COVID-19: Chassidim vs Non Chassidim

Sadly, perhaps even surprisingly, there are reports of clandestine Rosh Hashana minyanim that took place across the houses of Melbourne despite these being against Government rules. Perhaps it’s a function of my circles, but it appears that these Minyanim involved Chassidim or those who identify themselves as Chassidim.

Prior to Rosh Hashana, the word was out that such Minyanim were being established or considered. Though various voices of “the Rabbinate” were heard clearly in the press and e-news/social media, I likely missed new strong warnings to reinforce that

“though it is heart-breaking and unprecedented for Melbourne’s Shules to be locked for Rosh Hashono and the ensuing Yomim Tovim, we stress and re-stress that it is forbidden to flaunt the Government rules and establish clandestine minyanim.”

I did come across other communication:

  1. Useful compendiums describing what should be said, not said, how, and when.
  2. Laudable pre and post shiurim and recordings designed to inform and migrate people “into the mood”
  3. Comparatively banal interviews with football coaches mischaracterising the Yomim Noroim as a Grand Final series, coupled with the now ubiquitous indiscriminate use of the Shofar as the “Jewish digeridoo”
  4. Opportunistic perversions of the Halachic process by a tiny minority of misaligned rabbis who deemed it sufficiently populist to kasher electronic conferencing.
  5. Clear opinions, such as from the Non-Chassidic Rabbi Moshe Heinemann of the StarK who opined that the sham support group minyanim concept was a Chillul Hashem in the making, for which Yom Kippur would not atone.

At this stage, you may be thinking that I am alluding to Chassidic groups identified by the “Vayatzev Avruhom” shtiebel-Satmar and Munkatch Chassidim who broke away from Adass Israel and whose “exploits” were splashed over the secular press, creating a Chilul Hashem.  I don’t have any information about this group vis a vis the Yomim Noroim, but I would be pleasantly surprised if their need for “support group sessions” somehow abated.

Sadly, I am referring to pockets of minyanim whose membership is seemingly from other Chassidic groups. To be sure, these are not sanctioned by local poskim of the same persuasion and are “unofficial”.

Notwithstanding that fact, one might well ask some questions:

    1. Is there something peculiarly Chassidic or grounded in Chassidism which compels people to ignore Government Health regulations? (and no, it isn’t the case that Chassidim aspire to be “imprisoned and released” as some process of redemptive purification)
    2. Is there a continued antinomian-style approach to Halacha which somehow “supersedes” the will of Shulchan Aruch and perhaps their own Poskim?
    3. Is the binary phenomenon of “Level 1” for a Rebbe and “Level 0” for everyone else responsible for “every man for himself”?
    4. Are there some under intentionally quiet clandestine Rabbis associated with these groups who are ultimately responsible? Who are these Torah Giants who so confidently claim that it is not necessary to worry about the ספק סכנה and whose learning exceeds Poskim like Rav Hershel Schachter and Rav Osher Weiss and others?
    5. Is it that non-Chassidim are less likely to pick and choose a local orthodox Rabbi and focus instead on a quasi-official “Daas Torah”?
    6. Do some Chassidim consider themselves better informed, to the extent that they just know it really is God’s wish that they stand apart and ignore Health directives and שומר פתאים ה׳. (Rav Osher Weiss is a Chassid).

I don’t know the answer to these questions.

I am definitely not inviting people to “name and shame” or “dob in” those who have been involved in such.

PS. On a more personal note: like many, I struggled to teleport a communally inclusive Rosh Hashana davening into the lonely experience of a private Yom HaDin. Screened by the privacy of the four walls of the dining room, if anything, I probably shed more tears, to the extent that experiencing Simcha on Rosh Hashana was comparatively daunting. Then again, I am also an Avel, mourning my dear mother הכ’’מ and that is a factor.  I doubt I was alone or that my experience was in any way unique.

Author: pitputim

I'm a computer science professor in Melbourne, Australia although my views have naught​ to do with my employer. I skylark as the band leader/singer for the Schnapps Band. My high schooling was in Chabad and I continued at Yeshivat Kerem B'Yavneh in Israel.

5 thoughts on “COVID-19: Chassidim vs Non Chassidim”

  1. I suspect that there is the perception that the closure of shules and so on is yet another example of gezeras shemad on the part of the goyim and so should be fought by underground methods, as in the past. Any acquiescence with the rulings of the government on the part of the official Rabbinate may thus be ignored.

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    1. I think that’s true in some sense but likely has a more modern spin. In Victoria our lockdown is Uber hard and due to some incompetence from the Ministry the outbreak was bigger than it could have been. Some may see this as going overboard and measure that against having a minyan. In doing so, they demonstrate that they are somehow “different” to the regular citizen and entitled to privileges because their motivation is “Godly”. But that then goes to what constitutes Dvar Hashem and the source of their confidence that they have a BETTER understanding of Dvar Hashem than poskim

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  2. I wanted to write this somewhere but decided against it because it would alienate some of my extended family.

    A Ruv of a Shul who davens in an illegal minyan should not be the Ruv anymore. He should be sent back from wherever he came.

    To stick up your finger to the law is unacceptable.

    If someone caught the virus, the ramifications could be severe both from a medical perspective and also a chilul Hashem perspective.

    Etc etc…

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  3. At the black plague in the middle Ages, there were more deaths of gentiles than of Jews. The gentiles gathered in churches to pray and were infected there. Prayers did not help. They washed their hands less than the Jews did. Hygiene is embedded in Jewish laws.
    DINA DMALCHUTA DINA. If not, than “each would swallow the other alive.”
    If one thinks that it does not concern him, as he is protected by heaven, he should think about the others, who do not have such a protection, and not infect them.
    KOL HAMATZIL NEFESH ACHAT… K’ILU HITZIL OLAM MALE.
    CHILUL HASHEM is another matter. It might lead to gentiles not accepting Jews in their neighborhoods – they are not law-abiding citizens; they spread the plague.
    GMAR CHATIMA TOVA

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