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Bidding Information
Lot #    29207
Auction End Date    1/25/2011 12:21:00 PM (mm/dd/yyyy)
Title Information
Title (English)    Photo of the Ba`al Shem of Michelstadt
Title (Hebrew)    תמונה מהבעל שם טוב ממיכלשטאט
Publication Date    20th cent
Collection Information
Independent Item    This listing is an independent item not part of any collection
Description Information
   Photo, 252:202 mm.
   The Ba`al Shem of Michelstadt (R. Isaac Loeb Wormser; 1768–1847), talmudist and kabbalist, born in Michelstadt in Hessen. He was considered a prodigy while still very young and was sent to study in the famous Seminaries of Frankfurt. He received his talmudic education in Frankfort on the Main, in the yeshiva of R. Nathan Adler and followed in his footsteps, accepting a rigorously ascetic "hasidic" way of life and turning to kabbalistic studies. In 1790, after being ordained as a Rabbi and marrying, he returned to Michelstadt, obtained letters of protection and opened a Yeshiva which in 1805 had 70 students. The needy among them were maintained by R. Wormser with the aid of donations he obtained. His home and pocket were open to all wandering beggars, irrespective of their religion, while he himself maintained a life-style of ascetism. The flooding of Michelstadt with external students with no means of support, his unusual life-style, his liking for dressing like 'the Polish Jews', and above all his increasing fame as the possessor of supernatural powers, made him a veritable thorn in the side of community leaders, who frustrated his selection as Rabbi and even caused his imprisonment, for a short time, with accusations of ' ...acts of witchcraft and fraud'.

For years, his "hasidic" behavior and extreme vegetarianism created considerable tension between him and the majority of his small community, but his reputation as a master of supernatural powers spread rapidly and R. Wormser became known throughout Germany as the "Ba'al Shem of Michelstadt." He denied any such supernatural power but agreed to receive people who sought his advice and guidance, giving them natural remedies, specifics and sometimes amulets. He became particularly known for his treatment of lunatics. Among the Jews of southern Germany many traditions survived regarding his miraculous cures and other feats.

In 1809, after the death of his wife, the Rabbi Wormser moved to Mannheim and occupied himself with medicine in the Jewish Hospital, where his first miracle occurred - the curing of a mentally sick woman who was considered incurable - he married the woman's daughter and returned to Michelstadt. In 1811 he was chosen as Rabbi (unpaid) for the rural communities of Odenwald, on condition that he refrained from occupation with the kabbalah and '...other strange manifestations likely to exploit the simple faith of the peasantry...', thus it was registered in the protocol of the Hessen authorities. Resistance to him was forgotten in time and in 1822 he was invited to officiate as the community's Rabbi, together with R. Wolf Mohr (d. 1846), again without pay. Thereafter he rapidly became Rabbi of the State. During his later years the name of the R. Wormser spread far and wide as a healer and Jews and Christians alike came to his door. From his diary it would appear that in two years alone he treated about 1,500 patients from 700 different locations, with his unique methods, which combined kabbalistic knowledge with the exact sciences and use of herbal medicine. The simple people, Jew and Christian alike, saw him as a saint and made pilgrimages to him. Many legends began to be woven about his name and his wonderful deeds.

The Ba'al Shem conducted an extensive correspondence in Germany and abroad, occupying himself with investigations into the Talmud and its interpretations. In 1825 a fire struck Michelstadt and his great library was consumed in the flames. R. Wormser managed to replace it with the help of the Frankfurt and other communities. After his death he became part of the 'folklore' of the Odenwald. Until today his picture can be seen on some of the houses in Michelstadt, and Germans are known to visit his grave, light candles and pray. Even during the days of the Second World War, soldiers would surreptitiously visit his grave before leaving for the front. R. Wormser - the last of Michelstadt's Rabbis - died destitute (1847), and consequently a fund had to be raised in order to support his widow and children. The library passed to the fund and was sold in 1861. In 1908 a committee, headed by the Mayor of Michelstadt, was founded to establish a lasting memorial to the 'Ba'al Shem' and on the house in which he lived, a memorial plaque was fixed. In 1940 the Nazis confiscated the fund, but it was renewed in 1980, in London, with the aim of publishing the writings of the Rabbi and support the Seminary named after him - 'Michelstadt Community'.

   EJ; http://www.jewishgen.org/Yizkor/Pinkas_germany/ger3_00252.html
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Listing Classification
20th Century:    Checked
Manuscript Type
Kind of Judaica
Other:    Photos