Thursday, June 05, 2008

"Now That There Is No Decree"

(Picture courtesy of Jameel)

TZ commenting on Shtreimels - A Question

As far as I understand all Chassidim wore fur hats (whether a shtreimel made of tails or a tall spodik or a kolpek etc.) if they could afford it. Many Rabbonim wore fur hats such as the Chasam Sofer, fur velvet and silk were materials used by the nobility they were choshuv.

Chassidic dress was never totally uniform but different regions, climates and decrees altered it even more.

Russian Chassidim had several decrees and great poverty. Many Chassidim in Russia could not afford fur anyway. However the decrees insured that certain distinct Jewish garb were forbidden. Therefore Russian Chassidim did not wear Shtreimels, Payos or Bekishas. This is evident since today most Russian Chassidic groups have re-adopted these clothes and styles now that there is no decree. The same with long socks in cold Russia they wore boots a custom still upheld in Skver (even in the summer). Luckily even Russian peasants wore beards otherwise this too might have become a problem!

The other Eastern European Chassidim were not affected by decrees on clothing. However again in different locales they dressed differently in Ger and Polish Chassidim they tucked pants into socks and wore Spodiks. Whereas the Hungarian/Rumanian groups wore short pants laced around the knee w/knee socks and shtreimels.

Lest one attack and say this is all just outwardly appearance and just chitzonius, we must answer that Jewish clothing protects our distance Jewish identity and while the clothes don't make the man, a soldier w/o his uniform is reprimanded and jailed. We are in Hashem's army and should each proudly wear the uniform of our division, the army the navy the airforce all are one army yet they have separate unique identifying uniforms which are all quickly identifiable as making a uniform for a soldier.

There is a well known story that a Chassid once entered to his Rebbe dressed differently than the custom. Their custom was to have the top button on the shirt open and short pants tucked into socks. The chassid came in with his short collar buttoned to the top and long pants which are "open" at the bottom. The Rebbe quipped at him and said, If I try and teach you Torah how can it penetrate with your top button closed? And if it eventually somehow does get in it wall fall straight out through your pants legs!


At June 5, 2008 at 9:44:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Shneur Zalman said...

These comments are not historically accurate.

The reason some Lithuanian groups have supposedly readopted the shtreimel is because the only large community of Chassidim of Slonim and Karlin-Stolin that remained intact after the War were the Yerushalmi community (I include Tzefas and Tiberias in this logo). After the War they not only remained intact but because they were by far the largest sector of the community, their customs stood. The new Slonimer rebbes after the War, Reb Mottele Dayan and Rav Avrohom Weinberg were themselves members of this community. In Karlin after the death of Reb Yochonon they (a majority) chose the Lelover Rebbe and old Yerushalmi as their new spiritual leader)

Even in Chabad most of the Yerushalmi Chabnikes wear shtreimlech. Had the group from the USSR not made it out in 1845, Lubavitch today MAY have been wearing shtreimlech too although the Rebbe obviously was not into that).

Let me describe a meeting of Koidenov held in Brooklyn several years ago, the baalebatim and rabbonim attending were all Litvishe pronouncing Hebrew and Yiddish either in the true Litvishe manner or in the American manner. Only the new rebbe and his family wore the bekitsche and peyoth etc.

The reason Skver has adopted the shtreimel is because 95% of present day Skverer followers are from Hungary. There are perhaps a minyan of Skver families from Russia.

In addition Chassidim know that because the Rebbe of Skver, Rabbi YY Twersky was a son in law of Reb Pinnele Ostiller who was a son in law of the Belzer Rav Yissocher Ber, he adopted a large number of Belzer minhogim.

Boots - Many Chassidic groups wore boots before the War who were lets just say removed from Russia. Rav Efraim Oshry told me that in the real Lita a Chabad chassid was recognized by his boots on Shabbes. In Poland all Gerer chassidim wore boots (it was part of their distinctive dress) and there are pre war photos of the Bays Israel in boots. Vishnitz also wore boots.

Finally it is a total error to say that the chassidm in Czarist Poland were not affected by the Levush decrees. Of course they were . But in Congress Poland the compromise was different. In Czarist Russia the compromise was for the Jews to wear peasant dress (gehakte kapote, kasket , short old Lubavitch type peyos and beard see a picture of Count leo Tolstoy and except for the hat he looks like a shtetel Jew as Tolstoy was enamored of the Russian rural peasant life) In Congress Poland the new levush was a square Yiddishe hittel, Peyes TUCKED UNDER the cap, boots and a kapote that is different from the one worn in Galicia).

At June 5, 2008 at 10:39:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shneur Zalman: Good point. The Poylin was affected too. And there was a disagreement amongst rabonim, are those decrees "yaharoyg veloy yaavoyr" or not.

At June 5, 2008 at 10:42:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In Russia after the decrees rabonim and shoychtim were permitted to wear shtraymlach and long kapotes. Those decrees were issued by Nikolay I y"sh, who introduces cantonists and other evil gzeyroys, known as "punktn". After his death, those decrees were partially removed, and many yidden in Russia went back to long kapotes at least.

At June 5, 2008 at 10:49:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Shneur Zalman said...

Very true. I believe the Vorker Rebbe was "aish Lahava" in defending the Jewish dress and if memory serves me correctly the Chidushei Horim was with him on this. On the other hand the heiliger Kotzker Rebbe did not lose much sleep on the gezeroth concerning levush.

In Yiddish and Hebrew there are a number of books describing the specific issues and the debate it generated in Congress Poland. Certainly in Congress Poland only the wealthier chassidim wore shpodiks or shtreimlech. Here it was a matter of class rather than "legal" restrictions.

At June 5, 2008 at 10:58:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Shneur Zalman said...

Bahaltener: It may be that some Jews went back to long kapotes. But most retained the new style surdut (now called Sirtuk by Chabad. )

Even the Rayaatz and his great father the Rashab wore fairly short surdutten cut in modern fashion. The Slonimer rebbe remarked about this when he met the Rashab. My late father remembered some old Chabad people in Kurenitz wearing old fashioned kapottes, but most wore the gehakte kapote. The yeshiva world led by the Alter of Slobodka modernized the dress even more so.
Lubavitcher peyes were longer than todays Chabad peyoth but no wheres near what todays Chassidim in other courts sport. And there was no turning back.


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