Brooklyn, NY – Residents of Jerusalem, Borough Park and Lakewood will soon have an opportunity to see a pair of eyeglasses worn by the Chazon Ish, as a trio of businessmen in each of those cities joined forces to purchase the historic spectacles at a public auction held in Jerusalem on Thursday.
The glasses, which were authenticated as those of the Chazon Ish, Rabbi Avraham Yeshaya Karelitz, were part of a lot of rare and unique items that were auctioned off on January 5th by the Jerusalem of Gold auction house.
The Chazon Ish, who died in 1953 in Bnei Brak, was well known worldwide as a leading halachic authority in his lifetime. The author of forty seforim, the Chazon Ish was also extremely well versed in astronomy, anatomy, botany and mathematics.
Yanky Fuchs, owner of Greater Optics on 14th Avenue in Borough Park, found himself intrigued by the glasses when he heard news of the auction in December. Joining forces with Yoel Lefkowitz, owner of Vista Optical on Rechov Eli Hacohen in Jerusalem, the two made plans to purchase the glasses together and agreed to take turns displaying the historic find in their stores.
Bidding for the glasses began at $2,000 and while the auction house estimated that the selling price would be in the $5,000 to $8,000 range, it was clear from the start that the winning bid was going to be significantly higher.
“The bidding just kept going up, up, up,” Fuchs told VIN News.
As the auction progressed, Lefkowitz realized that they were going to be outbid and he called Fuchs during a short break just prior to the end of the auction. Deciding that they needed to submit a higher bid to win the auction, the pair brought in a third partner.
“I called Binyomin Blumenkranz of Gefen Optical in Lakewood,” said Fuchs. “People in Lakewood are also big Chazon Ish fans.”
Together the three men were able to submit a winning bid of $17,000 for the spectacles. According to the auction booklet, the Chazon Ish wore the glasses on Shabbos because they were designed to fit close to the wearer’s face, thereby avoiding the possibility of violating the prohibition against carrying in a public place on Shabbos.
Yosef Mizrachi of Jerusalem of Gold was unavailable to elaborate on the details of how the glasses made their way from the Chazon Ish to the seller but confirmed the authenticity of the glasses which are described as being in very good condition.
The three optical stores are all looking forward to taking turns keeping the unique glasses on display.
“We are very humbled,” said Mrs. Mimi Lefkowitz of Vista Optical, which will be the first to display the Chazon Ish’s eyewear in their newly opened store. “The Chazon Ish is a name that is on everyone’s lips here and we have a lot of Briskers and yeshivishe people coming by so it is going to be very exciting for us.”
Ironically, Mrs. Lefkowitz noted that glasses of a similar style are big sellers at Vista Optical.
“The round glasses with the gold rims, people try them on and you hear people saying ‘oh, that’s the Chazon Ish look,’” remarked Mrs. Lefkowitz. “To have the Chazon Ish’s actual glasses here is really something very special.”
Fuchs said that he is having a special display case that will be drilled into the floor designed for his store. The three men intend to draw lots to determine a display schedule for the spectacles, which will likely be hand delivered from store to store.
Finding out the he owned a share of the Chazon Ish’s glasses was a special moment for Fuchs.
“I think if I would have won the lottery it would probably feel the same way,” said Fuchs.
While owning a portion of any item worn by the Chazon Ish is extremely meaningful, Blumenkranz noted that eyeglasses have a special significance.
“It is amazing to realize how great the Chazon Ish became through his glasses,” observed Blumenkranz. “How much learning came through these glasses, how much kedusha came through these glasses. These glasses are a reminder of how much people can accomplish through their own glasses.”
Much like the Chazon Ish, Blumenkranz said that he often has roshei yeshiva coming into his store, asking him to tighten their glasses so that they can wear them outside on Shabbos without worry.
“They ask me to adjust them so that their glasses are right up next to their face and can’t move at all,” said Blumenkranz. “They are actually very uncomfortable when they are worn like that.”
Other items of interest that sold at the auction include a handwritten, signed dedication by Rabbi Chaim Ozer Grodzinski that sold for $2,200. A bottle of wine made by Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman in 1990 for distribution on Purim was sold for $550.