Myers, David N. “‘Commanded War’: Three Chapters in the ‘Military’ History of Satmar Hasidism.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 81.2 (2013): 311-56.
Religion, it has been noted, speaks the language of violence as often as of peace. This article explores the pronounced role of military language and a martial outlook in one particularly intriguing and unlikely branch of Judaism, the Satmar Hasidic movement. Widely known for its posture of theological quietism, Satmar Hasidism, under the leadership of founding rabbi Joel Teitelbaum (1887–1979), has frequently engaged in combative struggle against its foes, especially Zionism. This article highlights this martial impulse by examining three episodes in which the Teitelbaum family and Satmar Hasidim were engaged in conflict, exemplified by the publication of a series of books under the title “Commanded War.” Ranging over a century, these episodes reveal the way in which the pervasive language of war emerged out of a sense of the grave perils posed by modernity. They also illustrate how the martial language of Satmar turns over time from a focus on external enemies to a focus on internal rivals.