For sale: the rebbe’s glasses

Spec­ta­cles be­long­ing to the late Bobover Rebbe re­cently have gone on sale on eBay — at £175,000

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY SI­MON ROCKER

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?

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