Rebbe Aharon Rokeach of Belz Polish Passport from 1948

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Rebbe Aharon Rokeach of Belz Polish Passport from 1948

Kedem Public Auction House Ltd, Jerusalem, Israel is offering in their upcoming auction an outstanding document. Lot 108 is the passport of Rebbe Aharon Rokeach of Belz. The travel document was issued in preparation for leaving Eretz Israel during the War of Independence. Initial auction price is set to $30.000 with an estimate of $40.000 to $60.000, which could make this travel document an expensive collectible passport at the end of the auction. Update: sold for $38.000 on Nov 14, 2018.

Rebbe Aharon Rokeach of Belz Polish Passport from 1948

Description: Polish passport of Rebbe Aharon Rokeach of Belz, with his picture and signature. The passport was issued in Tel Aviv by the Polish consulate in 1948. On the second page, the image of the Rebbe is pasted (a reproduction of the famous picture from 1934, of the Rebbe leaning on a train window sill), with embossed relief-stamps of the consulate. Below the image is the signature of the Rebbe “Aharon Rokeach.” The passport contains stamps, with entry visas completed by hand to Czechoslovakia and Switzerland. This passport was issued as part of the Rebbe’s plan to leave Eretz Israel during the War of Independence, in response to the requests of his Chassidim in Europe. This plan was never realized, and the Rebbe remained in Eretz Israel. The book BiKedushato Shel Aharon (part II, pp. 96-97) relates this episode, documenting that the Rebbe acceded to the pleas of his Chassidim to move over to Europe, requesting of his attendant, R. Moshe (Gross), to obtain a passport for him, and reserve a plane ticket. The flight was scheduled for Thursday, Adar 21 – the day of the Yahrtzeit of the Rebbe’s mother. When the Rebbe realized this, he declared that he had never traveled on a Yahrtzeit, and the trip was repeatedly postponed. When R. Unterman, chief rabbi of Tel Aviv found out, he sent a delegation to the Rebbe bidding him to remain. The Rebbe replied that he had never intended to travel, but he had been taught by his father R. Yissachar Dov that at such times, one should prepare to travel.

Rebbe AharonRokeach of Belz (1880-1957) was renowned as a miracle worker and a holy man, earning the epithet “Aharon, G-d’s holy one”. A foremost Rebbe and leader of European Jewry before the Holocaust, he also rebuilt Torah and Chassidut after the war. He was the son of Rebbe Yissachar Dov of Belz (the Maharid) and grandson of Rebbe Yehoshua of Belz. From a young age, he was known for his great holiness and toil in Torah and Chassidic works, together with his outstanding asceticism. He earned the reputation of an advocate of the Jewish people and a wonder-worker benefiting from Divine Inspiration, and thousands flocked his court to seek his blessings, advice, and salvation. He was appointed Rebbe of the Belz Chassidut in 1927 and became one of the foremost leaders of Eastern European Jewry. As such, he was especially targeted by the Nazis during the Holocaust. His followers smuggled him from ghetto to ghetto, until he miraculously managed to escape to Budapest, Hungary, where he remained for a short period until the Nazis demanded his extradition. From there he made his way to Eretz Israel on a difficult journey that spanned Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey, and Syria. His wife, children, grandchildren, and entire extended family were killed by the Nazis, and he arrived in Eretz Israel accompanied only by his brother, R. Mordechai of Biłgoraj (1901-1949, who also lost his entire family, his only remnant being his son, R. Yissachar Dov, current Belzer Rebbe, born of his second marriage in Eretz Israel). Rebbe Aharon of Belz settled in Tel Aviv, where he endeavored to encourage Holocaust survivors, and together with his brother R. Mordechai of Biłgoraj, re-established the Belz Chassidut institutions in Eretz Israel and around the world – in Tel-Aviv, Jerusalem, Bnei Brak, and other places.

Rabbi Aaron Rokeach “The Rebbe of Belz”

Who is not familiar with the name of Belz? Who has not heard the well-known melancholy niggun Mien Shtetele Belz? This small city was made famous around the world because of four Rebbes who lived in it, a city to which thousands of Jews flocked in order to warm themselves by the light of these great Tzaddikim.

Four generations of Belz Chassidut reigned in Galicia and Poland until Jews were massacred in the Holocaust. Only Rabbi Aaron of Belz was miraculously saved, arriving at the gates of Eretz Israel on Thursday the 9th of Shevat, 5704 (1944).

The old Chassidim of Belz would say that in the prayer Shochen ad, one can find an allusion to their four holy Belz Rebbes: “By the mouth of the upright You are exalted” alludes to the first Rebbe, Rabbi Shalom Rokeach, whose conduct was upright and pure; “By the lips of the righteous You are blessed” alludes to his son, Rabbi Yehoshua Rokeach, commonly known as the Tzaddik of Belz; “By the tongue of the pious You are hallowed” alludes to his grandson, Rabbi Issachar Dov, who acted piously in all things; “And in the innermost part of the holy ones You are praised” alludes to his great-grandson, Rabbi Aaron, who was holy from his mother’s womb and whose every deed was holy.

The third Rebbe, Rabbi Issachar Dov, the father of Rabbi Aaron, was the son-in-law of Rabbi Zusha, the Rebbe of Chernobyl. After his marriage, he lived with his father-in-law and studied Torah day and night. His father, Rabbi Yehoshua, instructed him to write all his Torah commentaries in a notebook. One day when he arrived at his father’s home, the latter asked him, “Issachar Dov, show me your commentaries.” When he went to get the notebook in which they were written, he was unable to find it. As it turned out, his writings had been stolen when he spent one night at an inn while traveling. Rabbi Issachar Dov was very bothered by this, but his father told him, “Issachar Dov, my son, don’t worry about this and don’t be sad. In place of your lost Torah commentaries, G-d will give you a son that will illuminate the eyes of Israel by the light of his Torah and his great wisdom.” One year later, on Tevet 17, 5640 (1880), a son was born to Rabbi Issachar Dov that he named Aaron, after the great Rabbi Aaron of Karlin. Rabbi Issachar Dov said, “In the same way that the great Rabbi Aaron accepted upon himself all the misfortunes that could have struck Israel, my son will also take upon himself the misfortunes that will come down upon Israel.”

When Rabbi Aaron was a boy and in Cheder to learn Torah, he would take with him some bread and coffee. One day he called his guardian and asked him to bring his bread and coffee to a certain Jewish tailor. The guardian did not understand why the little Aaron requested this of him, and he wondered what this meant. The boy replied, “Today when I was at the mikveh, I heard this tailor say to another Jew, ‘After such a cold mikveh, it would be wonderful to have a piece of bread and a cup of hot coffee.’ At that point, I decided to send him my bread and coffee.”

One day Rabbi Yechezkel Shraga, the Rabbi of Shinova, noticed him and carefully looked him over. He exclaimed, “Apparently the evil inclination has completely forgotten about this young man.” The young Aaron certainly showed great brilliance, be it in Torah knowledge or by his extreme diligence, and above all in his sterling character traits and purity of heart. All those who saw him knew that he was destined to become a great sage and Tzaddik among the Jewish people.

Rabbi Aaron was very modest by nature, and the verse “to walk humbly with your G-d” (Micah 6:8) was a guiding principle for him. The Chassidim recount that Rabbi Aaron studied day and night, and although he knew the Talmud and Poskim, he concealed the extent of his knowledge. After the death of his father Rabbi Issachar Dov, Rabbi Aaron took his place. After a few years, the name of the young Rabbi of Belz was known throughout the world. The more he advanced in age, the greater his Torah knowledge and holiness became, and he developed into a light that brightened the whole Jewish world, for everyone became aware of his holinesses, his righteousness, and his greatness.

During his time, Belz Chassidut increased and spread to many countries. Multitudes of Jews from many places considered Belz as a spiritual center and source from which one could draw Torah and the fear of G-d. However, when Belz achieved the summit of its growth, calamity struck Poland as the accursed enemy began World War II.

During Shemini Atzeret 5700 (1939), the Rebbe was forced to take the baton of pilgrimage into his hand and leave the city of Belz. He wandered for four years, but his Chassidim protected him so that no harm came to him. His entire family was killed, yet it was G-d’s will for the Rebbe to be miraculously saved from the Nazi inferno and make it to Eretz Israel.

The following is an account that he himself gave: “It is impossible to describe the miracles, and the miracles within miracles, that the Holy One, blessed be He, has done for us. The man who drove me from the Bochnia Ghetto all the way to Budapest in Hungary visited me every day while I was in Pest. I once asked him, ‘How could you dare leave the car in Pschemichl, while we were on route, in the middle of the road for more than an hour while you went to the cabaret to see your soldier friends and have a drink with them, leaving us there in the car? Weren’t you afraid that a Gestapo agent traveling along the roads would catch us and realize that you were driving with Jews?’ [Note: This man was a Hungarian military officer who pretended that the Rebbe and his brother were officers who were taking their retirement]. He replied to me, ‘I knew with whom I was traveling.’ No one saw us along the entire route, for a large cloud covered the car throughout the duration of the trip.”

The 9th of Shevat, the day when the Rebbe arrived in Eretz Israel, became an occasion for joy and good deeds in the homes of Belz Chassidim. The Chassidim would assemble in his Beit Midrash and seat themselves at the table, while the Rebbe would give them a “Tikkun” and recount the miracles that occurred to him in hiding. He finished by saying, “Thank G-d, I arrived in Eretz Israel.” He spent his first Shabbat in Haifa, and the group of people that crowded together during prayer and in preparing “tables” left an atmosphere of spiritual elevation in the city.

An incident occurred in Haifa that we may learn from. The Chassidim who had come from Jerusalem to spend Shabbat with the Rebbe in Haifa had brought with them a special shochet to slaughter chickens for the Rebbe and his close friends. However the Rebbe refused to benefit from the services of this shochet from Jerusalem, saying that he had received a tradition from his father that when a person goes to a Jewish community in which an organized shechita already exists under the supervision of the local rabbinical authority, he must use the local shochet in order to avoid causing strife. When someone pointed out to him that since the shochet had already arrived from Jerusalem, he should not be rejected lest he is put to shame, the Rebbe replied: “A community should not be put to shame by taking a shochet from another city.” Thus a local shochet was called, and after the Rebbe inspected his knife ,he was given the chickens to slaughter.

The Rebbe settled down in Tel Aviv. To the utter surprise of the Chassidim (who thought that he would live in Jerusalem), he told them that he had secret reasons for doing so, reasons that he could reveal to no one. When it was suggested that he live in Bnei Brak or Petah Tikva, he replied, “When there were incidents with Arabs, no Arab was allowed to enter Tel Aviv, which is not the case with those other cities. This is why I want to live in Tel Aviv, for only Jews live there.” The influence of the Rebbe on Tel Aviv has been considerable, leading to noticeable reforms in the spiritual landscape of the city. To a Belz Chassidim living in Tel Aviv, who was cutting his son’s hair on his third birthday and leaving him with payot, the Rebbe said: “Take your son and walk with him along Allenby Street [the main street in Tel Aviv] so that people may see that the city now has another child with payot.”

In 5704 (1944), the Rebbe directed his family to purchase gardening equipment and to work in the garden of his yard. He entered the garden each day to see how people were working on it and how it was progressing, and several times the Chassidim were surprised to see their Rebbe take a shovel and work the earth. When the Shmita year arrived, the Rebbe said: “Now that the Shmita year has come, we will stop working in order to accomplish the mitzvah of Shmita.” Everyone then understood why he was interested in his garden.

Rabbi Aaron lived for 13 years in Eretz Israel, elevating the standard of Belz high over the Holy Land. At the conclusion of Shabbat of Parsha Eikev, on the 21st of Av, 5717 (1957), his holy and pure soul left him.

FAQ Passport History
Passport collection, passport renewal, old passports for sale, vintage passport, emergency passport renewal, same day passport, passport application, pasaporte passeport паспорт 护照 パスポート جواز سفر पासपोर्ट

1. What are the earliest known examples of passports, and how have they evolved?

The word "passport" came up only in the mid 15th Century. Before that, such documents were safe conducts, recommendations or protection letters. On a practical aspect, the earliest passport I have seen was from the mid 16th Century. Read more...

2. Are there any notable historical figures or personalities whose passports are highly sought after by collectors?

Every collector is doing well to define his collection focus, and yes, there are collectors looking for Celebrity passports and travel documents of historical figures like Winston Churchill, Brothers Grimm, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Read more...

3. How did passport designs and security features change throughout different periods in history, and what impact did these changes have on forgery prevention?

"Passports" before the 18th Century had a pure functional character. Security features were, in the best case, a watermark and a wax seal. Forgery, back then, was not an issue like it is nowadays. Only from the 1980s on, security features became a thing. A state-of-the-art passport nowadays has dozens of security features - visible and invisible. Some are known only by the security document printer itself. Read more...

4. What are some of the rarest and most valuable historical passports that have ever been sold or auctioned?

Lou Gehrig, Victor Tsoi, Marilyn Monroe, James Joyce, and Albert Einstein when it comes to the most expensive ones. Read more...

5. How do diplomatic passports differ from regular passports, and what makes them significant to collectors?

Such documents were often held by officials in high ranks, like ambassadors, consuls or special envoys. Furthermore, these travel documents are often frequently traveled. Hence, they hold a tapestry of stamps or visas. Partly from unusual places.

6. Can you provide insights into the stories behind specific historical passports that offer unique insights into past travel and migration trends?

A passport tells the story of its bearer and these stories can be everything - surprising, sad, vivid. Isabella Bird and her travels (1831-1904) or Mary Kingsley, a fearless Lady explorer.

7. What role did passports play during significant historical events, such as wartime travel restrictions or international treaties?

During war, a passport could have been a matter of life or death. Especially, when we are looking into WWII and the Holocaust. And yes, during that time, passports and similar documents were often forged to escape and save lives. Example...

8. How has the emergence of digital passports and biometric identification impacted the world of passport collecting?

Current modern passports having now often a sparkling, flashy design. This has mainly two reasons. 1. Improved security and 2. Displaying a countries' heritage, icons, and important figures or achievements. I can fully understand that those modern documents are wanted, especially by younger collectors.

9. Are there any specialized collections of passports, such as those from a specific country, era, or distinguished individuals?

Yes, the University of Western Sidney Library has e.g. a passport collection of the former prime minister Hon Edward Gough Whitlam and his wife Margaret. They are all diplomatic passports and I had the pleasure to apprise them. I hold e.g. a collection of almost all types of the German Empire passports (only 2 types are still missing). Also, my East German passport collection is quite extensive with pretty rare passport types.

10. Where can passport collectors find reliable resources and reputable sellers to expand their collection and learn more about passport history?

A good start is eBay, Delcampe, flea markets, garage or estate sales. The more significant travel documents you probably find at the classic auction houses. Sometimes I also offer documents from my archive/collection. See offers... As you are already here, you surely found a great source on the topic 😉

Other great sources are: Scottish Passports, The Nansen passport, The secret lives of diplomatic couriers

11. Is vintage passport collecting legal? What are the regulations and considerations collectors should know when acquiring historical passports?

First, it's important to stress that each country has its own laws when it comes to passports. Collecting old vintage passports for historical or educational reasons is safe and legal, or at least tolerated. More details on the legal aspects are here...

Does this article spark your curiosity about passport collecting and the history of passports? With this valuable information, you have a good basis to start your own passport collection.

Question? Contact me...