Bnei Brak, Israel – Tens of thousands of people came to pay their respects to R’ Moshe Yehoshua Hager who was laid to rest in Kiryat Vishnitz today as countless Vishnitzer chasidim worldwide were plunged into a sea of mourning.
Within moments of R’ Hagers petira last night, hundreds of chasidim had gathered around the Rebbe’s house and all over the world Vishnitzer chasidim boarded flights which would bring them to Bnei Brak in time for the levaya. Thousands spent last night in the big Vishnitzer Beis Medrash saying Tehillim near the body of the Vishnitzer Rebbe.
R’ Hager’s body was returned to the Beis Medrash early this afternoon after completion of the tahara where he was flanked by his two sons, R’ Yisroel Hager and R’ Menachem Mendel Hager, who made the bracha Dayan Haemes and tore kriya, an action that was followed by all those over Bar Mitzvah who were present at the time. The Vishnitzer Beis Din issued a ruling to its chasidim instructing them to mourn the Rebbe as they would any close relative, with details on the laws of aveilus and how to tear kriya. All work was banned today during the levaya and announcements were made by loudspeaker this morning telling women not to take part in the actual levaya but to remain on designated streets which included Imrei Chaim, Kibutz Galuyot and Har Sinai.
The levaya was scheduled for 2:30 this afternoon in order to accommodate R’ Hager’s sons in law, the Satmar Rebbe, R’ Aaron Teitelbaum and the Skverer Rebbe who flew in from America immediately upon hearing of the petira of their father in law. Both are expected to return to America this evening. Arrangements for the levaya, which included numerous road closures throughout the area, were coordinated by the police, local officials and numerous others and a live video hookup was provided at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars for Vishnitzer chasidim worldwide who could not attend the levaya in person.
All walks of life were represented at the levaya which was attended by gedolim such as the Belzer Rebbe and R’ Ahron Leib Shteinman, Roshei Yeshiva, yeshiva bochurim and children, all of whom hailed from the Chasidic, Litvish and Sefradi communities. The levaya took place at the big Vishnitzer Beis Medrash Ahavas Yisroel on Rechov Toras Chaim and proceeded through the streets of Kiryat Vishnitz including Givat Pinchas, Ezra, Chazon Ish to the Zichron Meir Beis Hachaim. Following the Vishnitzer custom and the specific request of R’ Hager, no eulogies were delivered.
R’ Hager’s death has been felt far and wide and not only by the tens of thousands of Vishnitz chasidim. Countless yeshivos throughout Bnei Brak closed today to allow their talmidim to participate in the levaya. The Belzer Rebbe and the Seret-Vishnitz Rebbe both instructed their followers to pay their respects to R’ Hager and a cornerstone laying, which was to take place today for the new Sanz development in Tverya, has been rescheduled.
Prime Minister Binyamim Netanyahu, Knesset speaker Rubi Rivlin and Jerusalem’s mayor Nir Barkat all called Vishnitz representative R’ Eliezer Menachem Mozes to officially express their condolences, not only to the Hager family but to the thousands of bereft Vishnitzer chasidim worldwide.
Former Chief Rabbi of Israel and current Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau Shlita pointed to the Rebbe’s love for his fellow Jew and his dedication to Torah study.
“The Rebbe will be remembered as the one who lifted up the Vizhnitz dynasty from the ashes of the Holocaust and rebuilt it here in the Land of Israel,” said Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin. “The Admor engraved on his flag shows the overriding importance of education, education, education. Education above everything else.
“The Vizhnitz hassidim have also waved the banner of love for their fellow Jew and love of the Torah,” Rivlin added. “The words of the sages that ‘the appropriate behavior is more important than Torah,’ was a guiding light for the rebbe in his character, the leadership of his flock and the way in which he founded hassidic life in Israel. The Knesset bows its head with honor and respect, for the passing of this great leader and conveys its condolences to his sons the leaders of Vizhnitz, to his daughters and to the entire hassidic world.”