Funeral held for Rabbi Moshe Yehoshua Hager

PM eulogizes Vizhnitz Rebbe: “We have lost a dear man... one who led one of the most important communities in Jewish world."

Rabbi Moshe Yehoshua Hager _370 (photo credit: Channel 10 )
Rabbi Moshe Yehoshua Hager _370
(photo credit: Channel 10 )
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 Wednesday afternoon.
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 dynasty.
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.
Senior 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 York.
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 other objects.
Hatzalah and Magen David Adom were on hand to provide medical assistance.
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.
Tributes for Hager flooded in from both political and religious quarters.
Speaking 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,” Rivlin continued.
“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.”
Despite appearing 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 several years.
Hager suffered from dementia for several years, which prevented him from successfully intervening in the dispute.
Besides his two sons, he is survived by his four daughters and his brother, Rabbi Mordechai “Mottele” Hager, the Vizhnitz Rebbe of Monsey.