Marcaz Belz is launching a website called World of Belz. Websites, and even Jewish websites, have been around for quite a while and frankly, opening a website now is something that’s quite outdated. But there is something very new here. Yes, there is a lot of Chassidus content online, but they are mainly from Chabad and Breslov, not from the Galician-Hungarian stream of Chassidus.
The goal of the site is to be Mekarev Yidden to Yiddishkeit and to bring people to appreciate and support Belz Institutions.”, says Rabbi Pinchas Lerner, president of Mercaz Belz, the organization that initiated the website. “There is a large demographic out there who have a connection with Belz going back a few generations and it’s still important to them. By sharing Torah and giving them an opportunity to support Torah, we connect them to their roots.”
The uniqueness of this site is in its premise of how important it is to teach Chassidus in order to be mekarev Yidden. Many years ago, the Belzer Rebbe founded the Yeshiva Torah Ve’emunah in Eretz Yisroel. Torah Ve’emunah is a Ba’al Teshuva Yeshiva that teaches Torah and Mitzvos with the Chasidish ‘flam’ and approach.
Belz is part of the Galician-Hungarian streams of Chassidus, which are very different from the Russian streams (Chabad, Breslov, and others) and the Polish streams (Ger, etc.). The Galician-Hungarian streams comprise of Belz, Satmar, Bobov, etc. Even Skver and Viznitz were heavily influenced by the Galician-Hungarian streams.
The Galician-Hungarian teachings are focused on Avodah and Tikkun Hamidos, different than Chabad that focuses on teaching fundamentals in Kabbalah. The Galician-Hungarian streams believe Kabbalah should be studied only by people who have reached a level of purity and humility.
Chassidus in the Galician-Hungarian is much more focused on Chizuk, Avodas Hashem, Tikkun Hamidos, and becoming closer to Hashem. Those subjects are very appropriate even for beginners. To be Mekarev intellectual Jews, who are knowledgeable in worldly subjects, it is not enough to teach Aleph Beis. The Torah has to talk to their nefesh and their intellect. World of Belz will bring forth the light of Chassidus, its teachings, customs, and insights in a way that will be relevant and understood by beginners too.
Belz today is balancing between preserving the spirit of the previous generations and living in the current world. On the one hand, Belz teaches purity and simplicity in Avodas Hashem, and on the other hand it engages in the world in being Mekarev and doing Chesed with every Jew.
Balancing both worlds with the goal of making an impact has been part of Belz from the beginning. When the 1st Belzer Rebbe, the Sar Shalom, became Rav in Belz, the townspeople wanted to keep davening in Nusach Ashkenaz. At first there were two Minyanim, the main one davened Nusach Ashkenaz, and a small one davened Nusach Ari. As the Rav of the town, the Sar Shalom used to start his davening in the main minyan but continued in the Chassidish Minyan which finished later.
Once on Simchas Torah, the Sar Shalom conducted Hakafos together with the Chassidish Minyan, with great Hislahavus and Bren. When the Baalei Batim of the main minyan heard, they rushed over to watch. After a while they too got caught up in the enthusiasm and started dancing along. The crowd grew until the place couldn’t contain so many people, so they decided to continue in the main shul. The Baalei Batim became very invigorated by the Chassidim’s davening but they still wanted to daven in Nusach Ashkenaz. After Simchas Torah, they sat down together to figure out a possible solution; the Chassidim would lead the davening in the main shul, but some parts of the davening will remain Nusach Ashkenaz. Ever since, Belz davens Shmone Esrei and other parts of davening in Nusach Ashkenaz.
It was a big Chiddush that Chasidim would daven Nusach Ashkenaz. The Nusach Ari was one of the main changes that the Chasidim and Misnagdim argued about. Even so, the Sar Shalom preferred that there be achdus and thus, one minyan. He wanted to be mekarev the Baalei Batim to a greater level in davening and Avodas Hashem.
“The teachings of Belz Chassidus don’t have boundaries. They are relevant and applicable to every Jew,” concludes Rabbi Lerner, “I hope all who share this belief will join us and be part of the effort.”
I actually knew of one guy who was a BT and ended up in Belz. He started being frum from Chabad but went to learn in a Belz program, became close to the rebbe and is now a Belzer, but BT’s to Belz is rare.