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Misnagdim Website
Myths and Facts


Myths and Facts
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Myth - The opposition to Hassidism was because they were afraid that hassidim didn't learn Torah. Now that we see that hassidim learn, there is no place for hisnagdus.

Fact - Though perhaps that was a factor in the conflict, more was involved. To reduce it to just that is incorrect and wishful thinking of some.

Myth - The opposition was because people thought Hassidism could be like a repeat of the Shabsai Tzvi (yemach shemo vizichro) fiasco.

Fact - While that may have been a factor, once again, that alone would not explain why hisnagdus has existed so long, among other things.

Myth - The opposition to Hassidism was based on lies and distortions about the new movement, spread by people that had an interest in repressing it, and did not stem from wholesome considerations.

Fact - While it is possible that there were some distortions involved at times, such allegations could not and do not explain why hisnagdus has endured so long and has had such eminent followers over the years.

Myth - The difference between hassidim and misnagdim is that hassidim have beards and misnagdim don't.

Fact - Many misnagdim have beards and some hassidim don't - so it is not accurate.

Myth - The difference between hassidim and misnagdim is that hassidim wear shtreimlech and long black coats while misnagdim don't.

Fact - Many hassidim don't wear shtreimlech and long black coats and some misnagdim do wear them.

Myth - The difference between hassidim and misnagdim is that hassidim don't wear ties and misnagdim do.

Fact - Some hassidim - even some Rebbes (e.g. those of Ruzhiner descent, such as present Boyaner Rebbe, etc.) wear ties, while some misnagdim don't.

Myth - Hisnagdus was a one man show. The Vilna Gaon opposed Hassidism, while other Rabbis didn't get involved.

Fact - Almost all the Rabbinic establishment at the time opposed the hassidic movement. The Vilna Gaon was only one of many Rabbis who opposed it strongly. Other well known Misnagdic Rabbis were the Noda biYehudah (Rav Yechezkel Landau of Prague), Rabbi Yaakov Lorberbaum (author of 'Nesivos Hamishpot', aka 'the Nesivos') and Rav Katzenellenbogen of Brisk, among many others.

Myth - Hassidim pray with heart while misnagdim pray in a dry, unfeeling, mechanical, rote manner.

Reality - Many hassidim pray in a rote manner, while spiritual davening can be experienced in many Ashkenazic minyonim, esp. in Yeshiva circles. For a good description of rote prayer among some hassidim today see 'Prayers and Mumbles' at (piece dated September 08, 2003) (Other pieces on that site also shed valuable light on other apects of hassidic life today, from the perspective of an insider).

Myth - Litvaks / Misnagdim are cold / unfeeling people, while hassidim are warm and caring.

Reality - Another stereotype worthy of re-examination and discarding.

Myth - Hassidim are the real old-fashioned Jews. They are following Judaism as it was practiced by our ancestors centuries ago and have not changed it one iota. While others have made changes, only hassidim have adamantly rejected any change.

Reality - Hassidism is a movement that originated as a breakaway, revolutionary sect, intent on changing the way Judaism was practiced. They made various changes toward such ends, ranging from changing the traditional form (nusach) of prayer, discarding or ignoring various halochos, etc. After a while, they became ultra-conservative in some matters, e.g. insisting on maintaining Polish dress, etc. and presumably it is from there that the confusion stems. After all, the first thing people see is the external appearance of things usually. The fact is though, that Hassidism is only circa two hundred and fifty years old and therefore relatively new on the Jewish scene.