Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Selichos & A Letter From The Kherson Geniza

The only known letter of undisputed authenticity in existence from the Degel Machaneh Ephraim was written to Rebbe Naftali of Ropshitz. The letter was signed:

הק' משה חיים אפרים ממעז'בוז

"The small/insignificant (הקטן) Moshe Chaim Ephraim from Mezhebuz"

The Kherson Geniza, however, contains a letter of questionable authenticity written by the Degel to his brother Rebbe Boruch of Mezhebuz inquiring of the details of the Baal Shem Tov's minhag for saying Selichos. This letter is signed: "Moshe Chaim Ephraim son of our holy teacher Yechiel - grandson of the Baal Shem Tov"

After noticing this I asked the Sudilkover Rebbe two questions:

1) If he knew of any other chassidic rebbes, other than the Degel and Rebbe Zusia of Anapol, who added the adjective הקטן before signing their names.

2) If he thought it would be unlikely that the Degel would sign a letter as he purportedy did in the Kherson Geniza letter.

The Rebbe responded that many other rebbes such as those from Vizhnitz, Belz, and Spinka added the adjective הקטן before signing their names. He also mentioned that he had in his possesion a copy of another letter from the Degel with the prefix הצב"י (The young one amongst the thousands of Israel - הצעיר באלפי ישראל).

The Rebbe also responded the he didn't believe the letter from the Kherson Geniza was authentic. He stated that the Degel would not need to add such an elaborate signature for a letter to his brother, and certainly would not need to inquire with him about the minhagim of the Baal Shem Tov since his brother was younger than himself.


At September 17, 2008 at 10:34:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Here is a translation of the text from the questionable letter from the Kherson Geniza:

To my dear brother, the holy and pure rabbi, righteous pillar of the world, wonder of the generation, our master and teacher, Rabbi Boruch, may he live.

Do you recall the custom of our master and grandfather, the Baal Shem Tov, may his merit protect us, to say Selichos, from the first day to the last, at midnight (k'chatzos) and not in early morning? I believe that he was only careful to say it together with a minyan on the first night, for “Zechor Bris” (the day before Rosh Hashanah), for the 13 Middos, and for the Fast of Gedalia. And, I believe that he was careful after saying Selichos these four times to distribute to those with him lekach with mead (honey drink), from his holy hand to their holy hands. If you remember this, write me, by which will become clear to me a very important matter that I will inform you about, and which you will enjoy.

The words of your brother, who always is concerned with your welfare, waiting for the salvations of the blessed G-d, which are speedily to come.

At September 17, 2008 at 10:41:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you know what the Baal Shem Tov's minhag actually was? Is it consistent with the letter?

At September 17, 2008 at 10:42:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

I do not, however, I would be interested to find out!

At September 17, 2008 at 10:46:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It should be noted that the abbreviation (hei kuf) is not necessarily a sign of total anivus, since it could also stand for hakodoish.

It is known that the Chasam Soifer used to sign his name Moishe kuf, because he held that he was a nitzois from the Ramban, and it wouldn't be kovodik to the Ramban to spell out Moishe hakoton.

I am not writing this to impugn the tzidkus of the Degel or of any other ehrliche Yidden, ch"v. Just a he'oroh.

At September 17, 2008 at 10:58:00 AM EDT, Blogger Mottel said...

While the Degel was indeed older then his brother, by five years, I see no reason why, if he was in doubt, he would not consult him to find out his memories -as well, perhaps R' Boruch may have heard something from others . . .

At September 17, 2008 at 11:25:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Mottel: How would you explain the the use of such an elaborate signature when writing to his own brother?

Keep in mind, the Degel was known for his humility. See this story

At September 17, 2008 at 2:41:00 PM EDT, Blogger Mottel said...

As mentioned in a letter from the Rebbe, the letters in the Kherson Geniza are copies that were hurriedly made of the originals to which minor inconsistencies can be attributed.
As well, I don't see the signature as un-humble (what is more, perhaps the relationship with his brother, which I must say I am unaware of, may have for some reason prompted him to write as such).


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