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Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Investigation File of the Rebbe of Ruzhin Revealed

Visit Kedem Auctions  for more information.

An investigation file of the Hasidic Rebbe, Rabbi Israel of Ruzhin from his early days in Sadhora, a city located in the former Austrian Empire where he found refuge from the Russian Czar's rule, was recently revealed at Jerusalem’s Kedem Auction House. The investigation file sheds light on the Rebbe’s interests as well as his escape from the Russian Czar’s rule, which not only involved crossing the border into the Austrian empire but also creating a cover story in order to be able to do so. The file also provides details about the Rebbe’s integration and absorption into Sadhora’s communal life. Most unique in the investigation file are perhaps three handwritten signatures from the Rebbi, which is a very rare find.

Among other things included in the investigation file are exact dates of the Rebbe's escape, as well as previously unknown details regarding his family, their arrival in the Austrian Empire, and their reunion with the Rebbe. According to such documents, the Rebbe’s escape commenced on the Jewish Sabbath and on the 4th of the Hebrew month of Shevat in the Hebrew year, 5602 (January 15, 1842). Although traveling necessarily involved the performance of traditionally forbidden labors on the Sabbath, the Rebbe found himself in such a dire and dangerous situation that he felt compelled to abide by the established principle that places the preservation of human life above the Sabbath.

In 1838, the Rebbe, based on libel, was arrested for allegedly attempting to kill two people. The Rebbe sat in the Russian prison for about two years, but even after his release, the authorities continued monitoring him until the Rebbe finally decided to flee Russian territory. In order to do so, he adopted the identity of a Jew from Sadhora who had disappeared nearly 40 years earlier and claimed at the border crossing into the Austrian empire to be that very same person. Subsequently, he moved to the home of the parents of that Jew. After his successful escape, the Tsarist authorities issued a request for the Austrian authorities to extradite him.

Following the extradition request, the local authorities opened an investigation into the Rebbe from Ruzhin as well as several individuals involved in smuggling him across the border. The investigation, which lasted one month and included over 170 questions, was dealt with by the highest echelons among Russian and Austrian officials. Although the Austrian authorities concluded that the Rebbe was illegally smuggled across the border, they found extradition to be unnecessary on condition that a nominal sum of 10,000 fluorine coins was transferred, allowing him to obtain a residency permit in accordance with Austrian law.

“The investigative file on the Admor of Ruzhin is an exclusively unique item,” explains Meron Eren, of the Kedem Auction House. “It gives us a one-time glimpse into one of the most famous events in the Hasidic world in general and to the Ruzhin Hasidic sect in particular.  At the same time, it reflects the special, steadfast character of the Admor during one challenging stint of time in his life. Items of this kind that incorporate such a significant historic-Jewish blend are particularly unusual as they include so many documents and details that were previously unknown.”

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