Apr 30, 2021

Lag Ba'omer: What's Toldot Aharon, hassidic sect whose members were killed?

Israeli rescue forces and police near the scene after a stampede killed dozens during the celebrations of the Jewish holiday of Lag Baomer on Mt. Meron on April 30, 2021. (photo credit: DAVID COHEN/FLASH 90)
It is perhaps the most insular, well-organized and cohesive of the groups that make up Israel’s haredi community.

APRIL 30, 2021

Many of the dead and injured at the Lag Ba'omer stampede on Mount Meron Thursday night were from the insular Toldot Aharon Hassidic sect, which is based in Jerusalem. The stampede took place during the lighting of the bonfire by the current Rebbe (spiritual leader).

It is perhaps the most insular, well-organized and cohesive of the groups that make up Israel’s haredi (ultra-Orthodox) community; any type of intervention in its domestic affairs is tantamount to a total usurping of the community's belief system.

The hassidic sect was established in Jerusalem by Rabbi Aharon Roth in 1928 as an offshoot of Satmar, a hassidic movement that originated in Germany. In 1942 shortly before Nazi Germany invaded Hungary, Roth and his followers fled Europe for Mandatory Palestine.

Today, Toldot Aharon hassidim live in the heart of Jerusalem despite their staunch opposition to Zionism. They have developed extensive social and cultural barriers to protect their community from the bustling secularism of Jaffa Road and Ben-Yehuda Street, located less than a kilometer away.

Roth, who died in 1947, started the tradition, which continues to this day, that every male member of the sect signs a contract obligating him and his family to abide by the strict dictates of Toldot Aharon.

Clothing, customs – even how the hassidim spend their spare time – is carefully regulated. Cohesion is as tight as super glue. In contrast, the outside world – especially anything affiliated with Zionism – is described as dark and evil.

Shlomo Guzmen-Carmeli of Bar-Ilan University's Department of Sociology and Anthropology, who is an expert on the Toldot Aharon hassidim and is the source for the information here about them, explained in 2009 that the hassidim do not view themselves as individuals.

In his study The holy contract: The Social Contract of the Toldos Aharon Hasidic group, Guzmen-Carmieli, along with Asaf Sharabi, wrote about the core texts of the Toldot Aharon community. One of the central books that the community follows was written by Roth and is called Sefer Takkanot ve-Hadrachot (The Book of Regulations and Guidance). He wrote the book toward the end of his life; it contains many of his stringent and mystical beliefs which are followed in the community until this day.

"Members of Toldot Aharon do not see themselves first and foremost as individuals. Rather, they see themselves as one organic entity," said Guzmen-Carmeli. "No one would ever think of involving outsiders in internal issues of the community, let alone representatives of the Zionist entity, which is perceived as an apostate body inimical to the sect's belief system."


1 comment:

Ron said...

I am not at all knowledgeable in the ways of this group but I default to what my mother used to say— Abraham and Isaac didn’t dress like that. I dislike their being called ultra orthodox. I doubt that. I think they are nostalgic for the communities in Europe, 200 years ago.