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On Site: The Highest Bidder

Tzippy Yarom

For just $500,000 dollars, you too could own the Yid Hakadosh’s lulka, a smoky straight line to Heaven just like the ketores of the Kohein Gadol, among other treasures for auction at the Kedem Auction House

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

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HEADING GREATNESS The Klausenberger Rebbe, Rav Yekusiel Yehudah Halberstam, a great-grandson of the Divrei Cham of Sanz, maintained every dictate of halachah even in the Nazi camps, and despite the loss of his family, he infused survivors with hope and preserved their spirituality after the war. Aside from Mifal HaShas, he also established Laniado Hospital and Sanzer yeshivos in Eretz Yisrael and in America, as well as the chesed organizations of the chassidus. Today, his successors are his sons, the Rebbes in Netanya and in America. The kapoteh that’s being auctioned is one he wore for ten years

T he original sefer Noam Elimelech sold for $300,000. A rare volume of Gemara with the Vilna Gaon’s notes inside sold for $500,000. A copy of the Talmud Bavli, privately owned by Rav Ovadiah Yosef when he was rav of the Jewish community in Cairo, sold for $50,000.

The Kedem Auction House, which opened a decade ago and has become a leader in Judaica auctions, has several similarly valuable items that will be going to auction next month. Among the rabbinical manuscripts, ancient seforim, and personal items of rabbanim and rebbes that have been handed down from generation to generation, there are some unique items whose existence had been heretofore unknown.

“The items for our main annual auction, and for other sales, usually come from three types of sellers,” explains Eli Stern, one of Kedem’s Judaica experts. “There are collectors, who for some reason or another decide to get rid of an item in their collection. Then there are dealers, who purchase items from their owners and sell them further. And there are private people who have an item in their possession and decide to sell it.”

Sometimes the latter group is not even aware of how valuable their treasure really is. “A person once came to us — he wasn’t mitzvah observant, and he had a sefer that he wanted to sell. We studied it closely and found that the sefer contained the signature of the Oheiv Yisrael of Apta. This sefer was offered at public auction and was sold for $100,000,” Stern relates.

The coming auction set to take place in several weeks will also feature several such unique items, some with intrinsic value and some with sentimental value — but either way, the winners will become owners of some rare items whose values are really priceless. A sneak preview…

Pipe Dreams

The lulka, or tobacco pipe, became a tradition among rebbes after the Baal Shem Tov, his son, grandson, and his successor, the Maggid of Mezritch, all smoked pipes. This particular lulka belonged to the Yid Hakadosh of Peshis’cha — Rav Yaakov Yitzchak Rabinowitz (1766-1813) — and traveled with family members through the cities of Europe until it reached Eretz Yisrael a few years before World War II. The family passed it down from generation to generation, and with it, the saga of its journeys.

The lulka, or tobacco pipe, became a tradition among rebbes after the Baal Shem Tov, his son, grandson, and his successor, the Maggid of Mezritch, all smoked pipes. This particular lulka belonged to the Yid Hakadosh of Peshis’cha — Rav Yaakov Yitzchak Rabinowitz (1766-1813)

The lulka is a Meerschaum pipe, made from a mineral called sepiolite and silver. The Beis Yisrael related in the name of the Chiddushei HaRim that when the Yid Hakadosh — a disciple of the Chozeh of Lublin who subsequently split off to form the famous Peshis’cha line of chassidus — would smoke the lulka (or lilka in chassidic pronunciation), he would have the same special kavanos that the Kohein Gadol had when kindling the ketores.

The family who owns the pipe today, descendants of the Yid Hakadosh, notes that the pipe would normally have gone to the rebbes of Biala, who are also descendants. But when the granddaughter of Rebbe Avraham David Naftali Yerachmiel Rabinowitz of Porisov — the Yid Hakadosh’s grandson — became marriageable but had no dowry, he gave her two valuable items, one of which was the Zeide’s lulka.

“That’s indicative of the value of this item,” says the current owner, a grandson of this granddaughter. “I’m not a chassid, but still, it gives us an emotional connection. My grandfather, who received the pipe for his wedding, was never busy with it, though. He sat and learned all day, and these items were kept hidden for safekeeping.”

He relates a story, brought down in other sources as well, about the time the pipe was stolen. The Yid Hakadosh was very distraught over its loss and said, “When I smoked the lulka, I effected great things and learned to bring down a holy abundance to Am Yisrael.” But days passed and the thief sold the pipe, which ultimately landed in the hands of the district minister of the city of Radom. Later, a Jewish tailor visited the Yid Hakadosh and presented him with the stolen pipe as a gift. The Rebbe asked the tailor how he had obtained it and he replied: “I come and go in the house of the minister and he was desperate to sell it to me, because every time he tried to smoke it, he got burned and wound up with blisters on his tongue.”

The hopeful new owners of the pipe are confident it won’t happen to them, though — the opening bid is for $100,000, and it is expected to be sold for up to half a million dollars. (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 654)

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