's Old City. He became right wing and went back and forth from Israel to Europe. His mother came for many visits and she is a very nice, quiet and friendly woman. She had no idea about Judaism and what her son was talking about. Y., on the other hand, kept on changing his clothing style. Black kipa, black suit, black hat (litvish), black hat with chassidishe coat a la Breslov. He joined the Breslover Rabbi Lazer Brody Baal Teshuva movement. Then he came back to Israel and still wearing a long coat but … but a Yerushalmi flat hat and black socks in his pants.

This is how we saw him at the Tish and I have to say that we were shocked. Not because someone is a Baal Teshuva but the way how someone is obviously fighting for his acceptance. The more extreme I look, the earlier Mea Shearim accepts me.
We already made a joke saying that next week we may see him in white socks and a Streimel. Not because he suddenly found a Shidduch but because he cannot stop to impress.

We felt sorry for his parents who have no clue but seemingly support him financially. Y. is looking for a Yeshiva and goes from here to there but has not firm place. He cannot have a great Rabbi because the Rabbi would tell him something. I know Baalei Teshuva who joined chassidic groups but their Rebbe only allowed them to change their clothes after their final acceptance into the group.

Why should I look like an old Yerushalmi wearing black socks ? I am not even of Hungarian origin neither am I a member of a certain group. Satmar or the Neturei Karta. This is just ridiculous and looks like Purim. A confused soul looking for a home and his only goal is the great welcoming acceptance which won't show up.

Y. was talking to the national religious Yeshiva students next to him and hasn't lost all of his former life mentalities. To me he looked like a stranger among the Chassidim and even with such clothes you cannot pretend being born into society, as Mea Shearim knows each other.

Instead of taking it slowly and spend his time studying more Jewish basics, Y. put on black socks and is walking around with a Yerushalmi hat. If he sees his future in that kind of clothing fine but there is a great danger of getting fed up. Struggling so much for acceptance is exhausting and it goes on your nerves. Sometimes FFBs are rude to you and the only thing you want it crying and showing them how frum you are. But there are times when you run against windmills and then you want revenge. At this point you start missing your old life. You get tired of struggling and many people left religion and went back to their old ways. What a Baal Teshuva needs is a great patient Rabbi who is advising him in the right way and not make his student jump into something. Even the Toldot Avraham Yitzchak Rebbe would have not allowed Y. to change his clothes until he has not found his way.

Right before we left the Tish, an important figure walked in: It was the younger brother of Rebbe Shmuel Yaakov who can usually be seen in the Toldot Aharon. He was placed next to the Rebbe and both were shaking hands.



  1. You should do a guide to the minutiae in clothing difference between the various groups. It would be fascinating.

  2. B"H

    Maybe I should but I am not such a great specialist.:-)

  3. Hi, i was born in Budapest, Hungary. At the age of 19 i left to Mea Shearim.
    I lived 5 years long there in a small Chassidic group witch parted from the Toldos Ahron community.

    Since i came back in Hungary, im the only Yiddish teacher in the country.

    I guess i could answer you about the wear.

  4. B"H

    I am actually preparing material about the clothes. At the moment about the Yerushalmi Gartel.

    I suppose you were then either with the TAY or the Shomrei Emunim.:-)

    Just curious: Is there anything for you in Hungary ? I mean the change from Mea Shearim back to Budapest must be enormous.:-)