Can You Solve a Chof Ches Sivan Mystery?

In honor of the 80th anniversary of the arrival of the Rebbe and Rebbetzin to the USA, an reader sent in an interesting anecdote connected with the day, leaving the reader off with a question. Do you know more details?

By reporter

In honor of the 80th anniversary of the arrival of the Rebbe and Rebbetzin to the USA, an reader sent in an interesting anecdote connected with the day, leaving the reader off with a question.

The boat that the Rebbe and Rebbetzin arrived was the S.S. Serpa Pinto. During the years of WWII, the Serpa Pinto achieved a kind of celebrity status as it transported over 110,000 passengers across the Atlantic Ocean, more than any other Portuguese civilian ship.

Over five decades after the arrival of the Rebbe and Rebbetzin, a discovery made by West Coast Head Shliach Rabbi Shlomo Cunin shed some light on the journey.

The year was 5754. Rabbi Cunin was then in the process of cleaning the basement of 770, one of the many renovations and repairs he sponsored over many years.

After each renovation that he paid for, Rabbi Cunin would take back large pieces of 770 to his Chabad House in California. Until today, one can see a window, drop ceiling, tiles and much more from 770 in Rabbi Cunin’s Chabad House, and many more artifacts were distributed to shluchim over the years.

On that occasion, Rabbi Cunin made a startling discovery: A large trunk with sticker attesting that it had crossed the ocean on the S.S. Serpa Pinto! On closer examination, he noticed that one sticker had the Rebbe’s full name, and the second had the Rebbe’s last name, both written in the Rebbe’s holy handwriting…

But what he found inside was even more surprising. The trunk contained a old chandelier, decorated with images of faces. Each face had its nose rubbed off.

When Rabbi Cunin began asked around about the box and the chandelier, he quickly realized that no one had ever seen the box, and definitely had not seen the chandelier.

Had the Rebbe and Rebbetzin brought the chandelier from Europe? Had it been placed in the trunk at a later date? How had it ended up in the basement of 770? No one seemed to know.

Rabbi Cunin took the chandelier together with the trunk back to California, and it currently hangs in Chabad of California Headquarters.

Do you know any more details about the trunk or the chandelier? Let us know in the comments below.

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  1. See the booklet published by Memke Schmukler about Reb Yaakov – Yankel – Lipskier on the occasion of the Bar Mitzvah of his brother.
    That might be a clue.
    I don’t know any more details

    1. From the booklet about the Rebbe’s trip to France to pick up his mother in 1947:

      Yankel also introduced the Rebbe to a cousin of his that lived in Paris. Shortly after his arrival, Yankel was fundraising money at a woman named Edmée’s home, where he complimented her on the elaborate chandelier in her home.
      “My grandfather made it” she replied plainly, “he was a great Chassidic Rebbe, Rebbi Shmuel of Lubavitch. He made a few of the artifacts in my home.”
      Yankel nearly choked – she was referring to the Rebbe Maharash – who was famously ordered by doctors to engage in handicrafts due to his health condition. How did these precious items end up in France?
      The Rebbe Maharash’s son, Reb Menachem Mendel, was a businessman in Russia. After a few foul deals, he had to leave the country settling in Corsica, a mountainous Mediterranean island in the French region. Every year or so he would return to Russia to visit his family with false papers, and it was perhaps during these visits that he imported these prized possessions.
      Being an avid craftsperson himself Yankel was extremely intrigued and when the Rebbe arrived in Paris a few months later, he made the introduction between the two. She would later give the Rebbe family photos as well as a Megilas Esther written by the Rebbe Maharash himself, both of which were featured in his biography the Rebbe made, published just two weeks after his return to the states.

      A year later (after the Rebbe had already returned to the United States) Edmée had found out the whereabouts of a small table that the Rebbe Maharash had made, and after tracking it down and obtaining it, it was decided that Yankel would bring it to the United States for the Rebbe. [Until this very day, this special table sits in the Rebbe’s room.]

      Again, all this was on the Rebbe’s trip to France in 5707/1947 (which coincidently, he also returned on the same day then – 28 Sivan), years after the Rebbe and Rebbetzin arrived in the US with above mentioned trunk.

  2. A minor details, but the noses do not look rubbed off to me. In fact, they look sharp enough to be Jewish.

  3. Could the chandelier have been removed from somewhere in 770 (bc of faces?) and the trunk used to store it? Maybe at the Rebbe’s instruction?

    1. It is interesting to note, that in the Rebbe’s room, above the wood paneling along the top of the wall, there are also small images of faces.
      This fact was not widely noticed by Chassidim until after Gimmel Tammuz because Chassidim entering the Rebbe’s room for Yechudus obviously weren’t checking out the decor.

      Perhaps there is a connection with this chandelier?

      This would add up with the case of the above trunk being that upon first arriving in America, the Rebbe and Rebbetzin lived in Gan Eden Haelyon (- what would later become the Rebbe’s Room) for around two weeks.

      Perhaps the Rebbe had it removed?

      It’s also interesting to note, that in the other 770s which have a replica of the Rebbe’s room (Ramat Shlomo Yerushalayim, Kfar Chabad, etc.) these faces remain the only detail of the room not copied.

      1. One point, i heard from r shlomo cunin, that when he found the chandelier, there was no wiring in it, and he commissioned someone to install electricity.

        If this chandelier was originally in 770, it would have had electricity.

  4. If you examine the chandelier well, you will probably be able to find a company name and or model number, that with minimal research, you will be able to determine were and when it was manufactured and you’ll know if it was possible that it was brought over by boat or not.

    very interesting story though.

  5. Re the suggestion that the Rebbe may have brought it from Europe.. difficult to fathom anyone fleeing the nazis ym”s would have no other worry but to shlep a chandelier with them.. The Rebbe fled Paris, spent a year in Nice, traversed Spain to come to Lisbon.. across the Atlantic to NY.. and had no other worry but to schlep a chandelier.. a preposterous notion for anyone fleeing.. How much more so than to think than someone of the Rebbe’s stature finding this relic so important to take with him.. it’s an affront to the kavod of the Rebbe…… This probably came down from somewhere in 770 and stashed away in a forsaken trunk in 770’s basement..

  6. In the new Kovetz published by the Vaad Hatmimim, they write “It is assumed that the Rebbe brought it with him from Europe”.

  7. Maybe the chandelier was made by the Rebbe Maharash? It sounds similar to the one described in the lady’s house

  8. It is hard to imagine that this chandelier is from the Rebbe Maharash, because the Rebbe worked with wood, not metal, as far as I am aware. Also it seems very unlikely that the Rebbe would have made faces like that on the chandelier.

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