Auction 65 Judaica - Books, Manuscripts, Rabbinical Letters, Ceremonial Art
By Kedem
Mar 12, 2019
8 Ramban St, Jerusalem., Israel

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LOT 364:

Letter from Rabbi Chaim Shmulevitz - Shanghai, 1942 - Correspondence Encoded in Talmudic Terms, Regarding Transfer ...

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Letter from Rabbi Chaim Shmulevitz - Shanghai, 1942 - Correspondence Encoded in Talmudic Terms, Regarding Transfer of Funds from the United States to Japan, for the Rescue of Holocaust Refugees
Letter handwritten and signed by R. Chaim Leib Shmulevitz "son-in-law of R. Eliezer Yehuda Finkel - Dean and Director of the Mir yeshiva - currently in Shanghai". Shanghai, Av 1942. The letter, addressed to the Erlanger brothers in Lucerne, Switzerland, endeavors to establish an ingenious way of relaying messages between the yeshiva in Shanghai, then under Japanese occupation, and the yeshiva's representative in the Unites States, R. Avraham Kalmanovitz, referred to in the letter as "Rabbi Tiktinai" (appellation derived from the town Tiktin - Tykocin, Poland, where he previously served as rabbi). After the Japanese attack on the American naval base in Pearl Harbor, December 1941, the situation of European refugees in Japan and China worsened. The state of war between Japan and the United States denied the refugees in Shanghai any communication with the outside world (even established international organizations, such as the Joint, were unable to transfer funds from the United States to assist the Jewish refugees in Shanghai, and their activities were limited to monies borrowed from local wealthy people). The Mir yeshiva, who several months earlier had escaped Lithuania to Japan and Shanghai, was an exception, and subsisted for over four years with the financial support of American Jewry. R. Avraham Kalmanovitz obtained funds in the United States, and transferred them to the yeshiva in ingenious and circuitous ways, via neutral countries such as Sweden and Switzerland, whilst deceiving the Japanese authorities into believing that the yeshiva was subsisting only on funds from Swedish and Swiss Jewry. The communication between the Mir yeshiva and the outside world was upheld through its representatives in other countries: R. Wolbe in Sweden, R. Milevsky in Uruguay and the Erlanger family in Switzerland. The Moach VaLev biography of R. Chaim Shmulevitz (chapter 6, pp. 51-56 in the 1984 edition, pp. 67-72 in Sefer HaZikaron LeHagrach Shmulevitz, Jerusalem, 1980) relates of the ingenious system of rabbinically encoded correspondence that R. Chaim devised (including Talmudic terms, strange codes of numerical values, hints and references to various folios in Talmudic tractates and the commentaries, and to various sections in Shulchan Aruch). The book also reports of the great difficulty involved in convincing the branches of international banks in Shanghai to transfer American monies on the basis of these encoded letters. On the other hand, R. Chaim was successful in convincing the rigid and threatening Japanese officials, that the yeshiva maintains no connection with the United States: "The basis for this communication was established by R. Chaim. Strange letters and telegrams - whose contents had to satisfy the undercover police - were dispatched to neutral countries from the central post-office in Shanghai, under the nose of the undercover police, who scrutinized every single word, from time to time demanding 'explanations'…" (Moach VaLev, p. 52). This letter is one of the first letters which established the system for this correspondence. The letter is very cleverly worded, in ambiguous terms, using Talmudic language. R. Chaim alludes in the letter to his scheme to sustain the yeshiva in indirect and circuitous ways. He suggests that even though the Jews of neutral Switzerland do not have sufficient means to support the yeshiva exiled in Shanghai, their connection with the United States can provide the channel for the maintenance of the yeshiva, through transfer of messages from "Rabbi Tiktinai" (R. Kalmanovitz). R. Chaim Shmulevitz (1902-1979), dean of the Mir yeshiva, a most renowned Torah scholar. A grandson of the Saba of Novhardok, and son-in-law of R. Eliezer Yehuda Finkel, dean of the Mir yeshiva. R. Chaim began lecturing in the Mir yeshiva in 1936, and since then, delivered lectures unceasingly for over forty years. The outbreak of WWII compelled the yeshiva to flee to Lithuanian towns, and then to Japan and Shanghai. Throughout that entire trying period, R. Chaim served as yeshiva dean, delivering regular lectures and leading the yeshiva together with R. Yechezkel Levenstein. During the yeshiva's stay in Shanghai, the financial burden rested on R. Chaim's shoulders, with all the difficulties and danger this entailed. Despite all the adversities, R. Chaim did not cease his diligent Torah study and profound lectures in the yeshiva hall. After the war, he immigrated to Jerusalem in 1947, joining his father-in-law R. Eliezer Yehuda Finkel, who had been rescued in a different way and established the Mir yeshiva in Jerusalem. His teachings were published in the books: Shaarei Chaim - Lectures and musar discourses, edited by his disciples and sons. The book Sefer Zikaron LeHagrach Shmulevitz (Jerusalem, 1980) was published in his memory, incorporating the first edition of the Moach VaLev biography on R. Chaim Shmulevitz. [1] leaf, official stationery. 27 cm. Close to 30 autograph lines and signature. Thin, high-quality paper. Good condition. Folding marks and minor stains.

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