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Bidding Information
Lot #    21998
Auction End Date    11/18/2008 11:52:30 AM (mm/dd/yyyy)
Title Information
Title (English)    Letter by R. Samuel Mohilewer
Title (Hebrew)    מכתב מה'ר שמואל מוהליבר
Author    [Ms.]
City    Bialystok?
Publication Date    1891
Collection Information
Independent Item    This listing is an independent item not part of any collection
Description Information
   [1] p., 175:135 mm., light age staining, ink on paper, neat Ashkenazic script, signed and dated.
   Letter by R. Samuel Mohilewer (1824–1898), rabbi, founder of religious Zionism. Born in Glebokie (now Glubokoye), Vilna district, the son of a rabbinical family, R. Mohilewer was ordained a rabbi by the Volozhin yeshivah (1842) and took up the post of rabbi in his native city from 1848, in Szaki from 1854, in Suwalki from 1860, and in Radom from 1868. In each place he was active in community affairs, especially during the Polish rebellion (1863), toward which he asked the Jews to maintain a neutral attitude. In his articles, which were published in Ha-Levanon, he stressed the need for cooperation with the maskilim for the welfare of the people and demanded that the rabbis "combine the Torah and wisdom as the time is appropriate." In 1873 he participated in the St. Petersburg gathering of rabbis, and the leading moderate maskilim and tried to bring the two sides closer together. He was attracted to the idea of settling Erez Israel even before the 1881 pogroms, but immediately after they took place he went to Brody and Lvov in order to encourage the masses of refugees who fled Russia and to influence the philanthropists and workers who came to their aid to divert the stream of migration to Erez Israel. Afterward, together with two other rabbis, he appealed to the Russian rabbis to found an organization for aliyah to Erez Israel and to settle there.

R. Mohilewer was among those who influenced Edmond de Rothschild to extend aid to the first settlements in Erez Israel and induced him to establish a settlement for Jewish farmers coming from Russia (Ekron). He then influenced Jews in Bialystok and its surroundings to settle in Petah Tikvah. In 1883 he was chosen as rabbi of Bialystok under an agreement with the members of the community that he be allowed to devote himself to his public activities several months a year. Mohilewer was the honorary president of the Kattowitz Conference of Hovevei Zion (1884). His speech at the closing session of the conference on the "Dry Bones" (Ezek. 37) served as a foundation for the sermons of the preachers of Hibbat Zion and of Zionism for the following years. In 1888 he joined I.E. Spektor, M. Eliasberg, and others who allowed the farmers to work the fields during the shemittah year in the Jewish settlements in Erez Israel. He chaired the Hovevei Zion conferences in Druskininkai (1887) and in Vilna (1889) and struggled for the influence of the Orthodox circles in the movement. Through his influence a board of rabbis was chosen to ensure that the settlement work in Erez Israel was carried out in a traditional Jewish spirit.

In 1890 R. Mohilewer was among the first speakers at the Odessa founding assembly of The Society in Support of Jewish Farmers and Artisans in Syria and Palestine (the official name of the Odessa Committee of Hovevei Zion). After the meeting he headed a Hovevei Zion group on a tour of Erez Israel and, upon his return, published his open letter titled "The Purpose of My Trip to the Holy Land," in which he called upon Hovevei Zion "to work physically and financially for the sake of Erez Israel." At a gathering of Hovevei Zion in Druskininkai (1893), it was decided, at R. Mohilewer's initiative, to establish a Spiritual Center (Merkaz Ruhani – Mizrachi) for the movement to direct public relations activities and explain ideas connected with the settlement of Erez Israel. It was also decided to plant a citron orchard on land adjoining Haderah and to name it Gan Shemu'el, in honor of R. Mohilewer's 70th birthday. R. Mohilewer and his close associates continued in their propaganda work, especially among the Orthodox Jews, and the Mizrachi became the foundation for the development of the religious Zionist movement, which four years after Mohilewer's death became a faction in the Zionist Organization (assuming officially the name Mizrachi).

Mohilewer wrote many short works, including responsa, talmudic and rabbinical novellae, homilies, and scholarly works. Most of these writings were lost in the Bialystok pogrom (1906). Some of those that survived were published under the name Hikrei Halakhah u-She'elot u-Teshuvot (1944).

   M. Ben-Zvi (comp.), Rabbi Samuel Mohilewer (Eng., 1945); I. Nissenbaum, Ha-Rav Shemu'el Mohilewer (1930): idem, Ha-Dat ve-ha-Tehiyyah ha-Le'ummit (1920), 92–118; A. Druyanow, Ketavim le-Toledot Hibbat Ziyyon ve-Yishuv Erez-Yisrael (1932), index; Y.L. Fishman, Sefer Shemu'el (1923); EJ
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Listing Classification
19th Century:    Checked
Russia-Poland:    Checked
Language:    Hebrew
Manuscript Type
Kind of Judaica