Jerusalem – An Israeli auction house specializing in rare books, manuscripts and Jewish art will feature seforim and writings of Jewish rabbis and Chasidic greats, some dating as far back as the early 1500s at an auction taking place next week.
422 historic items will be up for sale as live bidding gets underway at 5:30 PM IST on Monday March 27th at Winner’s Auctions and Exhibitions in the Givat Shaul section of Jerusalem.
In addition to the many written books included in the collection are a decorative tablecloth from the early 20th century with Ottoman Empire influences, an early 1900s hand woven, multicolored, silk carpet bearing the likeness of Moshe Rabbeinu holding the luchos, an embroidered red and gold paroches made in 1896 in Calcutta and a late 19th century carved olivewood writing desk decorated with images of Mearas Hamachpeila and the Kosel.
While many of the items featured in the auction come from private collectors, others come from an unnamed library that was closing its doors.
Jewish writings, particularly those from Chasidic rebbes, fetch particularly high prices, noted Gal Wiener of Winner’s Auctions and Exhibitions.
“They are the most wanted books today in terms of collectibles,” Wiener told VIN News. “Imagine a Vizhnitzer chosid who would very much like to own the original works of the head of the Vizhnitzer dynasty. Something like that has a very high value.”
Another factor that drives the prices of Jewish collectibles and writings even higher is their rarity.
“Every antique by Jews is, by definition, rare, because so few of them have survived over the years,” explained Wiener. “There were millions and millions of Jews who wrote millions of letters to each other and many, many seforim but Hitler burned most of them. Before Hitler, there were the Tach V’Tat periods and the pogroms where most of these items went up in flames. If someone managed to slip something into his pocket then it was saved.”
The item with the highest starting bid in the auction catalog is a letter written by Rabbi Dovid of Tolna, who was known as a miracle worker who exorcised dybuks, distributed amulets, cured the sick and brought salvation to many.
Born in 1808, Rabbi Dovid Twersky was the founder of the Tolna dynasty and had thousands of chasidim, with the many visitors who flocked to Tolna seeking his counsel and his brachos making the city one of the largest Chasidic centers in the Ukraine. The two page letter, written by Rabbi Twersky in 1868 addressing a family matter and expressing his concern for his chasidim, has a starting bid of $30,000 and is expected to sell for between $40,000 and $50,000.
Pre-auction bids have already been made on a lot that includes a first edition printing of the Meor Einayim, a fundamental Chasidic work on the weekly parsha written by Rabbi Menachem Nachum Twersky, the first rebbe of the Chernobyl dynasty and the grandfather of Rabbi Dovid of Tolna.
The 160 page sefer published after the Tolna Rebbe’s death in 1798, includes many thoughts that Rabbi Twersky heard directly from the Baal Shem Tov. Also included in the lot is another sefer authored by Rabbi Twersky, Yismach Lev, which was printed together with Meor Einayim. The two seforim are considered to be among the earliest Chasidic books ever printed. While the auction house set the opening bid at $20,000 on this lot, the current price of the two seforim is $34,000 and the set is expected to bring in between $40,000 to $45,000.
Another extremely unique item is a first edition printing of the Chofetz Chaim, published in Vilna in 1873. The first eve compilation of the laws of lashon hara, the Chofetz Chaim was published anonymously and attributed only to Be’er Mayim Chayim.
“The Chofetz Chaim printed the sefer himself,” said Wiener. “Nobody knew who he was. Nobody knew Yisroel Meir Hakohein. They just knew the sefer and when it came out that he was the one who had written it, he became known as the Chofetz Chaim.”
Described to be in “very fine” condition, the Chofetz Chaim also includes a very rare page with the endorsements of well over 100 Lithuanian rabbis. The opening bid for the Chofetz Chaim is $1,000 and it is expected to sell for $1,300 to $1,500.
Two 16th century Italian seforim are also included in the auction. One a Tzror Hamor commentary on the Chumash based on the Zohar by Rabbi Avraham Sabba, was printed in 1546 and bears the stamp of a censor, identified as the apostate Dominico Yerushalmi in Hebrew and Latin. A four volume leather-bound Tanach Mikraos Gedolos printed in Venice in 1568 bears assurance from the printer that it was free of mistakes that had been made in previous printings.
Some of the more recent items listed in the auction catalog are a 1978 siddur that Rabbi Yitzhak Kaduri used during the week which include both names of sick people that he prayed for and hand drawn diagrams. The oldest item? An extremely rare 1519 first edition of the sefer Terumas Hadeshen , which includes handwritten signatures and glosses, with an opening price of $500.
While the letter from Rabbi Dovid of Tolna is expected to fetch the highest price at Monday night’s auction, Wiener warned that there are always surprises.
“Things can start at $2,000 and can go very high,” said Wiener. “This is a rich man’s game so once the bidding starts there is no telling how high prices can go.”
The vast majority of the items in the auction are priced significantly lower, many in the $200 to $500 range.
“That is what is nice about this auction,” said Wiener. “There are so many affordable items so it provides a good chance for people to jump in and start collecting.”
You can bid online at: https://winners-auctions.com/en