Toldos Aharon (Hasidic dynasty)
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Toldos Aharon is a strongly anti-Zionist Hasidic movement, headquartered in Jerusalem's Meah Shearim neighborhood. Significant concentrations of Hasidim are also located in Ramat Beit Shemesh, London, and New York City. Toldos Aharon is a split-off from Shomer Emunim. It is led by its Rebbe, Rabbi Dovid Kohn.
Toldos Aharon is a Hasidic court in Jerusalem, belonging to the Edah HaChareidis. The court is characterized by conservatism and a desire to preserve the life of the old Yishuv in Jerusalem, in sharp opposition to Zionism, in a strict Haredi way of life, in a special style of clothing, and in an emphasis on prayer at a moderate pace and with enthusiasm. The court has about 1,300 families and is headquartered in the Meah Shearim neighborhood. In addition to the central community in Jerusalem, the court has a community in Beit Shemesh and in 5779 (2019), additional communities were opened in Tiberias and in Harish. The current rebbe is Rabbi Dovid Kohn.
The Chassidus is named after Rabbi Aharon Roth who established a group in Satmar in the year 1921, which was characterized by far-reaching criteria for the worship of God. In 1928 Rabbi Roth immigrated to the Land of Israel. Because of the special importance he saw in reciting Amen aloud, Rabbi Roth changed the group's name in 1933 to "Shomer Emunim".
Rabbi Roth passed away on 6 Nisan in 1947. About a year later, his students split up, and a relatively small group chose his son, Rabbi Avraham Chaim Roth, to succeed his father as Rebbe. Most of the students chose Rabbi Aharon's son-in-law, Rabbi Avrohom Yitzchok Kohn. He established his court on the outskirts of the Mea She'arim neighborhood (today stands instead the beth midrash of the Chassidut of Toldos Avrohom Yitzchok). Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum of Satmar opposed Rabbi Aharon's approach, but with the rise of Rabbi Kohn, who was his disciple, to serve as rebbe, there was a rapprochement between the two Hasidic sects.
Rabbi Avrohom Yitzchok Kohn, the previous Toldos Aharon Rebbe, died during Hanukkah of 1996. Rabbi Kohn had many sons, four of whom are rebbes today.
Coronation of the current rebbe
At the end of Rabbi Kohn's life, and in the context of two years in which he did not function, there was controversy in the community over who would inherit it. During these years, the institutions of the community found it difficult to function. Most of the members of the community and the administration of its institutions supported the second son of the Admor, Rabbi Dovid Kohn, who until then served as rabbi of Toldos Aharon in the town of Monsey, New York. Others favored the eldest son, Rabbi Shmuel Yaakov Kohn, as successor. Among the supporters of the firstborn were also the rabbi of the community in Jerusalem and its representative in the Beth din of the Edah HaChareidis, Rabbi Meir Brandsdorfer, and the Kabbalist Rabbi Daniel Frisch.
After the death of Rabbi Kohn, the dispute reached a discussion in Badatz HaEidah HaCharedit, which focused on the fitness of the will left by Rabbi Kahn, which states that Chassidic people must hold elections for a leader who will succeed him, while requesting that he be one of his sons or sons-in-law. Since the will was full of deletions and additions, the people of Rabbi Shmuel Ya'akov argued that they had been falsified because they had been preserved by the other side. The verdict determined that the will was admissible, but as a compromise, Rabbi Shmuel Yaakov and his supporters received one of the institutions' buildings. He opened a new court called "Toldos Avraham Yitzchak" after his father. Almost two-thirds of the Hassidic sects remained in the mother court and crowned their rabbi Rabbi Dovid, who immigrated to Israel and moved to his father's home in Jerusalem.
After Rabbi Kohn died, two of his sons came to an agreement whereby the younger son Rabbi Duvid Kohn from Monsey, New York, inherited the title "Toldos Aharon Rebbe". The eldest son, Rabbi Shmuel Yaakov Kohn, a disciple of the Viznitzer Rebbe, became a rebbe as well, of a group that was entitled Toldos Avrohom Yitzchok named after his father, the previous rebbe of the group. The main beis medrash of Toldos Avrohom Yitzchok is also in Meah Shearim, one block away from the Toldos Aharon building. Both live in Jerusalem. Another son is a rosh yeshiva in Kiryas Joel, New York. The other two sons formed Hasidic courts on their own, both located in Meah Shearim as well, and are known as the Mevakshei Emunah Rebbe and the Nachlas Aharon Rebbe, respectively.
- Rebbe Aharon "Reb Areleh" Roth (d. 1946) - author of Shomrei Emunim, Shulchan HaTahor, and Taharas HaKodesh - founding Rebbe of Shomrei Emunim dynasty in the town of Satmar, (At that time, Hungary ; now, Romania), and Jerusalem.
- Rebbe Avrohom Chaim Roth - Shomrei Emumim Rebbe in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak - son of "Reb Areleh" Roth.
- Rebbe Avrohom Yitzchok Kohn (d. 1996) - author of Divrei Emunah - previous Toldos Aharon Rebbe of Jerusalem - son-in-law of "R' Areleh" Roth.
- Rebbe Shmuel Yaakov Kohn - present Toldos Avrohom Yitzchok Rebbe in Jerusalem - eldest son of the previous Toldos Aharon Rebbe.
- Rebbe Dovid Kohn - present Toldos Aharon Rebbe in Jerusalem - son of the previous Toldos Aharon Rebbe.Rabbi Aharon Roth
Dress and customs
In Jerusalem, married men wear white and grey "Zebra" coats during the week and golden bekishes/Caftan (coats) on Shabbos. Toldos Aharon and Toldos Avrohom Yitzchok are the only groups where boys aged 13 and older (bar mitzvah) wear the golden coat and a shtreimel, as married men do; however, married men can be differentiated by their white socks, while the unmarried boys wear black socks. In other Hasidic groups, only married men wear a shtreimel. All boys and men wear a traditional Jerusalemite white yarmulke. Unmarried boys wear a regular black coat with attached belt on weekdays, unlike the married men, who wear the "Zebra" style coat.
Married women cover their hair without wearing wigs, and the standards of tznius expected from them are the strictest among all Hasidic/Orthodox Jewish groups. As is customary in the traditional Jerusalemite community, unmarried girls have their hair in two braids, unlike most other Haredi communities, where the girls wear a simple ponytail.
Toldot Aharon is currently the only Hasidic group that requires its women to shave their head after marriage, as the custom faded away after World War II for other ultra-orthodox Jewish groups. The hair on a woman's head is thought to signify her sexuality. Thus, it is shaved off on the day after her wedding and is continuously shaved throughout her marriage for modesty reasons. This is due to the belief that a woman's sexuality should not be shown to anyone but her husband.
The Shomrei Emunim are characterized by fervent and visibly emotional prayer, and by a rigid lifestyle controlled largely by "takanos" - decrees written by the Rebbe. One such decree, for example, forbade wearing wool. (Jewish law forbids wearing anything that contains both wool and linen. Rabbi Aharon worried that it would be safest not to wear wool at all, in order to avoid the possibility of violating the law altogether.) A strong emphasis is placed on the importance of full-time Torah study, and daily immersion in ritual baths.
Hasidic books of the Shomer Emunim, Toldos Aharon, and Toldos Avrohom Yitzchok groups
In addition to those books which are revered by all Hasidic Jews, the Toldos Aharon Hasidim particularly revere the books, Shomer Emunim, Shulchan HaTahor, and Taharas HaKodesh, by Rebbe Aharon Roth, and Divrei Emunoh by Rebbe Avrohom Yitzchok Kohn. The version of the prayer book used by Toldos Aharon Hasidim is called Brochoh u'Tehilloh. The Toldos Avrohom Yitzchok Hasidim have published a weekday prayer book called, Tehillas Avrohom Yitzchok, but also use the Brochoh u'Tehilloh version as well.
The previous Rebbe of Toldos Aharon, R' Avrohom Yitzchok, was said to have instructed his followers to learn the works of Rabbi Aharon HaLevi of Staroshelye (pronounced Strashelye), which include "Sha'arei HaYichud VeHaEmunoh," "Sha'arei Avoda," and "Avodas HaLevi." The Staroselyer Rebbe was a follower of the first Rebbe of Chabad, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi. After the passing of R' Shneur Zalman, R' Aharon HaLevi started his own Hasidic following, an offshoot of Chabad, in Staroselye.
- Rabbi Meir Brandsdorfer
- "חסידות תולדות אהרן, שאליה משתייכת החשודה בהרעבת בנה, שכרה יחצ"ן". www.haaretz.co.il.
- "חסידות בדלנית מתעניינת בחריש. יצחק קשת: "אין להם מה לחפש כאן"". חריש 24.
- Zalcberg, Sima (17 October 2007). "'Grace is Deceitful and Beauty is Vain': How Hassidic Women Cope with the Requirement of Shaving One's Head and Wearing a Black Kerchief". Gend. Issues (24): 13–34.
- See Sefer Takanos v'Hadrochos.