The letters of our thoughts are the ideas present in our mind before they come to realization . . . Thoughts that are, yet not felt . . . The words of the subconscious . . . of the soul . . .


Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Kherson Geniza Unplugged

Image:Ukraine Cherson Memorial.jpg
Memorial of first ship Slava Ekaterina (Source)

Much has been said about the Khersoner Genizah, the cache of manuscripts found in Southern Ukraine and ascribed to the Ba'al Shem Tov and his students.

Questions of its historical veracity, and even more so, Chabad's claim that their source is indeed authentic, have been used time and again in the fight against Chassidus Chabad ('[sh]'hi hi toras Haba'al Shem Tov z"l').

My point here is not to convince the would be misnagdim of the truth behind the Geniza, as one convinced of his own superiority and truth, can never be told otherwise. Mi sh'rotze l'tah y'tah - he who wishes to err, can err.

Rather, as is the Rebbe once said,
'Believing that what the Rebbe says has a source, is chassidish; but it is more chassidish to find the source.'

Emunah is not blind faith, and though as a chossid the word of the Rebbe sets reality for me, to understand the logic behind his words and the reasoning behind his thoughts, is that much deeper.

In light of such, I wish to dispel claims as to the Rebbe's opinion about the Khersoner Geniza, and to help those, with seichel hayashar -with common sense- to see the emes, I present a translation of the Rebbe's letter on the subject.

A special thanks to Hirshel Tzig of Circus Tent for his input. Of note, A Simple Jew has a well balanced writeup on the subject, however in the words of the Alter Rebbe '[words] founded on human intelligence surely do not affect all people equally, for not all intellects and minds are alike, and the intellect of one man is not affected and aroused by that which affects and arouses the intellect of another.'

Of final note, this is a free translation and therefore the responsibility for any mistakes is mine alone. Brackets are the addition of the translator.

Source: Igeros Kodesh Vol. 8 Pp 249 250 and 251

Adar Rishon, 5714

. . . As for me, when I saw the near three hundred letters [of the Kherson Geniza]
in possession of my father in law, the Rebbe, (of which a part were not permitted to be publicized),
I had no doubt that their content was authentic (besides for those who believe that
the simplest explanation of an occurrence is a miracle completely
beyond the bounds of nature, in which case they could equally believe
that miraculously there was a man in Odessa that was able to forge and
produce these 300 letters, and then disappear afterwards without a
trace). G-d willing, when I have the free time, I wish to print all the
letters that were published in 'Hatomim' [The official periodical of Yeshivas Tomchei Temmim while in Poland], along with the letters that my father in law, the Rebbe, approved of their printing but were never released due to the cessation of Hatomim's printing, and as an introduction I wish to explain the reasons that prove my decision [that the letters of the Kherson Geniza are indeed authentic].

I have included here two points:

1. It is well known all of those who lived in southern Russia, near Odessa
and Kherson, who possessed a knowledge of the chronicles of Chassidus and its teachings, and amongst these individuals none was fit or able to write letters as these by himself.

2. To acquire at that time [of the Russian Revelation], one of international turmoil and frayed
diplomacy, the parchment upon which they were written was nearly

The majority of the questions of those who doubt the
veracity of the letters are founded on the contradictory dates in the
letters etc. That means mistakes that stem on the majority from an
individual letter and word, or the emission thereof. It's well known to
anyone that ever worked in copying manuscripts, and especially when
done in haste (Sadly, I know of this through my editing of a
significant portion of the ma'amorim
and books printed by our publishing house), that even a good copy will
have mistakes in at least five percent of the lines after the first
time it is copied and rechecked twice - and as mentioned before this is
with the best person copying. On the other hand a forger who wishes to
falsify documents in order to sell them later to one of the Chassidic
courts - that is to say, those with a knowledge of the history of the
chassidic movement and its teachings - would most obviously be exacting
to to edit it many times in order to avoid mistakes that will reveal
his forgery and publicly discredit his work. Therefore the existance of
these mistakes (after the mistakes of the editor of Hatomim
are removed) are just the opposite, proof that the letters were not
written by a forger that wished to sell them later to those who
knowledgeable of this subject and thus must be scrupulous to avoid
mistakes, but rather transcribed by a copier who had no in depth
knowledge of their content. This then is an additional proof to the
conclusion of the Previous Rebbe, which he seemingly heard from his father [The Rebbe Rashab],
that 1) There is no doubt that their content is authentic. 2) They were
copied from someone's writings who possessed a deep understanding of
both Chassidus and Kabballah.

Another point, which I am sure also proves the conclusion of the Previous Rebbe
- that anyone who would see the hundreds of these letters at once,
which this was how they were brought to be sold in Lubavitch, would not
have room at all to know that this was the original handwriting, since
all of them possessed the same handwriting and parchment in all of
their details. A forger who wished to falsify in this manner would have
only hoped to successfully find a purchaser who lacks an analytical
sense and basic logic [and thus not gone to the Chassidic courts who
would be able to sense a forgery with greater ease]. Besides the above,
in a portion of the letters that were not published there were kameyos [charms] and letters with crowns and vowels [part of the arcane and esoteric knowledge of Kabbalah - as can be found in sefer raziel hamalach etc.] - and as I heard from the Previous Rebbe,
in these letters and also amongst those that were published can be
found concepts that were not known to the public, but rather kept as a
tradition from Rebbe to Rebbe, starting from the Alter Rebbe until the
father of the Previous Rebbe. I only mentioned here [a few] general
points, but in my opinion they suffice to not only to remove the claims
of the above mentioned article [where the questions of the veracity of
the Kherson Genizah can be found ] but furthermore bring an entirely
opposite and easily accepted conclusion:

It is clear that the Ruzhiner zt"l
was arrested [under the libelous claim that he was complicit in the
death of two Jewish informers] (at the moment there still is yet to be
found 'scientific' historians that contradict this fact, though there
is a well known historian in Poland that came to the "irrefutable
scientific conclusion" that Ba'al Shem Tov never existed) under very
harsh conditions and that any documents found in the possession of the
one arrested would be confiscated. Surely then the Ruzhiner
would have manuscripts from others in his generation and those in
proximity to it, as well as beloved books that he inherited etc -either
in great quantity or less; and surely upon finding a place of safety
[Kishinev and then to Iaşi] the Ruzhiner
would look for ways to bring about their return. If so, it is obvious
that that they would not be able to openly petition the government for
the return of his articles, since it from the said government which he
has escaped from imprisonment; rather they would go about their return
in a surreptitious manner. If those attempting [the return of the Ruzhiner's
documents] managed to successfully bribe in any way those in charge -
what would those in charge due to minimize, at the very least, the
possibility that the government officials will discover the return of
the documents to their rightful owner? The simplest manner would be to
put in place of the documents others that, at least superficially,
resembled the manuscripts that were taken. It is understood then that
none of this could have gone about in a peaceful matter over an
extended period of time, and therefor there was no time to properly
edit them, as well as little use in such, since those making th switch
as well as the investigators from which they feared understood Russian
better then Chassidus [that is the philosophy of Chassidus].
It is also understood that these copies would be done on the parchment
or paper of the time in which they were switched, not when they were
written; especially since at that time it was not yet known how
determine the age of the parchment.
-M. Schneerson

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A Simple Jew said...

Mottel: Thank you for posting that. Here is my last posting on the subject.

Joe in Australia said...

that he was complacent in the
death of two Jewish informers

I think you mean "complicit in the death".

Mottel said...

Thanks for catching the mistake . . .

Smashed Hat said...

Chabakuk Elisha once told me that a letter from the Rayatz was found which indicated that he did not necessarily believe in the authenticity of the Kherson Genizah. And when it was shown to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, he said something to the effect of "Let sleeping dogs lie!"

Did you ever hear anything about this later development?

Mottel said...

I read the statement online, so my knowledge is no better then yours. I honestly don't understand though . . . M'eila the Uber Umnis out there say what they say, but any Lubavitcher, or stam yid who knows that the Rebbe is an Ish Haemes, should have no doubt as to the Rebbe's opinion -if he says bli shum sofek that their tochen is authentic, then that is the metzious . . . all the shmuos are null.

Tumim said...

mottel, you are projecting into rebbe's words what he never said - that they are "authentic bli sofek". The letter doesn't say that anywhere.

Can you bring an example of a definitely authentic letter from the genizah ?

Mottel said...

Look at the Rebbe's words:
"I had no doubt that their content was authentic"
Or go to the original PDF . . .