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LOT 16:

Certificate of Appointment for Rabbi Meir Margolies, Author of Meir Netivim, Disciple of the Baal Shem Tov and One ...

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Certificate of Appointment for Rabbi Meir Margolies, Author of Meir Netivim, Disciple of the Baal Shem Tov and One of His "Sixty Warriors", as Rabbi of Ostroh – Ostroh, 1777 – Fulfillment of the Prophecy of the Baal Shem Tov that R. Meir Margolies Would Be Appointed Rabbi of Ostroh

Manuscript on large parchment leaf – certificate of appointment for R. Meir Margolies, author of Meir Netivim and disciple of the Baal Shem Tov, as rabbi of Ostroh and its suburbs, signed by 21 community leaders. Ostroh, Tammuz 1777. On the verso: Extension of the rabbinic appointment, accorded after six years, with 8 signatures. Ostroh, Nisan 1784.
Neat, cursive script. The three lines of the heading are in Stam script: "For good fortune and blessing, from the One who appoints kings and kingship is His…". The appointment, proffered by all the communities in the city, begins with the following words: "These are the words of the communities, how glorious is the day the king of Israel is revealed…", and addresses R. Meir Margolies with numerous titles of honor and veneration.
R. Meir Margolies' appointment as rabbi of Ostroh constituted the fulfillment of the prophecy of his teacher, the Baal Shem Tov. This prophecy was pronounced after R. Meir Margolies, together with the Noda BiYehuda and R. Gershon of Kitov, brother-in-law of the Baal Shem Tov, stood firm against some powerful members of the Brody community, prohibiting a distinguished woman to her husband, despite the persecution they would endure on this account (see article for more details). According to Chassidic lore, when the Baal Shem Tov was informed of this episode, he declared that all three would be accorded greatness from Heaven for sanctifying G-d's Name in public, prophesizing that R. Yechezkel would become rabbi of Prague, R. Meir Margolies would become rabbi of Lviv and Ostroh, and R. Avraham Gershon would settle in the Holy Land, and so it was.
In those days, the city of Ostroh was split into two communities ("sides"). The division of the community was a result of the division of the city in 1690 between two nobles. Most parts of the city enclosed within the wall were under the jurisdiction of one ruler, and were known as the "duke's side"; whilst the streets beyond the wall belonged to a different ruler and where known as the "voivode's side" (see: Mazkeret LiGedolei Ostraha, Berditchev 1907, p. 4).
Both of the Ostroh communities accepted upon themselves the Meir Netivim as their rabbi. This certificate of appointment was drawn up and signed by the leaders of the "duke's side" community, while the leaders of the "voivode's side" community affixed their signatures in the margin. The certificate includes each side's commitment in regard to the rabbi's salary.
The certificate concludes: "So are the words of the distinguished heads… leaders of the Ostroh community, from the side of the mighty ruler Starosta Sandecki, who hereby affix their signatures today Thursday, 26th Tammuz 1777". This is followed by 14 signatures handwritten by the community leaders.
At the bottom of the certificate, the signatures of the community leaders of the "voivode's side" – from the streets beyond the wall: "We too, leaders of the Krasnohirska community, outside the wall, Tatarska and Belmazh streets, we all wish, with love and affection, to accept this rabbi…", with 7 signatures.
The certificate stipulates that the appointment is in effect for six consecutive years from the date stated, while on the verso of the leaf, an extension of the rabbinic contract, dated Chol HaMoed Pesach 1784, was recorded, without any time limitation: "We have come now to renew the kingship and make a new covenant… that he should serve as our rabbi and dean, here in Ostroh and the region, for his entire life, from now forever, we will not exchange him for someone else… so are the words of the heads… leaders of Ostroh, from the side of the mighty ruler Referendarz Koronny, Thursday Chol HaMoed Pesach 1784". This extension contract bears eight signatures.
R. Meir Margolies Rabbi of Ostroh (1700/1708-1790), author of Meir Netivim, was a leading and prominent rabbi in his times. In his youth, he served as rabbi of Yazlovets and Horodenka. In 1755, he was appointed rabbi of the Lviv region, an area covering a huge territory, which included the city of Brody (R. Meir served as rabbi of the Lviv region, but not of the city of Lviv itself, which had its own rabbi. After the Partition of Poland in 1772, this region was divided between Poland and Austria, and R. Meir served as rabbi of the Polish area). In 1766, he was appointed by the King of Poland as chief rabbi of Ukraine and Galicia. In 1776, he received an official letter of appointment from the King of Poland, Stanisław August Poniatowski (the rabbinical appointment, in gilt letters, is preserved until this day in the Dubnow archives in New York). In 1777, he was appointed, in addition to his position as rabbi of the Lviv region, as rabbi of Ostroh and the vicinity. R. Meir was a member of the famous Brody Kloiz most of his life. He was closely attached to the Kloiz Torah scholars, and quotes their teachings extensively in his book.
R. Meir was a leading disciple of the Baal Shem Tov, and one of the first to cleave to him, as early as 1737, before the latter became renowned. Reputedly, his teacher the Baal Shem Tov requested that he write his name in the siddur he prayed from, to enable him to mention R. Meir in prayer, and the latter did so. His signature in the siddur of the Baal Shem Tov was preserved until this day (Kevutzat Yaakov, Berditchev 1896, p. 52b; MiBeit Genazim, Brooklyn 2010, p. 230). R. Meir refers to his teacher the Baal Shem Tov in several places in his books as "my teacher" and "my colleague". In his book Sod Yachin UBoaz (Ostroh 1794), he describes the level of learning Torah for the sake of Heaven: "…as I was instructed by my teachers who were prominent in Torah and Chassidism, headed by my friend the pious R. Yisrael Baal Shem Tov… and from my youth, when I attached myself with bonds of love to my teacher and friend R. Yisrael Baal Shem Tov… I knew with absolute certainty that his conduct was in holiness and purity, piety and ascetism… occult matters were revealed to him…". In his book Meir Netivim (part II, end of Parashat Vayigash), he quotes a segulah from his teacher for dissipating anger: "I learnt from my teacher that a wonderful segulah for dissipating anger is to say the verse…". His son R. Betzalel, his successor as rabbi of Ostroh, wrote in his approbation to Shivchei HaBaal Shem Tov (Berditchev 1815 edition): "...and as I heard from my father… who from his youth was one of the Torah scholars associated with the Baal Shem Tov, and R. Meir would frequently extol his virtues…". Rebbe Yitzchak Izek of Komarno attested in his book Netiv Mitzvotecha (Netiv HaTorah, pathway 1): "Our teacher R. Yisrael son of Eliezer… he was accorded sixty warriors, souls of righteous men, to protect him, and one of them was the Meir Netivim".
The Meir Netivim was one of the foremost halachic authorities in his times in matters of agunot. In 1768, a pogrom struck the community of Uman and its surroundings, and thousands of Jews were murdered. This tragic episode generated numerous complex questions of agunot. Many of the responsa recorded in his book Meir Netivim pertain to agunot. He describes there the trepidation and anguish which overcame him whenever he approached such a question (section 62). Reputedly, he would undertake to fast on the day he was to sign a permission for an agunah (Meorei Galicia, III, p. 940).
R. Meir authored several prominent compositions in revealed and esoteric realms of the Torah, in Halacha and in homily. His series of books was named Or Olam, and includes his books on Halacha, homily and Kabbalah: His renowned book Responsa Meir Netivim, two parts (Polonne 1791), Sod Yachin UBoaz (Ostroh 1794), HaDerech HaTov VehaYashar (Polonne 1795) and Kotnot Or (Berditchev 1816).
[1] parchment leaf. Approx. 44X41 cm. Good-fair condition. Stains. Fold lines. A few tears to folds, affecting several letters. Several tiny holes.
Based on this manuscript, the certificate of appointment was printed, with errors and omissions, by Menachem Nachum Litinsky in his book Korot Podolia VeKadmoniyot HaYehudim Sham (Odessa 1895, pp. 58-60); from there, it was copied into the book Mazkeret LiGedolei Ostraha (Berditchev 1907, pp. 206-208), and in the book Niflaot HaYehudi (Warsaw 1930, pp. 96-98). See enclosed material.


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The Fulfillment of the Baal Shem Tov's Prophecy

In ca. 1744, at the age of 30, R. Yechezkel Landau, the Noda BiYehuda, who lived in Brody at that time, composed a halachic responsum prohibiting to her husband a local woman about whom severe testimonies of adultery were received. The responsum was published in Noda BiYehuda (Even HaEzer, Mahadura Kama, section 72). In order to protect the honor of the woman's family, the printed responsum states that it was sent to "Ashkenazi scholars, at the extremities of a foreign country", although this affair actually took place in Brody. Amongst those involved in investigating the matter were R. Avraham Gershon of Kitov – brother-in-law and associate of the Baal Shem Tov, and R. Meir Margolies, author of Meir Netivim – disciple of the Baal Shem Tov.

Reputedly, the woman concerned was the daughter and wife of powerful members of the Brody community, who had close contacts with the authorities. They had threatened to fine or flog anyone who would dare judge her unfavorably, causing many dayanim to refrain from getting involved in this affair. R. Yechezkel, together with two of his colleagues, Brody Torah scholars, R. Meir Margolies and R. Gershon of Kitov, decided to endanger themselves and publicized that this woman was prohibited. This act cost them dearly: R. Yechezkel was compelled to pay a high fine, giving up all his wealth and possessions, and the Meir Netivim was flogged, while R. Gershon of Kitov fled to Mezhibuzh to his brother-in-law the Baal Shem Tov. Chassidic lore relates that when the Baal Shem Tov heard about this, he declared that all three would be accorded greatness from Heaven for sanctifying G-d's Name in public, prophesizing that R. Yechezkel would become rabbi of Prague, R. Meir Margolies would become rabbi of Lviv and Ostroh, and R. Avraham Gershon would settle in the Holy Land, and so it was (Emunat Tzadikim, Warsaw 1900, p. 19; for more information regarding this affair, see Kedem Auction 63, item 13).

This certificate of rabbinic appointment for the Meir Netivim as rabbi of Ostroh, which was issued some thirty years after those events in Brody, constituted the ultimate fulfillment of the Baal Shem Tov's prophecy regarding his illustrious disciple.



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