Baal Shem of London
|Baal Shem of London|
|Birth name||Hayyim Samuel Jacob Falk|
|Died||17 April 1782 (aged 73–74)|
Falk was born in either Fürth in Bavaria or Pidhaytsi in Podolia. In 1742 he arrived in London after narrowly escaping being burnt at the stake by the authorities in Westphalia who charged him with sorcery. He lived at 35 Prescott Street, London, United Kingdom and at Wellclose Square, London until his death. He was a neighbour of Emmanuel Swedenborg and there is some evidence that he had a significant influence on him.
Folklore surrounding Falk
Many stories were current concerning Falk's extraordinary powers. According to one account, it was Falk's custom to make clandestine visits to Epping Forest in his carriage, where he was reported to have buried quantities of treasure. On one of these occasions a wheel came loose from the vehicle on the Whitechapel Road, but followed the carriage all the way to the forest. When Falk ran short of coal, he was said to have performed a magical feat involving three shirts and a ram's horn. Falk was also able to keep candles burning miraculously, and to transport objects from one place to another.
Some claimed that he had saved the Great Synagogue from a fire raging in the neighbourhood by writing four Hebrew letters on the pillars of the door. The most famous tale of Rabbi Falk concerns his connection with the death of Aaron Goldsmid, one of the Baal Shem's executors appointed in his will.
Jewish opinion of Falk
The Baal Shem of London was received very equivocally by the Jews themselves, however, although he seems to have been friendly with Chief Rabbi David Tevele Schiff, whom Falk referred to as the "rabbi of London and the entire country". Falk bequeathed in his will an annual sum of 100 pounds to the Great Synagogue (Duke's Place), London as well as some Sefer Torahs.
Diary and Biography
Falk kept a diary containing records of dreams and the Kabbalistic names of angels. This can be found in the library of the United Synagogue in London. In 2002 Michal Oren published the diary and a biography of Falk. The diary is written in Hebrew and is very cryptic. The diary was published together with the diary of Falk's assistant, Tsvee Hirsch of Kalish.
Death and Burial
He died on 17 April 1782 and was buried in the cemetery at Globe Road, Mile End.
- Goodrick-Clarke, Nicholas. "Review:Emanuel Swedenborg, Secret Agent on Earth and in Heaven: Jacobites, Jews, and Freemasons in Early Modern Sweden".
- Isaacs, Hyam (1850). Ceremonies, Customs, Rites, and Traditions of the Jews. William Buck. pp. 355–356.
- Alexander, Levy (1808). Memoirs of the Life of Benjamin Goldsmid.
- Falk's commonplace book: Jewish Museum, London: United Synagogue Beth HaMidrash Library, London, as summarized in Adler, 'Baal Shem', 149, 166–73.
- Grözinger, Karl-Erich; Dan, Joseph (1991). Mysticism, Magic and Kabbalah in Ashkenazi Judaism. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter. ISBN 3-11-013744-5.
- Oren, Michal (2002). Samuel Falk, The Baal shem of London מ'בעל שד' ל'בעל שם'. Bialik Institute. ISBN 965-342-850-0.
- Picciotto, James. Sketches of Anglo-Jewish History. London: Soncino Press, 1956.
- Katz, David S. (1997). The Jews in the History of England, 1485–1850. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-820667-4.
- Godwin, Joscelyn (1995). The Theosophical Enlightenment. Albany: State University of New York Press. ISBN 0-7914-2151-1.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Joseph Jacobs and Hermann Adler (1901–1906). "Falk, Ḥayyim Samuel Jacob". Jewish Encyclopedia.