Baal Shem Of London

Baal Shem Of London Cover
Rabbi Dr. Hayyim Samuel Jacob Falk was a rabbi, Practical Kabbalist and alchemist. He was born in either F"urth in Bavaria or Pidhaytsi in Podolia and lived in Wellclose Square, London until his death. He arrived in London in 1742 after narrowly escaping being burnt at the stake by the authorities in Westphalia who charged him with sorcery. Because of his reputation as a Practical Kabbalist who worked miracles and appeared to have magical powers which involved the use of divine names, he was known by the Jews of London as the "Baal Shem of London". He ran a secret occult group out of his home and had an alchemical laboratory in one of the houses on London Bridge. Many stories were current concerning his 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. He was before long in the possession of great wealth and took up his residence at a house in Wellclose Square formerly occupied by Judith Levy, Moses Hart's eccentric daughter. Here he was waited on by nobles, aristocrats, and princes, such as the fair Marquise de la Croix, who had been instrumental in saving many Jews from the clutches of the Inquisition. He did various rituals to assist Theodore of Corsica in his efforts to regain his royal inheritance. In France it was said that Falk had given a magical ring of Lapis lazuli (some accounts suggest a talisman) to Louis Philippe II, Duke of Orl'eans which would ensure that he would succeed to the throne. He supposedly passed the ring to his son who in 1830 became the king of France as Louis Philippe. 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. The Baal Shem of London was received very equivocally by the Jews themselves, however, although he seems to have been friendly with Rabbi David Tevele Schiff, whom Falk referred to as the "rabbi of London and the entire country". Rabbi Jacob Emden accused him of being a Sabbatean, a supporter of Sabbati Zevi, as he invited Moses David of Podhayce, a known Sabbatean with connections to Jonathan Eibeschutz, to his home. He died on April 17, 1782 and was buried in the cemetery at Globe Road, Mile End. 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.

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