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
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    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
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    R' Yissachar Teichtal went from being anti-Zionist to Zionist. – Isaac Moses Nov 18 '12 at 21:56
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    @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
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    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
  • 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.


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
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    @NoachmiFrankfurt: my point was that the fact that he became Hassidic wasn't part of the legend. That part is fact. The shiva part is legend (although it may have happened as well). – Menachem Jul 20 '15 at 14:43

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
  • This would be improved with evidence that SZ was a gadol. – mevaqesh Aug 10 '16 at 4:56
  • @mevaqesh, he was widely respected by his contemporaries. – Seth J Aug 11 '16 at 21:25
  • @SethJ while people can be widely respected for a variety of reasons besides for being a "gadol" even evidence for that assertion would be better than nothing. – mevaqesh Aug 11 '16 at 21:32

The Yismach Moshe was one of the misnagdim that switched to Chassidus https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moshe_Teitelbaum_(Ujhel)

And for the heretic list, although I'm not sure if it's really what the OP is looking for, Tzadok and Beitus went off the path of truth when they misunderstood Antigonus Ish Socho as brought in pirush hamishnayos from the Rambam in chapter one of maseches Avos, Mishna three. And although they personally believed in neither written law nor the oral law, the schools they formed, the Tzedukim and Baitusim, did believe in the written law and used that path as their vehicle for avodas Hashem.

  • Although it can be argued Tzadok and Beitus were not Gedolim before their departure from the mainstream, the fact that they were able to gather people after them leaves the possibility open that they were. – user6591 Jul 20 '15 at 15:41

I think another example might be Rabbi Tzodok haCohen of Lublin who was raised in a Lithuanian rabbinic family and switched to Chassidut. Though one might might argue that he wasn't yet a 'gadol be'Torah' when he made the change. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zadok_HaKohen

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