Wednesday, September 13

Chofetz Chaim Autograph

Jeffrey Saks posts:

In 1992 I was in Riga with YUSSR. The shul had a large storeroom full of old sifrei kodesh (literally hundreds of dusty, moldy volumes), which the shamash asked tourists to buy for foreign currency. For what was probably a fortune of cash to him, maybe it was $10, I took a stack of books -- not knowing that among them was an original edition Mishneh Berura. The endpages are covered in scribblings (including a few arithmetic calculations -- it seems to have been used as scratch paper!). When I returned to New York I showed it to a rare Judaica dealer, who pointed out that in the upper right hand corner of the inside cover is the Hebrew word "mugah" (checked, inspected). He told me that the Chofetz Chaim himself (and his sons-in-law) inspected each volume as it came back from the printers to make sure there were no mistakes in the binding, etc. That notation, "mugah", is none other than the Chofetz Chaim's own handwriting (according to the book dealer).

To see a scan of inside cover, click here.
When teaching halakhah, as I've done in various contexts since then, I always bring in the volume to class. I find the effect of having students touch a sefer which was held in the Chofetz Chaim’s own hands to be very powerful indeed.


At 9:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was also in that very synagogue in 1992 (Adar 5752; IIRC you may have replaced Dani Cohen and me as part of YUSSR...) and was also completely enthralled with the exquisite sefarim collection in the bet knesset that were not being properly preserved and suffering from utter disuse. I felt that it was my duty to take as many sefarim out that I could physically carry back on to the train to Tallin. All in all, I talk about a dozen interesting sefarim (including a Malb"im Nach with Shlit"a written after his name!) and paid the shamash $50 for all these sefarim. I was afraid that this low price may have constituted ona'ah, yet by gauging the shamash's reaction, it seemed to indeed have been ona'ah - yet to my favor as he summarily explained to my that $50 at that time was equivalent to a year's salary!

Moadim L'Simha
David Eisen


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