Sunday 27 December 2020



                      The library stamp of R.Yisrael Perlow of Stolin 


Some years ago, Professor Yitzhak Y. Melamed discovered what looked like a stamp from the famous lost Karlin-Stolin Geniza or Archive.

He made the discovery quite by accident as he was perusing through a two-volume list of Jewish library markings and stamps that the Allies had found and then catalogued after the Second World War. This catalogue is now held at the University of Chicago’s Regensburg Library. The Allies created this catalogue to document the Jewish books that had evaded destruction by the Nazis.

After the war, it was thought that the once-great Stolin Geniza had been irretrievably lost. However, from time to time rare Kabbalistic manuscripts had surfaced in, as Melamed puts it, “the murky world of Hebraica dealers”. One such manuscript was bought back by the Stoliner Chassidim themselves and another was purchased by the Jewish National Library of the Hebrew University. These, together with his accidental find, gave Melamed hope that the great Stolin Geniza and library had not been completely lost or destroyed. This article is based extensively on Professor Melamed’s intriguing investigation into the Stolin Geniza and his account thereof.[1]


To give an idea as to just how large and important the Stolin Geniza was, Melamed tells us that:

[if] the rare manuscripts and books carefully collected and preserved by the Stoliner Hasidim from the early 19th century until the 1930s were recovered, even in part, it would be one of the greatest Hebraica finds of our times.


Melamed points out that sadly and ironically, the Stolin Geniza only really became known to the broader Jewish community just before it was confiscated by the Nazis. In 1941, Gershom Scholem published his Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism, and he announced that:

An unexpected find has provided us with a useful hint concerning the relations between the [old and new] forms of Hasidism. In the biographical legends concerning the life of the Ba’al Shem [Tov] . . . a good deal is said about a mysterious saint, Rabbi Adam Ba’al Shem, whose mystical writings the Ba’al Shem was said to have treasured…

Only recently, however, we have come to learn of a curious fact…the descendants of Rabbi Solomon of Karlin have in their possession a great many Hasidic manuscripts and other documents…

I learned to my great surprise that there is among other documents a voluminous manuscript called Sefer Ha-zoref, written by Rabbi Heshel Zoref of Vilna who died in 1700, just when the Ba’al Shem was born . . . Now all this amounts to no less than the fact that the founder of Hasidism guarded the literary heritage of a leading crypto-Sabbatean and held it in great esteem. Apparently we have here the factual basis of our Rabbi Adam Ba’al Shem[2][3]         

This short section from Scholem is a theological bomb shell.


Based on the historical record, we know that R. Heschel Tzoref was a Sabbatian (i.e., a believer in the false messiah Shabbatai Tzvi). In fact, he was the head of the Lithuanian Sabbatians. He attended the Sabbatian conference in Nikolsburg in 1698/9 concerning the Sabbatian aliya to Palestine under R. Yehuda Chasid.[4] People “flocked to Zoref from all over Poland to… strengthen their Shabbatean faith[5].

In one section of Sefer haTzoref, he wrote that Shabbatai Tzvi was Mashiach ben David and that he (Tzoref) was Mashiach ben Yosef.[6] According to Scholem[7] R. Tzoref “encouraged the new movement of Shabbatean Hasidim[8]”. We also know that R. Efraim Margulies of Brody prevented R. Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev from printing Sefer haTzoref because of its Sabbatian origins.

R. Tzoref was a leader of the secret group of Nistarim, established by R. Eliyahu Baal Shem around 1590 (Tzoref may have been his student.) The Nistarim were established to preserve the teachings of Abulafia (Sefer haTzoref follows the style of Abulafia as well). Around 1665/6, when Shabbatai Tzvi was declared the Mashiach, Tzoref came out in the open and publicised the existence of the Nistarim.  This event could be interpreted in different ways; either to brazenly show allegiance to Shabbatai Tzvi or to distance himself and the secret mystical group from Shabbatai Tzvi.

It is likely that the Baal Shem Tov and his followers would have known about these and other open and public Sabbatian displays by R. Tzoref, even though Scholem[9] writes that the Besht was “seemingly…unaware of their Shabbatean character.”

We know that the Baal Shem Tov said of Sefer haTzoref that “universes could be built from it”[10] and he also said of R. Heshel Tzoref that “the messiah’s soul has sparked in him [Tzoref].”[11]  We also know from the Foreword by the copyist of Sefer haTzoref that “[t]his Sefer haTzoref…[was] found in the house of our master, our teacher the Rav Rivash [the Baal Shem Tov]” and it contained the following inscription:

This book was composed by the perfect and revered Gaon, through whom the spirit of the Lord spoke…Rabbi Heschel Tzoref…who had a different spirit…


We know from the extant copy of the Foreword of Sefer haTzoref that R. Shabbatai of Rashkov told the copyist (R. Yehoshua of Dinhovitz) that the Baal Shem Tov had given him his manuscript of Sefer haTzoref to have copied. But then the Baal Shem Tov passed away and his son, R. Hirsch, removed the book from R. Shabbatai of Rashkov’s home.

The Sefer haTzoref thus passed from the Baal Shem Tov to his son Hirsch, and then in turn to his son R. Aharon of Tutiev who lived in Kasnitin. It was the Baal Shem Tov’s grandson, R. Aharon of Tutiev, who seeing that the original copy was getting worn, agreed to have Sefer haTzoref copied. He gave his prised manuscript to the copyist R. Yehoshua of Dinhovits. At some stage, the book was acquired by R. Mordechai of Chernobyl. When he died the book was divided into three parts and given to his three sons. Eventually, the copied texts found their way to the library of R. Aharon of Karlin (1736-1772), the leader of the Lithuanian Chassidim and then later it became amalgamated into the great Karlin-Stolin Geniza.


According to Shivchei Ha-Besht (In Praise of the Ba’al Shem Tov) - a work which actually began to circulate even while the Baal Shem Tov was still alive - Adam Baal Shem transmitted the secret teachings to the Baal Shem Tov in the following manner:

Before Rabbi Adam’s death, he commanded his only son, “I have manuscripts here that hold the secrets of the Torah, but you do not merit them. Search the city called Okopy and there you will find a young man of about 14-years-old whose name is Israel ben Eliezer (the Ba’ al Shem Tov). You will hand him the manuscripts for they belong to the root of his soul.”

Then, we are later told that these secret writings were hidden under a stone in a mountain.

How the Baal Shem Tov received his mystical and ‘secret writings’ and exactly what they were is, of course, difficult to say with certainty. It depends on which tradition one chooses to follow. Exactly who the mysterious figure of his teacher Adam Baal Shem was, is similarly difficult to identify. Scholem seems to believe R. Heshel Tzoref and R. Adam Baal Shem were one personality. Scholem also says this view was prevalent amongst the students of the Baal Shem Tov[12], but there are also many other views on the matter.


Melamed tells the story which began in 1929. A young surgeon with an interest in Chassidic history, visited his mother in Pinsk. His name was Wolf Zeev Rabinowitsch. In Pinsk, he happened to meet a certain David Bachlinski who was the enlightened tutor of R. Moshe Perlow, the Stoliner Rebbe.

The Stoliner Rebbe and his family must have been quite open-minded Chassidim as besides having an enlightened tutor, the rebbe’s brother, Asher, had recently returned from Berlin where he had studied musicology.

The tutor, Bachlinski, duly introduced Rabinowitsch to both the Stoliner Rebbe and his brother R. Asher because he wanted to show the young researcher the library which contained rare books and documents relating to early Chassidic history.

Rabinowitsch was so inspired that he wrote to the great Jewish historian Simon Dubnow to tell him of his findings. Dubnow wrote back encouraging both Rabinowitsch and Bachlinski to do more research and to document the history of the Karlin-Stolin Chassidim. Dubnow even offered to write an approbation to their work.

There was an exchange of research and Dubnow published some of the material sent by Rabinowitsch and Bachlinski from what came to be known as the “Stolin Geniza”. In the meantime, Rabinowitsch began working as a doctor in Berlin and Bachlinski, with his contacts at the archive, became his paid research assistant.

On July 28, 1929, Bachlinski wrote to Rabinowitsch and informed him of some amazing discoveries he had made within the Stolin Geniza. He had found signed letters from some of the early Chassidic leadership, including R. Dov Ber of Mezeritch, R. Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev, R. Yisrael of Ruzhin and R. Avraham Yehoshua Heschel of Apta. He also claimed to have found the Shtar Hitkashrut, or Pledge of Allegiance signed by the students of the Ari Zal as well as a manuscript in R. Chaim Vital’s handwriting:

All those things I have read while standing in the cellar where the crate is stored. There were more letters…I wrote down outlines on a piece of paper, and relied on my rather strong memory.


Later, Bachlinski was allowed to take some material home to study and he reported:

[T]his time at least I worked in much better conditions. I did not stand in the cellar as the first time, but rather sat at home…I snooped and peeked as much as I could, and now you can be rest assured that I have not missed anything of any importance.

Even later, Bachlinski continued to update Rabinowitsch:

It turned out that, when I had entered the cellar for the first time the year before, I had seen only a tenth or the twentieth of all the treasure hidden there. I estimate that there are about a thousand letters and other writings of the leading Hasidic figures of all periods (apart from Chabad)…

If the matter is close to your heart and you are able to interest the relevant people I would advise you to speak with R. Asher and R. Avrum Yakli[13] who are likely to agree - obviously in exchange for some gift - to let this treasure be put into use. In the Geniza I have also found some letters by the Maharal of Prague and R. Chaim Vital whose authenticity must be confirmed by experts.

In 1935, Rabinowitsch published the first German edition of his book on Lithuanian Hasidism. He sent a copy to Bachlinski, who replied:

You have appeased me with your important gift, and I have no complaints. I would only ask for one thing. Please make sure to make a few corrections in the Hebrew edition. Do not write . . . “the atheistic youth,” since it will certainly not bring much honor to the Stoliner Hasidim to hear that atheists are singing the melodies of the Great R. Aharon…

Whatever you wrote in German is not crucial. But if you write like this in Hebrew, it is possible that the book will come into the hands of the Stoliner Rebbe, who will definitely be insulted.

In the meantime, Rabinowitsch emigrated to Palestine and some friction began to show in what till then had been a cordial relationship between all concerned. Bachlinski wrote:

I write to inform you that on June 23 I was released from my teaching at school and was waiting for the money you promised to send me from Eretz Yisrael…


I travelled to Stolin on the 30th of the same month…Reb Asher actually treated me very nicely, but much less so the other people at the court and particularly the son-in-law of the late Rebbe, R. Yisrael -R. Avraham Yaakov Friedman (from the Sadigura dynasty). I was not permitted to do what I wished, and I was not even allowed to read many of the writings, which were said to be family letters, and not intended for the eye of foreigners. However, I was able to copy…several items.


Then Bachlinski identifies himself as the discoverer of the elusive text of Sefer haTzoref:


Finally and most valuable: a manuscript of Sefer Ha-zoref which has never been printed. This is a large book of Kabbalah with 700 sheets (1400 pages) that was in the house of the Ba’al Shem Tov and had a major influence on the founder of Hasidism.  It was written by Yehosua Heschel Zoref of Krakau (born 1633) of whom the Ba’al Shem Tov said, “the messiah’s soul had sparkled in him…”


I have copied some parts of the book since it is impossible to copy such a huge book in a short time…


R. Asher asked me to find a publisher for the book…


I will send you the material soon, which you should probably bring to that person fond of Hasidism and Kabbalah. I will provide all required details in a letter.


I wished to photocopy the “Pledge of Allegiance” but I was not granted permission, though I offered payment. I just copied with pencil a few signatures.

If I succeed in my negotiation regarding the printing of Sefer Ha-zoref, I will be allowed to photocopy this document as well.

Melamed then informs us that the reference in this last letter to “that man fond of Hasidism and Kabbalah” was none other than Gershom Scholem.

Three years later, Scholem published an article on Bachlinski’s discovery of the “Pledge of allegiance of the disciples of the Ari (Rabbi Isaac Luria).”

Scholem wrote:

I have no facsimile of the script itself, but the copier in Stolin copied the signature on a transparent paper following my request from Dr. Rabinowitsch.

Interestingly, Melamed points out that another character in this story was the publisher and philanthropist Shlomo Zalman Schocken (from Schocken Books), who supported the research of both Scholem and Rabinowitsch.

Bachlinski then wrote:

…At the beginning [of my visit to Stolin] I did not find R. Asher at his home, but before the Sabbath I came in and spoke with him about “the holy writings.” He received me nicely, saying that he appreciates me since I am a “man of scholarship,” and my aim is pure science.


He did not let me into the cellar that day, but only on Sunday. In the meantime, the situation deteriorated slightly since his mother and her son-in-law, R. Avrum Yakli, listened to the slander of the Hasidim who complained ‘why should we allow a foreigner to see the holy writings?’


But R. Asher stood on my side this time, especially once he heard from me about the finding of the manuscript of Sefer Ha-zoref…


From a purely historical perspective the book is of little value since it does not at all mention the movement of Shabbtai Zevi though the author lived at this very period.[14] (The book may contain some hints that could be deciphered only by insiders.)…


On the other hand, the book is an unfailing source for both theoretical and practical Kabbalah…


I am confident that in Eretz Yirsael, the ancient cradle of the Kabbalah, you will surely find someone who would wish to uncover these occult writings...


At the cellar [of the Stoliner Rebbe] I also found the Ba’al Shem Tov’s personal copy of the Zohar (but there are no emendations or notes in the book) and the Alfas that was printed in Venice in 1522 at the printing house of Daniel Bomberg, with handwritten notes by R. Moshe Isserles. The script is very blurred. What should we do with these rare finds?...

Please let me know your view about all these issues.


As to the money, I have already written to you in the postcard and I am waiting for your order and for good news from our Land in general, and from you in particular. Please send my regards to your housemates and your wife.


Your staunch friend,


On the right margin of the letter’s first page Bachlinski added:

Please contact that Maecenas[15] [Schocken], who might perhaps agree to buy the manuscript of Sefer Ha-zoref from “the court” in order to print it. Obviously, this most honorable man is likely to appreciate this work. I am confident that once you read the introduction [foreword][16], which I have copied, you will surely wish to be among those who enjoy and help the public enjoy its merits.



Melamed does not deny that R. Heshel Tzoref influenced early Chassidism. He only questions the degree to which he did. However, he writes that Bachlinski, Rabinowitsch and Scholem, as typical of all other secular historians, may have had some agenda.

Melamed writes:

Although the lost archive is of extraordinary historical value regardless of the actual nature of how much Heshel Zoref’s book influenced the early Hasidic movement, the story of how Scholem came to make his announcement is a window into the tense, fascinating, and not altogether edifying relationship between Hasidim and secular historians in interwar Poland.

Melamed then makes an interesting point:

In the context of his other discoveries, Bachlinski’s fixation with Sefer Ha-zoref is odd. He has, after all, just announced that he has located not only the founder of Hasidism’s personal copy of the Zohar, the canonical work of Jewish mysticism, but the annotated copy of one of the great Talmudic works by the preeminent halakhic authority of the 16th century, Rabbi Moses Isserles, author of the Ashkenazic glosses to the Shulkhan Arukh, as well as several extraordinary letters. These are invaluable documents of Jewish literary and intellectual history that would be treasures in any great library.

 Heshel Zoref’s unpublished kabbalistic treatise pales in comparison.

Melamed believes that Bachlinski was drawn specifically to Sefer haTzoref because, like other secular historians of Chassidic history, he sought to undermine its position in the Jewish world.

Indeed, his coyness in describing Scholem as “that man fond of Hasidism and Kabbalah” may have derived from the sense that he was betraying those, like Reb Asher, the musicologist brother of the Stoliner Rebbe, who had opened the archive to him, and suggested the printing of Sefer Ha-zoref in the interests of “pure science.”

Melamed then describes how Rabinowitschfollowed up with an obsequious letter” addressed to the brother of the Stoliner Rebbe requesting access to the manuscript of Sefer Ha-zoref:

To the Righteous Rabbi, R. Asher the son of the Righteous Rabbi R. Yisroel, may his memory shelter us, from the descendants of the Tzadikim of Karlin in the Holy Community of Stolin. Peace and all the best!


I hope that His Honor still remembers my visit at his house in Stolin about ten years ago as well as my conversation with His Honor regarding the history of Hasidism in our area, and especially regarding Karlin-Stolin Hasidism.


I have learned from Mr. Bachlinski that in his house there is a manuscript of Sefer Ha-zoref, by the sage and thinker R. Yeshoshua Heshel Zoref, may his memory shelter us, and that His Honor would like to bring the book to daylight and publish it. For why should it be lost in darkness and be, heaven forbid, “like those who have been long dead” [Ps. 143:3]?

I hope to find a publisher here, in Eretz Yisrael, a place of Torah and wisdom. Though I heard…that Sefer Ha-zoref is voluminous and the printing expenses are high, nevertheless I hope to find a way, with God’s help, to teach and propagate the teaching of the aforementioned sage by the printing of the book…

With the blessing of the Holy Land,

Dr. Zeev Rabinowitsch, who cherishes His High Honor.

Melamed shows that less than three years later, Rabinowitsch’s affable encouragement

 and description of the reasons why Sefer haTzoref should be published, seem to have changed drastically from the over-respectful tone of the previous letter, to publishing the following:

Now in the court of the Tzadik in Stolin, there is a long manuscript of a Sabbatean prophet among the holy writings of the Hasidic tzadikim! And the copiers of the book pray that the merit of the Sabbatian author shall shelter them.

Gone are the niceties and the words of the earlier letter where he referred to “the sage and thinker R. Yeshoshua Heshel Zoref, may his memory shelter us.”

Melamed adds that these words of Rabinowitsch were similar in tenor to the words Scholem would later use in his Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism where he describes R. Heschel Tzoref as a “leading crypto-Sabbatean”.

Rabinowitsch did not receive a reply to his letter from Stoliner Rebbe nor from his brother R. Asher.

Melamed writes:

Perhaps he noted the oddness of singling out this particular manuscript out of all of the treasures within his Geniza. At any rate, he did not send Sefer Ha-zoref or any of his other treasures to Palestine.


David Bachlinski seems to have perished during the Holocaust. Stolin was invaded by the Soviet army in 1939. With the German conquest in 1941, according to one witness, a Nazi unit confiscated the Stolin Geniza and loaded it onto a wagon. The Stoliner Rebbe, his family, and community were murdered on the eve of Rosh Hashanah in 1942.

After the war, when Rabinowitsch revised his book, his last sentence read:

Thus were lost important original documents which could have provided valuable source-material for the study of Jewish history.

Amazingly, today the Karlin-Stolin community is flourishing and Melamed leaves us with a positive note:

There is good reason to believe, moreover, that the collection of literary treasures, which they so carefully preserved for more than a century, still exists somewhere, dispersed or even partially intact.


I found Professor Melamed’s meticulous research and particular attention to detail most enlightening and absolutely fascinating. There is, however, one point that I respectfully have to make. While he may be correct about the attitude and agenda of both David Bachlinski, Wolf Zeev Rabinowitsch and even Gershom Scholem[17] – I believe that there still should be a space for those who choose to explore the origins of the Chassidic movement and who encounter, as they will, many such indications of Sabbatian influence on the early movement.

Jacob Schacter, for example, takes a different position and speaks to the objectivity of Scholem in dealing with Sabbatianism:

One of the most significant and lasting contributions of Gershom Scholem to Jewish scholarship is his serious and objective treatment of the Sabbatian movement in all its phases and complexity.[18]

Whatever view one chooses to take on Scholem, it is clear that not all pursuits into the nature and influence of Sabbatianism are governed by nefarious motivation or negative intentions. Where these Sabbatian influences are identified, if they have merit, they should be studied further by those interested in so doing.

Schacter also observes very poignantly that just as it is impossible to speak of a unidimensional and monolithic Sabbatian ideology because of the multiple Sabbatian ideologues involved, so too we cannot speak of a single anti-Sabbatian camp:

And what is true of the [Sabbatian][19] “believers” is also true of their opponents.

A multiplicity of motives and orientations characterizes the anti-Sabbatian camp as well.[20]


I would add that the discovery of a Zohar belonging to the Baal Shem Tov, and the handwritten notes of R. Moshe Isserles are certainly real treasures – but the discovery of Sefer haTzoref and all it symbolises, especially the one belonging to the Baal Shem Tov, is more astounding! This, coupled with a Chassidic tradition that Adam Baal Shem and R. Heshel Tzoref may have been the same person; and that R. Heschel Tzoref is identified as a leading Sabbatian; and that we may have discovered parts of the elusive “secret writings” of the Baal Shem Tov.

R. Aryeh Kaplan writes about these elusive “secret writings” which the Baal Shem Tov had access to:

There has been considerable speculation as to the nature of these writings, but at least in part, it is almost certain they consisted of Sefer HaTzoref…which had been written by Rabbi Heshel Tzoref…[21]

Emphasizing the discovery of Sefer haTzoref might have been to the advantage of Bachlinski and Rabinowitsch and even abused by them - I cannot speak for them - but many religious seekers of historical reality would be absolutely drawn to that discovery too.

Sefer haTzoref may still exist somewhere or it may have been destroyed.

According to R. Kaplan:

 Sefer HaTzoref still exists in manuscript, in the hands of the Karliner Hasidim.[22]

If it does still exist, why has it not been published especially in an age where everything about the Baal Shem Tov is published and open?

Only its full[23] discovery (or recovery) will put paid to the question of the exact nature of the work, and only then will we have the answer to our question.

[1] Yitzhak Y. Melamed, The Lost Textual Treasures of a Hasidic Community. Jewish Review of Books, Spring 2012. Some of the content of this article was additionally taken from a previous article Sefer haTzoref – Were These The ‘Secret Writings’ Which Had to Be Hidden? as well as from subsequent independent research.

[2] My edition reads: “Apparently we have here the factual basis of the legend of Rabbi Adam Baal Shem.”

[3] Gershom Scholem, Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism, Schocken Books Inc. 1973, p. 332. Melamed points out that Scholem (in what the former describes as his “enthusiasm” at the discovery) made two mistakes in this extract from his book. Firstly, the rebbes of Karlin-Stolin descended from R. Aharon and not R. Solomon of Karlin. And secondly, their well curated stockpile of books was assembled in the 19th not the 18th century.

It must be mentioned, though, that while these two observations may be correct, these details would not change Scholem’s basic premise: Sefer haTzoref was found in the Stolin Geniza and it was connected to the Baal Shem Tov.

[4] R. Yehudah Chassid was known as the Maggid of Sziedlow (1660-1700). He promoted an early aliya to the Land of Israel, and travelled around Europe promoting asceticism and teshuva, gathering a group of about 1 500 people. His followers were known as Chassidim (probably a play on his name Yehuda Chasid). A third of them died of hardships on the journey and between 500 and 1000 Ashkenazim eventually arrived in Jerusalem on October 14, 1700, creating a crisis in the city which already had 200 Ashkenazim and 1000 Sefaradim and could barely sustain itself.

The Jewish community of Jerusalem lived off charities collected from Europe and the community couldn’t cope with this large influx of immigrants. Besides this, the group was suspected of being Ma’aminim (Believers) as the Sabbatians were then called. The opponents were called Kofrim (Deniers), giving some idea of how popular the Sabbatian movement was in its day. The new arrivals built their own synagogue but the community could not sustain itself, and as a result, all Ashkenazim were banned from Jerusalem. The synagogue became known as the famous Churvat Yehuda Chassid, or destroyed synagogue, after the Ottoman authorities demolished it in 1721 when the Jews did not pay their taxes. This synagogue was rebuilt in 1864 by the Perushim (the students of the Vilna Gaon) only to be destroyed in 1948 by the Arab Legion. It was eventually restored in 2010 by the Israeli authorities.

[5] Gershom Scholem. Kabbalah, 1987 Dorset Press. p. 452.

[6] Gershom Scholem, Kabbalah. 1987 Dorset Press, p. 452.

[7] Gershom Scholem, Kabbalah. 1987 Dorset Press, p. 276.

[8] This would be a reference to the followers of R. Yehuda Chasid whose followers were known as ‘Chasssidim’. Scholem goes on to refer to the early and later Chassidim.

[9] Gershom Scholem. Kabbalah, 1987 Dorset Press. p. 453. Although in his Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism (p.333), Scholem writes: “It seem to me to be a fact of great importance that, between the new Hasidim and the old to whom Rabbi Heschel Zoref belonged, there was a link, if only an unconscious one…

[10] Handwritten Document about “Sefer HaZoref” and Rabbi Ephraim Margolioth – Document from the Archives of Joseph Perl. (Kedem Auction House, Auction 52, Jewish and Israeli History and Culture, Lot no. 132.)

[11] The Lost Textual Treasure of a Hasidic Community by Yitzchak Y. Melamed.

[13] R. Asher’s brother-in-law.

[14] Some background: After R. Heschel Tzoref died, parts of his copious manuscripts were scattered and perhaps lost. Some sections found their way to the Kabbalist R. Natan ben Levi, a member of the Klaus of Brody who subsequently hid them. This may be the origins of the apparent “hidden writings” which formed the basis of the later story of the emergence of Chassidism. Other sections of the work, the writings from his later years, found their way to the Baal Shem Tov. The Baal Shem Tov wanted to make a copy of the Sefer haTzoref but his wish was only fulfilled in around 1780, twenty years after his passing. So, the copy the Baal Shem Tov had may only have been a partial section (1400 pages) of the original 5000-page work. Perhaps that section contained no overt Sabbatian references.

[15] A generous patron.

[16] Parenthesis mine.

[17] Actually, Scholem in both his Kabbalah (p.453) and Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism (p. 333) is hesitant to overtly connect the Baal Shem Tov to R. Tzoref’s Sabbatian enterprises.

[18] Jacob J. Schacter 2001. Motivations for Radical Anti-Sabbatianism: The Case of Hakham Zevi Ashkenazi. Jerusalem Studies in Jewish Thought, 16-17. p. 1.

[19] Parenthesis mine.

[20] Ibid. p. 2.

[21] Aryeh Kaplan, Meditation and Kabbalah, 1982, p. 270.

[22] Aryeh Kaplan, Meditation and Kabbalah, 1982, p. 271. It must be noted that R. Kaplan skirts around the issue of R. Heschel Tzoref’s affiliations. He writes: “Along with many mystics of that time, Tzoref was accused of having associations with followers of Sabbatai Zvi, and correspondence was even forged to prove these allegations.” But nowhere is he prepared to clearly confirm or deny that Tzoref was a Sabbatian.

[23] The Stolin Geniza only apparently housed 1400 of the original 5000 pages of Sefer haTzoref.

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