Tens of thousands of Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) and Hasidic Jews defied their religious leaders' orders and thronged to a performance by ultra-Orthodox "rock stars" in Jerusalem's Teddy Stadium last week. However, their disobedience runs deeper than this and is more threatening than their rabbis and associates would like to admit.
The concert organizers, the two ultra-Orthodox singers and the crowd publicly trampled the Haredi community's tradition of following the rabbis' edicts to the letter. It does not follow, however, that the rabbis and their associates will hold an open debate on the mass disregard of the ban imposed on attending the concert.
The contempt toward the rabbis was a clear reflection of the privatization of Hasidic Judaism and rabbinic authority, a change that is gaining momentum in Israel and in Haredi and Hasidic communities in the United States.
The first signs of this process were seen after the death of rabbis who succeeded those who rehabilitated the Hasidic courts in Israel and the Diaspora. They were admired and thought to represent the original Hasidic movement in East Europe. To disobey them or passively ignore their instructions was unheard of and unforgiveable.
This said, the Hasidic court rabbis born in Israel and the U.S. lacked their fathers' natural, self-evident spiritual authority. While the Hasidic courts expanded, their moral authority was not bolstered. The increase in the numbers of Hasidic courts and the ease with which rabbis related to deceased Hassidic court heads declared themselves as heirs - a trend that picked up pace in the last two decades in Israel and the U.S. - generated contempt toward traditional values and behavior.
Photographs of Hasidic court leaders and Lithuanian yeshivas at family affairs, which had always been taboo, have become commonplace in American and Israeli courts and yeshivas.
Reports about the goings on in the courts and rabbis' families appear regularly in religious weeklies alongside pictures of rituals and family events, affording these leaders celebrity status.
It is no wonder, then, that the ban on attending a Hasidic "rock" concert is seen as the celebrities' wrangle for a spot in the limelight.
The Hasidic movement's privatization poses a grave threat to the movement's future, brought about by the weakening of the strict discipline that had ensured the rabbis' authority and preserved the Hasidic courts' integrity.
Controversies have trailed the Hasidic movement almost since its foundation, but family feuds and conflicts have recently erupted within the families of prominent rabbis and the courts themselves.
These tend to be leadership feuds among the sons of rabbis who have died. The leader's position affords them control over large educational institutions and budgets. Two central Hasidic dynasties have recently split in America - Satmar and Bobov - and each has turned into multiple hostile factions. The Vishnitz Hasidic dynasty in Israel is presently embroiled in a feud.
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