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Lot 69: Autograph Letter Signed by the Gerrer Rebbe, Author of Sfat Emet

Auction 53 - Rare and Important Items

by Kedem Public Auction House Ltd

15 November 2016

Jerusalem, Israel

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Description: Autograph letter signed by Rebbe Yehuda Aryeh Alter of Ger, author of Sfat Emet. Five handwritten lines, signed "Aryeh Leib", from Wednesday "Tetzaveh" [undated]. Sent to "My relative the young man the wealthy Mr. Avraham Mordechai". The Sfat Emet advises him that "It is better to wait than to rent another apartment because you may be able to stay longer in your apartment" and he blesses him "G-d should help you and give you… together with all our Jewish brethren". R. Yehuda Aryeh Leib Alter of Ger (1847-1905, Encyclopedia L'Chassidut, Vol. 2, pp. 8-16), author of Sfat Emet, the third Gerrer Rebbe. Under his prominent leadership, the Ger Chassidic dynasty became the largest most influential Chassidic dynasty in Poland. Born to R. Avraham Mordechai Alter - son of R. Yitzchak Meir, author of Chiddushei HaRim, founder of the Ger Chassidism. The 13 sons of the Chiddushei HaRim died in his lifetime. All died in their childhood with the exception of R. Avraham Mordechai who lived longer and died as a young man a short while after the birth of his only son, R. Yehuda Leib (Leib'le). The orphan whose mother had died earlier, moved to the home of his illustrious grandfather, author of Chiddushei HaRim who raised him as a son. Even at that tender age, he amazed all who saw him with his diligence and depth. His grandfather took much pride in him and used to show him saying "See how my grandson studies Torah lishma". Whenever he traveled to Kotzk, the Chiddushei HaRim would take his young grandson with him "so he should see a true Jew". The Kotzker Rebbe loved the clever young man who amazed him greatly. His visits to Kotzk left a strong impression on R. Yehuda Leib for his entire life. In 1862, at the age of 15, he wed the daughter of R. Yehuda Kaminer of Ch?ciny, author of Degel Yehuda and since his name was the same as his father-in-law's, his grandfather, the Chiddushei HaRim instructed him to add the name Aryeh to his name. Since then he signed "Aryeh Leib". After his marriage, he continued living near his grandfather in the town of Ger studying Torah and serving G-d with outstanding devotion. In 1866, at the age of 19, the Chiddushei HaRim died leaving orders to appoint his grandson as his successor. In spite of his young age, the Chassidim wished to appoint him rebbe but he adamantly refused and turned away the many people who knocked at his door. Instead, he joined the Ger Chassidim who accepted the leadership of R. Chanoch Henich HaCohen of Aleksander (disciple of the Kotzker Rebbe) and he would travel to him every year. The Aleksander Rebbe who was very old, greatly honored the young man and waited for his visits and sat him at the head of the table. In 1870, four years after his grandfather's death, the Aleksander Rebbe died and again the Chassidim sought to appoint him as their rebbe. After repeated urging, he agreed to accept the position but he refused to sit at the head of the table and from that time, Gerrer Rebbes sit in the middle of the table and not at the head. The 23-year-old rebbe soon became a central figure in the lives of Polish Jewry. In spite of his refusal to serve as rebbe, after accepting the position he fulfilled his duties with full responsibility and invested his genius and deep wisdom in elevating his thousands of Chassidim, advising and assisting them in spiritual and material matters. He famous throughout Poland and the surrounding areas and tens of thousands of people thronged to seek his counsel and blessing and to bask in his presence. In a short while, under his leadership, the Ger Chassidic dynasty peaked to become the largest most central Chassidic dynasty in Poland. 100,000 people from all over Russia and Poland came to him every year. In 1899, a special railway was launched between Ger and Warsaw to serve the thousands of Chassidim who swarmed to Ger. This railway was dubbed "the Rebbe's line" and he too participated in funding the laying of the tracks. His influence on his Chassidim was so strong that they would consult him on every spiritual and material matter, large or small. His leadership was not limited to his own Chassidim, he was one of the leaders of all Charedi Jewry in Eastern Europe and he was active in the public arena for the benefit of Russian and Polish Jews. During one meeting of Polish rebbes in which they discussed matters of Charedim, he was called "King of Israel" and was honored with Birkat HaMazon even though he was one of the youngest of the participants. In 1904, the Russo-Japanese War broke out and thousands of his young Chassidim were forcibly recruited to the Russian Tsar's army. This impacted the rebbe greatly and due to his immense worry and pain, he would sleep on the floor crying bitterly for the fate of his Chassidim. He was so intensely pained that he contracted a rare illness and died in the month of Shvat, 1905. 20,000 people attended his funeral. He was succeeded by his son R. Avraham Mordechai Alter, author of Imrei Emet of Ger. His teachings were printed in the Sfat Emet series on the Torah, the Talmud and on other topics. The Sfat Emet on the Torah is renowned for its depth and originality and has become a basic book among Chassidic commentaries on the Torah. It may possibly be the most popular Chassidic book accepted in all Jewish circles, even those who are not affiliated with Chassidism such as the Lithuanian yeshiva circle and in other communities. His Talmudic novellae are famous as well for their unique and profound content and are studied in all Batei Midrash. The name Sfat Emet was chosen from a verse he cited from Mishlei in the last article he wrote a few weeks before his death, and this remained the name of his books for posterity. 20X6 cm. Fair condition. Stains, restored tears to folding creases, slight damage to several letters. The letter is housed in an elaborate leather case.

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