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The holy contract: The social contract of the Toldos Aharon Hasidic group



The article, based on fieldwork conducted among an extremist Hasidic group, demonstrates how religious fundamentalism may be linked to modernism through the way in which modern ideas infiltrate fundamentalist culture. The authors examine the contract that is signed annually by members of the group, which reaffirms their acceptance of stringent regulations. The contract is signed by every individual by means of a performative act that consolidates the separatist Hasidic social fabric on the basis of contractual legal rationality and creates categories and values that bind the individual to the community, an act that circumscribes that cultural enclave.
Social Compass
The online version of this article can be found at:
DOI: 10.1177/0037768614535697
2014 61: 290Social Compass
Shlomo Guzmen-Carmeli and Asaf Sharabi
The holy contract: The social contract of the Toldos Aharon Hasidic group
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Social Compass
2014, Vol. 61(3) 290 –309
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DOI: 10.1177/0037768614535697
The holy contract: The social
contract of the Toldos Aharon
Hasidic group
Bar-Ilan University, Israel
Peres Academic Center, Israel
The article, based on fieldwork conducted among an extremist Hasidic group,
demonstrates how religious fundamentalism may be linked to modernism through
the way in which modern ideas infiltrate fundamentalist culture. The authors examine
the contract that is signed annually by members of the group, which reaffirms their
acceptance of stringent regulations. The contract is signed by every individual by means
of a performative act that consolidates the separatist Hasidic social fabric on the basis
of contractual legal rationality and creates categories and values that bind the individual
to the community, an act that circumscribes that cultural enclave.
charismatic authority, legal rationality, modernism, religious fundamentalism, social
contract, ultra-Orthodox Judaism
L’article, basé sur un travail de terrain conduit au sein d’un groupe extrémiste hassidique,
démontre comment le fondamentalisme religieux peut être lié à la modernité dans la
façon dont des idées modernes saillantes s’infiltrent dans la culture fondamentaliste.
Les auteurs examinent le contrat signé annuellement par les membres du groupe, qui
réaffirme leur acceptation de règles strictes. Le contrat est signé par chaque individu
Corresponding author:
Shlomo Guzmen-Carmeli, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan,
52900, Israel
535697SCP0010.1177/0037768614535697Social CompassGuzmen-Carmeli and Sharabi: The social contract of the Toldos Aharon Hasidic group
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Guzmen-Carmeli and Sharabi: The social contract of the Toldos Aharon Hasidic group 291
au moyen d’un acte performatif qui établit l’autorité légale contractuelle de la fabrique
sociale séparatiste hassidique et crée des catégories et des valeurs qui lient l’individu à
la communauté. Il s’agit d’un acte qui circonscrit cette enclave culturelle.
autorité charismatique, contrat social, fondamentalisme religieux, Judaïsme ultra
orthodoxe, modernité, rationalité légale
Social scientists have pointed out various ways in which modernism plays a part in
religious fundamentalism. Berger (2009), for instance, claims that evangelism is a
modern phenomenon because it embraces, among other things, the concept of individual
choice in the decision to be born again, in order to become a true Christian. Ruthven
(2004), while discussing fundamentalism and nationalism, argues that fundamentalism is
a modern phenomenon, despite all its attempts to call the past into the present. Eisenstadt
(2004) [1994] argues that fundamentalist movements have much in common with other
modern Jacobin movements because of their belief in the primacy of politics;
fundamentalist movements thus emphasize political action as a means of realizing a
moral vision in this world in the present, while seeking to shape a new collective identity.
Marty and Appleby (1991, 1994) describe the way in which modernism generates an
ultra-religious counter-reaction, while Harding (2001) argues that not only has
fundamentalism always been an aspect of the modernism of North American society, but
it has also helped to construct that very modernism because it has represented all that is
not modern. The literature concerning fundamentalist groups also emphasizes their
pragmatic relationship to modernism, which is apparent in their embracing of technologies
such as cassette recorders and television, while rejecting the scientific foundations that
led to the development of such technologies. These groups thus legitimize the instruments
of information while voiding them of modern meanings and contents (De Witte, 2003;
Hackett, 1998; Hirschkind, 2006; Roy, 2004).
In the current article, we will demonstrate how religious fundamentalism is linked to
modernism in another sense as well: through the way in which salient modern ideas
infiltrate fundamentalist culture. We shall do so by examining the contract that is signed
annually by members of the Toldos Aharon Hasidic group, in which members reaffirm
their acceptance of the Hasidic group’s stringent regulations (takkanot). These regulations
are minutely detailed, instructing the Hasid on his personal conduct, as well as that of his
spouse and children, in every facet of life. The annual signing of the contract, we argue,
links the Hasid to the Admor (an honorific meaning ‘Our Master, Our Teacher and Our
Rebbe’) and to his fellow Hasidim. Signing the contract is a prerequisite for membership
in the Hasidic group, and so we are witness to a practice that consolidates the separatist
Hasidic social fabric on the basis of contractual legal rationality (or legal-rational
authority), the type of rationality that is considered to be characteristic of modern groups
and societies (Weber, 1947). This, in turn, suggests that the Toldos Aharon Hasidic group
has added a new aspect of contractual legal rationality to its reliance on traditional and
charismatic authority – a typical feature of other Hasidic groups.
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The current discussion is based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted during the years
2005–2008 among Hasidim of the Toldos Aharon group in Jerusalem. It included
participant observations in lessons, prayers, celebrations and public events. A long period
of observation in the main bes-midrash (study hall) led to the close acquaintanceship and
trust that are essential for conducting in-depth interviews in such an insular community.
As is accepted in ethnographic studies, personal details were altered so as to ensure the
anonymity required by a study of this kind. In our choice of pseudonyms, we attempted
to preserve certain similarities to the real names, in content as well as sound.
The Toldos Aharon Hasidic group is a faction within the Edah Ha-Haredit1 and is
regarded as one of the most extreme groups within ultra-Orthodox society. Shelhav and
Friedman (1994) have articulated the chief characteristics of Haredi society in Israel as
follows: a deep commitment to Torah study, to the traditions of Eastern European Jewry
and to a stringent and meticulous interpretation of Halakha (Jewish law). In addition,
Haredi society is characterized by a suspicious attitude toward modernism and its impact
on Jewish society, and by its reservations about or even oppositional stance toward
Zionism and the State of Israel (Friedman 1991; Shelhav and Friedman, 1994). Kaplan
(2003) argues that these theological-ideological dimensions do not sufficiently capture the
experience of ultra-Orthodoxy, because they do not take into account Sephardic ultra-
Orthodoxy, nor the experience of Haredim whose lifestyle is not scholarly. He argues
therefore that the dimensions of lifestyle and behavioral patterns should also be included
in any such characterization. Either way, the Haredi community, like many other
fundamentalist groups, is depicted in scholarly literature as a cloistered, introverted
society defending itself from the outside world, but also as a society that knows how to
employ modern means (such as technology and social arrangements) in order to combat
secularization and modern society. Processes of separation and segregation vis-a-vis
Israeli society are also evident at the level of the community’s self-concept, in the halakhic
realm (Liebman, 1982; Friedman, 1991), in the cultural realm (dress, language behaviour)
(Friedman, 1991) and at the socio-geographic level (Shelhav and Friedman, 1994).
Haredi society in Israel is composed of Lithuanian Haredim, Sephardi-Haredim and
Hasidic groups. Hasidism is a spiritual-social movement that arose in the middle of the
18th century in Eastern Europe. The movement encourages religious joyful worship,
prayer and spiritual meditation, arguing that such practices are no less important than the
methodical study of the Torah. The movement places a special emphasis on communal
life, and on the figure of the Admor, the leader of the Hasidic community, in matters both
spiritual and political. The Admor is thought to understand the role of the Hasidic ‘soul’
in the mundane world and therein resides the importance of his guidance in matters
concerning choice of profession and partner and many other issues. The Admor’s blessing
is influential and transformative, capable of turning around a problematic reality; one
could say that the Admor requests and the Holy One Blessed He fulfils (Dan, 1990). The
Admor, in other words, is a mystical ideal figure who functions as an intermediary
between the Hasid and God, a figure who provides spiritual and material assistance to the
community (Idel, 1995, 1998; Jacobson, 1998).2
The Admor’s authority is chiefly of the charismatic type. Weber (1947) describes
charismatic authority as a force that disrupts the routine frameworks and stable patterns
that characterize patriarchal and bureaucratic structures. Charisma generates new
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meanings and redefines the premises of the social order. The charismatic leader is
perceived by his followers as possessing unusual and sometimes even superhuman
characteristics and as carrying a new religious, political, social or national message and
ideal. The charismatic figure demands obedience from his community of followers and
only his success or failure determines whether this desire will be fulfilled or not.
Therefore, according to Weber, a charismatic leader is obliged to prove his mettle
continually, but this also means that social movements based on charismatic leadership
are inherently unstable. When charismatic authority becomes institutionalized, it
becomes part of a bureaucratic structure and ceases to be charismatic in nature. On the
other hand, if it does not become institutionalized, it cannot endure for very long.
Therefore, for the most part, charismatic authority undergoes routinization and
Charisma – both as a human attribute and as a force influencing religious leadership
– has been and continues to be a topic of anthropological interest with respect to a variety
of religious groups throughout the world. Lewis (1996), for example, discusses charisma
as revealed in anthropological fieldwork in diverse cultural settings, and claims that a
charismatic figure may create various religious practices, revise existing religious
narratives and even found new ones. Religious communities cope with the modern world
by employing a variety of ‘charismatic means/instruments’ such as the use of texts and
performances. Coleman (2000) describes the charismatic preacher’s modes of action as
well as various styles of religious charisma in different religious communities. Frequently,
charismatic religious leaders engage with modernism by employing digital media, which
in turn have an effect on the charismatic style of the religious leader and on his authority
(see also Csordas, 1997).
Sociological and anthropological theory has also addressed the issue of the crisis of
the charismatic leader’s death, describing the possibilities available to religious
communities that must contend with the departure of the spiritual leader. The crisis
may be resolved either by focusing on redemptive projects that make use of elements
of the leader’s heritage (Friedman, 1994) or by attempting to preserve his or her
spiritual, symbolic and even physical presence with the aid of a variety of media (Bilu,
2009; Kravel and Bilu, 2008). In the case of the Jewish ultra-Orthodox Chabad
(Lubavitch) Hasidim, the death of their leader entailed a crisis. The Lubavitchers
continued to regard their leader as a Messiah, even as he lay dying at Beth Israel
Hospital in New York (Heilman and Friedman, 2010). Kravel and Bilu (2008) argue
that after the leader’s demise, many dealt with his death by engaging in what they
called ‘work of the present’.
The figure of Rabbi Aharon Roth3 (1894–1947), the founder of the Toldos Aharon
Hasidic group, conforms to a great degree to Weber’s ideal type of charismatic authority
figure. At the same time, the fact that this group has continued to exist, develop and grow
in strength, even after Rabbi Aharon’s death, while maintaining its separatist essence,
challenges Weber’s conjectural scheme. This is because the Toldos Aharon Hasidic
group has managed to develop a form of routinization that preserves much of the group’s
original charismatic passion. The case of Toldos Aharon Hasidism presents us with the
attempt of a religious group to preserve charismatic authority by means of an unexpected
instrument – the legal contract.
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Toldos Aharon Hasidism
The Toldos Aharon Hasidic group appeared in the 1920s, as an outgrowth, to a large
degree, of Satmar Hasidism. Historically, the Satmar Hasidic sect was one the Hasidic
courts that emerged in Hungary, which were characterized by insularity and communal
separatism, a zealous and belligerent stance toward modernism and the Haskalah (Jewish
Enlightenment) movement, opposition to Zionism and to the State of Israel, and
adherence to Yiddish as a spoken language (Dubnow, 1967; Steinman, 1958). The
founder of Toldos Aharon Hasidism, Rabbi Aharon Roth4, was born in 1894 in the city
of Ungbar in Hungary. As a young man he belonged to the Satmar Hasidic court, and in
his capacity as a melamed5 (Judaica tutor) he began to gain the reputation of being a
pious Hasid who led an extraordinary life. Over the years, he was surrounded by a group
of disciples, who were called yir’ei ha-Shem (‘the God-fearing’). This group aroused a
great deal of opposition among Satmar Hasidim, who viewed with disfavour the
burgeoning of another Hasidic court within the established one. Despite his vehement
opposition to Zionism, Rabbi Aharon did not frown upon the desire of Hasidim to
immigrate to the Land of Israel and establish a Hasidic court there. In 1925, he even
visited Jerusalem himself, together with a group of his disciples.
Rabbi Aharon stayed in Jerusalem for some four years and then returned, probably on
account of poor health, to the city of Satin Mara (Satmar), then in Hungary, leaving
behind a nucleus of his ideological followers in Jerusalem. In 1936 Rabbi Aharon and his
followers moved to Czechoslovakia, where he founded a Hasidic court in the city of
Bergsaz6, naming it Hevrat Shomrei Emunim (The Society of the Keepers of the Faith)
after his book Shomer Emunim. The reason for this move is not clear; some sources claim
that it was due to the rise of anti-Semitism in Hungary (Steinman, 1958, while others
argue that the real reason was a conflict between the charismatic Rabbi Aharon, and his
followers, and the local satmar Hasidim (Blum, 1989; Zalcberg, 2005). In 1942, before
Nazi Germany invaded Hungary, Rabbi Aharon fled with his family to Palestine.7 Upon
returning to Palestine, and in the shadow of tremendous anxiety about the fate of his
loved ones, his community of followers in Hungary, and the Jewish people as a whole,
Rabbi Aharon condensed his teachings in Jerusalem into a book called Sefer Takkanot
ve-Hadrachot (The Book of Regulations and Guidance). During the following years he
earned renown as a saintly person and mystic who followed a regime of ascetic practices
and fasts, while spending his days writing and praying for long hours.8 In 1947 Rabbi
Aharon passed away in Jerusalem. At his death the Hasidic sect comprised only 150
Hasidim (Blum, 1989; Guzmen-Carmeli, 2008; Steinman, 1958; Zalcberg, 2005).9
After the passing of Rabbi Aharon, the Shomrei Emunim group split into two. Some
of the disciples elected the Rabbi’s son, Rabbi Abraham Haim Roth, as the Admor, and
others chose to follow his son-in-law, Rabbi Abraham Yitzhak Kahan, who became the
Admor of the Hasidic sect known by its new name ‘Toldos Aharon’ (Descendants of
Aharon). Rabbi Abraham Yitzhak renewed and strengthened ties with Satmar Hasidism,
a relationship that turned into a longstanding alliance between the smaller sect and the
large and influential Satmar group. During the lifetime of Rabbi Abraham Yitzhak, the
institutions of the Hasidic group were established, and the group itself increased
numerically, so that today it comprises more than 300 families.10 Towards the end of
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Rabbi Abraham Yitzhak’s life (he died in 1996), the Hasidic sect split again. Most
members of the community and most of the leadership of its institutions support the
Admor’s second son, Rabbi David Kahan, who until then had served as the rabbi of
‘Toldos Aharon’ in the town of Monsey, New York; part of the community, on the other
hand, preferred his eldest son, Rabbi Shmuel Yaakov Kahan, as heir (Zalcberg, 2005).
During the years he held the office of Admor, Rabbi Abraham Yitzhak made use of
Rabbi Aharon’s figure as an ideal. Most of his efforts focused on educating the Hasidim
using the writings of Rabbi Aharon, which were accorded the status of a ‘received text’
(Boyarin, 1989), that is, a familiar text that is in common and frequent use among the
members of a culture, serving as the Hasidic group’s basic religious text, which is studied,
revisited and cited. The writings of Rabbi Aharon are described as holding a special
religious significance among this Hasidic group, whose character is shaped by the
guidance and teachings they contain. The main emphases in Rabbi Aharon’s teachings,
transmitted to his followers in his sermons and writings, are on topics that were to
become central in the day-to-day life of his community. These topics are: preservation of
the unity of the Hasidic group; the struggle to rein in the passions; reining in the appetite
for food; female modesty; protecting the eyes from prohibited and immodest sights; and
the ‘flaw of the covenant’ (the prohibition on masturbation). Rabbi Aharon’s writings
deal with the concepts of holiness, reward and retribution, mysticism, tikkunim (spiritual
repair or rectification) and reincarnation. Rabbi Aharon’s insistence on a life of religious
piousness was exemplified in Rabbi Aharon’s life, which became an ideal to be emulated.
The stories about him recounted within the Hasidic group emphasize that the Rabbi was
not an ordinary child, but a person with a unique personality and exceptional charisma
– this charisma was preserved in his writings for Hasidim of the following generations.
The writings of Rabbi Aharon are in fact his spiritual bequest. His books, which were
written in the present tense, are addressed to the simple Hasid and are characterized by
tremendous passion. It appears that Rabbi Aharon was successful in preserving something
of his spiritual charismatic passion in the writings that he left behind, and the Hasidic
sect, to a great extent, continues to live by the regulations he outlined in his spiritual
The regulations of the Toldos Aharon group
Rabbi Aharon did not limit himself to writing theological treatises addressed to his
community of followers and potential believers, but (unlike the leaders of other Haredi
groups) also left behind a codex of regulations, a rigorous and detailed contract
formulated as a concretization of the spiritual values he preached. According to our
Hasidic sources, early versions of this treatise were circulated among the community
as early as the 1940s.11 The regulations are signed by the members of the Hasidic group
every year on the 19th of Kislev (the 11th month of the Jewish calendar, usually
November/December), the anniversary of the death of Rabbi Dov Ber of Mazeritch,
one of the outstanding leaders of the Hasidic movement. On this annual occasion, the
current Admor (David Kahan, the son of Rabbi Abraham Yitzhak, the former Admor)
invited the Hasidim to a meeting, after which married Hasidim come forth to sign the
contract (the Hasid’s signature is also binding on his wife and children) and make a
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commitment to continue to act according to its regulations for another full year. The
list of signatories and their families is prominently displayed at the entrance to the bes-
midrash for the entire year.
During the signing ceremony, the Hasidim express their commitment to the letter of
the regulations – beginning with the Hasid’s manner of eating and ending with the
recommended walking pace within the streets of the city. In addition, the Hasidim
commit themselves to studying The Book of Regulations and Guidance every day. The
contract signed by the Hasidim is in essence a contractual summary of The Book of
Regulations and Guidance, which codifies Rabbi Aharon’s theological system into rules
of practical conduct. The contract is divided into six parts: 1. Conduct in the bes-
midrash and society – a detailing of prayer customs, norms of behaviour in the bes-
midrash, community taxes, how to treat visitors to the bes-midrash, the sanctions against
Hasidim who violate the regulations, and guidelines for conducting kibbutzim – regular
gatherings of the community of Hasidim. 2. Regulations for the prayer leader – the
obligations on those who would be considered worthy to serve as prayer leaders:
appearance, voice, dress, style of prayer. 3. Love of friends – regulations that translate
Rabbi Aharon’s desire for a ‘family-like community’ (hasidut mishpachtit), including
rules on resolving an argument among friends, lending, asking a favour of a community
member, participating in joyful occasions and helping to educate the children of other
community members. 4. ‘True kindness’ (hesed shel emet – funerary rites and rules of
mourning, study for the elevation of the soul of the deceased. 5. Members’ regulations
– the obligation to immerse oneself in the ritual bath (mikve), participation in public/
communal events on Friday night and the afternoon of the Sabbath (seuda shlishit) and
the obligation not to sleep during these activities, the obligation to study the writings of
Rabbi Aharon, the obligations to marry within the community, live in Jerusalem and only
leave the city for brief periods and with authorization, and obedience to the community
tribunal. 6. Hedges of Holiness – specifications as to the special dress for holidays and
secular days, regulations concerning modesty when immersing oneself in the mikve, and
regulations relating to the raising of Hasidic boys and girls.
‘Community regulations’ is a term known from Jewish Halakhic literature that
describes regulations formulated by Jewish communities in the Diaspora.12 But
historically, these regulations dealt chiefly with issues of local administration, while
religious-spiritual regulations and personal regulations remained within the province of
the Halakha and its interpreters, the Talmudic scholars (Soloveitchik, 1990; Szipanski,
1991). In The Book of Regulations and Guidelines that he composed, Rabbi Aharon
created a new and inclusive community model for his followers. This model was meant
to survive a great many tests, among which were the test of time, and the test of the death
of their author. This latter test is described by Weber as the ultimate test to be passed by
a community founded by a charismatic leader, which after the founder’s death undergoes
institutionalization, routinization and even the risk of dissolution (Weber, 1947). The
regulations outline the character and boundaries of the Hasidic community, and demand
a repeated commitment, renewed every year, while recognizing that this commitment is
not to a standard model of religious conduct, but to that of an elitist cadre. In Rabbi
Aharon’s last testament, upholding the ‘invented tradition’ (Hobsbawm and Ranger,
1983) becomes an important principle of the Hasid’s worship of God:
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And it is essential that these two things which are bound together – the will and the letters – be
bound together before your eyes, for they are both [the testament] of the fortification [of spirit]
that was spoken in particulars to our holy community …, so may you be strengthened and
encouraged, my sons, that even if you encounter fire and water and all kinds of trials, your sight
will not falter, God forbid, and your souls will ever be dedicated to the worship of the Blessed
Thus, at the beginning of the passage, Rabbi Aharon attempts to fix the status of the text
in the minds of his followers as a constitutive writ. He goes on to explain in detail the
nature of the holy community that is formed through the actualization of the regulations,
which are presented as a central resource for coping with challenges to the group’s
integrity. The new tradition that he formulates creates a new communal structure. Thus,
in facing a world of sin, the Hasidim who rigorously observe the regulations sustain ‘a
small point of truth’.
Rabbi Aharon’s regulations deal with all areas of life, including the question of the
precise geographic location of the Hasid’s living quarters. According to the regulations,
the Hasidim are required to live near the Admor and the rest of the community. The
principle of joint living, the marriage regulations that mandate endogamous marriage
within the Hasidic group or to ‘recruited’ brides, and the economic configuration that
will be described below, blur the boundaries between the family and communal spheres.
The Toldos Aharon Hasidim, who describe their group as an oasis in an ocean of hostile,
heretical reality, view the existence of the enclave as a kind of redemption. It is only
through this extended family and its constant improvement, that, as Rabbi Aharon
believed, the redemption of the Jewish people may occur. Moreover, only by serving a
community that behaves as an extended family can the Hasid be rewarded by ‘redemption
of the soul’ – improvement of his own soul and the fulfillment of his calling. In writing
his books (Shomer Emunim [Keeper of the Faith] and Taharat Hakedushah [The Purity
of Sanctity]) and the collection of regulations as well as many other pamphlets, Rabbi
Aharon outlined the boundaries of the new community and provided a spiritual
justification for its particular modes of living.
In the context of this consolidated community, age groups serve as another mechanism
through which communal solidarity is achieved. The division into age groups is visible
in the course of the traditional Tisch ceremony.14 The Admor, his sons and older followers,
sit near the inner, central table, also known as the elders’ table, while the younger men
stand in the gallery, as spectators. Even within the gallery there is a division into children,
yeshiva students (bahurim) and avreikhim (young newly married men). The division into
age groups may also be observed in the seating arrangement in the synagogue during
prayers, when the older men are closer to the East. As part of the Hasidic group’s system
of support and supervision, each age group – the new grooms, the 20–30-year-old
married men, the older Hasidim and so on – meets regularly in the bes-midrash for
weekly sessions that are named kibbutzim. These meetings reinforce the tightly
constructed social structure, and develop the level of commitment among the community
members. This division into age groups brings into sharp relief some of the ideas put
forth in Rabbi Aharon’s writings: ‘Every one of our community will be unto his fellow
person as if they were actual brothers’ (Roth, 1958: 81). In his writings, he stressed the
practical and spiritual importance of creating a holy community that makes strenuous
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inward-looking efforts to maintain fellowship and mutual care, to create a communal
reality that can survive the conditions of destruction prevailing without:
And if there is among them a fellow in trouble, they must all participate in his sorrow … and
pray for him. And also, in every matter of his prayers and his needs – these he will share with
his fellows. And my teacher of blessed memory, he greatly admonished [them] concerning this
[obligation:] to love the fellows of our community under any circumstance, and to take note
that each of the fellows is like an actual limb of one’s body. (Roth, 1958: 39–41)
In his writings, Rabbi Aharon Roth repeats the terms: ‘the fellows’, ‘our society/
community’ and ‘the holy community’ to describe the community. It is surprising to
discover how these spiritual notions are evoked in Rabbi Aharon’s writings in connection
with modern terminology such as: ‘subscription in the membership ledger’, which is a
terminology we would associate with modernism and even with the Zionist institutions,
which they so fiercely opposed. The idea of ‘kibbutzim embraces both practical and
spiritual meanings:
Love of one’s fellows is beneficial for the preparation of the soul to mend its flaws, through
their joined labor in repairing their souls when they are in (a condition) of love … Therefore the
purpose of the love of one’s fellows and their conjoining and mutual attachments is for the
merits of each to join and bind together, each as one, and by this their souls become attached,
drawing great bounty from the Holy Presence, to sweeten their sentence/judgment. And each
person thus benefits from the merits of his fellow, causing their souls to be purified through a
great tikkun, that even if he were to have lived for a thousand years, he would not have had – as
a sole worshiper – the fortitude to mend himself so greatly. (Roth, 2000 [1950]: 31–32)
The system of reciprocal social control or supervision by which the Hasidim live is
defined by Rabbi Aharon as an instrument designed to repair their souls, an operation
that can be accomplished only through the framework of the kibbutzim. The declared
purpose of the kibbutzim is to conduct discussions about the worship of God, but their
role as a mechanism of social control is clear. As Abraham, a 28-year-old Hasid, father
of four, describes the meetings:
First of all we meet and talk. That is already a good thing; we see how everyone is doing …
outside, even … a Haredi … can walk the wrong path; we have heard such stories – Heaven
forfend. Here I have not heard of such a thing, of someone leaving or going out, because if there
is a problem, we know how to support, to help, to fortify; alternatively, you are told what it is
you must repair.
The meetings with the members of the community and especially with the Hasid’s age
cohort create a highly effective vehicle for the communication of information, for the
maintenance of the group, and of course, for social control. In a society in which no one
is allowed to listen to the radio or to watch television, the meetings with one’s peers are
an important way of obtaining news and information and therefore of preserving the
community. The Hasidim are obligated to reprimand one another about behaviour that is
unseemly or does not conform to general norms or to Rabbi Aharon’s regulations. A
comment from a member of one’s own age cohort, which is considered a friendly
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comment, is followed by gossip or a comment from the community’s gabbaim (sextons),
or even from the rabbi. Apart from functioning as a mechanism of social control, the
meetings create an opportunity for social interaction and even for social sustenance; they
constitute a sort of support group, which helps individuals to deal with the difficulties of
everyday life, as described by Abraham:
I am glad to have the kibbutzim. It is fortifying and it creates a sense of togetherness. Hasidism
creates a sense of family, and in these meetings [there] are a great many people with whom I
grew up and studied; and now we meet. … they are, after all, really my brothers. It is a sense of
family or connection that [one finds] only in Hasidism.
The sectarian world view that is illustrated in these excerpts is translated into demands
relating to day-to-day existence. One of the issues that is meticulously spelled out in
Rabbi Aharon’s regulations concerns the dress of the Hasidim and of their wives, which
he decrees should be distinct from the familiar Haredi dress. The mandated dress is a
hybrid of traditional Sephardi Jerusalemite garb, influenced by Arab dress, the dress of
the Old Yishuv people in Jerusalem and that of Eastern European Hasidim, with the
addition of a number of distinctive dress items.
The collection of regulations sets out the guidelines for daily sectarian conduct,
including the economic aspects of life. Within this Hasidic group, there is a propensity
for collective economic activity. Thus, for example, the Toldos Aharon Hasidim benefit
from the social mechanisms that institutionalize communal aid to provide for a variety of
needs, whether the modest needs of daily groceries, or substantial assistance to purchase
an apartment.
A clear impression emerges from conversations with the Hasidim that work is not
oriented merely towards advancement, development and the accumulation of private
capital, but also to the survival of the community. A Hasid with financial resources at his
disposal is expected to contribute more, whereas someone who meets with misfortune
will receive assistance. The emphasis is on the sustaining of a communal economic
system, which includes a variety of ‘jobs’ such as the parnas (provider) of the day, the
week or the month.15 The parnas receives a special blessing and the honorific ‘rabbi’. The
role of the parnas exemplifies the way in which social status accords with the level of
charity (zedakah) distributed by wealthy people. A person who shares his wealth and
assets with others receives recognition, honour and a blessing from the Admor. This is not
to say that the Hasidic group views the private accumulation of wealth unfavourably, but
it is clear to Hasidim that wealthy people will be obligated to help the entire community
considerably. As in Nash’s analysis (1961), it is not economic survival that drives the
equalizing mechanism, but rather social survival – or in this case religious survival.
The regulations of the Toldos Aharon Hasidim as a
social contract
Haredi society views itself as an unchanging, traditional society, which lives according
to ancestral custom. But the common understanding among researchers is that Orthodoxy
is a modern phenomenon – a reaction of central European Jewry, and later of Eastern
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European Jewry, to the winds of modernism: first and foremost secularization, the Jewish
Enlightenment (Haskalah) and the Reformation. As such, Orthodoxy is indeed a modern
phenomenon, rooted in the end of the 18th century. (In spite of its pretences, it is not a
direct and immanent continuation of traditional Jewish society (Katz, 1992; Samet,
2005; Silber, 1992).) Every society, Katz (1984) argues, even a traditional one, undergoes
changes. The changes are justified either by the pretext that they are part of the tradition
that the members of the society have been perpetuating for generations, or by the claim
that the current tradition is the true one, and the former practices were based on a
misinterpretation (Katz, 1984: 29–30). While modern societies valorise change, and
justify it as the unfolding of rationality, in traditional society one finds a tension between
the stable text and the dynamic context (Rubin, 2011: 104). Traditional society, therefore,
presents changes as part of the tradition. Despite the appearance of keeping tradition as
part of the process of its reinvention, and despite the conservative and restrictive modes
of social behaviour of Haredi society, it still contains, according to Rabbi Aharon, a
certain amount of room for manoeuvre. The halakhic texts remained open to interpretation
and therefore permitted the existence of different Jewish communities (even if they were
Orthodox communities). Or, as Reuben, a member of Toldos Aharon, put it:
Why, you know how many commentators there are, and that there are lots of customs, and
unfortunately there is also a great deal of disputation in regard to Halakhah, even within the
Haredi community; we need a contract so that there won’t be ‘cleverness’ [hokhmot] – when
everyone takes … does what is best for him, when decisions are not made together, there is no
unity; it’s many things … the wisdom is not my own [personal wisdom]. I am committed to the
Rabbi’s regulations, to his wisdom.
In the act of writing the regulations and the constitution of the ritual in which the social
contract is signed annually, Rabbi Aharon has sought to ‘prevent cleverness’.
As part of the Haredi trend of ‘inventing tradition’ (Hobsbawm and Ranger, 1983)
Rabbi Aharon sought to institutionalize and brand his community as a separate community
by means of a contract that was so comprehensive that it constituted a ‘collective
consciousness’ (Durkheim, 1965). In order to understand how elements of collective
consciousness operate in everyday situations, Eliasoph and Lichterman (2003) propose
the term ‘group style’. According to their argument, we can identify within each group a
unique style, which infiltrates consciousness and influences collective representations.
The group style is affected by three dimensions: the group boundaries – a hypothesis
concerning the group’s relations with the external world in the group context; group
bonds – the nature of the obligations of each of the group members; and speech norms
– the discourse that is considered proper for the group context. These dimensions, so they
claim, are created only in the framework of a prolonged process of dialogue among
group members. In the case of the Toldos Aharon Hasidism this process is converted
through a public commitment into a new text, a holy social contract. The regulations of
Rabbi Aharon inscribe the boundaries of holiness through practices that create separations
and distinctions by means of a dress code, marriage of recruited brides and communal
living; social obligations are created through the relations of exchange with the ‘holy
community’. The Hasidim are obligated to each other and supervise each other
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economically through the elaborate system of charity, and personally by means of the
kibbutzim. The norms of discourse are constituted by means of a relationship of exchange
with the constitutive text – Rabbi Aharon’s writings. The act of signing the regulations is
a culture generator (Goody, 1986, 1987), which contributes to the reinvention of this
Hasidic community every year in an act that combines spiritual practices with the signing
of a binding legal contract. The dialogue that took place between Reuben and Yaakov,
two predominant figures within the Hasidic group, clarifies this point:
Reuben: When I signed the regulations for the first time I was not emotional; I just did what
everyone else was doing. Many years later I thought that the signing was like the event of [the
Torah giving] at Mount Sinai – it was a case of ‘Let us do and then hear’ [na’ase ve-nishma].
Interviewer: But there was no contract at the convocation at Mount Sinai, the way one signs a
contract with a lawyer, nor was there a signing every year.
Reuben: That is precisely your error. Every year, there is a convocation at Mount Sinai. If you
come on Shavuoth [Pentecost]16, you will see exactly what the giving of the Torah is like! This
is not a memory – every year you renew the obligation to take on the yoke of the Torah and
Interviewer: And the regulations?
Reuben: It is precisely the same thing: you accept being [a member] of Toldos.
Interviewer: And why does one have to be in Toldos, in particular? If I am an observant person,
and live rigorously by the Shulhan Arukh17, is that not enough?
Yaakov (intervening): Shulhan Arukh is no longer enough. That is the plain level. But in today’s
world, there is impurity: we are living in an actual world of impurity. There is a great spiritual
devastation and the regulations are a protective hedge. Otherwise, we would have no possibility
of existence.
Interviewer: What do you mean?
Yaakov: I mean that you take it upon yourself to be a pioneer, not a false pioneer18, [but] to go
forward before the camp – that is a form of rescue [for others]. There needs to be someone to
look to; so [people] look at the Hasidim and say, ‘This is how it should be. This is holiness’
Halakha is no longer enough.
It is surprising, within Toldos Aharon of all places, to encounter such a critical statement,
which illustrates how halakhic texts are understood after the contract of the takkanot
(regulations) is established. But this statement also illustrates the line that separates this
particular Hasidic community from the remainder of the Hasidic world. With foresight
and social acuity, Rabbi Aharon succeeded in infusing content into the separatist cultural
framework that he had created by means of a text that could be embraced and owned as
a form of instruction particular to the group – the teachings of a small, select and elite
community, which can be conceptualized and controlled. In the face of a changing
tradition in which ‘Halakhah is no longer sufficient’, Rabbi Aharon designed a ‘textual
community’ (Stock, 1983; Rappaport, 1998), a dynamic community founded on a text,
which attempts to sustain itself in the face of challenges and temptations. The community
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gains an anchor in the shape a formal obligation that is repeated yearly at the signing of
the standard contractual text – a stable and unchanging textual element. This is a writ of
obligation, which is not open to any kind of interpretation – a bill of obligations, which
in many ways is opposed to the legacy of the Halakhah: the process of interpretation,
exegesis and eisegesis familiar to traditional Judaism.
The social contract of the Toldos Aharon Hasidim preserves the charismatic passion
that was supposed to have disappeared after the death of the charismatic Admor. Although
a degree of institutionalization and routinization (Weber, 1947) did occur, the group
retained its character primarily as a community bound together by a sectarian commitment
and passion. The act of signing is an act that is borrowed from the realm of legal authority
and rationalization, which is based on documentation and the bureaucratization of social
relationships (Handelman, 2004). Bureaucratization provides legal rationality and
legitimacy to a model of personal choice (Weber, 1947), which is adopted instead of the
traditional model.
The use of a contract of regulations institutes an instrument ‘of and for’ cultural
performance. The significance attributed to the regulations as a religious text ascribes
sanctity to this action, well as legitimation and a sense of authenticity, which anchor it
within the context of a complex symbolic matrix that is familiar to the Hasidim.19 Within
the matrix of halakhic Judaism (restrictive as it might be), there is room for manoeuvre.
The detailed contract of the Toldos Aharon Hasidim produces a system of enforcement
that includes rewards and punishments, but which is not open to interpretation, in contrast
to other halakhic texts. The contract is signed by every individual by means of a
performative act (Schechner, 2003: 1–7) that creates categories and values that bind the
individual to the community, an act that circumscribes that cultural enclave (Sivan,
1995). The commitment to the regulations creates concentric ‘circles’ of protection:
sharing, mutual aid, belief and social control; these circles rein in the individual and are
what make any attempt to exit from the group so difficult and rare.
Rabbi Aharon was aware of the social importance of the regulations and of the
importance of presenting them as a continuation of tradition: ‘The most essential of all
are the regulations of the society, as has been the custom in the times of our forefathers
of yore, when every holy society and every holy community had its own regulations’
(Roth, 2000 [1950]: 81). But he was also aware of the great innovation they contained:
My brethren and fellows, my loved and endeared ones, [you] who from the day on which we
have joined ourselves together, through God’s will have sacrificed yourselves for me, and
therefore we shall all make a covenant, thereby making a new covenant with our God. (Roth,
2000 [1950]: 12–13)
The regulations and the act of signing are therefore a conscious creation (by Rabbi
Aharon and his followers, who enact it) of a new tradition of holiness. His is an invented
and modern practice attempting to create and maintain a community that presents itself
as opposed to modernism, but which nevertheless abandons traditional texts and
By the signing and subsequent carrying-out of the regulations, social facts with social
validity come into permanent being. In this sense the regulations are both an anchor and
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a commemoration. They function as a permanently present element reminding the
community of its boundaries and preventing social vacillation, because everyone is
bound by the contract. Charismatic authority is transmuted and institutionalized as
textual authority, of a new kind, admittedly, but one that is also given permanent shape
by and embedded in a broader cultural context.20 The ceremony of the signing is a
repetitive cultural act, a ritual of cultural performance that engages and activates the
Hasidim, in a manner that both defines the community and ties the individual to the
community through a relationship to a constitutive text that creates networks of
communication, social control, cosmology and social boundaries (Goody, 1986;
Alexander, 2004; Engelke, 2004).
With the dispersal of Jewish communities throughout the ancient world, during the first
centuries AD, literacy and the study of the Torah became dominant values which served to
unite the Jewish people. The relationship of the individual to the religious text went beyond
the intellectual dimension and became an element that shaped the cultural and spiritual life
of members of Jewish cultures (Dagan, 2005; Funkenstein and Steinsaltz, 1987; Scholem,
1989; Steiner, 1996; Boyarin, 1991). According to Funkenstein (2001), the very term
‘knowledge’ was perceived by traditional Judaism as equivalent to the text and as connoting
the interpretation of the texts. The rabbinic scholar (talmid hakham), who had the ability to
interpret the text, became a model character in Jewish tradition, a figure of community
leadership. The Hasidic movement replaced the model of the talmid hakham with the
model of the tzaddik (righteous person) as the leader of the community and replaced the
value of Torah study with faith and joyous religious worship (Katz, 1993).
Rabbi Aharon, in the manner of the early Hasidic leaders of prior generations, also
composed a series of foundational theological texts. But in his teachings, Rabbi Aharon,
unlike other Admorim, went one step beyond the tradition of Jewish homiletic eisegises
in that his teachings have not remained as a text that requires study and interpretation, but
rather are elaborated into minute details and translated into a series of regulations and
instructions that produce a combination of holy text, utopian social vision and modern
legal contract. Confronting the challenges of the times, Rabbi Aharon described the
process of redemption in the modern era as the painful destruction of the world that was
familiar to the believing Jew, and subsequent redemption. This redemption is attained
through the mediation of a separate and elect group of Hasidim, who maintain a
community of light – called the Holy Community – against a world of darkness. The
regulations by which this elect community lives define who is considered pious (a Hasid)
and who is included within the Holy Community, and emphasize the strengthening of
bonds of mutual responsibility among its members. The regulations also provide
instruction in all areas of life: a uniform styles of dress that distinguishes the Hasidim
from the rest of the Haredi world, uniform prayer regulations and liturgical customs,
prescription of residential quarters near the Yeshiva, stringent standards of modesty,
education of the younger generation, marriage arrangements and more.21 The regulation
of this lifestyle involves a modern contractual act that does not exist in this formation in
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any other Hasidic court (or in the rest of the Jewish ultra-Orthodox world), by which the
head of the family is obligated year by year.
Ostensibly, there is nothing innovative about the regulations. All Orthodox groups,
and certainly ultra-Orthodox groups, are committed to the foundational book of rules,
the Shulhan Arukh, along with the additions of its commentators and updaters. However,
the regulations of Rabbi Aharon are not similar to the prohibitions of the Shulhan Arukh,
and as we have seen, Rabbi Aharon was aware of how innovative they were. The
regulations constitute a text requiring that a precise up-to-date legal procedure be
carried out in the context of a chaotic halakhic reality. Rabbi Aharon’s text seeks a new
kind of social contract, a new kind of unambiguous division of labour, which is not open
to interpretation. At stake is a new division of religious labour (Durkheim, 1997 [1893])
in a modern age of apocalypse, which results in a kind of institutionalization that can
overcome the crisis of the death of charismatic authority (Weber, 1947).22 Instead of
(replacing) charismatic authority, rational-contractual modern authority arises by means
of a public commitment to a new text, a binding social contract that establishes a ‘group
style’ (Eliasoph and Lichterman, 2003). The contract is signed by each individual
through a performative act (Schechner, 2003: 1–7), which creates categories and values
that tie the individual to the community; in an act that simultaneously re-inscribes the
social enclave (Sivan, 1995). The act of signing the regulations is a ‘culture generator’
(Goody, 1986, 1987), which contributes to the annual reinvention of the Hasidic
community through an act that combines spiritual practice with the signing of a binding
contract. The act of signing is a repeated cultural enactment; a ritual of ‘cultural
performance’ that integrates modern characteristics. With the signing of the contract,
the moral vision of Rabbi Aharon is translated into a performance that combines
personal choice (that of the Hasid who signs it) with documentation, bureaucratization
and legal legitimacy; a new model is adopted in preference to the traditional model
(Weber, 1947) that normally characterizes the Hasidic world.
The annual signing of the contract both activates and engages the Hasidim, in a
manner that defines the community and ties the individual to the community through its
relationship to a foundational text that creates networks of communication, social control,
cosmology and social boundaries.
The cultural performance of the Toldos Aharon Hasidim is embedded within a
modern Israeli context, and it is capable of illuminating the relationship between
modernism and religious fundamentalism from a new angle. Social scientists have
articulated different ways for treating religious fundamentalism as part of modernism:
as a reaction to modernism, as a phenomenon that helps to construct modernism, by
seeing the present era as ripe for innovation and religious ferment, as a phenomenon
that has essentially modern elements, and as one that borrows modern means such as
technology from modernism and uses them to its own ends. Through the case of the
Toldos Aharon Hasidism we have attempted to show how religious fundamentalism is
tied to modernism also in the way in which salient modern ideas infiltrate fundamentalist
culture. In this case, the society of Toldos Aharon is actually constituted via contractual-
rational authority. This authority traps the charismatic authority of the founder of
Hasidism, who died long ago, and preserves it for the generations to come.
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Guzmen-Carmeli and Sharabi: The social contract of the Toldos Aharon Hasidic group 305
We would like to thank Samuel Cooper and Nissim Leon for their guidance and help during this
long ethnographic journey and Nissan Rubin, Haim Hazan, Tova Gamliel, Ilana Friedrich Silber
and Adam Ferziger for reviewing earlier versions of this article.
This research was supported by the President Fellowship, Bar-Ilan University.
1. The Edah HaHaredit is a coalition of groups, some of which are Hasidic, that constitute the
extremist streams of ultra-Orthodox society. The extremism of this sector is manifest in both
its attitude to modernism and its hostile relationship to the State of Israel.
2. The role of Admor is inherited, but there are no special rules governing inheritance. Usually
a son or son-in-law who gains the most respect and influence among the Hasidim will be
chosen for the office.
3. Also known as Rasha Or Ratte, in various sources.
4. Henceforth, Rabbi Aharon.
5. A melamed is a term for a teacher in the heder, a traditional Jewish school for boys aged 3–13.
6. Also known as Barhova – it passed into Hungarian hands in 1938 and today is part of Ukraine.
7. Many were members of his family and of that of his son-in-law Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak.
8. Rabbi Aharon’s dire health, and his lifelong fasting practices are perceived by his followers as
sufferings that carry theological benefits for their sakes and for the sake of the entire Jewish
9. Because of the paucity of writing about the early years of the Toldos Aharon Hasidism, and
about Rabbi Aharon himself, most of the information dealing with Rabbi Aharon’s biography
derives from conversations with Hasidim and from hagiographical literature popular among
this group (see Blum, 1989; Hershel, 1998). Despite historical inaccuracies that might arise
from such a description, the narrative accepted by the Hasidic community has tremendous
importance. To borrow from Clifford Geertz (1973), this is a story the Hasidim tell themselves
about themselves.
10. In this Hasidic group, families have an average of about 11 children (Guzmen-Carmeli, 2008:
11. The earliest extant copy of the regulations was printed by a private press in Jerusalem in 1950.
12. The terminology ‘the community regulations’ appears in a variety of sources, the earliest of
which is the Tosefta of Tractate Baba Metzia, 11, 23 (ca. 3rd century AD). These regulations
are not part of the system of traditional halakhic writing and regulation. Every community
has the autonomy to formulate regulations as it wishes, as long as these regulations do not
violate Jewish Law. The historical authority of the regulations is pertinent to a limited set of
administrative matters, such as the hiring of a rabbi, the appointment of gabbaim (sextons),
the construction of a synagogue, property rental and accounting (for a legal account of the
limits of authority of the takkanot regulations in the Jewish tradition, see the Sefer takanot
ha-kehilot, 1930).
13. From the last will and testament of Rabbi Aharon Roth (1958: 80).
14. In Yiddish, ‘tisch’ means table. On Friday night, after the Sabbath meal, the Hasidim arrive at
the Admor’s Sabbath dinner table, which is set up in the centre of the bes-midrash, surrounded
by tables and packed galleries of spectators. The tisch is a ritual performance that comprises
the symbolic consumption of food, chanting, prayers and Torah sermons (for a detailed
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306 Social Compass 61(3)
discussion of the tisch, see Guzmen-Carmeli, 2008: 90–94).
15. A person of wealth (even of minor wealth) is required to contribute an earmarked sum for the
ongoing upkeep of the communal institutions for a day, a week or more (Guzmen-Carmeli,
2008: 53).
16. Shavuoth is a Jewish holiday, celebrating the giving of the Torah to the people of Israel at
Mount Sinai.
17. The basic codex of Jewish Law, dating from the 16th century, upon which Jewish legal
(halakhic) decisions rely.
18. The term ‘a false pioneer’ reflects Yaakov’s critical view of the concept of the pioneer (halutz)
that is central to Israeli Zionist discourse.
19. For the relationship between text, context and cultural performance, see also Engelke, 2004;
Keane, 1997.
20. For the relationship between text, context and cultural performance, see Engelke, 2004.
21. An analysis of the Hasidic sect’s regulations calls for a comparative study between these
Hasidim and other religious groups, such as the monastic orders familiar to us from Roman
Catholicism. (For a comparison between different monastic orders regarding their varying levels
of asceticism, see for example, Silber, 1995). Despite the similarities connected to separatist
theology and the war against this world’s temptations and passions, the Hasidim offer a different
theological solution that is based on the desire to rectify the material world. Thus, while Catholic
monastic orders seek to sever themselves from the material world, Hasidim seek to live in our
world under their terms, with the help of signing a contract that creates a holy community.
Another possible comparison is between the Hasidut and various Protestant groups. Thus, for
example, the communal Hasidic world shares clear conceptual similarities with religious groups
such as the old Amish order in the United States, which views the communal framework as an
instrument for achieving redemption (see, for example, Kephart, 1982).
22. After the death of the second Admor, Rabbi Abraham Yitzhak Kahan, in 1996, the Hasidic
group split for a second time. The two splinter groups that broke from Toldos Aharon –
Shomrei Emunim and Toldos Abraham Yitzhak – insist neither on the signing of the regulations
nor even on adherence to a great many of the regulations. It has been interesting to see that
after a period of adjustment following each split, the remaining Hasidim used the traumatic
event to validate their life realities; the Hasidim who broke off are described as weak and as
incapable of living up to the stringent standards of the regulations of the holy society. Thus,
even the abdicators, who at first posed a challenge to the Hasidim, were recruited to reinforce
the boundaries of the Hasidic enclave (Guzmen-Carmeli, 2008: 104–110).
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Shlomo GUZMEN-CARMELI (Doctoral candidate) is a research assistant and a teaching instructor
in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Bar-Ilan University. His research interests
are: anthropology and sociology of Judaism, ultra-Orthodox Judaism (Haredim), sects and isolated
communities, literacy and Jewish textuality. Relevant publications: (2013) With God’s help, the
Holy Land will tremble: Street demonstrations by the Ultra-Orthodox as cultural performance.
Democratic Culture 15: 31–59; (with Sharabi, Asaf) (2013) The Teshuva bargain: Healing ritual
performances at Rabbi Amnon Yitzchak’s rallies. Journal of Ritual Studies 27(2): 97–110; (with
Rubin, Nisan) (forthcoming) ‘Tikkun’ (divine repair) and healing in a Kabbalah Yeshiva: Using
sacred texts as instrumental devices. Contemporary Jewry.
Address: Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Ramat-Gan 52900, Bar-Ilan University,
Asaf SHARABI’s PhD dissertation (2010) deals with the way in which religion is manifested and
experienced in the modern era. He examines this issue through the case of ‘the return to the faith
movement’ in Israel. Relevant publications: (2012) ‘Teshuvah baskets’ in the Israeli Teshuvah
market. Culture and Religion 13(3): 273–293. (2013) ‘Boundary work’ in a religious revival
movement: The case of the ‘Teshuvah Movement’ in Israel. Ethnography 14(2): 233–254.
Address: Department of Behavioral Sciences, Rehovot 76120, Peres Academic Center, Israel
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Full-text available
In this article I explore use patterns and perceptions of cellphone and smartphone use among Old Order Amish and Ultra-Orthodox Jewish women with participant observations, interviews, and a survey. My findings show that although they differ in their cellphone use (the Amish mostly do not use them and the Ultra-Orthodox only use those deemed to be “kosher”), they concur in their nonuse of smartphones – they see the smartphone as impure. Both view smartphones as undermining social relations and community by distracting users away from friends and family.
This book is a comparative macrosociological study of the interaction between religious virtuosi and society in two civilizations: traditional Theravada Buddhism and Medieval Catholicism. Merging Weberian sociology with the Maussian tradition of gift-analysis, and criticizing the neglect of meaning in current comparative historical sociology, the author also argues the need for a multidimensional approach capable of addressing the part played by religious orientations in shaping the institutional strength and ideological power of religious elites in the historical framework of the Great Traditions.
Fundamentalism, Sectarianism, and Revolution is a major comparative analysis of fundamentalist movements in cultural and political context, with an emphasis on the contemporary scene. Leading sociologist S. N. Eisenstadt examines the meaning of the global rise of fundamentalism as one very forceful contemporary response to tensions in modernity and the dynamics of civilization. He compares modern fundamentalist movements with the proto-fundamentalist movements which arose in the 'axial civilizations' in pre-modern times; he shows how the great revolutions in Europe which arose in connection with these movements shaped the political and cultural programmes of modernity; and he contrasts post-Second World War Moslem, Jewish and Protestant fundamentalist movements with communal national movements, notably in Asia. The central theme of the book is the distinctively Jacobin features of fundamentalist movements and their ambivalent attitude to tradition: above all their attempts to essentialize tradition in an ideologically totalistic way. Eisenstadt has won the Amalfi book prize.