Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Building a Common Home- a hopeful close to Tisha B'Av

About 15 of us sat in a circle listening to a thought-provoking presentation. Although I was the only non-Israeli, I was not the one who stood out the most in the group. That distinction would have to go Shmuel Pappenheim, a Toldos Ahron chassid. Toldos Ahron, for those who don't know, is staunchly anti-Zionist, and one of the more insular chassidic communities in Israel. Not only was Pappenheim a participant, but he was the one leading the session for a mixed group of dati, mesorati, and chiloni Jews, on the topic of building one's home into a mikdash mi'at, a figurative miniature version of the Beit HaMikdash. This session was part of a Tisha B'Av event sponsored by Reshut HaRabim, an Israeli organization which is trying to promote openness, dialogue and unity among the Jewish community of Jerusalem, as well as Gesher and the Hartman Institute.

After Pappenheim finished his presentation which included quotes from the Chasam Sofer, Seforno, Shelah and Rav Shimshon Rephael Hirsch, a spirited but warm conversation ensued. Among the topics discussed were a film about a chiloni couple where the husband became a ba'al teshuva, that had been shown before the session, Pappenheim's personal background, the challenges faced by families when one member becomes more or less religious than the rest of the family, and the changes that are being faced by the charedi community. Throughout the discussion, Pappenheim was open, engaging, introspective and thought-provoking. Not once did he appear uncomfortable, whether speaking with women who were dressed in a decidedly non-chassidic matter, or being asked about how his Yekish family became chassidic. He discussed his non-chassidic grandmother, whose open-minded personality and home opened Pappenheim up to a more open approach to the world. He undid a lot of stereotypes, and taught us about a community that none of us had previously understood.

I can't think of a better way to have ended Tisha B'Av. It is one thing to speak of achdus and ahavat chinam, it is entirely something else to see it in action, and be a part of it. As I led maariv on a porch looking out onto the Old City, I was filled with hope. Hope that the unity that I and others witnessed this summer, was not just an aberration caused by the war, but was the beginning of something bigger. Hope that after too many years of divisiveness, we are finally beginning to join together as one.


  1. This was beatifully written, full of meaningful content, and was just what I needed at 6 PM on Tisha Be'Av day. Thank you Pesach. And amen.

  2. Other than the garb they don, Shmuel Pappenheim is Toldos Ahron in the same sense that Yssoscher Katz from Yeshivat Chovevei Torah is Satmar.

  3. Pappenehim was also involved in trying to mediate between the Sheinfield resdients and the Extremist Charedim in RBS B in the incident of the harrasment of an 8 year old girl a few years old.