Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter



Meeting the Baal Shem Tov in 2018

Rachel Ginsberg

As post-modern 2018 rediscovers Mezhibuzh of 1750, are we seeing the fulfillment of a centuries-old promise?

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

 Mishpacha image

Rabbi Judah Mischel: "Now everywhere you turn, people are learning chassidus, realizing the gift of being able to tap into the more esoteric layers of Torah, how Hashem runs the world, and where they fit in on a cosmic level"

From Israeli hesder yeshivos to New York’s Yeshiva University, from Modern Orthodox Young Israel congregations to litvish study halls in Bnei Brak and Kiryat Sefer, it seems like everyone today is looking for the light of chassidus.


The Netzach Yisrael beis medrash on Mesilat Yosef Street in Kiryat Sefer looks like any other shul dotting the city’s Torah landscape,

 but it contains one of the best-kept public secrets of this staunchly Litvish town: The 120 avreichim who comprise the kehillah are actually closet chassidim. They still maintain their Litvish dress and haven’t switched their children into chassidic schools, but these graduates of Ponevezh, Tifrach, and Brisk have become students of Kabbalah and Chabad and Breslov — piling into cars in the middle of the night for an hour-long hisbodedus in the nearby forest and spending Rosh Hashanah in Uman.

“Over the years, we discovered each other through our individual journeys, and eventually we decided to create this kehillah,” says Reb Shlomo, one of the shul’s founders. Reb Shlomo was an avreich in Tifrach when a spiritual search took him to Rav Shimshon Pincus and Rav Moshe Shapira, then to the study of Chabad chassidus and finally, about ten years ago, to Breslov.

The shul, under the guidance of Jerusalem-based spiritual leader Rav Itche Meir Morgenstern, has become a chassidic destination for the general public, where people off the street — both curious onlookers and those seeking an added dimension to their Yiddishkeit — can avail themselves of chassidic seforim and an assortment of shiurim. 

"Chassidus sees the world in the context of how good we are, in the context that Hashem has nachas from our efforts, however small"
—Rabbi Judah Mischel 
PHOTO: BINYAMIN KORN

Reb Shlomo says that he’s turned down numerous requests to be interviewed by the Israeli media, partly because he doesn’t want to call attention to the wives of the avreichim, each of whom has had to navigate dealing with her husband’s newfound identity and passion.

“Some of the women have embraced it and others aren’t interested,” Reb Shlomo says. “It’s very hard for them to make the change, so we’ve made a pact to minimize the tension by not demanding changes from our wives and our children, although most of us have switched our davening to the chassidic nusach Sefard and taken on chassidic minhagim.”

But Reb Shlomo is optimistic that this double life won’t last much longer. “It’s the revelation of pnimiyus before the Final Redemption,” he says. “Until 30 years ago, Breslov was a small chassidus of a few hundred families, and now there are thousands. Rebbe Nachman himself said that when his seforim — which were actually banned by some chassidic groups — will finally become accepted, it means the world is on the verge of Mashiach.”

Maybe that’s one reason Netzach Yisrael has lots of company, as part of a mushrooming trend that’s hit every facet of the Orthodox Jewish world. Walk into any “modern” beis medrash and you’ll see the tables piled up with Tanyas and Sfas Emes, as post-modern 2018 rediscovers the Mezhibuzh of 1750. From Israeli Hesder yeshivos to New York’s Yeshiva University, from Modern Orthodox Young Israel congregations to Litvish study halls in Bnei Brak and Kiryat Sefer, it seems like everyone today is looking for the Baal Shem Tov. (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 710)

Related Stories

Where Hope Lives

Yisroel Besser

“If you want to learn, we want you here.” That’s the invitation Waterbury’s Rav Ahron Kaufman gives ...

Doctor at the Crossroads

Eytan Kobre

For Rabbi Dr. Avraham Steinberg, it is his years as a liaison to the great poskim on medical issues ...

Visions of Greatness

Margie Pensak

Dr. Michael Elman has cared for a number of Torah giants during his 30 years as an ophthalmologist. ...

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.
CAPTCHA
Message


MM217
 
Har Sinai on the Gaza Fence
Rabbi Moshe Grylak “Who would ever believe I’d be holding a sefer Torah?”
In Budapest, a Thirst for Torah
Yonoson Rosenblum “This is a matter of saving an entire tzibbur”
Torah Consumer’s Alert
Eytan Kobre To learn Torah — but just as surely, to learn from it
Relive Matan Torah Every Single Day
Rabbi Henoch Plotnik Incredible zechusim we can generate through resolutions
5 out of 10: Top 5 Seforim Intros Celebrating Torah
Rabbi Dovid Bashevkin What are you going to learn on Shavuos night?
Right-Hand Man
Jacob L. Freedman “Goodbye, Dr. Freedman, I’ve got a whole world to save”
The Good News about Obituaries
Rabbi Emanuel Feldman To write our own epitaphs while we can still write
Endnote: The Song That Still Plays for You
Riki Goldstein What’s that tune that, when you hear it, brings you back...
A Golden Opportunity
Faigy Peritzman What did Rus have that Orpah lacked?
Say It with Cheesecake
Sarah Chana Radcliffe A positive learning experience creates lessons that stic...
Say Yes to Kindness
Miriam Kosman With her, Rus brought the key to humanity’s redemption
A Soaring Spirit
Chana Ungar To Marcie a”h, life meant doing what G-d expected of her