Tuesday, July 10, 2018



In 1916, a bookseller named Naftali Zvi Shapiro offered to sell a scholar, Abraham Kahan, letters written by the Baal Shem Tov that had been stored in some Geniza (cache of old documents). 
There was confusion as to where the Geniza was, in St. Petersburg, Kiev, or Kharkov. Finally, in 1921, the letters appeared in Odessa, having originated (supposedly) in the government archive in Kherson.
This cache was supposedly confiscated from the Ruzhiner Rebbe zt"l. when he was put in prison. 

The story  was that in the confusion following the revolution in 1917, the letters were removed from the Kherson archive and brought to Odessa. There most of the letters were purchased by a wealthy Chasid-Shmuel Gurary who presented them to his Rebbe the Maharshab, Rabbi Shalom Dov Ber zt"l

In the 1930's, Rabbi Yosef Yitzhak,zt"l 
(Frierd iger Rebbe) 
published some three hundred letters, purportedly from the pen of the Besht etc.in the Chabad journal-Hatamim. 

 It soon became apparent however, that the authenticity of the manuscripts was questionable.

Close inspection of the contents, form, and paper cast serious doubt on their genuineness, 
and today, outside of Chabad there are virtually no authorities who consider these letters anything other than forgeries.

Scholars examined the letters in the Kherson Geniza attributed to the Baal Shem Tov and matched up the dates to the day of week in which they were written. it was discovered that some of the dates coincided with Shabbosos  & Yomim Tovim. Also, the type of paper that was used on the manuscripts was not yet available then. 

The Imrei Emes (Gerrer Rebbe),R. Yisochor Dov Rokeach (Belzer Rebbe), and MinchasElozor (Munkatcher Rebbe) zt"l 
all took issue with the authenticity of these letters.

Outside of Chabad there are no sources  that suggest they were not forgeries.

The last Lubavitcher Rebbe Zt"l who was an expert on old Seforim and manuscripts insisted that they are indeed authentic and wouldn't give in to the academics who tried to convince him otherwise. 

In the Sefer Hatamim, there are two Besht letters from the Kherson Geniza declaring the Yom Tov of כ"ו תמוז. It is interesting that as far as I know. no one, not even Chabad celebrates כ"ו תמוז.

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