Nine items which used to belong to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, or have been associated with him were sold to collector last week for a total sum of more than NIS 300,000 (about $80,000), 21 years after the Chabad leader’s death.
The items include a Book of Psalms he used to read from, a prayer book signed by him and Shabbat dinner tableware. Experts say the items were sold for record prices for such artifacts in the past generation.
Many items which were used by the last rebbe of the Chabad movement, who was one of the most prominent and influential Jewish leaders in the world, exchanged hands over the years. Some of them are kept in his home in Brooklyn, New York, others are in the hands of the synagogue managers who served him, and some found their way into the hands of ordinary Chabad Hasidim.
Some of these items were purchased recently by the Kedem Auction House, one of the largest auction houses in the field of Judaica, which sold them to collectors.
In last week’s sale, NIS 81,650 ($21,650) were paid for the prayer book with the Rebbe’s signature, NIS 54,400 ($14,425) for silver and glass utensils for serving compote, which were used by the rabbi and his wife, and NIS 49,900 ($13,230) for a silver platter with the letters MS engraved – the initials of the Rebbetzin, Mushka Schneerson – engraved on it.
A cloth napkin was sold for NIS 25,000 ($6,600), a silver napkin holder for NIS 18,100 ($4,800), a spoon with the letter S – for Schneerson – engraved on it was sold for NIS 16,300 ($4,300), and a similar sum was paid for the Book of Psalms the Chabad leader used to pray with.
$6,000 for a $100 bill?
Kedem officials say that over the years, the rabbi’s wife gave the tableware as a gift to her good friend who lived nearby, and the utensils later made their way into the hands of merchants who put them on sale.
Two other interesting Chabad-related items related sold last Tuesday were a banknote which belonged to the Lubavitcher Rebbe and the first printed version of the famous essay of the Hasidic movement’s founder, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, The Tanya.
The $100 bill, which the Rebbe gave one of his followers as a donation for the construction of a ritual bath in South Africa, was sold for $6,000. The Tanya, which was printed in the Ukrainian city of Slavuta about 220 years ago, was sold for as much as NIS 72,000 ($19,100).
The items related to the Hasidic movement were sold as part of an auction of holy books, manuscripts and rabbis’ letters. About 320 items were sold in the auction for the total price of NIS 2.2 million.
“There are record prices for items which used to belong to a rabbinical figure from the past generation,” says Meron Aran, one of the owners of the Kedem Auction House. “Our experience shows that similar items reach such prices only in cases of historical rabbinical figures from 100 and 200 years ago.
“The reason for the high prices,” Aran adds, “is mainly a very high demand for such items among Chabad Hasidim and people associated with the Hasidic movement abroad.”