After causing major outrage throughout the Jewish world with remarks blaming the parents of three murdered Israeli teens for their deaths followers of Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum - leader of one of the two branches of the anti-Zionist Satmar hassidic sect - on Sunday sought to justify their leader's position.
According to a senior member of the group, Teitelbaum was aware of the negative impact his comments would have, but "in the wake of the outpouring of sympathy and care for the three kidnapped teenagers, he felt he had no choice but to set the record straight with his own students."
Speaking to students in his yeshiva in Williamsburgh, Brooklyn, Rabbi Teitelbaum said last week that instead of eulogizing their sons at the their funeral last week, the parents of Eyal Yifrah (19), Naftali Frenkel (16), and Gilad Sha'ar (16) should have instead "said viduy [confession] with tears, in the nusach [style] that is used on Yom Kippur, to repent for their decision to live and learn Torah in a place of barbaric murderers."
Teitelbaum said that the parents were guilty of "living among known murderers" by living in the "settlements," stemming from the "evil inclination and the desire for Jews to inhabit the entire State of Israel. it is incumbent upon us to say that these parents are guilty," he continued, condemning Zionists who "place the lives of the Jewish people at risk for the sake of Zionism" as "enemies of the Jewish people."
The comments elicited sharp criticism from all corners of the Jewish world, including many Orthodox rabbis from the Lithuanian and hassidic communities. Even leaders from the other branch of the Satmar dynasty distanced themselves from Teitelbaum's comments.
But according to a senior member of the Satmar movement, Teitelbaum felt he had no choice but to make the comments.
Speaking to the Kikar Shabbat web site, the senior Satmar hassid said that "the Rabbi was not trying to change the opinions of the settlers who would do anything for the 'completeness' of the Land of Israel. He was speaking to his students and wanted to make sure they understood that despite the prayers and sympathy that erupted throughout the Jewish world for these youths, the students were liable to think that these teens were somehow 'sanctifying the Name of Heaven' (Kiddush Hashem)," considered a very positive act. This was not the case according to Teitelbaum, he claimed, and he wanted to make sure that his students understood this.
In the past, a leader like Teitelbaum would have waited until some time passed – and some of the edge was taken off the pain – before making such comments. But today, with news traveling to all corners of the world in an instant, said the senior Satmar member, Teitelbaum felt that he had to make his comments immediately.
"The Rebbe's philosophy is that a mistaken idea could take root quickly, so we have no time to wait," he said.