Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter

The Show Must Go On

Aryeh Blum

When the Bobover Rebbe summoned Reb Moshe Aftergut on Erev Purim in 1948, the young disciple couldn’t imagine what the Rebbe had in mind. But Rebbe Shlomo Halberstam, who devoted his life to shepherding hundreds of survivors on foreign shores, knew that the traditional Purim shpiel had the power to keep them connected and break harsh decrees.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

There is an old tradition among the chassidim of the Hungarian and Romanian courts to stage a yearly Purim shpiel — replete with professional-level costumes, music, and script. These were no amateur productions — they were a major attraction, drawing audiences of hundreds and even thousands: The Achashveirosh Shpiel, Dovid un Golias Shpiel, Akeidas Yitzchak Shpiel, Avraham v’Sarah Shpiel, Hamelech Shaul Shpiel, Chachmas Shlomo Shpiel, Der Ashmadai Shpiel, and Moshe Rabbeinu Shpiel were all based primarily on midrashim and other accounts from Chazal, but also featured satire and humor in keeping with the spirit of the times. Although these shows were sanctioned and actually encouraged, there was often a swirl of controversy surrounding what some considered sacrilege. One year a particular community was so enraged by the comical, mocking way the heroes of the Purim story were presented that they burned the script. But that didn’t stop the Bobover Rebbe, Rav Shlomo Halberstam ztz”l, from commissioning a Purim shpiel of his own in 1948, a year after arriving in the US. He had survived the Holocaust together with his son Naftali Tzvi on the wings of miracles, and he now served as a magnet for other broken survivors yearning to rebuild their lives. It was Erev Taanis Esther, when the Rebbe — who was then living on the West Side of Manhattan — approached Reb Moshe Aftergut, a young man he’d originally helped when the two met in a DP camp in Bari, Italy, in 1945; the Rebbe became Aftergut’s protector and mentor once they both arrived in the US, and now Rebbe Shlomo was asking his young protégé to prepare a Purim shpiel in order to revive the age-old custom. The young man agreed, not fathoming that the decision was about to change his life. That first production was the beginning of the annual Bobover shpiel on American shores. And that was 67 plays ago; ever since, Aftergut has been the creator (and often was also the star) of dozens of annual Purim productions. Many other chassidic courts followed in Bobov’s footsteps and readopted the time-honored custom of the classic Purim shpiel.

To read the rest of this story, please buy this issue of Mishpacha or sign up for a weekly subscription

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.

The Fortunes of War
Rabbi Moshe Grylak We’re still feeling the fallout of the First World War
Some Lessons, But Few Portents
Yonoson Rosenblum What the midterms tell us about 2020
Vote of Confidence
Eyan Kobre Why I tuned in to the liberal radio station
5 out of 10
Rabbi Dovid Bashevkin Top 5 Moments of the Kinus
Day in the Life
Rachel Bachrach Chaim White of KC Kosher Co-op
When Less is More
Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman How a good edit enhances a manuscript
It’s My Job
Jacob L. Freedman “Will you force me to take meds?”
They’re Still Playing My Song?
Riki Goldstein Yitzy Bald’s Yerav Na
Yisroel Werdyger Can’t Stop Singing
Riki Goldstein Ahrele Samet’s Loi Luni
Double Chords of Hope
Riki Goldstein You never know how far your music can go
Will Dedi Have the Last Laugh?
Dovid N. Golding Dedi and Ding go way back
Battle of the Budge
Faigy Peritzman Using stubbornness to grow in ruchniyus
The Challenging Child
Sarah Chana Radcliffe Strategies for raising the difficult child
Bucking the Trend
Sara Eisemann If I skip sem, will I get a good shidduch?
The Musician: Part 1
D. Himy, M.S. CCC-SLP and Zivia Reischer "If she can't read she'll be handicapped for life!"