BY DAVID ROSENSTEIN | Investigation
Rebbe Nachman of Breslov (1772 – 1810) was the founder of the Breslov Hasidic Movement and the great-grandson of the Baal Shem Tov (1698 – 1760), founder of the entire Hasidic Judaism. With thousands of followers during his lifetime, Reb Nachman is revered as a great Jewish spiritual leader and a distinguished scholar who revived Hasidism. He remains among the most quoted Hasidic masters and to this day tens of thousands of Hasidic Jews from all over the world travel to Reb Nachman’s burial site in Uman, Ukraine as part of their annual pilgrimage.
There, in the synagogue, next to his grave, stands the most treasured relic of Breslov Hasidic Jews – Reb Nachman’s chair:
Reb Nachman’s chair is so well known among the Jewish people that books and articles were written about it. Here’s what Rabbi Sandy Eisenberg says about this artifact:
“In the early 1800’s, a butcher from the town of Teplyk gave Reb Nachman a gift — an exquisite hand-crafted chair. Everyone who laid eyes on this chair knew that it was something special. Reb Nachman loved the chair and sat in it all the days of his life. When he died, his disciples kept the chair in his memory and placed it in a most important spot — right next to ark.”
Clearly this historic chair has an incredible story from how it was made, why Reb Nachman loved it so much, to how it survived the Second World War. In the past 20 years over a million Hasidic pilgrims traveled to Uman just to touch this Holy Relic, for it’s believed that those who come in contact with it will have good fortune in life. Rabbi Judith Schindler explains:
“When the Nazis invaded the Ukraine, Reb Nachman’s followers realized that to save themselves they would have to scatter, but how would they save the chair? It was too large for any one person to carry alone. They decided to cut up the chair and give a piece to each of Reb Nachman’s followers. They made a promise: after of the war, they would meet up in Jerusalem and reassemble the chair. The Holocaust was a horrific time in history. Few Jews escaped unharmed. Yet every person who carried a piece of that chair survived and made it to Jerusalem.”
Without any doubt, Reb Nachman’s chair is so valuable it is considered priceless. No amount of money can ever replace this Holy Jewish artifact, but this story is about another chair – the second chair that belonged to Rebbe Nachman of Breslov!
This ‘second’ chair is currently in the private collection of the Tamoikin Art Fund (TAF) and has been unofficially valued at $5-10 million in 2019. Although TAF has not publicly stated that it’s looking to sell it, rumors of such intent have been circulating for a while.
This chair was discovered in Uman where a local working class family hid it in a henhouse from the Soviets after the 1917 revolution and later on from the Nazis during the entire WWII. If the Nazis would have discovered this Jewish artifact in their possession it would mean death for the whole family and certain destruction of the chair. By some miracle or divine intervention, both the family and the chair survived, supporting the mystical legend of Reb Nachman.
With the Star of David in the front, a hypnotic Jewish Rabbi in the center, and a Yiddish inscription of Reb Nachman’s name on the back, this chair is stunning in its craftsmanship and Judaic beauty. The aura of history radiates from this Jewish artifact.
The chair was examined by several experts including Dr. Alexander Tolchan, lecturer of Vilnius Fine Art Academy, and Dr. Simonas Alperavičius (1928-2014), head of the Jewish community in Lithuania. They pointed out that the Yiddish inscription on the back does not have a date, which meant that the chair was owned by Reb Nachman during his lifetime.
Furthermore, researchers found multiple restorations on this artifact, with some being professionally done while others not so much. The chair sustained all kinds of damage and was visibly restored by various people over the course of its long and difficult life. For example, an old but quite skillful restoration can be seen on the Rabbi’s shoulder. An interesting trace of necessary historic damage can be found on the back, where four small nail holes around the inscription are barely visible.
Experts pointed out that a cover was nailed there, most likely during WWII, to hide or protect Reb Nachman’s name. When asked, the Tamoikin Art Fund stated that the chair is in good overall condition, it is stored in a secure facility under proper conditions with no further deterioration.
Lets pray that this Hasidic rarity will eventually be reunited with the Jewish people and safely relocated to the synagogue where Reb Nachman rests.
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