By a writer*
Last week, COLlive.com published an expose regarding numerous artifacts that have suddenly begun flooding Jewish auction houses, purportedly belonging to the families of the Chabad Rebbes.
The article exposed some of the fabrications that Shaul Shimon Deutsch of Boro Park has devised through the years, and it has caused the auction houses to squirm a bit. One auction house wrote a lengthy and quite telling explanation of why they believe the items are genuine. Another, more reputable, company issued a statement explaining why they won’t be selling any more items from this individual.
Like every good lie, the tale of these artifacts has some truths and half-truths mixed in, resulting in just enough uncertainty to lead unknowledgeable non-Lubavitchers to bid for these items.
There’s a feisty conversation going on over which (if any) are genuine and which are scams. The truth is that the seller did, in fact, get his hands on some precious artifacts. It’s also true that he also has made an absolute killing selling some total fabrications.
But there’s a far more important point which the expose missed:
My sources tell me to expect more artifacts and photographs to surface in the coming weeks, including photos and possessions of our Rebbe. Several auction houses are gearing up with new lots of intriguing material from the same source.
According to Shimmy Deutsch, he had a close relationship with Mrs. Chana Gurary and Mr. Barry Gurary, beginning from before the court battle between the Rebbe — representing the Lubavitch movement and seven generations of leaders leading back to the Alter Rebbe and “every chosid living today, and every chosid who will be born until the end of time” (to use the Rebbe’s words) — on one side; and on the other side, Barry Gurary and his mother.
Barry’s theft, the trial, and the ensuing events became a pivotal event in the Rebbe’s leadership. The pain this episode caused — laying bare a painful rift in the Rebbe’s own family and representing a direct attack on his entire legitimacy as Rebbe — cannot be overemphasized. It is an inarguable fact that, in the aftermath of the theft and the accompanying conflict, the Rebbe’s health was never the same. The conflict directly preceded the passing of the Rebbetzin in the winter of 1988, several weeks after the return of the Seforim, a linkage of events that the Rebbe himself noted.
By Shimmy’s own account, the relationship between himself, Barry and Barry’s mother, persevered through the trial, the verdict and the appeal that followed. Through the harshly fought personal claims against the Rebbe, the passing of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson, of righteous memory, and of the Rashag (Rabbi Shmaryahu Gurary OBM), and the numerous resounding victories handed the Rebbe by the courts, Shimmy maintained a close personal relationship with Barry and his mother.
Without rehashing all the twists and turns of the Seforim case, there is no doubt that to join hands with Barry and his mother as they fought the Rebbe, all-the-while espousing ugly vitriol and attempting to inflict maximum damage, takes a huge dose of guts. One can only be wowed by Mr. Deutsch’s temerity: attending the Rebbe’s farbrengens and spending time 770 as chasidim fasted and recited tehillim for a successful outcome and as they worried about the Rebbe’s health, while visiting and conspiring with the defendants on a regular basis.
The autobiographical narrative that Deutsch has put forth, puts to rest a longstanding riddle: In 1987, during the appeal, the Rebbe deplored that there were people “dancing at two weddings” (Vayakhel, 5747). In words that leave no room for misinterpretation (and which, to this very day, have never been published due to their sharpness) the Rebbe sharply invoked the prototypical story of Eliyahu at Mount Carmel, challenging the idol-worshipping Jews to pick a side: “If you choose Hashem, follow Him, and if you want to choose Baal, then follow him!”
“One who dances at two weddings (i.e., plays both sides of this conflict),” the Rebbe declared, “is worse than one who is entirely on the side of Baal.” Such a person is, by his actions, “conducting another funeral for the Frierdiker Rebbe.”
Who was the mysterious figure the Rebbe was referring to, who provided counsel to Barry and his mother while feeding them a steady stream of information on the goings-on at 770? Who was, by stealing the books, writings and holy possessions of the Rebbeim, depriving them of “their very lifeblood”? Over the years, numerous theories have been proposed as to who the Rebbe might be referring to.
Last week, all the hypothesizing was laid to rest. The individual has stepped forward, raised his hand and declared, “It was me.” I was the one who was “dancing with the enemy.” I exacerbated the Rebbe’s pain and drew out the conflict.
Shimmy Deutsch, please take a bow.
The big investment, clearly, bore fruit. Beginning in 1989, Barry and Chana began to proffer to Shimmy possessions previously belonging to the Rebbeim — the very items that he recently began to auction off to the highest bidders (alongside a healthy number of fraudulent items mixed in by him).
For this conversation, let’s assume the source of his wares are truly as he claims (=in fact, they are). Which leads me to the point I’d like to share with you today and why, if you’re considering bidding on these items or if you are involved in their sale, you should pay close attention:
From the first time the Rebbe spoke publicly about the theft on that televised farbrengen in summer of 1985, he made it clear that whomever was purchasing and dealing with these sacred possessions was playing with fire.
To this very day, many of the transcripts of the Rebbe’s talks of that period have never been published in full (save for unpublished notes available to a select few). The weekday talks, however, are available on tape.
In the first address on the matter (12 Tammuz, 5745), after laying out the facts surrounding the theft and the subsequent sale and auctions of precious seforim, the Rebbe stated:
By paying even one cent, you are going against the (Previous) Rebbe’s wishes, no matter how good your intentions may be, and it will not succeed – not only in the Next World, but not even in this world! Therefore, let the fool who has already done so shake himself free and return every item…
It should be made known in every place where someone might have the idea that my father-in-law’s books can be bought, or his manuscripts, or his Tefillin, or the Siddur of the Baal Shem Tov, and so on — let it be clear, this goes against not only the past wishes of my father-in-law, but “He is alive” right now – and it goes against his will in the present, and it will not succeed.
The Rebbe introduced an alarming analogy, which he would return to numerous times in the days that followed:
When a person wants to smuggle a bomb, he does not announce “I am carrying a bomb!”
This same scenario is playing out here. An individual is coming along and saying: “This book is precious! It is a sweet apple! It can enhance your life in this world and the next, for it belonged to a holy and pure man, the Rebbe of the generation – and that’s why you must pay extra for it…”
It is made to appear like a sweet apple… but let it be known: Whomever takes the Rebbe’s books into his own home is taking home a bomb!
One who touches these possessions, Heaven forfend, must know that he is picking a fight with the (Previous) Rebbe! He was a Rebbe 35 years ago, and he is today, as well. In fact, he becomes more and more alive with every passing day…
I hereby announce inform, and warn: Anyone who will pay money to buy Seforim, even for the purpose of returning them to me is waging war against the Rebbe, because by doing so, you help the thief.
If you purchase a book, you are in possession of a live bomb that can explode at any moment!
After informing listeners that people had already been stricken with misfortune due to their involvement with the stolen possessions, and had reversed their hardships once returning the items to their rightful place (for which the Rebbe reimbursed them in full), the Rebbe made clear that he was not, G-d forbid, issuing a threat. Rather,
I see, with my very eyes, that this is a danger, so I must warn whoever finds themselves nearby where these possessions (belonging to the Rebbe) are being held — you are residing alongside an actual danger!
Pointing his finger, the Rebbe declared:
It is absolutely clear to me; I see it with my physical eyes — there is true hazard here!
… I am not a police officer… but when I see such a danger, I must call attention to it! A home where these seforim are being kept is a place of danger!
The Rebbe returned time and again to the example of the “sweet apple” that is — as long it is outside its rightful home, in the Rebbe’s possession — “a live bomb.”
“I will be the happiest,” the Rebbe declared, “if everything passes with no harm befalling anyone. But if I am not to speak out, I will be spilling blood; both my own and that of others.”
And here are the words that, perhaps, speak most directly to the present situation (note the sound of the Rebbe banging on the table as he speaks…)
This individual went, with great fanfare and in incomparably degrading fashion, offering for sale a book belonging to the Rebbe, and was willing to sell only if the price was high enough!…
Untold amounts of money were already paid for the Seforim. I don’t want to delineate the sums for which they sold, but suffice it to say, the proceeds are enough to sustain the seller until the end of his lifetime. But nevertheless, more and more items were stolen, and he’s running around and putting more items up for sale.
By Halacha, a Jewish slave is not allowed to be sold on the auction block, for it is humiliating, how much more so the possessions of a Rebbe! But here, the booksellers were told, “You must pay big money because this is a Sefer of a holy Jew.”…
I am handing this problem over to every single chosid until the end of time.
If you think the artifacts are fake, don’t waste your money. And if you think they are holy and precious and special and real, then now you know where they come from and what the Rebbe thinks of these auctions. The item contains some of the very life of the tzaddik who interacted with the object. And by paying for it, you are depriving the tzaddik of his very life.
Now you can make an informed decision.
–The writer, who asked to remain unnamed, has been involved in publishing the Rebbe’s teachings for many decades
Further reading/viewing on the subject:
“A Movement on Trial” – Documentary film by JEM on the theft and court case. (English and Hebrew, free to view) https://tinyurl.com/2p8sb3mp
Public talk on the subject at a Televised Farbrengen. (Subtitled, requires jem.tv membership.) https://jemtv.page.link/Rr2p
Article on the Seforim case by A Chassidisher Derher magazine https://derher.org/wp-content/uploads/76-Teves-5779-Hey-Teves-behind-the-scenes.pdf