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[Page 142]

Personalities and Figures


Reb Dovid'l of Vidz
[Between Misnagdim and Chasidim]

by Gershon Winer

Translated by Harold Berman

At the end of the 18th century, an acute struggle flared up between misnagidim and Chasidim of Vilna. As a result of that strong conflicts and confrontations took place in the Litvishe communities, in which Vidz played a prominent role.

In May 1798, the Chasidim of Vidz, under the leadership of their Shoykhet put together an allegation to the government against the heads of the community of Vilna of misappropriation of communal funds. As a result the heads of the community were arrested. In the new elections with some pressure from the government, the Chasidim received good representation in the community council as well as equal rights. The Lyader Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman, the founder of the Chabad movement, mentioned in one of his letters that “the mesira (denunciation) of Vidz has shocked me to the core”

The Vidz community has then come out with a letter denying the allegations and accusing the local Chasidim in falsifying the facts. The document, signed by 10 representatives of the community, condemned the actions of the Chasidim.

This, to put it mildly, did not improve the relations between the Chasidim and Misnagdim. It is told that the Vidzer Rov, Reb Dovid'l, and this took place years later, found out that the Chasidim wanted to curse him. Since in order to curse one must mention the mother's name, as is the case(with lehavdil) blessings, R'Dovid'l entered the Chassidic shtibl (small shul) and publically announced that his mother's name is Gitl (quoted from “midor ledor” by M.Lipson)

It is interesting that strife flared up again approximately a 100 years later. The author of these lines remembers as a child that probably in 1929 the argument that took place when the Chasidim have chosen a Rov who was a Chossid, and as it was 130 years earlier a shoychet also played a role. The Rov was a beloved, noble figure who justly earned the post.

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