It was the wedding of the year in the Hasidic world. More than 10,000 guests arrived at the Sanz Hasidic headquarters in Netanya to celebrate the wedding of Meir Meshulam, son of Sanz Grand Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech Halberstam, the Klausenberger Rebbe of Netanya, to his cousin, Bracha Unsdorfer.
The groom, 19, was critically wounded at the age of two when he fell out of a third-floor window. Doctors predicted he would suffer from irreversible brain damage. Against all odds, the boy completely recovered and, over the years, became one of the prodigies of Hasidism's Torah academies. The groom's doctor, who did not give the boy a chance, was invited to the wedding to witness the occasion up close.
Groom and father ride in on horse and carriage (Photo: Moshe Goldstein)
In the past few days, massive tents were erected for the guests. Among the many guests who attended the wedding were grand rabbis from other large Hasidic sects, such as Ger and Belz. The groom and his father, the grand rabbi, were escorted into the ceremony on an ornate horse-drawn carriage accompanied by Hasidic notables, who rode in on horses.
Before the meal, 1,800 chickens, 800 kg (1,764 lbs) of beef, 1.2 tons of carp, and a 30 meter (30 yard) challah were prepared – for the men only. Kitchen manager and Sanz Yeshiva chef, Aharon Levinstein, reported that he worked for a month straight preparing some 19,000 dishes for the wedding and the surrounding celebrations. He said he hasn't been home since last Shabbat.
Notables brought in on horseback (Photo: Moshe Goldstein)
Lots of eating took place in the women's tent as well. The womens' dishes were supplied by an external catering company from Bnei Barak.
The Sanz-Klausenberg Hasidic dynasty, considered one of the largest today in Israel, was started in Europe by the author of "Divrei Chaim," Grand Rabbi Chaim Halberstam of Sanz. The dynasty in Israel numbers a few thousand households, most of which are located in Netanya's Kiryat Hahasidut.
Acting Netanya Mayor Rabbi Shimon Sher, a Sanz hasid, told Ynet that this is the largest event the Hasidic movement has ever known, indicating the groom's childhood injury, which he himself witnessed, and the fact that he is the grand rabbi's son as explanations for the phenomenon.
Another hasid told Ynet of his feelings for the rabbi on the happy occasion: "The relationship between a student and a rabbi is often just as strong as the relationship between a son and his father… I feel elated and excited when the man who nourishes my entire spiritual world marries off his last son."