What’s Proper Garb For A Rabbi?

Zalman Alpert comments on Marc Shapiro’s post and pictures: Rabbinic garb. the dress that Reb Simcha Zelig wore in his pictures was bedavka the authentic garb of Jews in Lithuania and the Ukraine from about 1950-1918. The Chafetz Chaim wore the same clothing as did the the rosh yeshiva of Kishinev Rav Gamliel Rabinowitz a Skverer chasid,. We have pictures of a young rav Kuk as a rav wearing the same garb.The cap the kasket was worn by all frum Jews.I posit that few orthodox jews wore a fedora in Lithuania until the Mussar giants came along to adopt lifestyle changes to integrate tora learning in the new Middle class of Europe. Now a rav may have worn a fur hat on Shabbes and the more modern ones may have worn a high hat on Shabbes. But until 1918 this was the garb of Orthodox jews in Czarist Russia. Only after the advent of the Mussar movement and its desire to make Torah culture acceptable to the normative world did the newly minted graduates of Slobodka, Mir etc change their levush and head gear and after World war 1 it became standard.
Yet very conservative Jews like many Lubavitcher chassidm continued with the kasket (there are pictures of rabbi MM Schneersohn son of the Bobroisker rebbe wearing this garb – there is even anewly discovered photo of the future rebbe wearing this garb of course prior to his travel to berlin and Paris) The rebbe remained fond of the garb and urged those Lubavitchers leaving russia after 1960 who still wore the garb not to change ! I personally heard from the RACHAl that the rebbe Rashab and the Rayaatz of Lubavitz wore such caps on week days and in Russia outside of Lubavitch. Only when travelling outside of Russia did they wear fedoras or homburg hats.I have tried convincing my Lubavitch friends that we ought to get back to basics here…
Now I do not see what’s non rabbinic about the Gerach, he wears a long surdut (kapote) and a Lithuanian style square high yarmulka. That indeed was how rabbonim and many Lithuanian Jews dressed.
Rabbi Klepfisz of Warsaw. Since my friend Marc is into asides may I note that Rabbi Klepfisz’s grand daughter a nurse married Chaim Grade before the Second World war. He left her and his daughter and fled to Russia.She was killed by the Germans at Ponary. Her brother a rabbinic scholar worked for the Encyclopedia talmudit.
Conditions in Shanghai. But whats the chidush / I spoke many times to rav X a brother in law of one of the 3 leading rebbes in Brooklyn who told me that when he and his faily were refugees in Asiatic Russia between 1941-1946 there was no moral code at all. People shacked up as per their desire with people of all religions, and this included supposedly religious men. Many mamzerim were born and abandoned after 1945.War time is not conducive to right living. World War One and its turmoil greatly hurt Jewish family life in eastern Europe.
Rabbi Gulevski – I do not know him , but I think its obvious if we are to understand him , we must apply some of the lessons of rabbenu Shlomo of Vienna to his life. here we have a yachsan a lamdan etc coming to the New World and what happens he teaches chalutzim in NJ and "bums" at TI in YU. He gives hechsherim to All you can eat Indian eateries and from this he can make a living. People less well placed became roshe yeshivos, maggide shiur and big knackers in the frum world. Frustration is the key word.Of course I would not be any different and neither would any of us.As the chazal tell us Olam hafuch raaisi …

Zelda’s father was the brother of Reb levik Schneersohn the father of the Rebbe. Her father was a son in law of the Chernigover rev Chen whose son was rabbi Mendel Chen. Zelda married a mishikovsky a son of the Kriniker rav the right hand man of Rav Chaim eyzer of Vilna. MM Chen indeed was a right hand man of the Rashab in communal matters. The Rashab once said he had 3 great chassidim who understood him – Reb Levik , Reb Mendel Chen and Reb Zalman Schneersohn of Lodz who was a desc fthe Mitteler rebbe and was killed in the Holocaust. His student was rabbi Greenglass a mekubal and mashpia in Lubavitz in Montreal.

The late rav Efraim Oshry told me that the reason that none of rabbi Kahana-Shapiro’s children remained strictly frum was because the rav’s home was open to all and all sorts of Jews were welcome there an this had a hashpoah on the kids.
Its interesting to note what I heard mipi Mori verabi Rav Shimen Romm ZT"L in light of this that his daughter was a student in Berlin in the 1930’s and the rav Rabbi Soloveitchik wanted to marry her. But he had a competitor in the form of rabbi Isaac Hutner who tried to impress the Kovner rav by publsihing a sefer in Lithuania. In the end she married someone else.And both men ended up amrrying women with no yichus.

MARC B. SHAPIRO POSTS: As for R. Chaim’s rabbinic garb, the Rav never wore rabbinic garb (long coat etc.) and when he was asked about this in Boston he said that since his grandfather didn’t wear it, he won’t wear it. Yet I know that in the pic. R. Chaim looks like he is in rabbinic garb. I think the Rav probably meant that he didn’t wear aspecial "rabbinic" long coat that other rabbis wore, just a regular coat, but you might know better.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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