THE BAAL SHEM OF LONDON

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You have heard of the process of white-washing in so far as it applies to historic criticism. It is a process which has been adopted by several eminent writers in the interests of truth. The great his? torian, Professor Mommsen, whose recent demise is deplored by the whole world of letters, has essayed to prove that the views commonly entertained about the Roman emperors is not correct, and that Tiberius was by no means a tyrant of so dark a hue as he is ordi? narily depicted. Froude endeavours, and not without some measure of success, to clear Henry VIII. of the many imputations cast upon him. Marat, the unlovely, has recently been described as the People's Friend. And, indeed, gradually personages who were regarded aforetime as ogres are being transmuted into heroes or saints, so that the present period of historic writing may be described as the age of white-wash.

fear that I shall have to enter upon an opposite course, and cast something of a shadow upon a character that has hitherto loomed before the mind of Anglo-Jewry encircled with a halo of sanctity. But be assured that my colours will not be too dark. I shall speak of the Baal Shem as he was,

"Nothing extenuate,

Nor set down aught in malice."

Chayim Samuel Jacob Falk, also called De Falk, Doctor Falk, or Dr. Falckon, the subject of my paper, was a very enigmatic per? sonage, who resided for about forty years in London, and was known

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DR. FALK. THE BAAL SHEM OF LONDON

as the Baal SJiem of London.1 The halo of reverence which had for over a century irradiated that name has, in a great measure, been dissipated by recent researches, but the veil of mystery with which the personage bearing it has long been shrouded lias, despite much investigation and several curious discoveries, not yet been entirely removed. At the same time it is remarkable how many of the enigmas have been solved by a search of contemporary literature, and how the accounts given in Hebrew sources have been corrobo? rated by stray remarks that have been discovered in non-Jewish writings.

Falk's personality is of interest, as he was connected with a move? ment which has left its impression upon Judaism to this day. He also came into contact with several noteworthy contemporaries, and lived on terms of intimacy with influential members of the Jewish community in London. Sources for his biography are very sparse. They are: 1. Notices in various contemporary writings, which will be duly indicated. 2. References in the polemical wTorks of R, Jacob Emden, his mplKnn (Wrestling) and rom rtf (the Trodden Winepress). (The Lemberg edition, 1877, will be quoted.) 3. His Diary, or rather Commonplace Book, which came into the possession of the late Solomon Herscheil, Chief Rabbi, now in the library of the Beth Haraedrash of the United Synagogue. The Diary, first described by Dr. Neubauer in his catalogue of this library

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