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I know that my question is a bit broad and maybe abstract but I'm not sure how to phrase it better. I'm looking for any change in avodah. It can be a change in which group of Jews he associated with (as a modern example Charedi/National Religious/ etc.) or Chassidish/Litvish/etc. I'm just looking for a major shift by a "giant" talmid chacham.

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Perhaps Rav Soloveitchik's switching from Agudah to Mizrachi? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_rav#Affiliated_organizations –  Double AA Nov 18 '12 at 21:43
This is very broad on both sides: what constitutes a "change in avodah," and what constitutes a "giant." Perhaps you could focus this more by including some information about why you want to know. –  Isaac Moses Nov 18 '12 at 21:47
R' Yissachar Teichtal went from being anti-Zionist to Zionist. –  Isaac Moses Nov 18 '12 at 21:56
@Gabi in that case maybe Rabbi Noson Adler switching his havara from Ashkenazi to Sefardi qualifies? It's not Avoda per se but it's a changed mind with regards to correct practice. On another note Reb Noson of Breslev was well on the way to becoming a gadol in the misnagdish community when he became a chosid. –  yoel Nov 19 '12 at 0:19
Rabbi Mordechai Kaplan went from founding Young Israel to a Conservative Jew to founding the Reconstructionist movement. –  Charles Koppelman Nov 19 '12 at 2:10

3 Answers 3

  • Mesorah has it that Rabbi Elimelech from Lizensk was famous for starting out as a massive talmid chacham whilst Litvish, and converting to Chasssidus later after being persuaded by his brother Reb Zusha.

  • Lehavdil Rabbi Yochanon Kohein Gadol after serving for 80 years became a Zedoki.

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It's said that Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk, if I'm not mistaken, would study Gemara out-loud before he discovered Hassidism (presumably as you remember it better that way); after his transformation, he studied it quietly (I suspect as you could be learning a page all about your cow eating someone's toxic plants, and using that as a way of personal introspection and meditation on G-d's presence.)

Legend also has it that Rabbi Leibel Eiger became Hassidic, which prompted his father (Rabbi Shlomo Eiger) to sit shiva, but not his grandfather (Rabbi Akiva Eiger).

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Well, why would one sit shiva for the loss of a grandson? –  msh210 Nov 19 '12 at 3:45
@msh210 This doesn't answer your question, but the legend is repeated by Wikipedia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… –  b a Nov 19 '12 at 3:58
@msh210 Perhaps YD 374:6? –  Double AA Nov 19 '12 at 5:27
@DoubleAA, you're masmiah. :-) –  msh210 Nov 19 '12 at 6:19
I think the legend is that his father sat shiva, not that he became a chassid. –  Menachem Nov 19 '12 at 17:11

The two most (in)famous are probably Elisha' ben Avuyah and Shabetai Tzevi.

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You cant say that Elisha changed his type of avodas Hashem. He admitted that he was not an Oved Hashem and would not enter Gan Eden. –  Yehuda Dec 2 '12 at 21:46

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