• Dr. Batsheva Goldman-Ida

"BESHT" HANUKKAH LAMP - Yes or No?

An item of interest now in the collection of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem is the Hanukkah lamp attributed to the Besht.


“Besht” Hanukkah Lamp, Warsaw, Poland, first half of the 19th century, silver, filigree, 22×27.5 cm.

It was not included in the present study since it cannot be fully ascertained if it was used as part of a living Hasidic tradition. This object has become an issue of historiography. Moreover, I have determined that its provenance was not correct.45 Still, the ubiquitous presence of the lamp in Hasidic circles, which are by nature conservative and often copy object forms from family to family down through the generations, along with such imagery as the dove as a symbol of the people of Israel, points to a plausible Hasidic origin of the lamp. In June of 1920, Mordechai Narkiss (1898–1957), the first director of the Bezalel Museum, the forerunner of the Israel Museum, received a precious silver filigree Hanukkah lamp. See Mordechai Narkiss, Yalkut Bezalel, Vol I: No. 2 (1924), 24; Letter of donor dd. 8 Sivan 5680 (June 1920), Israel Museum no. 178/15.My thanks to Dr. Yitzhak Alfasi, who conferred on my behalf with the present Admor of Novominsk in July 2011.

The hallmark of a leaping stag facing left is associated with the workshop of the silversmith Abraham Reiner (active 1851–1880). However, comparison with a group of similar Hanukkah lamps suggests an earlier date. The donor, Israel Pinni, was from a noted Hasidic family through his mother, Gitel, the daughter of Rabbi Ya’akov of Novo-Minsk. He believed the lamp had been passed down from generation to generation in his family from the Besht, who, in turn, had received it from his brother-in-law, R.Gershon of Kitov. However, an in-depth examination of the letter detailing his family lineage, which accompanied the lamp, revealed that Mr. Pinni had believed his great-grandfather was the son of R. Shimon of Ostrów, but was actually the son of R. Shimon of Zavichos. As a result, his family lineage did not reach back to the Besht. Jerusalem, The Israel Museum, Gift of Israel Penini, Jaffa, through Keren Hayesod, B00.0290 (118/364); Letter of Provenance, 178/15.


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