Moshiach & Satmar
BY Rabbi Zushe A. Kohn
the streets of Crown Heights you can expect to meet the most unexpected people.
So it came as no surprise to me that the person sitting across the table from me
at the Kingston bagel shop was dressed in an ‘up-hat’, black vest, long
jacket, had peiyos curled tightly around his ears, and sported a
medium-length grayish beard.
freilichen Chanuka," he greeted me in Hungarian-style Yiddish,
as I took my first bite of potato latke.
freilichen Chanuka," I returned. "Fun vant kumt a yid?
[i.e., where are you from]"
nice. Quite a distance from here."
I get it. You mean Boro Park."
shein, I said, forcing a smile onto my face. Just the kind of thing I might
say about Crown Heights, I thought to myself.
if reading my mind, the gentleman, again in Yiddish, began to explain his
reference: "Holy books state that the tzaddik-ha’dor’s
place of residence enjoys a measure of holiness akin to Jerusalem," he said
in a rather competitive tone of voice.
felt a slight rush of adrenalin. I didn’t mind the fact that he considered his
spiritual leader, the late Satmar Rav, o.b.m, to be the generation’s greatest tzaddik.
Nor did I mind the fact that he wanted everyone in the world to share his
belief. What bothered me was the condescendence, the better-than-thou attitude.
After all, the guy knew he was speaking to a Lubavitcher, and the exclusive
reverence of Lubavitchers for the Rebbe, whom we consider to be none less than
Moshiach himself, is no secret.
restraint, I remained silent as he depicted the great saintliness of his master.
he was done I responded. "You know," I said, "there’s one
particular thing about the Satmar Rav, above and beyond his general greatness,
that always impressed me."
What?" he asked expectantly.
he was so obsessed with the concept of Moshiach that he actually wrote lengthy
Torah discourses on the subject," I replied.
man swallowed hard, but didn’t say anything. I knew I had hit home.
a half-minute later he spoke up again, asking me where I was originally from.
When I replied, "Boro Park," there naturally ensued a lively
discussion about my own Satmar ancestry on one side, and how I had come to be a
Lubavitcher. He listened attentively as I explained how obvious it had always
been to me that the Rebbe is the leader of world Jewry, and how I had come to
realize that he is actually Moshiach.
argument, no disagreement. Just a simple request for sources, which I was more
than happy to provide.
eating, we continued shmoozing about religion and Chassidus, until it was time
for Mincha and menora lighting in 770. Evidently, the fellow was enjoying
the conversation so much that I had to actually insist (in the nicest way
possible) on concluding it.
the menora in 770 was being lit, the words "Yerishelayim Ihr
HaKodesh" echoed in my ears, and I felt good for having guided the
gentleman’s feet onto the long-short path that ultimately leads to Jerusalem.
What Is Apikorsus?
made my way toward the exit of the busy Boro Park shul. From the corner of my
eye I noticed two teenage Polisher Chassidim staring at my t’fillin
bag. I pretty much knew what would happen next.
Moshiach?" they sang in unison, articulating the words embroidered on the
of them pointed to the 770 building decorating the center of the bag. "That’s
do you know?"
felt like saying "G-d told me," but instead I said bluntly,
"Since the Rebbe is Moshiach, and 770 is his house, 770 is Beis
how do you know the Rebbe is Moshiach?" came the inevitable question.
the Rebbe himself," I replied. "From his sichos, encouragement
of ‘Yechi Adoneinu’ and other things he said or did to support and
encourage this idea.
how do you know that the Rebbe was right?"
was surprised. I felt that for Chassidim, (i.e., people who have—or should
have—unquestioning faith in the words of their masters), this was an
your rebbe?" I asked, directing my gaze at the more talkative one.
my rebbe?" he repeated, twitching his shoulders uncomfortably. "Uhhh...
whatever. I’d rather not say."
never mind who he is," I continued. "How would you react if he
announced or indicated that he was Moshiach?"
would immediately have him placed in an ambulance and rushed off to the
hospital!" came the shocking reply.
burst out laughing and they followed suit. Many a truth has been said in jest, I
said to myself. "And why would you do that?" I asked, holding back
another fit of laughter.
what do you expect me to do if he speaks apikorsus (heresy)?"
a second," I said, working hard not to crack up again. "I think we
need to define a couple of things here. Can you tell me what a rebbe is?"
a few seconds of thought, the talkative one said, "A mora derech [spiritual
what does the moreh derech teach you?"
his Torah teachings include matters of Jewish faith?"
other words, it’s your rebbe who teaches you what is apikorsus and what
the drift, the young Chassid smiled, nodding his head in approval. "Ich
her vus de zugst. Ich shpar mich, uber ich her vus de zugst" (I get
what you’re saying. I disagree with you, but I get what you’re saying).
above 2 articles are chapters of an upcoming new book. Readers should please
send their conversations on Moshiach to email@example.com.