Sunday, May 20, 2007

2nd Sivan - Minchas Elazar

Today was the 70th yarzheit of the Munkacher Rebbe, the Minchas Elazar. You can read about how the American chasidim celebrated at

The rebbe of Munkacs (or Munkatch), Rabbi Chaim Elazar Spira (who led the community from 1913 until his death in 1937) was the most outspoken voice of religious anti-Zionism. He had succeeded his father, Rabbi Zvi Hirsh Spira, who had earlier inherited the mantle of leadership from his father Rabbi Shlomo Spira. This Hasidic dynasty was based in the town of Mukacheve, known as "Munkacs", "Minkatch" or "Munkacz" in common Jewish usage.

This is a video from 1933 of the Rebbe warning American Jews to keep Shabbos.

(For a longer video of life in Munkatch in 1933 click on this link

This is what Wikipedia has to say about him:

Rabbi Chaim Elazar Spira (December 17, 1871 in Stryzow, Poland – May 13, 1937) was one of the Rebbes of the Hasidic movement Munkacz (or Munkatsh). His father, Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Spira was a scion of the illustrious Spira family which had held rabbinical positions in Munkács dating back to the first Hasidic Rabbi in Munkács, Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech Spira who served as Chief Rabbi between the years of 1828 and 1832. Rabbi Chaim Elazar assumed the position as Chief Justice of the Rabbinical Court in Munkács in the year 1903, where he served alongside his father until Rabbi Tzvi Hersh’s passing in 1913. Rabbi Chaim Elazar then succeeded his father as Chief Rabbi of Munkács and the surrounding communities.

From a very young age Rabbi Chaim Elazar proved to have a prodigious mind. At the young age of 11 he began writing his first book on Jewish Law. In his short life Rabbi Chaim Elazar wrote and published over 20 books on the Jewish Law, Torah, Hasidism, and religious philosophy and customs. His most notable work which made him world famous was the scholarly work “Minchas Elazar” which contains 6 volumes. He was the most outspoken voice of religious anti-Zionism.

Rabbi Chaim Elazar led his community with unsurpassed dignity and drew worldwide respect and honor for Munkács. His keen understanding and vast knowledge in Jewish as well as worldly matters drew thousands of people to his home where they sought his advice and blessings. Under his leadership, the Munkács Jewish community grew in leaps and bounds and at the time of his death in 1937, over half of the town’s inhabitants were Jewish.

One of the most memorable events in Munkács was the wedding of Rabbi Chaim Elazar’s only daughter Frima which took place in March of 1933. Over 15,000 guests attended the wedding. Hungary, Poland and Czechoslovakia opened their borders and no visa was necessary for people who wished to attend the wedding. International filming companies came to Munkács from all over Europe and America to document the historic event.

Rabbi Chaim Elazar championed the causes of his needy brethren in Munkács and established a vast network of charitable institutions to ease their burden. He established schools where children were taught under his constant guidance. His yeshiva (rabbinical college) in Munkács attracted hundreds of students from all corners of the globe who flocked to Munkács to study under his wing, many of them growing to become the next generation's rabbis, community leaders, etc.

He was respected not only by the international Jewish community, but as well by the gentile world. He was visited by world leaders such as Czechoslovakian President Edvard Beneš as well as Tomáš Masaryk, Queen Wilhelmina of Holland and many others who sought his sagely advice and blessings. He was known as a “wonder rabbi” and “miracle worker”.

Upon his untimely death in 1937, after fighting a grave illness, he was succeeded as Chief Rabbi by his son-in-law Rabbi Baruch Yehoshua Yerachmiel Rabinowicz who was husband to Rabbi Spira’s only daughter Frima. Rabbi Baruch served as chief rabbi until the Nazi occupation of Munkács in 1944. Rabbi Spira left an everlasting impression on Munkács and the entire world for generations to come.

Thousands of followers visit his gravesite in the Munkács Jewish Cemetery throughout the year, where they come to pray and bequest salvation, especially on the anniversary of his death in the month of May.

The Munkács Hasidic Dynasty continues to this day under the dynamic leadership of the grandson of Rabbi Chaim Elazar, Grand Rabbi Moshe Leib Rabinovich who resides in Brooklyn, New York.

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