Auction 83 - Part I - Rare and Important Items

Chiddushei Shnei HaMeorot – Copy of Rabbi Avraham Gershon of Kitov, Brother-in-Law of the Baal Shem Tov

Opening: $5,000
Estimate: $10,000 - $15,000
Sold for: $6,250
Including buyer's premium
Chiddushei Shnei HaMeorot, novellae on the writings of the Rambam and the Ramban in Sefer HaMitzvot, by R. Shneur Feivish son of R. Menachem of Bolekhiv. Constantinople, [1749].
An inscription in Sephardic script appears at the top of the title page. The first line of the inscription is missing, due to the trimming of the upper margin. The second line reads: "Avraham Gershon Kitover". Apparently, the book belonged to R. Avraham Gershon of Kitov, the famous brother-in-law of the Baal Shem Tov and a leading kabbalist. Possibly, the book was given to him by the author himself, R. Shneur Feivish of Bolekhiv, an Ashkenazi scholar in Jerusalem and emissary of the Ashkenazi community at the time R. Gershon resided in Jerusalem (see below).
R. Avraham Gershon of Kitov (Kuty; d. Adar 1761), a prominent Torah scholar and kabbalist, was among the members of the Kloiz in Brody. He was the brother-in-law of the Baal Shem Tov, and one of the first Chassidim to immigrate to Eretz Israel. The book Shivchei HaBesht cites wondrous stories of his relationship with his brother-in-law, the Baal Shem Tov. At first, he did not recognize the stature of the Baal Shem Tov and thought him to be simple and unlearned, however, eventually he clung to him with his entire soul, joining his circle. The Baal Shem Tov revealed esoteric secrets to his brother-in-law and showed him the way to elevate souls during the Minchah prayer on Erev Shabbat. R. Avraham Gershon lived in Brody, where he studied in the celebrated Brody kloiz. At the kloiz, he served as the cantor, and there he became acquainted with the Noda BiYehuda, a friendship which lasted for years. After escaping Brody in 1744 (see Kedem Auction 63, lot 13), R. Avraham Gershon stayed for two years by his brother-in-law the Baal Shem Tov in Medzhybizh, teaching his son, R. Tzvi. In 1746, R. Gershon began his journey to Eretz Israel. Some say that he was sent to Eretz Israel by the Baal Shem Tov, who hoped to disseminate Chassidut in the Orient. The letters exchanged between the Baal Shem Tov and R. Gershon while living in Eretz Israel attest to the deep spiritual and emotional ties between them. Especially well known is the letter from the Baal Shem Tov in which he told of his conversation with the Messiah: "When are you coming, my master? When your wellsprings will spread outward". R. Gershon first settled in Hebron, and ca. 1754 he moved to Jerusalem, where he became a leading Torah scholar and head of the developing Ashkenazi community. He joined the kabbalistic Beit El yeshiva and studied under the great kabbalist, the Rashash. At that time, R. Yitzchak Zerachia Azulai, father of the Chida, was his close friend.
Historian R. Yechiel Goldhaber has recently discovered some important specifics regarding R. Gershon's extensive activities in organizing and rebuilding the Ashkenazi community in Jerusalem (after its destruction and the expulsion of the Ashkenazim from the city in 1721), and his high stature as contact person between the Jerusalem community and the Constantinople clerks, who were in charge of the funds collected for the needy of Eretz Israel, and as mediator between the Ashkenazi and Sephardi communities in Jerusalem. R. Goldhaber's research reveals that R. Gershon was one of the most influential figures in Jerusalem is those days, trusted by both Sephardim and Ashkenazim. He maintained close ties with the Constantinople clerks and with the organization in Brody which gathered the funds collected in Ashkenazi countries. In these activities he worked together with his friend the Noda BiYehuda and with other Brody scholars.
The author of this book, R. Shneur Feivish of Bolekhiv, was also involved in the activities on behalf of the Ashkenazi community in Jerusalem. He was one of the leading Torah scholars in Jerusalem, well-versed in both the revealed and hidden realms of the Torah. He immigrated to Jerusalem in 1749 and on his way to Eretz Israel, he printed this book. In 1754, some five years after his immigration, he was sent to Europe as an emissary of the Jerusalem Ashkenazi community, as part of R. Gershon's efforts to establish steady support for the Ashkenazi community in Jerusalem. As mentioned above, it is possible that R. Shneur Feivish himself gave this book as a gift to R. Gershon.
Calligraphic signature on title page: "Shlomo Halegua" (his signature appears on the last page as well: "Salomon Halegua").
[1], 35 leaves. 19 cm. Good-fair condition. Stains. Worming, mostly to margins. Tears and damage to several leaves, slightly affecting text in some places. Tape repairs to inner margins of title page and several other leaves. Top margins trimmed with damage and loss to headings. Bottom margins trimmed with loss of text on verso of title page. New leather binding.
This book was printed in several variants. The differences between them are listed in the Bibliography of the Hebrew Book. This copy includes a blessing to the wealthy brothers R. Yehoshua and R. Moshe Soncino and to the wealthy R. Yosef son of R. Yehuda of Jerusalem; a blank space was left for adding another name by hand. The author's preface on verso of title page is not signed (as found in some copies). The text of the last page (35b) reaches the bottom of the page, ending with: "I am compelled to stop... and hope to finish as planned, in Jerusalem".
Manuscripts and Letters – Chassidic Luminaries
Manuscripts and Letters – Chassidic Luminaries