The chassidus of Erloi
Erloi Chassidus was created in Eretz Yisrael
The chassidus of Erloi is a relatively young chassidus in comparison to other courts – it was established in Eretz Yisrael only after the conclusion of the Second World War.The chassidus was founded by the Admor Rebbe Yochanan Sofer shlita, the ‘Imrei Sofer’. Rav Yochanan is descended from Rav Moshe Sofer zt’l, the Chasam Sofer, and the chassidus is conducted according to his minhagim, to this day.
One of the Chasam Sofer’s sons was Rav Shmuel Binyomin Sofer, the ‘Ksav Sofer’ – his son was Rav Shimon Sofer, the ‘Hisorerus Teshuvah’ – his son, the fourth generation from the Chasam Sofer, was Rav Moshe Sofer, the ‘Yad Sofer’ – and his son is the current Rebbe, Rav Yochanan Sofer shlita, the fifth generation from the Chasam Sofer.
During the years of wrath in Europe, the accursed Nazis yimach shemam murdered both the Yad Sofer and the Hisorerus Teshuvah, the father and grandfather of Rav Yochanan, on the 21st of Sivan, 5704. After the war was over, Rav Yochanan returned to the town of Erloi, where his grandfather had served as Rav, but it had been completely destroyed. He then ascended to Eretz Yisrael, where he established the Erloi yeshiva, which he named ‘Ohel Shimon’ after his grandfather, the last Rav of Erloi. The yeshiva stands to this day in the Yerushalayim neighbourhood of Katamon and attracts many bochurim.
Rav Yochanan’s ancestors were not chassidim and did not conduct themselves as Rebbes, but rather as rabbonim, in Hungary, where the town of Erloi is situated. Rav Yochanan was the first to conduct himself as an Admor, due to the influence of the Belzer Rebbe Rav Aharon zt’l with whom he had a close relationship, and also due to the influence of the Skverer Rebbe.
In the first years following the Second World War, Rav Yochanan did not wear a shtreimel – only several years later did he begin to wear one, and also to conduct tishen. In Erloi, the kehilla as a whole is not makpid to wear a gartel for davening, and the nusach hatefilla is nusach Ashkenaz, according to the custom of the Sofer family, and the custom of most Jews originating from Hungary. This is in contrast to most other chassidic courts, which daven in nusach Sefard. Yet despite these factors, Erloi chassidim have the practice of reciting the entire sefer Tehillim in unison before the Shabbos prayers begin, according to the custom in Skver. In addition, the Admor has adopted the Radziner practice of dying one thread of the tzitzis blue, in accordance with the opinion of the Radziner Rebbe that the creature used nowadays to make the blue dye is in fact the chilazon mentioned in the Torah as the source of techeiles.
Over the years, thousands of bachurim have passed through the Erloi yeshiva, who then went on to establish Erloi kehillos in many areas of Eretz Yisrael and abroad. The Admor himself endeavours to retain a close connection with his chassidim, the former talmidim, who can maintain the bond with their Rebbe through telephone conversations, without having to exert themselves to come to Yerushalayim to see him. As for the current talmidim of the yeshiva, the Admor knows them all personally, and he also davens all three tefillos in the yeshiva gedola. After tefillas shacharis, the Admor gives a short shiur in halocha and Mishnah; at midday, he gives an in-depth shiur to the elder bachurim of the yeshiva; and in the evenings, the Admor gives a shiur in Daf HaYomi for his chassidim who live in the Katamon neighbourhood.
The various Erloi kehillos established over the world set up batei medrash called by the name ‘Yad Sofer’, Talmudei Torah by the name of ‘Ksav Sofer’ and kollelim by the name of ‘Chasam Sofer’.
The Admor Rav Yochanan has seven sons, many of whom lead a kehilla of Erloi chassidim in different parts of the world. Rav Moshe lives in London; Rav Yaakov serves as rav of the Erloi chassidim in Beitar Illit; Rav Avraham Shmuel Binyamin serves as Rosh Yeshiva; Rav Shimon serves as rav of the Baka neighbourhood in Yerushalayim; Rav Akiva Menachem serves as rav of the Erloi chassidim in Bnei Brak; Rav Zalman Dovid Yeshaya is the rav of the Erloi chassidim in Boro Park in the United States; and Rav Aharon serves as rav to the Erloi chassidim in Elad.
Rav Yochanan is also deeply involved in communal life in Eretz Yisrael; when he was just thirty-eight years of age, he was summoned by the Beis Yisrael, the Admor of Ger to serve on the Moetzes Gedolei haTorah of Agudas Yisrael. Indeed, the Moetzes was forced to alter its usual protocol to accommodate him, since their practice until then was only to include members over the age of forty. Rav Yochanan in fact has a great influence on chareidi politics in Eretz Yisrael, and he is seen as on the right-wing of opinion. Four years ago, when deliberations over the ‘disengagement’ plan to abandon the Gaza strip and northern Shomron were just beginning, the Admor was quoted as saying; “I am not willing to cede even one grain of Eretz Yisrael.”
The Erloi chassidus has many organisations of tzedokah and chessed and the Admor himself is renowned for being a great baal tzedoka.