(April 23, 2018 / JNS) An auction house in Jerusalem is preparing to put up for sale a Kiddush cup they say was used by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, despite the fact that Chabad-Lubavitch representatives have provided them with evidence that they say proves the cup to be inauthentic.
According to Kedem Auction house, the Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson—used the “legendary becher [Kiddush cup]” during Havdalah services at the end of Jewish holidays and to pour wine to “chassidim, followers and admirers,” according to a press release from the auction house.
The house, which is preparing to auction the item this week with a starting bid of NIS 64,000, or $18,000, points to a letter signed by a rabbi who worked directly for Schneerson as evidence that the cup, which measures 8 centimeters (a little more than 3 inches) is authentic.
“This is a magnificent historic item with profound sentimental value,” Maron Eran, one of the owners of Kedem, states in the release. “This becher is symbolic of the great zechus [‘reward’] acquired by those who were fortunate to bask in the presence of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, and to the limitless bounty that he bestowed upon each and every member of Am Yisrael [‘the Jewish people’].”
But Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky, who served as a personal secretary and press director for Schneerson, said his signature on the letter is not real.
“The photo of the cup is certainly not of a becher used by the Rebbe,” Krinsky wrote in an email to the auction house. “I strongly advise that you remove this item from auction.”
The Rebbe apparently used a smooth, all-silver cup for such use. The item up for sale is silver-plated with an embossed pattern at the top, and has the word “Levi” engraved on it—something that would likely not be found on a cup of his using.
Rabbi Motti Seligson, a Chabad spokesman, also points to photos of the Rebbe holding a Kiddush cup that does not resemble the one the auction house plans to sell.
“There aren’t many Jewish leaders whose vast teachings and public appearances are as well-documented and studied in detail as the Rebbe’s,” Seligson told JNS. “So it is odd that anyone would try to sell something like this, while tens of thousands of publicly available photos refute its authenticity.”
In another release sent on Monday, Eran explained their side of the matter: “We have no doubt that this cup is the goblet of the Rebbe, and we have written confirmation of this. From the outset, when we publicized the sale of the cup, we specifically stated that it was certified in writing by authorized sources. However, it may be that the goblet offered for sale is not the same as the official ‘cup of blessing’ which the Rebbe used regularly, but rather another cup that the Rebbe used for a limited period of time.”
They also acknowledged that the photo published alongside the cup was for illustration purposes only, apparently showing a different goblet than the one up for auction.
Schneerson led the worldwide Chabad-Lubavitch movement in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y, from 1951 until he passed away in 1994 at the age of 92.
Seligson said Kedem told him they plan to go forward with the sale in spite of Krinsky’s objection. The press release states that the “expected bid is hundreds of thousands of dollars.”