ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 149

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Holey mess

Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky’s pants taken off auction site

Prime Judaica had planned to put authenticated item of clothing under hammer; one collector tells New York Post he planned to buy item and rent it out

Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky in the northern Israeli city of Safed, February 26, 2020. (David Cohen/Flash90)
Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky in the northern Israeli city of Safed, February 26, 2020. (David Cohen/Flash90)

An auction house that planned to offer a pair of torn pants that belonged to a late venerated ultra-Orthodox rabbi has taken the item off its website.

The pants once belonged to Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, an Israeli Haredi leader considered by his followers as the leading Jewish authority of his generation. Kanievsky died last year at age 94, and the pants were to go up for auction on March 1 at the Prime Judaica auction house with a starting bid of $3,200.

However, the New York Post reported on Saturday the item was removed ten minutes after it requested information about the lot on Friday.

Prime Judaica did not provide information about why it had apparently changed its plan to auction off the pants, according to the report, which cited unnamed experts as claiming that under some Orthodox interpretations the clothes Kanievksy wore while studying Torah could be considered holy.

Israel Clapman, a Jewish art dealer, told the Post “there’s definitely money to be made.”

Clapman explained he was interested in buying the pants and then renting them out to devout Jews who might want to get married wearing the rabbi’s clothes.

“We demand they put pants back on,” he said in an apparent jest.

Abe Kugielsky, director at auction house J. Greenstein & Company, who specializes in Judaica, criticized the planned auction.

“I understand if it’s his hat, his tzitzit, or tallis or tefillin, but pants I find to be very repulsive,” he said referring to various religious items the rabbi used. “Imagine if they auctioned off the pope’s sock.”

The pants had been listed in Hebrew as “Holy pants from the Prince of Torah, our leader Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky.”

Included on the auction house page was a letter written and signed by Gedalyahu Konigsberg, who identifies himself as a grandson of, and former aide to, Kanievsky.

“I, the undersigned, testify that these black pants… of the Shai Shaul company, with a rip on the bottom, were worn by my elder, the esteemed Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, of blessed righteous memory, for a long period of time,” reads the letter signed by Konigsberg. “I merited to see him wearing this with my own eyes.”

On the website of an online retailer, Shai Shaul pants run from roughly $13.50 to $16.25.

Though the page offering Kanievsky’s pants is no longer available on the auction house website, an archived version was still available on the internet.

Letters and legal rulings written by Kanievsky have gone to auction for hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars, and started going up for sale during his lifetime.

Kanievsky in 2013 made headlines when he ruled against men wearing skinny pants or jeans, warning at the time that those who intentionally wear such garments will face ex-communication.

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