Auction No. 100

Rare and special items

June 20, 2017
Opening $ 1,500
Estimate $ 1,800 - $ 2,000
Sold for $ 1,830
Including buyer's premium

An important letter from the Rebbe Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn, of Lubavitch.

Specifications: [1] official paper leaf. 23x21 cm. Typewritten with corrections in his handwriting and with his signature, dated 24 Tammuz [July 3] 1956.

Content: The battle against Israeli ships travelling on Shabbat was a mighty battle waged by the Lubavitcher Rebbe in the 1950's and 60's in order to raise public awareness of the prohibition against travelling on Israeli ships owned by Jews which travel on Shabbat while desecrating Shabbat. In an attempt to allow the Israeli ship company 'Zim' to continue its journeys while misleading the public, there were those who claimed that operating ships does not desecrate Shabbat, and the Zim company even published a detailed opinion of an engineer, who explained that there is no need to desecrate Shabbat for a ship to travel, as everything is done automatically by machine. In the important letter before us, the Lubavitcher Rebbe explains his approach to the matter (while making use of his extensive knowledge of ship engineering from his studies in France), and responds to these claims, proving that they are lies and deception, and writes: "It is impossible for a ship to be controlled automatically for an entire day with no human intervention." They also claimed that stopping the ships is life threatening, as it will cause financial damage to the State of Israel, and could lead to security damage; the Rebbe responds to these claims in the letter before us, saying that desecration of Shabbat is the greatest damage there is, "as it is similar to one who extinguishes a fire with petroleum," and additionally, if we were to take this claim seriously, factories, and other similar institutions, in Israel would have to be permitted to work on Shabbat as well (G-d forbid). In the late 1960's, when travelling in passenger ships became a rarity and was replaced by airplane travel, the controversy gradually died out.

Unique Features: The letter before us is addressed to Rabbi Dr. Zvi Harkavi, and is the continuation of an interesting story. In the winter of 1956, Harkavi's wife and son travelled to America, intending to return to Israel by boat. When the Lubavitcher Rebbe heard of this, he informed them that he will pay for their return journey by airplane, despite the high costs. This was reported in the newspapers of the time and caused a great furor.

Background: The Rebbe Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn [1902-1994] was the seventh Rebbe of Lubavitch, and one of the greatest Rebbes of the last generation. He was known as a tremendous genius in the revealed and hidden Torah and as having an astounding memory. In addition to his greatness in Torah, he also had extensive secular knowledge. In 1933 he moved to Paris, where he completed electronic engineering studies in the E.S.T.P school of higher education of public works. He even received a degree as an electronic engineer.

Condition: Very fine. Folding marks, aging stains.

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