Vishnitz yeshiva in Bnei Brak
Vishnitz yeshiva in Bnei BrakYehoshua Lehrer JDN

A leading rabbi of the Vishnitz dynasty shocked hassidim at the third of three customary Sabbath meals and said, “Don’t call me ‘Rebbe” because he does not deserve the title. He told followers to address him only with the title “Rabbi.”

“Rebbe,” a word derived from the Hebrew word for “Rabbi, is used in Hassidic movements to designate a leader of the community and a spiritual guide, while a “Rabbi” is a learned scholar one who may rule on matters of Jewish law.

Asking hassidim to address him only as “rabbi,” he confessed, "I did not behave as I should have in my youth. This is the truth,” he was quoted as saying by the Hadrei Hareidim website.

He spoke at the traditional late afternoon meal at the Vishnitz Torah study center in Bnei Brak on the day of the anniversary of the death of one of the founders of the Vishnitz Hassidic movement.

The rabbi, whose name was not disclosed, said he previously asked his family not to call him “Rebbe” and that now he has decided to extend  his request to the general community, but hassidim said he did not obligate them to act accordingly.

“The Vishnitz custom in the Days of Awe [Rosh HaShanah to Yom Kippur] is to look up to the Rebbe, a title that at this time I do not deserve," the rabbi said. "I ask you not to do so and also not to do anything against Jewish law. I ask everybody in this hall that when they stand for the Amidah prayer to be sure they do so towards the east,” in the direction of the site of the destroyed Holy Temples. The “Amidah” prayer is the central part of prayers in the morning, afternoon and evening, said silently while standing and facing Jerusalem.