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Oct 9, 2006

zebras






We spent the night in Yerushalayim last night. I took the opportunity and went with one of my sons to do something I have not done in maybe13 or 14 years.

We went into Mea Shearim and went to the Simchas Beis Hashoevas that are legendary in the religious world. We went into Karlin Stolin first. The place was jam packed with, what seemed like, thousands of people. The circles could not even stay straight because the mosh of people was too great. they had to make circles that were weaving through and around each other, thereby utilizing every inch of floor space for dancing.

The place was packed with all sorts of people. Chassidim of the Karlin Stolin court, along with chassidim from all lsorts of other courts, along with litvishe and dati leumi and American yeshiva guys and some people who looked not religious at all. Everybody was dancing together and having a great time.

My son got nervous when I tried to take pictures. Some of these places famously do not allow pictures to be taken and have even been known to confiscate a camera when their wishes are violated. I snapped a few, to his nervous dismay and then somebody came over and warned me not to take pictures. I stopped and shortly after that we moved on to the next event.

We continued down Mea Shearim street heading to the legendary court of Toldos Aharon. I have seen their Simchas Beis Hashoeva described as being a" basic, authentic, simchas beis hashoeva". As we join the throngs of people heading in that direction, the road splits. There are guards telling men and women to separate, with women walking on the right side of the street and men on the left. There were also signs posted all over the area informing (warning) people to split like that. Most people followed the wishes of the organizers and were split, but it was not 100% and nobody bothered those who did not follow orders.

We made our way to the Toldos Aharon Beis Midrash and went in. The zebras were all over the place. They are affectionately known as zebras because of the striped cloaks they wear. It was a great sight, as normally one sees them a few here and there. Going onto their home court where you would see hundreds of them together dancing in circles was something special.

They are much stricter about taking pictures and have signs up all over warning people not to photograph. If they catch you there, you can forget about a warning. Just say goodbye to your camera. We go in and join the circles. Eventually we see the Toldos Aharon Rebbe is sitting on the side and people line up by him to shake his hand and wish and be wished by him a good yom tov. Wanting the full experience, we decided to get in line.

This was something unusual for me. When I was in yeshiva and went to these parties, the Rebbe was the father of the current rebbe. He had been very old (in his mid-90s at the time) and was very sick and weak. He would be seated in the middle of the circles and stay there the whole time nodding his head to the music and motion. You could not approach him and if you tried you clearly did not value your life.
So we joined the line and the pushing was amazing. Everybody was pushing and shoving to get into line. They were at least very smart how they designed it so the pushing was only at the end of the line. Once the line crossed a certain point, they had sectioned it off so it could only be single file. My son could not deal with the pushing so I went alone and shook the Rebbes hand. Shortly after that I saw the line had dwindled down. I got my son and went back in line and with no pushing we went and shook his hand again.

After dancing with the zebras a little more, we went to their cousins. Toldos Avraham Yitzchak. When the Rebbe (I think his name was Reb Aharele) died a number of years ago, his two sons split the chassidus and each tool leadership of a court. one took over Toldos Aharon and the other started Toldos Avraham Yitzchak. I think this must have been the older brother because the rebbe there looked much older than the rebbe at Toldos Aharon.

Toldos Avraham Yitzchak is about a block away from Toldos Aharon and is located at the beginning of the Mea Shearim shuk. We went in. To an outsider it was hard to tell the difference between the two groups as this place was also full of zebras, but there must be some differences, maybe in something in their dress, to differentiate between the two groups.

We were there during a break in the dancing and some kids and adults were singing in what I guess would be called a choir, while people were standing around listening. I saw the admor on the side shaking hands and we joined the line. This line was not quite as organized as the line in Toldos Aharon and it was a matter of who could push their way to the front of the line. We joined the pushing and were almost the front when the gabbai decided enough was enough (it looked as though the whole crowd might topple oon top of the Rebbe) and shoved the whole line back five feet. Obviously people lost their places they had fought so valiantly for, so the pushing started again immediately after that. My son gave up but I persevered and after a few minutes I made my way to the front of the line and shook his hand.

We then left and went back to "the real world".




8 comments:

  1. sounds like a pretty amazing experience.

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  2. i cant believe you actually took a picture.... can you sell it to the papers?

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  3. its not that exciting of a picture...

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  4. That is so nice you took the opportunity sounds wonderful.

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  5. That's awesome. I'm sure your son had a great time. I remember doing a similar tour when I was learning in Israel. Of course, in your hometown, things are not as rockin' as Toldos Aharon.

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  6. I forget - why no pics?

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  7. Very cool post. I wanted to correct something very quickly. The previous Rebbe of Toldos Aharon was Avraham Yitzchak Kahn. The group was called Toldos Aharon because it branched off of a group started by R' Aharon Roth (also known as Rov Ahrele). Toldos Avraham Yitzchak is named after the previous Toldos Aharon Rebbe.

    There is another group called Shomrei Emunim based in Bnei Brak whose Rebbe is the son of R' Ahrele. His name is R' Avraham Chaim Roth.

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