Funeral of rabbi Moshe Twersky.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Bashi Twersky, the widow of Rabbi Mosheh Twersky – who was killed in the Har Nof terrorist attack last week – said the internal divisions within the ultra-Orthodox community that have developed over the last two years were the reason why her husband and three other members of the community died in the brutal incident.
Speaking at the mass prayer rally and ceremony held in the Jerusalem neighborhood on Tuesday night for the end of the shiva mourning period for the victims, Twersky said the dispute had become increasingly acrimonious over the last year in particular.
She was alluding to the establishment of a new political movement and party that is in competition with the traditional Degel Hatorah non-hassidic haredi party.
She said that the attack had been particularly brutal, and asked how such a death could befall those praying in synagogue, “how did the sanctity of the synagogue and prayer not defend us,” she asked.
“The fire of dispute has been burning among us for a year now, and this dispute became terrible, and every day it gets worse.”
“Someone who listens to a great rabbi different from the one I listen to, someone who belongs to a different camp from me is commanded to be cruel to them, is commanded to humiliate and disgrace them, to harass them with terrible brutality.
“When we behave with cruelty to our brothers, God sends a punishment with cruelty, measure for measure.
“In synagogues and study halls they persecuted, disgraced and humiliated those who think differently from me, and therefore we were struck by the attribute of strict justice in a synagogue at the time of prayer,” the rabbi’s wife said.
She added that strengthening religious observance, as has been advised by many rabbis, was not a good enough reaction, and that rather a “drastic change” was required.
Addressing the hundreds of women who had gathered to listen to the bereaved women speak, Twersky pleaded tearfully for such change.
“Beloved daughters, I implore you from a broken and tearful heart and from the depths of my soul: Let us accept upon ourselves to live with love and fraternity with all Jews who tremble before God.... Maybe then these sacrifices will not be for nothing and if we act with love to each other, God will reply to us with love,” she said.
Since the late Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv died in July 2012, the non-hassidic haredi world has been riven by an internal dispute over who should inherit the mantle of leadership.
It was the elderly and frail Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman who was acknowledged as the new leader by the majority of the community, but supporters and loyalists of the more hard line Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach refused to accept Shteinman as the spiritual leader.
The Bnei Torah party, established by Auerbach loyalists, contested local municipal elections in October 2013 and won several seats on municipal councils in the ultra-Orthodox strongholds of Jerusalem, Modi’in Illit and Bnei Brak.
The resultant factional strife has been extremely rancorous with mutual recriminations from either side.
It is this division that Bashi Twersky was referring to in her emotional and heartfelt speech Tuesday night.