Treasures for the World – Jewish Holy Books

  • Old Jewish Books become valuable antiques.
  • The Torah was given as a gift to the Jewish people and not to be made from it a business.
  • Libraries preserve books for interested readers in the future.

The Supreme Court of New York decided in 1986 that the holy books in the Library of Agudas Chassidei Chabad on Eastern Parkway were their own treasures left to them by their Grand Rabbis and personal collections. The Grand Rabbi is part of his congregation and the Rebbe and his followers are one body with one divine interest the welfare of the Jewish people and the holiness of Judaism. The day of this decision was declared by their leader Rabbi Schneerson to be a Jewish holiday.

An old Torah Arc dating back to 1867.

The Jewish people are often called the “People of the Book” which refers to the Old Testament the five books of Moses also called the Torah. The Torah, the five books of Moses is the foundation of faith in One God where is recorded the history of the world from the first day of creation until the Jewish people were standing at the border of the Jordan River with Moses their teacher and Joshua his successor.  The Torah also called the Bible is more important to the Jewish people than other nations in the world because they were specifically chosen to represent it and watch over it forever.

Derived from the Torah through the generations have been written many commentaries explaining its application in everyday life for Jew and gentile. The Torah the first book included in the Jewish Bible was added the books of the prophets, writings of Solomon, Psalms of David, other writings until was reached 24 books in one volume called the Tanach translated as Torah, Neviim- prophets, writings.

A Jewish library has more than just these 24 books because in its generations the scholars saw the importance of further explanations of the Law of Moses and also applications of these laws in everyday life. Included with the Written text called the Torah Scroll was given by Moses the Oral Law handed down by him to Joshua his student, the elders and to the prophets.  Each generation learns and teaches the Law of Moses that was given to them by their teachers and their fathers. The Oral law was later compiled into written texts so that it would not be forgotten. Finally in the last five hundred years it became simplified for daily application in texts called the Shulcan Aruch the Code of Jewish law. Many written texts on Jewish law are included in a Jewish Rabbinical Library like the Library of Agudas Chasidei Chabad.

Torah hand written scrolls.

The Lubavitch Chabad Chassidic movement which is probably the largest in the world with representatives in thousands of locations throughout the world, is celebrating this week the victory of the Lubavitcher Rebbe and Agudas Chabad in a court trial which they won in 1986.  A dispute occurred over the ownership of the books which were in the Library on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn left there by the previous Lubavitcher leader Rabbi Joseph Yitzchok Scheeron. These books were transferred to America from Russia when the previous Lubaviticher Rebbe came to America in 1940.  When the previous Rebbe passed away his collection of books became included in this Library with manuscripts from all Jewish sources from many generations. These manuscripts are very valuable and book collectors are willing to pay tremendous sums of money for them. The books were from the personal collection of the previous Rebbe as well as books that were given to him for Agudas Chabad.

The previous Rebbe had two daughters.  His successor Rabbi Menachem Schneerson married one of his daughters Chaya Moshka. The other daughter married Rabbi Shalom Gurary who was also a close student of his father-in-law. Rabbi Gurary passed away before his brother-in-law Rabbi Menachem Mendel. The son of Rabbi Gurary his name Barry a businessman without permission removed many valuable manuscripts from the Library and began to sell them. His claim was that these books were part of his inheritance being the grandson of the previous Rebbe. The claim of Agudas Chabad was that all the possessions of the previous Rebbe which were connected to his position of Chief Rabbi and not his personal possessions. Also these books were never intended to be sold to become part of a business transaction but to be preserved and learned with respect for their holiness.

The British Library the largest library in the world.

The Bible is the most precious priceless book that has ever been written. The Jewish people have preserved the text of the Torah and have watched over it that not one letter should ever be changed. Moses gave the Jewish people the first manuscript before they entered Israel. This manuscript was copied by scribes and the Torahs were protected in their Holy Arc.  In each synagogue there is an arc which contains Torahs which are used in their services. A Torah scroll today written according to Jewish law is worth at least $25,000.  The Torah Scroll is read in the congregation and the people of the congregation hold a Holy Bible printed for their use. An Old Torah Scroll can become a valuable antique.  A Torah book preserved and kept after many years becomes an antique.

The Rebbe won the court case that these books were given to the leaders of Chabad throughout many generations to become part of a library and not to be sold. The Leader of Chabad in each generation was their representative and the books belonged to the congregation and were not part of his inheritance to his children. They were not personal possessions like gold and silver but much more precious to the Jewish people who are called the People of the Book.

Books are not only considered to be treasures by Jews but the whole world values manuscripts which have been written throughout the history of time on all subjects, history, human interest, science, etc. Here is a list of the largest libraries in the world. The top three on this list are: the British Library, Library of Congress, and the New York Public Library.

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David Wexelman

Rabbi David Wexelman is the  author of five books on the topics of World Unity and Peace, and Progressive Jewish Spirituality. Rabbi Wexelman is a member of the American Friends of Maccabee, a charitable organization helping the poor in the United States and in Israel.  Donations are tax deductible in the USA.

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