Monday, February 28, 2011

Nothing but Streimels


Nice Streimel pictures from a Streimel store in Jerusalem's haredi Ge'ulah neighbourhood. I assume that the guy taking the photos went to the famous "Streimel Center". Actually this was my idea going there and finding out anything connected to the "Streimel issue" but I was always wondering how they react when a woman walks in. Not a future bride buying a Streimel for her future husband but someone ordinary like me.:-)


  1. What do you mean by "Shtreimel issue"?

  2. B"H

    The Streimel history, different Streimelim, real fur, articficial fur, how a Streimel is made, anything connected to the Streimelech. :-)

  3. B"H

    Maybe you can give the reason why the Lubavitcher Rebbe (I think it was the last one) canceled the Streimels in Chabad !!!

  4. Six out of the seven Lubavitcher Rebbeim wore a shtreimel and there are some pictures of that. The Rebbe Rashab (fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe) wore it only when in the city of Lubavitch (it was a promise he made to his father, the Rebbe Maharash). There are some known pictures of the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe (Rebbe Rayatz) with his shtreimel. Now, concerning the seventh Rebbe (R' Menachem M. Schneerson), he was the only one who didn't wear a shtreimel. There are many different theories to explain why. I'll give you some of them in a few minutes.

  5. 1st: There was no official headgear at the time for Lubavitcher chassidim: most commonly Lubavitcher Chassidim wore straw hats, fedoras, or "kaskets" (Russian caps), and a spodik or shtreimel would have been a rare sight indeed, probably due to the cost. The shtreimel was in Lubavitch the headgear of a Rebbe and a few Chassidim (all the Rebbeim wore a shtreimel except the sixth Rebbe who wore a spodik), but was never a common practice among Lubavicthers as a whole contrary to other chassidic courts. So we cannot say that the Rebbe decreed any edict cancelling the wearing of spodiks or shtreimelach for the Lubavitchers. So there was no formal edict from the Rebbe ordering chassidim not to wear fur hats, but rather a practice that spread by diffusion.

    2nd: The Rebbe had never worn a shtreimel during the Rebbe Rayatz's lifetime as most Lubavitchers, and saw no reason to start afterwards, particularly during the first year when he was refusing to accept the position of Lubavitcher Rebbe. (In much the same way, during that first year he declined to deliver Chassidic maamarim, since to do so would be a violation of the status quo and would imply his acceptance of the position.)

  6. B"H

    Thanks for the information !

    Did the last Rebbi actually give no reason for the Streimel abundance ?

  7. 3rd: The version of events related by a very knolwedgeable Lubavitcher
    Chossid was as follows:

    Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak ZT'L (the Rebbe Rayatz), as we all know, wore a shtreimel (in fact, a spodik). After his histalkus, his rebbetzen z'l took possession of the shtreimal with many of his other
    possessions. Rabbi Menachem Mendel asked to be given the shtreimel during the year of time when their was no clear successor to Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak. The rebbetzen refused to give it to him (presumably because he was not yet confirmed as the seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe). Moreover, there was a second candidate for the succession : Rabbi Shemaryahu Gurary, another son-in-law of the Rayatz. After Rabbi Menachem Mendel took leadership as Rebbe one year later, she offered to give him the shtreimel, but he declined it at that time, and made some remarks to the effect that "that opportunity has passed" [i.e., in some way, it was now inappropriate to take possession of the shtreimel since initially he had been denied].

    Following his ascent to leadership and the deepening of the loyalty of Lubavitcher Chassidim to him, numerous changes occurred in the levush of Lubavticher Chassidim. Most of them stopped wearing long jackets during the week, and began wearing more colorful or stylish suits (as the Rebbe, before he became Rebbe, had dressed in fashionable suits with short jackets).

    They also began wearing a black hat like the Rebbe's. Interestingly, the Rebbe very often before he became Rebbe wore a light grey hat, but this never took hold in Lubavitch. I mention that anecdote to show you that the Rebbe never told the Chassidim to emulate his style. Quite the contrary, there are some letters in which the Rebbe wrote that Lubavitchers should wear long coat, especially on Shabbes. he explained in these letters that the change in the Lubavitch dress code is due to some g'zeiros edicted by the Russian gov't, but now that Lubavitch relocated in America, they should reintroduce the old Chassidic levush. But most Lubavitchers didn't follow that call because "a Chosid wants to be like his Rebbe."

    It is correct, however, that there was no official declaration of
    uniform in Lubavitch. There is informal peer pressure, like all other communities, to dress the way we dress. Also there are many devoutly loyal Chassidim (e.g. Prof. Herman Branover) who never adopted this style of dress--he continues to wear his characteristic french beret. In the spectrum of Chassidic dynasties, Lubavtich is much more flexible on clothing than other groups. This is true for women's clothign as well: very stylish sheitelach are encouraged, very colorful andstylish dresses are
    commonplace, and even red dresses are permitted in Chabad (unlike many other dynasties who adhere to a halakhic ruling which associates red with prostitution and idolatry). But all this are practiced AGAINST the Rebbe's will and clear instructions. There are times the Rebbe even shed tears when speaking about tznius and even asked girls schools to adopt the rules prevaling in the Beis Yaakov's institutions.

  8. 4th: as I said, a shtreimel was mainly the headgear of a Rebbe in Lubavitch chasidus. But concerning the seventh Rebbe, it is well known among the chassidim that he never considered himself to be the successor of his father-in-law, the Rebbe Rayatz, but he always considered his nesius to be the extension of the nesius of the Previous Rebbe. This is why, when giving public sichos, when refering or quoting his father-in-law, the Previous Rebbe, he always used the phrase "The Rebbe, my father-in-law, said/taught/wrote..." So, if we assume that he never considered being a Rebbe by himself, it can explain why he never wore a shtreimel.

    5th: the Rebbe was bittul to his father. There are many occasions the Rebbe refused to do things because it was not the minhag of his father. To act otherwise was seen as despising the customs of his father, who was, as we all know, a mekubal and one of the greatest and most devouted chosid of the 5th and 6th Lubavitcher Rebbeim. So, because his father never wore a shtreimel, the Rebbe never accepted to wore one, to conform to the minhag of his father not to wear one, as most Lubavitchers.

    5th: contrary to the popular myth, Lubavitch is not the only chassidic court where the Shtreimel is not worn. in Karlin-Stolin, as in Lubavitch, the shtreimel is a headgear mainly worn by their Rebbe.

    6th: there is another known story on the reason why the Rebbe never put on a shtreimel: when asked why he had "abandoned" the Chasidic hat, the Rebbe said that wearing Chasidic hats would impress many people in Mea Shearim and Borough Park, but these good people are already pious Jews. What needs to be done, the Rebbe is reported to have said, is to reach a Jew like the kibbutznik, someone whose piety may leave a little something to be desired. Wear the hat of the world, he continued, eliminate the barriers between you and the secular masses, and you will bring back the wayward Jew to the fold of the Toire. So, because most Chabadnikim are shluchim of the Rebbe and in contact with secular and assimilated Jews, most don't wear the classic old Chasidic levush not to impress others and to eliminate the potential barrier that could exist. That means that, in fact, for a Lubavitcher who is not engaged in shlichus activities, there is nothing wrong for a Lubavicther to look more "Chassidish", and in fact, you should know that the attitude of Lubavitchers involved in shlichus activities and those who are not is completely different. People know Chabad only on the Kiruv's side, but they should go to some places as Kfar Chabad, Monsey, Naharalas Har Chabad, Lod and some other places with a Lubavitch neighbourhood to see that we are Chasidim like any other chasidim wearing long coats, obvious peyos, etc., and not as modern as people may think.

    7th: finally, you should know that the Rebbe asked that chassidim who had the minhag to wear shtreimel shouldn't abandon that minhag but be scrupulous to keep it. That is why among Lubavitchers, there are many who wear a shtreimel because either there are Yerushalamite Lubavicthers (from the "Old Yishuv") or they were raised in anither chasidic court before switching for Lubavitch. You can see many of these Lubavitchers with shtreimel and long peyos in Baal HaTanya Street (in Meah Shearim), in Crown Heights, Monsey, Antwerp, Paris, etc. But most people who see them don't even know that there are Lubavitchers for the simple reason that most people wrongly think that there is a rule in Lubavitch which bans the shtreimel and long peyos, but that is not the case. So, when seeing a chosid with a shtreimel the last thing people may think is "that guy is a Lubavitcher." Indeed, there are many Lubavitchers who wear shtreimel, but they generally live in Chabad neighbourhoods (which purposely prevent them to be involved in Kiruv and shlichus activities).

  9. Now, concerning the origin of the shtreimel, what I was told by one of my Mashpia (who is a Yerushalamite, so he wears a shtreimel) is that there was a g'zeirah in ancient Eastern Europe that Jews couldn't go out the streets without wearing fox tails on their head. So, if it is true, it was a sign of mockery, humiliation and identification. But because Jews need to always be presentable in the presence of G-d, the chasidic Rebbeim managed to transform that sign of humiliation into a sign of proudness. So this is how the Shtreimel was created: it respects the decree to wear fox tails on the head while respecting the imperative to be presentable and honorable before G-d.

  10. B"H

    In other words, its not that easy with Lubavitch and the Streimel.

    Many other Charediot complained to me that Chabadnikiot as well as plenty women of Chassidut Gur don't dress modestly. Short skirts, clothes in all colours and fashionable wigs.

    In fact I know a Lubavitcher family who left Chabad due to the reason that they wanted more stringency.

  11. Miriam, the woman that I'm hoping to marry wears a bright red coat in the winter. Should I say something??

  12. B"H

    I don't know the exact address but the store is somewhere in Mea Shearim.