YIVO | Munkatsh Hasidic Dynasty

Posted By on April 21, 2019

Ultraconservative Hungarian Hasidic sect. The spiritual progenitor of Munkatsh Hasidism was Tsevi Elimelekh of Dinov (d. 1841), an outspoken opponent of the Haskalah and prolific author who served briefly as rabbi in Munkcs (Hun., more properly Munccs; Cz., Mukaevo; Yid., Munkatsh; now Ukr. Mukacheve; the most commonly used transliteration by English-language scholars is the semi-Polonized spelling Munkacz) from 1824 to 1826 before returning to Galicia in the wake of conflicts with the towns other rabbis.

Tsevi Elimelekhs grandson, Shelomoh Shapira (18321893), a disciple of ayim Halberstamm of Sandz, held numerous rabbinical posts in Galicia before reestablishing his grandfathers Hasidic court in Munkcs in 1882. A rigid opponent of the Haskalah and Neolog (Hungarian Reform) movements, he is regarded as the formal founder of Munkatsh Hasidism.

Shelomohs son, Tsevi Hirsh Shapira (d. 1913), who served as head of the rabbinical court in Munkcs from 1882 to 1893, was a renowned Talmudic and kabbalistic scholar under whose leadership Munkatsh became one of the largest and most influential Hasidic courts in Hungary. Tsevi Hirsh wrote several seminal works, the most famous of which is an exhaustive commentary on the Yoreh deah section of the Shulan arukh titled Darkhe teshuvah (7 vols.; 18931904)one of the few halakhic works by a Hasidic rebbe that was universally accepted as an authoritative source for halakhic adjudication by both Hasidim and Misnagdim. He also wrote a lengthy commentary on the obscure kabbalistic tract Tikune Zohar, beer laai roi (3 vols.; 19031921), along with halakhic responsa published as Tsevi tiferet (1912).

Tsevi Hirsh was a leading advocate of Hungarian separatist Orthodoxy, strongly opposing innovations in liturgical practice, Hasidic dress, and traditional education. He strictly forbade his followers to send their children to state-sponsored Jewish schools that offered instruction in German and Hungarian. He also fought against any collaboration between his own community and the modern Orthodox Status Quo movement in Hungary.

Tsevi Hirshs son ayim Elazar Shapira (18721937) extended and deepened his fathers tradition of rabbinical scholarship combined with extreme religious, social, and political conservatism. He assumed the mantle of leadership of Munkatsh Hasidim on the eve of World War I, and the dramatic events of the early years of his rabbinate left an indelible mark on his thinking. ayim Elazar viewed the vicissitudes of his day as sure signs of imminent messianic redemption, and a Manichean, apocalyptic view of contemporary history increasingly came to dominate his thinking. A gifted polemicist, he railed against his ideological foes, demonizing them in hyperbolic, cosmic terms.

Shapira was an uncompromising opponent of even the minutest changes in traditional Jewish social, political, and religious life. A bitter opponent of Zionism, which he portrayed in demonic terms, he was in the forefront of the ultra-Orthodox Hungarian rabbis dispute with the Agudas Yisroel movement. In 1922, he convened a conference of several hundred regional, mostly Hasidic, rabbis in the Slovakian town of Czap, whose main purpose was to denounce Agudas Yisroel.

Shapira visited Palestine in 1930 and returned even more convinced of the evils of Zionism, which he believed had been taken over almost completely by Satanic forces. (A kind of meditative diary of this journey, Masaot Yerushalayim, was published in Munkcs in 1931.) He forbade his followers to participate in political affairs, particularly those connected with Jewish immigration to either Palestine or the Americas, insisting that they remain in Europe and await redemption. In his messianic work Sefer mashmia yeshuah (1920), written in the aftermath of World War I, Shapira characterized all modern Jewish political movements, from Zionism to Jewish territorialism and pacifism, as agents of Satan and predicted that the final apocalypse would occur in the fall of 1941.

Shapira earned a reputation as the most fanatical and contentious European rabbi of his era, not only on account of his tireless battle with modern Jewish political factions, but also because of his many feuds with leading Polish and Galician Hasidic figures. He attacked Avraham Mordekhai Alter, the Gerer rebbe, for his support of Agudas Yisroel and his tolerant attitude to the alleged heresies of the chief rabbi of Palestine, Avraham Yitsak Kook. When Yisakhar Dov Rokea, the Belzer rebbe, arrived in Munkcs in 1920 as part of a large wave of postwar refugees from Galicia to Czechoslovakia, Shapira hounded him until he left the town in 1922. Shapira later denounced Meir Shapira, the revered dean of the illustrious Yeshivat akhme Lublin, for what he considered forbidden pedagogical innovations when Shapira introduced his program for the daily study of a folio of the Talmud(daf yomi). Shapira feuded with many other Hasidic leaders on account of their willingness to take charitable donations from non-Orthodox Jews in exchange for blessings.

Shapira is often referred to by the name of his important series of responsa, Minat Elazar (8 vols.; 19021938). He wrote more than a dozen other works, among them his collected teachings, Divre Torah (9 vols.; 19221936) and amishah maamarot (1922); sermons (Divre kodesh; 19291930); discussions of liturgical customs (Darkhe ayim ve-shalom; 1940); homilies on the Jewish festivals (Shaar Yisakhar, 3 vols.; 19391940); and commentaries on the Shulan arukh: Nimuke ora ayim (1930) and Darkhe teshuvah al hilkhot mikvaot (1936). Many other collections of Shapiras teachings and descriptions of his personal customs were published posthumously, along with several hagiographies.

After Shapiras death in 1937, the leadership of Munkatsh Hasidism was inherited, for a brief period, by his son-in-law, Barukh Yehoshua Yeramiel Rabinowicz (b. 1912). After the Holocaust, Rabinowicz moved to Israel, whereupon he was condemned by traditional Munkatsher Hasidim as a Zionist. He eventually renounced all claims to the leadership of the dynasty, which he bequeathed to his son, Mosheh Yehudah Leib Rabinowicz (1940 ), who replaced him as Munkatsher rebbe in Boro Park.

Yitsak Alfasi, Rabi ayim Elazar Shapira mi-Munkatsh, in Shishim giborim, pp.132137 (Jerusalem, 1998/99); Allan Nadler, The War on Modernity of R. Hayyim Elazar Shapira of Munkacz, Modern Judaism 14.3 (1994): 233264; Aviezer Ravitzky, Messianism, Zionism, and Jewish Religious Radicalism, trans. Michael Swirsky and Jonathan Chipman (Chicago, 1996), pp.4051; Shmuel ha-Kohen Weingarten, Ha-Admor mi-Munkatsh, Rabi ayim Elazar Shapira: Baal teushah bikortit, Shanah be-shanah (1980): 440449.

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YIVO | Munkatsh Hasidic Dynasty

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