Sunday, October 9, 2011

The OR HACHAIM bookstore in Mea Shearim


Remember the fuss between the Sikarikim and the Mea Shearim bookstore OR HACHAIM ?  The Sikarikim demanded from the shop owners who are Gerrer Chassidim, to put a modesty sign into the shopwindow. Furthermore, all English books (including ARTSCROLL editions) were supposed to disappear, as the Sikarikim suspected English books containing Zionist content. After all kinds of vandalism, the bookstore made an agreement with the Sikarikim. However, no modesty sign has been set up and the store is still selling English books. Just recently, the Sikarikim started a new attack on the shop and, later on, one of the Sikarikim, Shalom Baruch Rost, got arrested in Bnei Brak. Rost lives in Mea Shearim and seems to be known for his violence against certain bookstores. Among others, the OR HACHAIM store in his own neighbourhood. 

The Sikariki getting arrested

Today, I went to the bookstore with a friend and everything seems to be normal from the outside. There is still no modesty sign in the window and I walked in wearing jeans. No one said a word or even bothered. OR HACHAIM was quite full and English ARTSCROLL books were available all over the place. My friend was looking for a Sukkot Machzor but eventually bought an English edition about Rabbi Eliezer Schach. I chose the Iggeret of the Ramban and a totally frum calendar. 

It is a very nice book store with reasonable prices. Lots of Anglo Yeshiva customers as well as seminary girls. If you walk in and are looking for a specific book, one of the sales people is American and thus is able to help you in English. The service is friendly and I didn't see anything immodest going on. OR HACHAIM is simply a very nice bookstore with a great variety of Sifrei Koidesh. Nothing to worry about and I am definitely going back. 

Here are some pictures from today:

The bookstore from the outside

OR HACHAIM from the inside

Photos: Miriam Woelke


Pictures of the OR HACHAIM bookstore in Mea Shearim


  1. This is a great bookstore and if you are an English speaker you can buy religious books in English and Hebrew. In my opinion, the Sikarikim are a bunch of crazies and should be jailed every time they do such things. They terrorize the whole area and even though many chasidim do not agree with them, they remain silent. I fail to see how vandalism, spitting on people, on other such acts have anything to do with Hashem and Torah. It is these nutjobs that make all religious people look bad.

  2. the prices are very expensive...

  3. B"H

    I made a very good bargain yesterday. "A Letter for the Ages" - Iggeret HaRamban - for 15 Shekels only. Approx. 4 Dollar and the book (a small book) is from ARTSCROLL. But 15 Shekels is cheap.

    In general I always buy Hebrew books which comes out much cheaper !!!

  4. B'H

    Rabbi Elazar Schach was the biggest opponent of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. There is no doubt that they hated each other very deeply. I have never seen or heard the Rebbe being so personnal with someone as he was with Rabbi Elazar Schach.

    Despite being a Lubavitcher, I have a lot of respect for him, eventhough he was a Litvak and the biggest ennemy of my Rebbe. In the same way, I really like the Vilna Gaon, despite his Cherem against Hassidim. Disciples shouldn't enter into arguments between Gdolim.

  5. B"H

    I do understand the resistance of Rabbi Shach towards the Chabad Messianism. Even in the years before the Rebbe passed away, in my opinion, Chabad was too much concentrating on its Messianism which always remindes me of the days of the Chozeh of Lublin.

    Once I had a huge argument with a German Chabadnik on my German blog. I cannot say whether this guy was a newly Ba'al Teshuva or really knew something about Chabad.

    However, when I started writing about the war between the Lubavitcher Rebbe and Rabbi Shach, the German blew up by claiming that the Rebbe had never referred to Rav Shach with bad words. Whereas Rav Shach apparently went wild and called the Rebbe by different names.

    One called the other ASHMODAI and we both know what that means. But who called the other opponent by that name ? Was it Rabbi Shach or the Rebbe ? And is there any record whether and how the Rebbe responded to Rab Shach ?

  6. B'H

    To tell the truth, I also understand HaRav Shach's opposition toward what was taking place among many Lubavitchers in that period. In fact, I can tell you that in many Lubavitch circles, we have nothing against him. Ba'alei Teshuvah don't know about that period, but those who were there could feel bad feelings from both sides. As I said, I think it was the first and last time I could almost feel the Rebbe hating someone. There is no record either the Rebbe used bad words against HaRav Shach, as the Rebbe always avoided using bad words against anybody in public (but you don't know what could be said in private, with his secretaries), but one thing is sure: the Degel HaTorah, which was run by HaRav Shach, lost in the Israeli elections because of the pressures put by the Rebbe who gave clear instructions to the Israeli Religious public, calling them to vote for the Agudat Yisroel instead of Degel HaTorah. It was clearly a personal move against HaRav Shach. So, yes, I think the hate was reciprocal, and not only from HaRav Shach's side. But as I said, when two Gdolim are arguing, we shouldn't mix in it. I disagree with my fellow Lubavitcher who consider HaRav Shach as an heretic just because he argued with the Rebbe. And moreover, it is not true that he was against Hassidism. In fact, eventhough he was a Litvak, he was very close to Hassidism, and was the Rosh Yeshivah of the Karlin Yeshivah before the war. And even after the war, he had a Yeshivah in which some Hassidim were studying because there was no Hassidic Yeshivah in the surrounding. So, he was not a Hasidic-hater, and was respected by ALL Hassidic movement. he himself declared that he was pained that because of his feud with the Rebbe, Lubavitchers were portraying him as a Hasidic-hater.

    But we should respect him as Gadol Yisroel, and as far as I know, even when you disagree with a REAL rabbi, you don't have the right to speak badly about him. This was the message of the Alter Rebbe after he was released from prison because of false accusation from Misnagdim. When he was released, the Hassidim wanted to avenge their Rebbe, but the Alter Rebbe said that Hasidim shouldn't do that nor rejoice because of the Misnagdim defeat, but they should instead thank G-d and multiply in love for their fellow Jews and good deeds.

  7. B'H

    I cannot assert that it is 100% accurate, but it is said that the obvious reason of his opposition of Lubavitch was because he was turned down at the Chabad Yeshivah of Lod. Rabbi Yisroel Friedman shlit"a tested him, but HaRav Shach was unable to respond about the Ros"h in the beginning of Baba Basra. Because of thet, he was turned down.

    After relating the story, Rabbi Yisroel Friedman added that throwing out Shach from the Yeshivah wasn't worth it, considering the later consequence...

    As I told you, I have no way to attest that this was the origine of his feud against the Rebbe, but this is what is told in Lubavitch circles. But on a personal note, I don't believe in that story, as according to me, he was not opposed to Hasidism not to Chabad in itself, but to the silly Meshichism which was developping within the community. So, I don't think it was because of his eviction from the Yeshivah, but it was something very deep and personal between both of them. What exactly? We will surely never know, as both of them, the Rebbe and Rav Shach, died long ago!