For sale: the rebbe’s glasses
Spectacles belonging to the late Bobover Rebbe recently have gone on sale on eBay — at £175,000
AT $350,000 (£175,000), they must be the world’s most expensive pair of glasses. But their owner was no rock legend or Hollywood megastar.
The exorbitantly priced specs that were recently offered for auction on the eBay website instead belonged to a 20th-century Chasidic sage, the third Bobover Rebbe, Rabbi Shlomo Halberstam, who died seven years ago aged 92.
But while the interest on eBay was muted — not a single bid came in — elsewhere the internet was ablog with Orthodox debate over the propriety of the sale.
According to web reports, the goldrimmed glasses had been left with the family of the Rebbe’s optometrist after he was given a new prescription in 1994. They arranged for Daniel Givotovsky, a computer-store owner from Brooklyn, to put the item up for auction.
With the aid of the glasses, Rabbi Halberstam’s “holy eyes” could penetrate into a person’s soul, according to the eBay auction listing.
He could “see from one end of the planet to the other, as well as look in the upper spheres resembling angelicpowered vision”.
Given these claims, the suggested starting bid may well have seemed a snip at $350,000. But they were cutting little ice with some on the New York-based blog Vos Iz Neias (“What’s News” in Yiddish).
“The idea of selling the Rebbe’s spectacles is an insult to anyone with an ounce of intelligence,” one post fumed. “TheRebbe must be rolling in his grave.”
The writer added: “The chazer [swine] wants $125 shipping on top of the asking price… Seller must be a real Galitzianer [Ashkenazi from South-East Poland].”
But one Bobover Chasid disagreed: “If I had the money to bid and could verify its authenticity, I’d be the first bidder,” he wrote. “What I wouldn’t give to look at the world through the glasses of such a tzaddik.”
A senior member of London’s Bobov community, Rabbi Avraham Schlaff, explained that the Rebbe’s possessions would attract interest . “All the things which belonged to the Rebbe have a certain amount of holiness and segulos,” he told the JC. (A segulah is an object that brings good fortune.)
“His clothes, his tallis, his shtreimel [furry Shabbat hat], his glasses — everybody would be interested and even pay for it. But $350,000 is not on. Somebody might pay $1,000.”
But he was sceptical about whether the glasses were actually the Rebbe’s, and said that such objects would generally be sold “secretly and privately”.
Mr Givotovsky, an Israeli, refused to reveal more. “I can’t say nothing,” he said. His profile on the social-network w e b s i t e M y S p a c e suggests he is no Chasid, listing his interests as “martial arts, computers” and “dancing with lovely women”, with the accompanying picture of a bald, unkippah-ed head. He was also advertising on eBay a nonrabbinical pair of “brand new” Prada sunglasses, a relative bargain at $132.
The third Bobover Rebbe proved to be one of the most influential Chasidic figures in modern times, who survived the Holocaust and an apparent crisis of faith to build the Bobovs from his Brooklyn base into a worldwide community of more than 100,000-strong.
But his succession has been clouded in controversy. His elder son, Rabbi Naftali Halberstam, became Bobover Rebbe but died in 2005, leaving the title to be disputed by Naftali’s halfbrother Benzion and son-in-law Rabbi Mordechai Unger. The argument is still to be settled by a Beth Din.
There was better luck this week for another eBay seller, who fetched £5,000 for a chestnut from the tree Anne Frank wrote about from her hideaway. The now-diseased tree was due to have been felled but received a reprieve this week.
Put these on and your vision could be transformed, according to the eBay blurb
The Bobover rebbe, Rabbi Shlomo Halberstam, dancing at a wedding in 1986. Recognise the glasses?