Klal Yisrael’s Ledger
Tiberias Emissary’s Ledger to Europe
(Cheshvan 5507 (1807) - Nissan 5509 (1809)
A treasure trove of historical documentation of Ashkenazic Jewry.
Priceless collection of rare Rabbinical autographs including a historic letter by Rabbi Akiva Eiger.
Historical ledger, beautifully preserved and fully intact, describing a Rabbinical emissary’s journey across Germany, Holland and France and his visits to over 250 Jewish communities and shtetls in Europe!
This unique ledger features endorsements and autographs of Rabbanim, officers, philanthropists, community leaders and gabbaim and offers an eye-opening glimpse and extensive historical documentation of the fundraising system of that era, as well as the esteem that Diaspora Jews held toward the valiant settlers of the Yishuv.
Aside from its immense historic value, this ledger also comprises a priceless and exceedingly rare collection of autographs, along with dozens of handwritten letters and signatures by the greatest Rabbanim of the time.
Among the signatures appearing in this ledger are those of
Rabbi Akiva Eiger
Rabbi Avraham Tiktin, author of Pesach Habayis
Harav Tzvi Hirsch Halevi Horowitz, Ab”d of Frankfurt am Main, son of the Baal Haflaah and author of Machaneh Levi and Lachmei Todah
Harav Shlomo Zalman Hakohein, author of Bigdei Kehunah
Harav Wolf Hamburger, Ab”d of Fürth and author of Shaar Hazekenim
Harav Meir Weil, Ab”d of Berlin
Harav Aryeh Leib Breslau, author of Pnei Aryeh
Harav Yehudah Leib Margalios, Ab”d of Frankfurt D’Ord and author of Tal Oros
Harav Yaakov Moshe Leonstam, son of Harav Shaul of Amsterdam
Harav Dovid Zitzenheim, author of Yad Dovid
Harav Zekel Worsmer, Ab”d of Fulda
Rivam (Harav Yosef ben Meir) Steintuch
Harav Asher Wallerstein, son of the Shaagas Aryeh
Harav Moshe Tuvia Zuntheim, Ab”d of Hanau
Harav Hertz Sheier, Ab”d of Mainz and Harav Michel Sheier, Ab”d of Manheim, among many others.
The story of the ledger
In 1807, Rabbi Yisrael Chaim Refael Segri was sent by the sages of Tiberias as their emissary to Western Europe to raise money for the impoverished and beleaguered Yishuv. Rabbi Segri was a formidable Torah scholar and simultaneously possessed vast worldly knowledge. The hard-pressed members of the Yishuv placed great hopes in his abilities to arouse the compassion of European Jewry and inspire them to donate generously for the Jews of Tiberias who suffered terrible privation and hunger.
During that era, it was customary for a foreign Rabbinical emissary to visit the home of the Rav of every city or town that he visited for an interview. If he met the Rav’s approval, he would receive an endorsement letter recommending him to the rosh hakahal and community dignitaries who would then add their names and signatures to the ledger.
Rabbi Yisrael Chaim Refael Segri trekked from city to city, town to town, and shtetl to shtetl - wherever he could find a Jew. During his travels he arrived in Friedland, home of the legendary Rabbi Akiva Eiger. On page 364 of the ledger we find a long letter handwritten by Rabbi Akiva Eiger warmly recommending Segri to the community and expressing his profound distress upon the dire situation plaguing the residents of the holy city of Tiberias…
the letter of Rabbi Akiva Eiger
“This Rabbinical emissary sent by our brothers who dwell in the Holy Land in the city of Teveria…Due to our many sins, they are given to captivity and persecution, and the wrath of the sovereign state which condemns to death, chas v’shalom. With Hashem’s mercy, the sovereign leader conceded to accept a huge ransom, and all who hear this emissary recount the terrible tribulations and tortures they have suffered shall tremble in fear and the hairs of his body will stand on end, for who is so hard-hearted as not be inspired? Even if his heart is unyielding as a stone, it shall still spill [tears] as water…May Hashem grant that we should see the comfort of Zion and Jerusalem, and may Judah and Israel be redeemed in our day.”
Monday, Erev Rosh Chodesh Nissan, 5568 (1808)
Hakatan Akiva ben Moreinu Harav Ginz
Several young men and I have donated money on behalf of Rabbi Meir Baal Hanes.
On Page 197 another handwritten letter by Rabbi Akiva Eiger extending an emotional request (
kvittel) that the recipients of his donation pray for him at the sacred tomb of Rabbi Meir Baal Hanes:
“I, Akiva, born to Gittel, gave eight coins to pray on my behalf at the tomb of Rabbi Meir Baal Hanes, that Hashem shall strengthen me in Torah and fear of heaven, and no error should result from [my judgment], heaven forbid, and that I should raise my children to fear heaven…”
This ledger also features additional letters and records of the extended Eiger family, among them Rabbi Akiva’s brother Rabbi Simcha Bunim Eiger, his eldest son Rabbi Avraham Eiger of Ravitch, his uncle Rabbi Yehudah Leib Eiger, Av Beis Din of Halberstadt, his son Rabbi Zev’l Eiger, and his son-in-law Rabbi Avraham Moshe Kalischer.
The information contained in this ledger offers a fascinating historical perspective into Jewish life of early 19th century Europe, and in many cases is the only documentation of Jewish presence in many remote, outlying Diaspora communities.
This manuscript encompasses 466 sides measuring 14x19 cm. The last pages (448-454) present Segri’s handwritten summary of the income raised throughout the course of his journey. Pages 466-461 refer to the emissary’s journey in 1809 and are bound together with this ledger.
When Segri reached Amsterdam in 1809, after the ledger had been in use for two years,
R’ Avraham Firencz offered to bind it into a book. Firencz meticulously bound the ledger in an attractive case which he engraved with his name and details in gold letters. On the first page of the ledger, Segri inscribed a special dedication and thank you to Firencz, which he autographed and stamped.
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