Rabbi Moshe Yehoshua Hager, the rebbe and leader of the Vizhnitz Hassidic
dynasty, died on Tuesday night at age 95 and was buried in Bnei Brak on
Hager, who was president of the Agudat Yisrael’s
Council of Torah Sages, was the fifth rebbe of the Vizhnitz Hassidim, a dynasty
founded by Rebbe Menachem Mendel Hager in present-day Ukraine. Hager led his
hassidim for 40 years.
Today, the movement numbers 5,000 families, making
it the second largest hassidic sect in Israel after followers of the Ger
Tens of thousands of haredi (ultra-Orthodox) men flocked to the
funeral procession, including non-hassidim and adherents of other dynasties, as
well as hassidic leaders from Israel and the US.
Rabbi Yissachar Dov
Rokeach, the rebbe of the Belz Hassidim and one of Hager’s sons-in-law, as well
as Gerer Rebbe Yaakov Aryeh Alter, were in attendance.
The rebbe of the
Satmar Hassidim in New York, Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum, and Skverer Rebbe David
Twersky, both of whom are also sons-in-law of Hager, flew in from the US and,
with the help of expedited passport control and a police escort from Ben-Gurion
Airport, managed to arrive in Bnei Brak in time for the funeral.
non-hassidic “Lithuanian” leaders were there as well, including Rabbi Aaron
Yehuda Leib Shteinman, perhaps the most respected rabbi of the Lithuanian world
after Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv.
The Vizhnitz Hassidim are
headquartered in Bnei Brak and have centers in Haifa and Monsey, New
Traffic around Bnei Brak ground to a halt as the funeral procession
made its way through the city. Local rabbinic leaders called on the community to
stop working during the funeral procession, as did the leaders of the Vizhnitz
and Belz communities around the country.
In addition, more than 30 people
were lightly injured during the funeral procession due to the extreme crowding
and mourners’ attempts to gain a better vantage point by climbing walls and
Hatzalah and Magen David Adom were on hand to provide
Hager was one of the prime movers behind “mehadrin”
gender-segregated bus lines.
According to the haredi website Kikar
Shabbat, Hager met with the directors of the Dan bus company in 1994 to ask them
to allow separate seating.
Dan agreed, and the No. 5 bus through Bnei
Brak became the first segregated bus line in the country.
Hager flooded in from both political and religious quarters.
with Deputy Education Minister Menahem Eliezer Moses, a Vizhnitz Hassid and
United Torah Judaism MK, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu expressed sorrow over
the passing of the rebbe.
“We have lost a dear man, a role model, a great
leader, one who led one of the largest and most important communities in the
Jewish world – the Vizhnitz Hassidim,” Netanyahu said.
“He has thousands
of students who will carry on his legacy for generations to come. Having
devotedly led thousands of people, his passing is a major loss for
ultra-Orthodox Judaism and for the entire Jewish people.”
Tel Aviv Chief
Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau pointed to Hager’s love for his fellow Jew and his
dedication to Torah study.
“The rebbe will be remembered as the one who
lifted up the Vizhnitz dynasty from the ashes of the Holocaust and rebuilt it
here in the Land of Israel,” Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin said. “The admor
[rebbe] engraved on his flag the overriding importance of education, education,
education. Education above everything else.
“The Vizhnitz hassidim have
also waved the banner of the love of their fellow Jew and love of the Torah,”
“The words of the sages that ‘appropriate behavior is
more important than Torah’ were a guiding light for the rebbe in his character,
the leadership of his flock and the way in which he founded hassidic life in
Israel. The Knesset bows its head with honor and respect for the passing of this
great leader and conveys its condolences to his sons, the leaders of Vizhnitz,
to his daughters and to the entire hassidic world.”
together at the funeral, Hager’s sons Rabbi Yisrael Hager, the eldest, and Rabbi
Menachem Mendel Hager have been engaged in a power struggle for succession for
Hager suffered from dementia for several years, which
prevented him from successfully intervening in the dispute.
two sons, he is survived by his four daughters and his brother, Rabbi Mordechai
“Mottele” Hager, the Vizhnitz Rebbe of Monsey.