Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum of Satmar

Chassidic leader of the Satmar movement.

Born: Sighet, Hungary, 1888
Died: New York , USA, 1979

Chassidic leader

Rabbi Yoel of Satmar was a descendant of the Yismach Moshe, Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum of Ujhel, and the Yetev Lev. He traced his ancestry to the illustrious Maharsha and Rema. He was a gifted child who received his early Torah instructions from his father, Rabbi Yomtov Lipa Teitelbaum, Rabbi of Sighet, and author of Kedushat Yomtov. While yet a young man he showed great promise as a talmudic scholar and was acclaimed for his deep piety. While devoting the major part of his dy to the analytic research of Talmud and Halachah, he immersed himself for several hours each day in the study of the great books of Mussar (ethics), such as Chovot Halevavot by Rabbi Bachya ibn Pakudah. He became a chasid of Rabbi Yechezkel Shraga of Shiniava, who was the son of Rabbi Chaim of Sanz. At the age of 17 R' Yoel was appointed rabbi of Musza, Czechoslovakia.

He subsequently served as rabbi of Orshova and Kroli, and in 1935 he assumed the post of Rabbi of Satmar where he officiated until 1944. At the time he was miraculously saved from the claws of the Nazis as one of the 1,684 Hungarian Jews on the famous "Kastner train." This group was allowed to leave for Switzerland with a stopover in Bergen-Belsen, as a result of the negotiations Rabbi Michael Ber Weissmandel of Nitra had conducted with Adolf Eichman.

After spending about two years in Israel, the Satmar Rav arrived in the United States in 1946. Settling in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn where he immediately set out to rebuild the chassidic community. Initially his followers consisted mainly of Holocaust survivors. With his strong and out spoken personality he breathed new life into them, giving them guidance and inspiration. A staunch defender of the Torah way of life, he forcefully opposed even the slightest innovation or deviation from tradition. With his charismatic personality, illustrious scholarship, and deep piety he attracted thousands of new chassidim. He established large yeshivot and girls' schools in America and Israel and erected a small town - Kiryas Yoel - with a big Yeshivah and  elegant home on the outskirts of Monroe, New York.

Rabbi Yoel firmly believed that a Jewish state would be established only upon the coming of Mashiach. As a result he spoke out sharply against Zionism and any group participating in the Israeli government. He did not oppose living in Israel. Satmar chassidim in Israel reject any form of monetary assistance from the government.

The writings of Rabbi Yoel, which have gained wide acceptance, were published under the titles Vayoel Moshe and Divrei Yoel. These volumes comprise his halachic novellae, responsa, sermons and essays. In a clear and concise language he expounds his views which reflect his vast knowledge and valiant spirit. The towering personality of the Satmar Rav has injected his chassidim and other chassidic sects with a sense of pride and self esteem, raising the standards of Torah observance to great heights. He left an indelible imprint on his chassidim and on Torah -observant Jewry at large.   

Rabbi Yoel had three daughters from his first wife, but no children from his second righteous wife Rebetzin Alte Faiga (1912-2001) whom he married in 1937. His success would not have been possible without her great support and acts of tremendous kindness. R' Yoel was succeeded by his nephew Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum. Since the passing away of Rabbi Yoel, the Satmar chassidic movement have been suffering from internal division.

Rabbi Yoel and his Satmar movement are  "notorious" to this day for giving and raising huge amounts of tzedakah to religious and non-religious Jews in need. This doesn't usually get as much attention as their anti-Zionist beliefs. Although Satmar is large (numbering around 250,000 worldwide) and very influential, it has not received much positive publicity, and is often subject to stereotyping.

The Satmar Rav, concerning "Yom Ha'Atzmau't" (Israel Independence Day)

We must not minimize the seriousness of the grave sin of rejoicing or appearing to rejoice and making a festival on the terrible Day of Blasphemy that they call "Yom Ha'Atzmau't". The day that the members of the conspiracy against G-d and his Messiah, established their Kingdom of Atheism over the Jewish People, by uprooting the Holy Torah and the Faith, at that time the shedding of blood of myriads upon myriads of Jews began.
This is much worse than accepting idolatry because they not only accept it but celebrate and rejoice in the terrible rebellion against G-d and His Holy Torah.
There are many sinners and even deniers of the Faith whose hearts trouble them because they are not serving G-d, but they are unable to stand up against temptation and against deceitful ideologies that confuse them. However, those who rejoice in this sin are guilty of much worse blasphemy.
May the Merciful save us from them and from their followers, and strengthen our hearts and enlighten our eyes in His Torah and in His Service. May His name be blessed. (Va'Yoel Moshe, Vol. II, ch.157)  

He also wrote a book reiterating his belief that the Holocaust was God's answer to Zionism, and that the Six Day War should not be seen in any way as a sign of God's approval of the Zionist enterprise.

May the merit of the tzaddik  Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum of Satmar  bring unity among Satmar Chassidim and protect us all, Amen.

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