Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Parashas Tzav-Shabbos HaGadol 5775

Tzav-Shabbos HaGadol 5775

New Stories Tzav-Shabbos HaGadol 5775

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Tzav-Shabbos HaGadol 5775

(From the archives)

True Freedom is Freedom from the Evil Inclination


As we approach Pesach it is worthwhile to contemplate how we can begin to experience spiritual reward. On Pesach we were surely the recipients of one of the greatest benefit that mankind ever received, and that was liberation from our oppressors. With the onset of the month of Nissan we begin our physical and spiritual preparations for the festival of Pesach, yet on the surface, freedom and liberation appear to be far from our everyday reality. As a nation we still suffer at the hands of our oppressors, we are degraded, injured and even, Heaven forbid, killed, and all because we are Jews, HaShem’s Chosen People. Where, then, is the freedom that the Torah and our Sages referred to over and over again in Scripture, Gemara, Medrash and in our prayers? Have we not suffered enough that we should finally be able to declare that we are truly free people?

The Long Exile seems to contradict Liberation

The Gemara (Megillah 14a) states that we can recite Hallel on the three festivals of Pesach, Shavuos, and Sukkos because we are servants of HaShem and not servants of Pharaoh. Yet, subsequent to the Exodus from Egypt, we have been servants of many nations, and until today, we are still subjugated to the whims of various rulers throughout the world. The subject of freedom is a lengthy one, but in this essay we will attempt to briefly provide a solution to the enigma of freedom in relationship to our current situation.

Reconciling the joy of the Inauguration of the Mishkan with the Death of Nadav and Avihu

The Gemara (Shabbos 87b) states that in the second year in the Wilderness, the first day of Nissan was a day when the Jewish People took ten crowns. The Medrash (Shemos Rabbah 52:5) states that the inauguration of the Mishkan was a day when Hashem was very joyous. Yet, despite all this great joy and pomp, Aharon HaKohen’s two sons, Nadav and Avihu, died a tragic death on this day. How can we reconcile this apparent contradiction, where this day was one of great ecstasy but was instantly transformed into a day of mourning and sadness? Perhaps the solution to this paradox can be found in a different Medrash. The Medrash (Magen Avraham in the beginning of Hilchos Pesach) states that although the construction of the Mishkan was completed in the month of Kisleiv, HaShem chose to postpone the inauguration to the month of Nissan. The reason for this delay was because HaShem desired that the inauguration of the Mishkan should be in Nissan, the month when Yitzchak was born. What is the association between Yitzchak and the month of Nissan?

Yitzchak and the Jewish People were both free from the Evil Inclination

We normally view freedom as liberation and release from powers that until now have been dominating us. On a deeper level, however, the Medrash (Shemos Rabbah 41:7) teaches us that when the Jewish People received the Torah, they merited being free from the angel of death. We find elsewhere in the Gemara (Bava Basra 16a) that the angel of death and the Evil Inclination are one and the same. Regarding the inauguration of the Mishkan, it is said (Vayikra 9:6) vayomer Moshe zeh hadavar asher tzivah HaShem taasu viyeira aleichem kevod HaShem, Moshe said: this is the thing that HaShem has commanded you to do; then the glory of HaShem will appear to you. In a surprising interpretation of this verse, the Toras Kohanim (Ibid) states: Moshe informed the Jewish People that if you remove that Evil Inclination (of idolatry – commentary of Chafetz Chaim Ibid) from your midst, then you will merit the revelation of HaShem’s glory. Thus, the removal of the Evil Inclination and the revelation of HaShem’s Presence are directly connected. The Medrash (Rashi Bereishis 28:13 quoting Tanchumah) states that the Evil Inclination of Yitzchak was removed from him. Furthermore, Reb Tzadok HaKohen from Lublin writes that when the Gemara states that this matter was heard mipi haGevurah, from the Almighty, it alludes to the idea of Yitzchak. We can now begin to understand why HaShem chose to have the dedication of the Mishkan occur in the month of Nissan. Nissan was the month that Yitzchak was born, and Yitzchak merited completely subduing his Evil Inclination. When the Jewish People received the Torah, they merited having their Evil Inclination removed from them, and this was also HaShem’s desire regarding the inauguration of the Mishkan. Sadly, Nadav and Avihu on their level did not live up to this task, and they perished inside the Holy of Holies. Nonetheless, HaShem’s will was accomplished, and Moshe informed Aharon that Nadav and Avihu were greater than Moshe and Aharon. There is no question that Nadav and Avihu attempted to completely subdue their Evil Inclination and transform themselves to the state of Adam HaRishon before the sin of eating from the tree of Knowledge of Good and Bad.

The Shabbos Connection

In a similar vein, when we enter the month of Nissan, it is incumbent upon us to attempt the complete subjugation of our Evil Inclination. This is the meaning of true freedom. If we wonder why we are still subjugated to other powers, it is because we have not yet succeeded in overcoming our Evil Inclination. The Gemara (Brachos 17a) clearly links the Evil Inclination and the subjugation of the nations together. In this month of redemption, Nissan, we must attempt to emulate our forefather Yitzchak, who subdued his Evil Inclination, and then we will merit true freedom from the angel of death and from the nations who subjugate us. We know from many sources that Shabbos is a time when we are liberated from the shackles of the Evil Inclination and from all foreign influences. By observing Shabbos and particularly Shabbos HaGadol, the Shabbos commemorating the onset of liberation, we will surely merit true freedom. It should be Hashem’s Will that this Pesach we merit the true redemption with the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu, speedily, in our days.

Shabbos in the Zemiros

Gott fun Avraham

Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, who lived from 1740-1809, recommended that this prayer be recited by men, women and children three times and that the recitation would help ensure success in the upcoming week.

יבּ דַּיינֶע לִיבֶּע יוּדִישֶׁע קִינְדֶערְלִיךְ אוֹיךְ כֹּחַ דִיךְ צוּ לוֹיבֶּען, also give Your beloved Jewish children the strength to praise You, and to serve only You and no other. We are always aware that HaShem is the Master of the World, but it is easy to forget to thank Him for everything that he does for us. HaShem provides us with life, health, sustenance and the ability to keep taking actions that bring us closer to His service. Praising HaShem or everything He provides us with requires strength, so we beseech Him to provide us with that strength to continue praising Him, forever and ever.

Shabbos Stories

Don’t Look at Their Heads but in Their Hearts

In the years before the establishment of the State of Israel, Rabbi Aryeh Levin, the Tzaddik of Jerusalem, would visit the inmates of the British-controlled Jerusalem prison on every Shabbos. Though most of the Jewish prisoners were not observant, they would quickly don kippot before the revered Rabbi would greet them. Then they would join in the Shabbos Morning Prayer service that Reb Aryeh organized and they would read along with the rabbi, as if they were observant Jews. The entire scene agitated one particularly nasty fellow named Yaakov. He would try in every way to irritate the gentle Rabbi. Each Shabbos, he would purposely light up a cigarette in Reb Aryeh’s face in order to disturb him. Reb Aryeh was never fazed. One Shabbos, Yaakov stormed into the makeshift synagogue and snapped at the aged Rabbi. “Why do you waste your time with these liars and fakes? They are no more observant than I am. They only put the kippah on their heads when you come here. Furthermore, they only pray and open their lips to G-d when you are here. Otherwise they have no feeling in their hearts!” Reb Aryeh turned to Yaakov and rebuked him with a firm but gentle voice. “Why do you slander these souls? They come to pray every single week. I do not look at their heads but rather in their hearts. And when I hear the prayers coming from their lips, I know that their hearts are following as well.” It was not long before Yaakov became a steady member of the prayer group.

Shabbos in Halacha

לישה – Kneading

One Av Melacha with many unexpected applications in the kitchen is לישה, kneading. Kneading is defined as binding together small particles, i.e. flour, by means of a bonding agent i.e. water, to form one mass. The melacha of kneading also applies to kneading non-food items, such as clay; however, as always, our discussion will center on foods.

  1. The Melacha of Kneading
  1. The Components of a Kneaded Mixture

Foods Subject to the Prohibition of Kneading

Any food particles, which, when mixed with a liquid, will unite into one mass are subject to this prohibition. This includes, for example, flour, bread crumbs, farina, cereals which form a  gruel when mixed with milk, chopped eggs or tuna (which emerge to form a  salad when mixed with oil or mayonnaise) and chopped liver. Whole foods which are small enough to be bound into a mass (i.e. barley) are also subject to the prohibition for kneading. [We will discuss later permitted ways of kneading.]

However, the prohibition of kneading applies only to small particles food which, once combined, will not be discernable individually, but will be seen as one mass. Large chunks of food, which will remain clearly distinct even when they are stuck together, are not subject to this prohibition. For example, one would be allowed to mix banana slices with sour cream or chunks of potato with mayonnaise (to make potato salad) as long as the pieces are sizable enough to remain clearly defined within the mixture.

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New Stories Tzav-Shabbos HaGadol 5775

Remembering the Sassoon Children

These seven beautiful children were my next door neighbors.

by Rabbi Dovid Rosman        

I just returned from the saddest funeral I’ve ever attended – burying seven pure souls. These beautiful children were my next door neighbors until they moved to New York a year and a half ago. My children played with them all the time. Our girls went to the same school. I still can picture David and Shuey (the name affectionately given to Yehoshua) reading on my couch on Shabbat afternoon and little Sarah (she was 4 at the time) holding my daughter’s hand and skipping.

I remember when David, Shuey, and my son received new walkie-talkies and intercepted some random person’s conversation. Just this past Shabbat afternoon, a few hours before hearing the horrible news, my oldest daughter told my wife, “If Rivka would still be living on the block we would be making a camp together for the week before Pesach like we did two years ago.”

I’m devastated. We are all devastated. There are no words to describe the pain; we cannot begin to wrap our heads around this. People on the block cannot look at each other in the face. The pain is too overwhelming.

Gabby and Gail Sassoon are incredible parents. These children received so much love and attention. Look at their beaming faces. They did a fantastic job ensuring that their children were healthy and thriving. The family was an incredible unit always playing together and enjoying each other’s company. They were each other’s world. But what was so unique was that the parents allowed everyone to be part of their unit, to the extent that Mrs. Sassoon bought a larger C shaped couch so that children outside of the family could have room to sit on it.

And the Sassoon children were extremely inclusive of others. They were always sharing their new books, toys, and games. Even when they weren’t home, they would let their friends come over and read the new books. Every Shabbat, the Sassoon kids organized games for all the other kids on the block while Mrs. Sassoon was distributing cut-up fruit to all the children.

In his heartbreaking eulogy given with superhuman strength and faith, Gabby Sassoon charged us to recognize that the entire Jewish People are one unit and that we should all love one another.

At the end of Gabby’s eulogy he said that it’s too much for him to speak about each child individually and that someone else would do it. That didn’t end up happening, so I asked some of the children on the block if they could share some thoughts about their wonderful friends.

Many of the neighbors spoke about the children in a general sense. They described the children’s talent evident in the beautiful paintings by Eliane, Tziporrah, Rivka, David, and Yehoshua lining the walls of the Sassoon home.

Their daughter Eliane was always happy for others, never jealous, and made sure to show her happiness for her friends’ accomplishments and successes. She went out of her way to help others, often behind the scenes and never expected any credit for it. She was a very loyal friend and everyone knew they could trust her with their secrets. She was extremely responsible, devoted to her siblings, and had a zest for life.

Rivka was full of life, fun, outgoing, and sensitive towards others. She used her positive energy to make others happy. My daughter said that Rivka was the one to introduce her to the other girls on the block when we moved here. She was always volunteering to look after the children when her mother would go out for errands. Very often the older sisters would join their mother for errands and Rivka would offer to stay at home to watch the other kids. She was sensitive and mature beyond her years.

David, the leader of the Sassoon brothers, was very mature and level headed. He was a peacemaker, always happy to help things work out. At the same time, he was a regular relaxed child who was able to be so good with much ease.

Yehoshua was incredibly creative and always carried himself with a smile. He would include all the other children in his newest creative idea or project.

Moshe was curious and sweet. He looked up to his big brothers and was always happy to join their adventures with the other boys on the block, but he was happy to play with anyone and therefore everyone felt comfortable playing with him.

All the little girls on the block loved playing dolls with Sarah. She herself was very much a doll of a little girl, sharing her toys with her friends. In fact, one neighbor commented how much she looked like a porcelain doll.

Although at the time that he lived next door Yaakov was only three years old, he stood with such a presence, straight and confident. And, just like his big siblings, he showed his politeness in other people’s homes when playing with their children.

Everyone who knew the Sassoon family speaks so highly of them. They were a model family, a true Kiddush Hashem.

In the eulogy given in New York, Gabby asked of us, “Please everybody, love your child, love your student, love the other children. That’s all that counts, understand that.” Reflecting on the beautiful Sassoon children, we can realize just how much love and dedication can accomplish.

Please pray for the full recovery of Gila bas Francis and Tziporah bas Gila.

Readers can send the family their condolences in the comment section below.

The Violin that Witnessed History

Violinist Bronislaw Huberman saved hundreds from the Nazis. The amazing story behind Joshua Bell’s priceless Stradivarius.

by Roizy Waldman        

Reprinted with permission from Ami Magazine.

Eight years ago, an intriguing little experiment made news. The experiment – arranged by the Washington Post to study how people react to unexpected, out-of-context art – called for Joshua Bell, world-renowned violinist, to stand in a Washington D. C. subway and play classical music.

Bell played for about 45 minutes, during which time more than a thousand people passed by. Ordinarily, when Bell gives a recital, he earns about a thousand dollars a minute, but in the 45 minutes he played in the subway, only 27 out of the 1,075 passersby threw a donation into his violin case, netting him a grand total of $32.

No wonder the experiment caused a sensation!

In its aftermath, scores of articles were written about the experiment, and all kinds of questions were asked. What happens to art without a frame? Can people not recognize quality art on their own? Why would people shell out upwards of hundred dollars a ticket to hear Josh Bell play and not stop to listen when the music was free? Does cost add value? Is it all part of our herd mentality –if we aren’t told something is good we cannot realize it is good?

These are fascinating questions. But when I initially read about this experiment, I found myself obsessing over an entirely different question. My question arose out of a trivial detail that the Washington Post mentioned as it related Bell’s preparation for this experiment. Bell, the Post claimed, took a taxi from his hotel to the subway station, a distance of merely three blocks, because his violin was too expensive to risk walking with on the street. What kind of violin was this, I wondered, to merit such care and protection?

As I began my search to uncover its past, I did not know that it would lead me not only to the story of the violin but also to a story about courage, perseverance, and the making of history! I didn’t know I would learn about nearly a thousand Jews who were saved from the Nazis’ grip and almost certain death – all because of a single man who happened to be the previous owner of this valuable violin. The man was Bronislaw Huberman.

Bronislaw Huberman

Born in 1882 to a secular Jewish family in Poland, Bronislaw Huberman’s musical genius was discovered early. His father, a law clerk, recognized young Bronislaw’s talent when he was a mere child and could not yet understand the effect such talent could have on his life. At that time, classical music was the music that mattered, the only music genre that could potentially make someone a lot of money. Bronislaw’s father knew this. And he chose to take advantage of it.

Instead of giving Bronislaw a regular education, his father hired a music teacher for him to help hone his craft. Denied the experience of attending school with children his age, Bronislaw spent his childhood years traveling from country to country performing music. He gave his first public concert at the age of 7. By the time he was 14, he was playing in front of no less a musical virtuoso than Johannes Brahms. Branislaw performed a Brahms composition, stunning the composer with the quality of his performance.

For the Huberman family, young Bronislaw was their gold mine. His talent afforded them a nicer home and a more comfortable lifestyle than their father’s law clerk salary had allowed them. Bronislaw’s lost childhood seemed a small price to pay for these advantages.

Throughout his childhood and adolescence, Bronislaw’s father made sure to provide him with stellar teachers, including Isidor Lotto, Charles Rosen, and later Charles Grigorovich, with whom Bronislaw studied in Berlin. When Bronislaw was 11, he garnered the support of arts patron Count Zamoyski of Paris, who gave young Bronislaw a gift of a Stradivarius.

The Stradivarius

A Stradivarius is an instrument made by Antonio Stradivari, an Italian born in 1644. Stradivari was a luthier, a maker of stringed instruments, such as the violin, cello, guitar, etc. During his lifetime – he died in 1737 – he crafted more than 1,100 instruments. Of those, 540 violins, 50 cellos, and 12 violas are still in existence today. A “Strad” produces the most magical tones, unequalled by any other stringed instrument. Though many luthiers have attempted to reproduce the exact sound, none have succeeded yet. Over the years, music historians and researchers have come up with various theories about why a Stradivarius produces such exceptional sound. Some claim it’s the wood Stradivari used; others say it’s the varnish, and still others believe it’s the waters of Cremona, the city where Stradivari lived.

The Stradivarius gifted to Huberman by Count Zamoyski was called the Gibson, named for its previous owner, George Alfred Gibson, a professor of violin at the Royal Academy. The Gibson Strad was crafted in 1713, making it more than three hundred years old now.

Denouncing Hitler and Nazism

Because of Bronislaw’s atypical growing-up years, which revolved entirely around his career and was spent mostly in the company of his father, he sometimes acted oddly and crudely. He was known to be overly prickly if things didn’t go his way. Among people his age and to those in the music industry, he became known as an “eccentric” – tactless, somewhat asocial, and obsessed with his career.

In 1902 Bronislaw’s father died suddenly. For the eccentric, career-obsessed 20-year-old, his father’s death was a tremendous blow. True, his father had kept him from enjoying a traditional childhood and adolescence, but his father had also sacrificed his own life as a father to his other children, as well as given up his job, in order to turn his son into a star. Besides, their constant travels had drawn Bronislaw and his father closer to each other than to anyone else, even if perhaps only because of physical proximity. His father’s death, therefore, threw Bronislaw into turmoil.

From a psychological standpoint, it’s fascinating to note how people often react differently to being orphaned than expected. Bronislaw Huberman is a case in point. He could have easily allowed the shock of his father’s untimely death, the sudden loss of both his greatest supporter and strictest taskmaster, to break him. As an established star, he could have changed his rigid work ethic and slack off, now that he finally could.

Instead, the “eccentric” Huberman surprised the world. At the height of his career success, he chose to cancel all his pending concerts and enrolled at the Sorbonne in Paris. Instead of slacking off, he decided to work harder, this time to get the education once denied him.

Formal education served to refine Huberman. He became a deeper thinker, more political and more humane. Some of these changes were also due to what he’d witnessed during World War I. The greed, the quest for power, the bloodshed, man’s inhumanity to man – everything he’d seen of war left a deep impression on him and served as the impetus for his later actions when Hitler came to power.

“The true artist,” Huberman once said, “does not create art as an end in itself; he creates art for human beings. Humanity is the goal.” Indeed, humanity through art is precisely what Huberman practiced.

In 1933, as Hitler took control of Germany, Jewish musicians who’d been employed for years by the prestigious Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra suddenly found themselves jobless. Each month, Hitler ordered more and more Jewish musicians to be fired, and no other orchestra was allowed to hire them. However, to preserve his reputation among foreign countries, Hitler tried to retain a handful of the most famous Jewish musicians in the orchestra. One of the musicians he was persuaded to keep was Bronislaw Huberman.

The orchestra’s conductor, Wilhelm Furtwängler, sent Huberman a personal offer of employment. But Huberman refused it. In fact, not only did he refuse it privately, but he also wrote a public letter denouncing Nazism and racism, defending freedom for all European citizens regardless of ethnicity. In September 1933, his letter was published in German, French and English in various publications.

Just a few years before that, in 1929, Huberman had visited Palestine for the first time in his life. Palestine at the time was little more than a desert. Idealistic Jewish settlers were occupied with building the basics: homes, roads, and shops for daily provisions. There was no time, energy, resources, or money left over to devote to highbrow culture or art. But when Huberman arrived in Palestine, he received an enthusiastic welcome. For educated Jews starved for culture, he and his music were embraced with grateful joy.

The Palestine Symphony Orchestra

How is a dream born? Who can tell? Timing, opportunity, means, passion – so much must come together to form the necessary synapses of thought, the drive to achieve the impossible. Did the germ of Huberman’s dream take hold during this 1929 visit to Palestine? Or was this trip Hashem’s way of “naturally” preparing the seeds of rescue for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Jews just a few years later?

In the early 1930s, Huberman realized that Jews had no future in Germany.

It’s difficult to know exactly what prompts what, when the precise moment of decision occurs. But what we know is this: In the early 1930s, Huberman realized that Jews had no future in Germany. What he also realized was that immense Jewish talent would go to waste if it did not find a proper outlet. And so, he conceived a vision: an orchestra in Palestine composed of the greatest European Jewish performers. It would be called the Palestine Symphony Orchestra.

Huberman invited the best Jewish musicians to audition. Implicit in the invitation was the promise of the orchestra’s providing a haven for these victimized musicians.

At the time, with Palestine under the leadership of the British Mandate, it was nearly as difficult for European Jews to immigrate to Palestine as to the United States. In order to be granted entry, refugees had to demonstrate that their prospects of earning a living were strong. The soon-to-be Palestine Symphony Orchestra ensured that these refugees would be gainfully employed.

Still, Huberman faced an uphill battle. Once the musicians agreed to leave their European countries of birth, Huberman struggled to procure immigration certificates for all of them. He negotiated with the Jewish Agency for Palestine, which gave out immigration certificates that were designated by the British.

In many cases, Huberman insisted that the musicians could only emigrate if they were accompanied by their spouses, siblings, children, or parents, and so managed to snag certificates for all of them. Unlike many people, who believed that this European anti-semitic wave would soon pass, just as earlier anti-Semitic waves had, Huberman believed that Jews were no longer safe in Europe. Consequently, he worked tirelessly to rescue as many people as he could from the Nazis’ clutches. He ensured the Jewish agency, and thus the British government, that he’d employ many more people than he possibly could.

While Huberman was struggling to persuade cultured musicians to make their home in a virtual desert, while he toiled to procure their visas, while he dissembled to the government in an effort to wrest more and more Jews away from Europe’s ever-increasing perilous situation, he also had to put together the orchestra itself. A dream is merely a dream. But for the dream to become a reality, so much had to fall into place. Money was needed. The musicians’ morale had to be maintained. A venue had to be found, a conductor procured.

On the latter front, Huberman lucked out. Italian Arturo Toscanini, one of the most renowned conductors in Europe, agreed to conduct the orchestra’s first few performances. Toscanini, who wasn’t Jewish, despised Nazism and Fascism. He courageously spoke out against the Nazis and Fascists even at the cost of his personal safety. In fact, after one such outburst, a group of Fascists beat him bloody. But he refused to be silenced.

Toscanini traveled to Palestine in 1936 to train the orchestra and ready them for their first performance. In keeping with his idealism, he declined payment for his work, even paying for his travel expenses himself. “I had to show my solidarity,” he said. “It is everyone’s duty to help in this cause according to one’s means.”

Toscanini cemented the orchestra’s reputation. He was held in such high regard that as soon as it became known that he would be the orchestra’s conductor, fund-raising become easy, musicians clamored to become part of the orchestra, and people bought tickets to the concerts. In no time, nine concerts – in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa, Cairo and Alexandria – were sold out.

The first concert took place on December 26, 1936, in Tel Aviv. Crowds of people who couldn’t get tickets stood outside the windows and climbed up onto the roof to be able to hear the gorgeous music. When the concert was over, the audience gave the musicians a standing ovation that lasted thirty minutes!

“One has to build a fist against anti-Semitism,” Huberman once said. “A first class orchestra would be that fist.”

Indeed, a first class orchestra it became! The Palestine Symphony Orchestra toured the entire world, wowing audiences with their beautiful performances. In 1948, when the United Nations recognized Israel as a country, the orchestra changed its name to the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. Huberman had died a year before.

Stolen Violin

But how did Joshua Bell acquire Huberman’s historically-rich violin?

On February 28, 1936, Huberman came to New York to give a recital at Carnegie Hall. Huberman always carried a double violin case, in which he kept his Gibson and another violin made by Stradivarius’s Cremona colleague, Giuseppe Guarneri. For some reason, he decided to use the other violin for this recital and left the Gibson in his dressing room. When Huberman returned to the dressing room, the Gibson had been stolen.

In monetary terms, this wasn’t a tremendous loss, because the Gibson was insured by Lloyds of London. Also, the Gibson Strad had been stolen once before and was quickly retrieved. Huberman, therefore, was confident that the same thing would happen this time.

But it was not to be. The Gibson was never found or returned during Huberman’s lifetime.

Joshua Altman, a decent though not exceptional violinist, worked musical gigs whenever and wherever he could get them. He never managed to acquire a permanent chair at any of the leading orchestras, but he somehow eked out a living as a “journeyman player.”

The violin he used was not well cared for. It was sticky and dirty. Anyone who saw it knew immediately that it hadn’t been taken to a shop for maintenance or tuning in years. Of course, after his death, everyone would understand why.

In the 1980s, Altman was diagnosed with stomach cancer. As he lay dying, he called his wife to his deathbed and told her he had stolen the violin from Huberman’s room at Carnegie Hall. “I want you to do something about that violin,” he said. “That violin is important.”

Altman’s wife looked inside the violin case and found newspaper clippings that reported the theft of Huberman’s Strad. She called Lloyds of London and returned the violin to them.

For nine months, J&A Beare Ltd., a firm that restored precious instruments, worked to remove the dirt and grime that had accumulated on this violin, while cautiously retaining the Strad’s prized varnish. Eventually, Nobert Brainin, a renowned British violinist, purchased the violin for 1.2 million dollars.

In 2001, Brainin decided to sell the violin to a wealthy German who would put up the violin for show – as a work of art instead of as an instrument to be played.

When Josh Bell heard this, he was appalled. “It made me nauseous, the thought of that. I said, ‘You cannot take this violin.’” He paid Brainin almost four million dollars for the violin.

Now, the world – when it’s not too busy to stop and listen – gets to hear the magnificent music played by a master on this historically rich Gibson-Huberman-Bell Stradivarius.

Reprinted with permission from Ami Magazine. (






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