One of the most damaging figures of the 20th century happens to be a man who is considered the Gadol HaDor of the 20th century to great multitudes of observant Jewry. That man is the Satmar Rebbe, Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum.
I was very happy to see Rabbi Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer saying that he cannot respect the Satmar Rebbe. I have to agree.
I have long ago lost my respect for the Rebbe. But after reading Rabbi Bechhofer’s post which excerpts the Rebbe’s published words my antipathy towards him is stronger than ever
Very few people would deny the Rebbe’s genius and knowledge of Torah, nor would they deny his great leadership abilities. His Chasidim are so numerous and their growth rate so large that they threaten to become the largest single demographic in all of Orthodox Jewry - if they aren't already.
The Rebbe’s influence exceeds by far the confines of Williamsburg and Kiryas Joel - the 2 homes of the majority of Satmar Chasidim. It extends worldwide. The Satmar Rebbe is seen as the spiritual guide to multitudes of Chasidim all over the world - Chasidim that are not members of Satmar. Like the Eida HaCharedis, the Toldos Aharon Chasidim, and Neturei Karta whose members have joined ranks with Iranian President Mahmood Ahmanadinjad a man who has said he would wipe Israel of the map! The Satmar Rebbe is their patron saint!
The Satmar Rebbe’s legendary Torah knowlegde, piety, and Chesed pales in comparison to his hatred of Zionism in any form – including religious Zionism. He considers the founding and the existence of the State of Israel to be literally the work of the devil. And those who supported it to be the worst kind of Reshaim.
His attitude is not merely the stuff of legend. He wrote it in black and white in a book called Divrei Yoel. There he compared Rav Avraham Yitzchok Kook - who is considered the philosophic founding father of Religious Zionism to Haman. That’s right Haman – the original Hitler who was the Reichsfuhrer of the ancient Persian Empire. Haman - one will recall - decreed the genocide of the Jewish people of his Reich!
The language the Rebbe used to describe Rav Kook is taken directly from Megilas Esther’s description of Haman. All because Rav Kook advocated Religious Zionism. I don’t recall ever seeing such hateful language from one Jewish leader about another.
Even Rav Kook’s ideological opponent, Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld whom the Satmar Rebbe claims to defend against the Zionism of Rav Kook was able to respect him. As were practically all of the Gedolim of that era -despite their strong opposition to his philosophy. But not the Satmar Rebbe. To him, Rav Kook was an evil man comparable to the Hitler of ancient times!
This is the level of hatred manifested today by the Rebbe’s heirs. Those residents of Meah Shearim who dressed up in Holocaust prison garb in order to cast government officials as Nazis is merely a reflection of that philosophy. Make no mistake about it.
It doesn’t really matter that the Rebbe did not call for a holy war and that it is mostly all rhetoric. What matters is that every single one of his Chasidim whether card carrying or not - buy into a philosophy that can easily be used to justify extremism.
They see the government in exactly the terms seen by the Rebbe. They do not believe for a moment that wearing Holocaust prison uniforms is an exaggeration. They believe the State is being led by Rashiam as evil as Nazis. Which explains why Eida leader, Rav Yitzchok Tuvia Weiss defended them.
It is no small thing to blame what is happening in Israel now on the Satmar Rebbe. But I have no choice. It is as clear as the sun to me. The Satmar Rebbe more than anyone else is responsible for the clear hatred of religious Zionist Jews. It is the Satmar Rebbe’s philosophy that motivates the disgusting actions of the extremists and their defenders. The turf war in Bet Shemesh manifested by extremists who called the 8 year old daughter of Religious Zionists a whore - is an expression of that hatred. Tznius is only their excuse! Their true motives are those articulated by their patron saint, the Satmar Rebbe.
This does not mean to say that we must all agree with Rav Kook, far from it. I for one do not see the State of Israel as the first flowering of the final redemption. But Rav Kook was nevertheless a Gadol just the same. Had the Rebbe just said that he didn’t agree with Rav Kook and expressed his opposition to the State in any incarnation based on his interpretation of certain Gemaros, I would have respected him in an Elu V’Elu sense. But that he said such things about a Gadol of Rav Kook’s stature deserves to have a ‘back at ya’ response.
I will not stoop to calling the Satmar Rebbe the kind of names he called Rav Kook. But I believe very strongly that he should not be seen historically as any kind of leader in Judaism. Even with all the Torah knowledge and leadership ability he had. If the Rebbe’s Israeli spiritual heirs have their way and succeed in dismantling the State we may God forbid be looking at a second Holocaust!
When there is no Chesed for the likes of a Gadol like Rav Kook, then all of the vaunted Chesed the Rebbe inspired in his Chasdim toward fellow Jews is worthless!
I think Klal Yisroel ought to follow the lead of Rabbi Bechhofer and not grant any respect to him. He does not deserve that nor does he deserve any honored place in Jewish history.