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1 Shvat - Rosh Chodesh Shvat
Rosh Chodesh Shvat, according to Beit Shammai, is Rosh Hasanah for the trees. The signifigance is primarily in connection with Ma'asrot, orlah, neta reva'i, and according to some, Shemittah.
According to Rabi Yehudah, on this date the season of kor (extreme cold) begins.
1 Shvat - 1312 B.C.E.:
After being warned by Moshe Rabbeinu,
the Egyptians were hit with the (eighth) plague of Arbeh (locusts).
Shvat 2489 - 1272 B.C.E.:
"It was in the fortieth year, in the eleventh month, on the first of the month, that Moshe spoke to the children of Israel..." (Devarim / Deuteronomy 1:3).
Hashem allowed Moshe Rabbeinu to view the Holy Land from a mountaintop.
On this day, as the Jewish people were completing 40 years of wandering
in the desert, Moshe Rabbeinu convened the Bnei Yisroel and began the 37 day recital of Mishnah Torah (his farewell address) to the Jews, that continued until he was niftar on
7 Adar. Also during this time, Moses wrote 13 Torah scrolls -- one for each tribe, plus one to
place in the Aron / Ark of the Covenant.
1 Shvat 2883 - 878 B.C.E.:
According to one source, Shaul Hamelech and his sons were killed during the war in Gilboa.
1 Shvat 5358 - Jan. 8, 1598:
The Jews were expelled from Genoa, Italy.
1 Shvat 5553 - Jan. 14, 1793:
A tragedy was narrowly averted in the Jewish ghetto of Rome after a mob set fire to the ghetto gates. The fire would likely have swallowed the entire ghetto if not for a downpour of rain.
1 Shvat 5600 - Jan. 6, 1840:
Sultan Abdul Mejid, under pressure from the Montefiore delegation sent in response to the Damascus blood libel, issued a Firman against blood libels. He also unconditionally released the nine Jewish accused who had survived their tortures. (Four had already succumbed.)
1 Shvat 5642 - Jan. 21, 1882:
The beginning of the BILU movement (Bais Yaakov L’chu V’nelcha) in Russia. The movement was formed by Russian students at the University of Kharkov, creating their own Zionist group which called for active colonization of Israel.
1 Shvat Yahrtzeits
HaRav Yitzchak Shapiro, zt”l, (5409 / 1649), the Megaleh Amukot of Cracow.
HaRav Avraham Meshulam Zalman of Ostraha, zt”l, (5537 / 1777), son of the Chacham Tzvi.
HaRav Shlomo Lichtenstein, zt”l, (5543 / 1783), author of Chochmat Shlomo.
HaRav Nosson Nota Broide of Chelm, zt"l, the Neta Shaashuim (5572 / 1812).
Harav Nosson Nota’s father was Harav Avraham, son of Harav Aharon, the author of Even Tekumah on the Shulchan Aruch. The family was descended from Harav Shaul Wohl, as well as many other Gedolim.
Harav Nosson Nota was a chassid of the Rebbe Reb Baruch of Mezhibuzh, the Rebbe Reb Elimelech of Lizhensk and the Chozeh of Lublin. Most notable was his connection with his rebbi muvhak, Harav Mordechai of Neshchiz.
Initially, Reb Nosson Nota hid his exalted ways, serving as a simple melamed. He tutored the two sons of a tax official who lived near Voldova who were weak students, working hard to instill in them Torah and yirat Shamayim. As part of his contract with his employer, who gave him lodging in his home, he was asked to watch over the forests at night to prevent robberies. Reb Nosson Nota was quite pleased with this arrangement; it would give him time to himself to serve Hashem in the woods.
On his first night out in the woods, thieves had just begun chopping down trees when they were startled to hear cries and moans. When the sounds subsided, they began chopping again. But hearing the strange sounds once more, they decided to seek out the source.
Spotting a faint light, they followed it until they reached a small cave; there on the ground, the melamed Reb Nosson Nota was bent over, ashes on his head and tears streaming down his cheeks, mourning churban haBayit and galut haShechinah. Awestruck, the thieves fled the forest.
When word of this incident reached his employer, he began to investigate Rav Nosson Nota’s ways and discovered that he was a tzaddik nistar, who had managed until then to keep his secret to himself.
From then on, people began treating Reb Nosson Nota with new respect. Seeing that he could no longer continue to hide himself, Reb Nosson Nota decided to leave the village and travel to his Rebbe, Harav Mordechai of Neshchiz. The Rebbe advised him that this was a sign that he should reveal himself. Rav Nosson Nota returned to Voldova and established his court there. However, even after becoming Rebbe, Rav Nosson Nota continued to journey to other Rebbes.
Later, he was asked by the kehillah of Chelm to settle in their town and he agreed to do so, which is why he is known as Reb Nota Chelemer.
It is related about the petirah of Reb Nosson Nota that when he fell ill he sent a messenger to the Chozeh of Lublin to ask for a brachah for a refuah sheleimah. The Chozeh sent his brachah.
On his last Shabbat, Parashat Va’eira / Rosh Chodesh Shvat 5572 / 1812, Rav Nosson Nota, despite his weakness, began his tisch on Leil Shabbat. Before reciting Kiddush, while holding the becher in his hand, he related a story to his chassidim. When he finished the story the becher fell from his hand, and his neshamah ascended to its Heavenly place.
When the Chozeh was told of the petirah, he exclaimed, “Oy, I was tricked. I saw in Heaven that Nota ben Malkah would become better. Now I realize that it must be a different person with the same name.”
Harav Nosson Nota’s sons were Harav Aharon and Harav Tzvi. His son-in-law was Harav Tzvi, the youngest son of his Rebbe, the Chozeh.
For tens of years after his petirah, the divrei Torah of Reb Nosson Nota went unpublished. Some of them were destroyed in a fire in Chelem. Only one manuscript survived; Harav Shlomo Leib of Lentchna, who succeeded Reb Nosson Nota, passed it on to his grandson, who gave it to Harav Nechemiah, grandson of Harav Nosson Nota. In 5651 / 1891, Harav Nechemiah published these divrei Torah under the name Neta Shaashuim.
HaRav Elazar Lazi, zt”l, (5574 / 1814), authorof Mishnat d’Rabi Eliezer
HaRav Moshe Schick, the Maharam Shick, zt"l, (1807 - 5639 / 1879). His “last name” was created by his family in response to a demand by government agencies; it is an acrostic for “Shem Yehudi Kodesh.” Born in Brezheva, a small town in Hungary, he was sent at the age of 11 to learn with his uncle, Rav Yitzchak Frankel, av beit din in Regendorf. When he was 14, he was sent to learn under the Chasam Sofer in Pressburg, where he stayed for six years. When he was 20, he married his cousin, Gittel Frankel. He was appointed Rav in Yargen in 1838, the year of the Chasam Sofer’s petira, then became Rav in Chust.
HaRav Moshe Yechiel Halevi Epstein from Ozerov, zt"l, (5650 / 1890 - 5731 / 1971).
Rav Moshe Yechiel was born in 5650 / 1890. His father was Harav Avraham Shlomo of Ozorov, the She’eirit Brachah, who was a descendant of the first Ozorover Rebbe, Harav Aryeh Leib. His mother, Rebbetzin Reitza Mire, was the daughter of Harav Chaim Shmuel Horowitz, the Rebbe of Chentchin.
From a very young age his hasmadah was astounding, and when he was only 22, with the approval of his father and grandfather, he already ruled on halachic questions when his father was out of town.
In 5674/1914 he was officially nominated as Rav in Ozorov and in 1918, he replaced his father as Rebbe.
He married Rebbetzin Chanah, the daughter of Harav Omniel Weltfried of Povinetz.
During World War I, Ozorov burned down, with only 22 houses left standing (only 11 of Jewish inhabitants)..
During WWI he fled Ozorov, and at that time, sadly, his wife became gravely ill with typhus and passed away.
In 5678/1916, his father was also niftar, and the Chassidim begged him to assume the mantle of leadership. With the warm blessings of many tzaddikim, he accepted the yoke, and began leading the Ozorover Chassidim.
In 5680/1920, after the war, he married the daughter of Harav Menachem Mendel Tennenbaum, a prominent Amshinover Chassid.In 1920, he traveled to America to publicize the importance of Agudat Israel.
In 5686/1926, the Rebbe moved to America, where he settled on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Subsequently, in 1927, he moved his family to the Bronx, where his beit medrash was a source of light and inspiration for many.
In 5709/1949, during a visit to Eretz Yisrael, his only son, Reb Alter Avraham Shlomo, was niftar in a tragic manner, and in 5713/1953, his second Rebbetzin passed away as well.
Subsequent to these tragic events, he ascended to Eretz Yisrael and settled in Bnei Brak. After some consideration, he moved to Tel Aviv where he set up the Ozorover beit medrash. He was one of the driving forces in Moetzet Gedolei Hatorah, Agudat Yisrael, and especially in Chinuch Atzmai.
On the last Shabbat of his life, he asked to be called up for acharon instead of Levi, which was his customary Aliyah. After Havdalah, he enclosed himself in his room. Shortly thereafter he became ill, and within a few hours he was niftar.
Rav Moshe Yechiel wrote two monumental works, Aish Daat, comprised of 11 volumes, and Be’er Moshe, 12 volumes on Chumash and Tanach. Each volume contained at least 500 pages, over 10,000 pages in all. Two biographies have been written about him, “Balabat Aish” and “The Aish Daat of Ozorov.” Rav Moshe Yechiel was succeeded by his son-in-law, Rav Tanchum Binyamin Becker.
HaRav Avraham Yehuda Farbstein, zt"l, (1917 - 5757 / 1997), Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Chevron. Rav Farbstein’s father was one of the founders of Bnei Brak and was head of its first city council. As a youth, Reb Avraham Yehuda studied in the Chevron Yeshiva and the Mir Yeshiva in Europe. Rav Farbstein’s wife was a daughter of Rav Yechezkel Sarna, He taught in the Chevron Yeshiva for 50 years.
HaRav Binyamin Rabinowitz ,zt"l, chaver beit din of Eida Chareidit (5672 / 1912 - 5762 / 2002).
Harav Binyamin Rabinowitz, was born in 5672/1912. His father was a well-known Ruzhiner Chassid, zt”l, Harav Aryeh Mordechai Rabinowitz, a grandson of the Yehudi Hakadosh of Peshischa.
Even in his childhood, Rav Binyamin devoted himself exclusively to serving Hashem and studying the ways of the elder Chassidim and righteous men of Yerushalayim.
Rav Binyamin was especially close to Harav Dovid Tzvi Shlomo of Lelov, zt”l, and Harav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, zt”l, the Rav of Yerushalayim.
Rav Binyamin married Ruchamah Liba, daughter of Harav Avraham Cohen, son-in-law of Harav Akiva Yosef Shlesinger, zt”l.
Shortly after he was married, Rav Binyamin asked the gabbai of the Tiferet Yisrael shul if he could borrow a Masechet Brachot for a short while. A few weeks later, he returned it and borrowed a Masechet Shabbot. In this way, he quickly learned through the entire Shas.
Rav Binyamin was extremely careful to avoid seeing anything forbidden. When he walked through the streets, he bent over and scrutinized the pavement as if he were looking for a lost coin. Even at home he never looked around but kept his eyes on whatever was before him. After years of his bending over, people were convinced that he was a short man, when in fact he was very tall. Appropriately, his last dvar Torah before his petirah was dedicated to the subject of shemirat einayim, guarding one’s eyes.
In time, Rav Binyamin was asked to become a maggid shiur in Yeshivat Chayei Olam and, later, Rosh Kollel for horaah. Rav Binyamin led the kollel for almost eight years.
On Rosh Chodesh Shvat 5736/1976, he became a member of the beit din of the Eidah Hachareidit in Yerushalayim. For exactly 26 years, Rav Binyamin judged with great wisdom and true daat Torah. He was known for his ability to reach compromises that satisfied all parties while fulfilling the most exacting standards of justice and righteousness.
One tool Rav Binyamin used for developing his middot was careful, detailed scheduling of every minute of the day. After his petirah, hundreds of his daily schedules were found.
Rav Binyamin was a powerful personal counselor. Many people came to him for advice, and he accepted young and old alike. His advice regarding chinuch ha’banim was highly sought after and was based on his oft-repeated comment: “Medarf mechanech zein di kinder, ober nisht tchepen — We have to educate children, not annoy them.”
Rav Binyamin led battles against breaches in Torah and avodah, teaching the derech Hashem regarding a vast array of difficult questions and situations.
Harav Binyamin Rabinowitz was niftar on 1 Shvat 5762/2002 and was buried on Har Hamenuchot.
Rebbetzin Menucha Ettel Nekritz, A"H, (1914-2006), granddaughter of the Alter of Novardok, and the daughter of Rav Avraham Yaffen, the rosh yeshiva of Novardok in Poland. Born in 1914 in Bialystock, Poland. She was named after Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz’s mother Ettel - the sister of her mother - with the name Menucha added because her aunt had died young. The Alter was niftar when she was six years old, and her father, Rav Yaffen, ran the large network of Novardok yeshivas that were spread out all over Poland. Its nerve center was in Bialystok. She married Rav Yehuda Leib Nekritz in 1935.
2 Shvat 3688 - 76 or 73 B.C.E.:
Yannai Hamelech (Hashmonean King Alexander-Yannai [Jannaeus]), an avowed enemy of the Jewish sages, died. His death was celebrated as a Yom Tov, as mentioned in Megillat Taanit, because of his cruelty and the ruthlessness with which he persecuted the Chachamim and their loyal followers.
While serving as Kohain Gadol at the Beit HaMikdash in Yerushalayim, Yannai mocked the Sukkot service, at which point the crowd showed their displeasure by pelting him with etrogs. Yannai responded by having his soldiers kill 6,000 people in the Beit HaMikdash courtyard.
On his deathbed he ordered the imprisonment of seventy Chachamim and instructed that upon his death they, too, should be killed. His plan never materialized because his pious wife, Shlomtziyon Hamalkah, ruled and refused to execute his will. A sister of Rab' Shimon ben Shetach, she was kind to the Chachamim, restored their honor and fought the Tzedokim.
2 Shvat 5390 - Jan. 15, 1630:
Simon dias Solis, a Jew who had converted to Christianity, was arrested for allegedly stealing a silver vessel from a church in Lisbon. After his hands were cut off, he was dragged through the streets and then burned. The real culprit, a common (Christian) criminal, admitted to the crime one year later. As a result, Solis’ brother, a friar, fled to Amsterdam and reconverted to Judaism.
2 Shvat 5679 - Jan. 3, 1919:
Simon Petliura, a Ukrainian nationalist and commander of the Cossacks and Haidamaks, begins his attack against the Jews accusing them of supporting the communist regime. In Berdichev, Uma, Zhitomir and 372 other Ukrainian cities about a hundred thousand Jews were killed and an equal number wounded in 998 major and 349 minor pogroms. He was murdered by a Jew in Paris in 1926.
2 Shvat 5702 - Jan. 20, 1942:
The Wannsee Conference, 1942, convened by Adolf Eichmann, Y”Sh, at which the “final solution” – the destruction of Europe’s 11 million plus Jews was discussed and organized.
2 Shvat 5708 - Jan. 13, 1948:
Solomon Mikhoels, a Russian and Yiddish actor was murdered by the secret police under Stalin’s orders, as part of a campaign to eradicate Jewish intellectuals and culture.
2 Shvat Yahrtzeits
Asher ben Yaakov Avinu (1562-1439 B.C.E.). (others 4 Shvat).
HaRav Menachem Mendel Krochmahl of Nikolsburg, zt"l, the Tzemach Tzedek (~1600-5421 / 1661).
Harav Menachem Mendel Krochmahl was born in Cracow c. 5360/1600. His father was Harav Avraham. He was named after his mother’s father, Harav Menachem Mendel Shmelkes, the parnass of Pshemishel.
In the yeshivah of his rebbi muvhak, Harav Yoel Sirkis (the Bach), in Cracow, Reb Menachem Mendel forged a close connection with Harav Dovid Halevi, the Taz.
As a young avreich, Harav Menachem Mendel was appointed a Dayan on the beit din of Cracow, and he was also chosen to sit in on meetings of the Vaad Arbaah Aratzot. His rebbi, the Bach, allowed him to open his own yeshivah in Cracow.
Due to the Cossack uprisings in Poland, Harav Menachem Mendel left Cracow. In 5396/1631 he settled in Moravia, where he became Rav in Krezmir.
From Krezmir, Harav Menachem Mendel was asked by the kehillah of Prosnitz to serve as their Rav. But due to the constant wars he moved on again, this time to Nikolsburg.
In 5408/1648, Harav Menachem Mendel was Rav of Nikolsburg and its environs. He enforced the takanot enacted some 90 years earlier by Maharal, and passed some new ones, known as the “Yud Alef Takanot” (“Eleven Rulings”).
Harav Menachem Mendel was one of the leading poskim of his era. His she’eilot and teshuvot were compiled as Tzemach Tzedek.
Rav Menachem Mendel writes in his hakdamah to the sefer that he thought of publishing his chiddushim on Shas, but felt that halachah took precedence, and therefore he went to print first with his halachic rulings.
There is also a sefer on the Torah, Pi Tzaddik, which is credited to Harav Menachem Mendel, but research has determined that it was actually written by his son, Harav Aryeh Yehudah Leib .
Harav Menachem Mendel was niftar on 2 Shvat 5421/1661.
He was survived by his only son, Harav Aryeh Yehudah Leib, who compiled his father’s sefarim. He also served as Rav in Trebitch, and later as Dayan in Nikolsburg.
His sons-in-law were Harav Gershon Ashkenazi, Rav in Prostnitz and Nikolsburg; Harav Dovid, son of Harav Yisrael Isserel, Rav in Giduong, Brody, and Trebitch; and Harav Aharon Yaakov, son of Harav Yechezkel, who succeeded his father-in-law and brother-in-law as Rav of Nikolsburg after their passing.
HaRav Meshulam Zusha (Rebbe Reb Zusha) of Anapoli (Hanipol), zt"l, (1718? - 5560 / 1800).
Disciple of the 2nd leader of the Chassidic movement, Rav DovBer (the Magid) of Mezeritch, and a younger brother of the Noam Elimelech. The Rebbe Reb Zusha, as he was commonly known, was born in the village of Lapachi, near the city of Tiktin. His parents were Reb Eliezer and Mirel Lipman.
According to chassidic tradition, the following story led to his birth. One day, a group of paupers were invited into the humble home of Reb Lipman and his wife. One of the paupers was severely infected with sores, but Reb Lipman’s wife, Mirel the tzaddeket, cared for him with great kindness. The sick pauper blessed her: “May it be Hashem’s will that you bear children like me,” and then, before she had a chance to respond to his disturbing blessing, vanished.
In due time, the couple bore a distinguished family of tzaddikim and tzidkaniyot, of whom the best known were the Rebbe Reb Zusha of Anipoli and the Rebbe Reb Elimelech of Lizhensk.
From childhood on, Reb Zusha was outstanding in his search for the truth, and never stopped inquiring how he could serve Hashem better. In his youth he served as a shamash in the town of Ostroha, and would often fast two or three days before requesting any food from the locals.
At one point, he heard of the Baal Shem Tov and set out to meet him, but on the way he turned back. A year or two later he reconsidered, wishing to learn from the Baal Shem Tov, but before he could set out, he heard that the Baal Shem Tov had already been niftar.
Instead, Reb Zusha became familiar with Chassidut through the Maggid of Mezhritch, Reb Dov Ber. This took place after Reb Zusha’s father had passed away and he moved to the home of his uncle, Reb Elimelech Pielt, in Mezritch. Reb Elimelech was the Maggid’s shamash, and through him Reb Zusha came to be one of Reb Dov Ber’s greatest disciples.
Reb Zusha brought his younger brother, Reb Elimelech, to the Maggid, and together the two brothers became leaders of Chassidut.
The “galut journeys” undertaken by Reb Zusha and Reb Elimelech are well known. During their travels, they brought many a straying soul back to Yiddishkeit and saved thousands of Yidden from sin. Their sole mission was to bring Jews closer to Hashem.
Despite Rav Zusha's erudition and great piety, he was distinguished by his self-effacement and simple ways. A characteristic saying of his goes: "If it were offered to me to exchange places with Abraham our Father, I would refuse. What would G-d gain from this? He'd still have one Zusha and one Abraham..." His colleagues said of him that he was literally incapable of seeing anything negative in a fellow Jew .
Reb Zusha lived to the age of 77 and was niftar on 2 Shvat 5560/1800, which was 13 years after the petirah of his brother, the Rebbe Reb Elimelech. He is buried in Anipoli near his Rebbe, the Maggid.
His Torah thoughts are printed in Menorat Hazahav and Torat HaRebbe Reb Zusha.
HaRav Simcha Bunim Kalish of Otvotzk and Teveria, zt"l, son of Rav Menachem Mendel of Vorka. (5667 / 1907).
HaRav Tzvi Hersh Rabinowitz, zt"l, (5670 / 1910).
HaRav Yisrael Chaim Kaplan, zt"l, talmid at Mir, son-in-law of Rav Yerucham Levovitz, mashgiach at Beth Medrash Elyon in Monsey from mid-1940s until his petira (1970).
HaRav Mansour BenShimon, author of Shemen HaMaor, zt"l, (5758 / 1998).
3 Shvat 4762 - Jan. 25, 1002:
Jewish mourners were attacked at the Levaya / funeral of Rav Shemaria ben Elchanan in Fostat, Egypt.
3 Shvat - 1180:
King Philip Augustus of France arrests large numbers of Jews in shuls on the Shabbat.
3 Shvat - 1497:
Jews are expelled from Graz (now
Styria in Austria).
Jews had settled there since 1160 and it was not until 1861 that Jews were legally
allowed to spend the night in Graz. Present-day Austrian Jewry is primarily
composed of Holocaust survivors (and their children), returning Austrian expatriates,
and refugees from eastern Europe. In recent years, Austria has offered sanctuary
to many Soviet and Iranian Jews.
3 Shvat 5515 - Jan. 15, 1755:
Jeronimo Jose Ramos, a merchant from Braganza , Portugal, was the last known Jew to be burned alive for secretly practicing Judaism.
3 Shvat 5693 - Jan. 30, 1933:
Adolph Hitler (ym'sh) was appointed
chancellor of Germany.
The November 1932 elections saw the Nazis emerge as the largest party in the Reichstag. Leading German politicians and businessmen persuaded President Paul von Hindenburg to appoint Hitler as chancellor, as a way to stabilize the government and economy. Hindenburg reluctantly agreed. Two months later, the Nazis passed the Enabling Act, giving Hitler dictatorial authority. Hitler's government then banned all other political parties, and in July 1933, a Concordat (agreement) was signed with the Vatican. Hitler secured popular support by persuading Germans that he was their savior from the Depression, the Communists, the Versailles Treaty, and the Jews. Hitler would use this power to launch World War II and oversee the murder of 6 million Jews.
3 Shvat 5693 - Jan. 30, 1933:
Founding of the Society of Youth Aliya, which brought to Israel over 115,000 children
3 Shvat 5705 - Jan. 17, 1945:
Beginning of the evacuation of Auschwitz concentration camp, See 5 Shvat.
3 Shvat 5705 - Jan. 17, 1945:
Soviet and Polish forces liberate Warsaw.
3 Shvat Yahrtzeits
HaRav Yosef Katz, zt"l, brother-in-law of the Rema and author of She’erit Yosef (5271 / 1511 - 5351 / 1591). [Note: the Admor of Desh, Rav Tzvi Meir Panet (1923-2003) also authored a sefer called She'erit Yosef.]
Harav Yosef ben Harav Mordechai Gershon Hakohen Katz was born in 5271/1511. He was the brother-in-law of the Rema and one of the leading Torah authorities in Poland.
Rav Yosef was the Rav and Rosh Yeshivah in Cracow for close to 50 years and taught thousands of talmidim.
As one of the top poskim in his generation, Rav Yosef dealt with halachic she’eilot sent to him from near and far. He was known for his sharp mind and incredible memory.
His modesty and humility were legendary; indeed, this was one of the virtues — aside from his prowess in Torah and halachah — noted on his matzeivah.
He corresponded with Gedolim from other countries, notable among whom were his brother-in-law the Rema, the Maharshal and Maharam Padwa.
It is said that Rav Yosef was crowned with four crowns: kesser Torah, kesser kehunah, kesser gedulah and kesser shem tov.
Rav Yosef wrote a sefer, called She’erit Yosef, containing his she’eilot u’teshuvot on all four parts of Shulchan Aruch. He appended to the sefer his comments on the Mordechai, on Seder Moed and Seder Nezikin, and on his Tur Choshen Mishpat. He published his sefer a year before his petirah.
Some of Rav Yosef’s chiddushim are quoted in Chiddushei Anshei Shem on the Mordechai, printed in the standard Shas.
Rav Yosef was niftar on 3 Shvat 5351/1591 in Cracow at the age of 80. He was buried in Cracow.
HaRav Yosef Rakover, zt"l, Rav of Eibeshetz, author of Mirkevet Hamishna (5464 / 1703).
HaRav Pinchas of Plotzk, zt"l, talmid of the Vilna Gaon, and author of Maggid Tzedek (5583 / 1823).
HaRav Simcha Bunim of Peshischa, zt"l, (1767-1828). After learning at Mattersdorf and Nikolsburg, Rav Simcha Bunim was introduced to chasidut by his father-in-law, and became a chasid of of the Magid of Kozhnitz and then the Chozeh of Lublin. He followed Rav Yaakov Yitzchak (the Yid Hakadosh) as leader of Pshischa, emphasizing Torah study. Among the followers of his methods were the Kotzker Rebbe, the Vorker Rebbe, the Chadushei Harim of Ger and Rav Chanoch of Alexander.
HaRav Moshe Yehuda Leib Zilberberg, zt"l, Rav of Kutna and Yerushalayim, author of Zayit Raanan and Tiferet Yerushalayim (5625 / 1865).
HaRav Yechezkel Shraga Frankel-Teumim, zt"l, (5645 / 1885). The son of Rav Yehoshua Heshel and grandson of Rav Baruch (the Baruch Taam). Reb Yehoshua Heschel lived in Komarna, and was known as an outstanding talmid chacham. He was a devoted Chassid of the Chozeh of Lublin. Reb Yehoshua Heschel was niftar on 4 Tammuz 5603/1843.
Reb Yechezkel Shraga was a close chasid and talmid of his uncle, the Divrei Chaim of Sanz, who cherished him. It is known that when the Divrei Chaim would say “my Chezkele,” he was referring to his nephew Reb Yechezkel Shraga.
He married the daughter of Harav Shmuel Rosner of Bardiov, settling in that town while continuing to learn and grow in Torah.
He was appointed Rav of Klasna-Vielitshke, (near Cracow) - two towns which were located close to each other. Some members of the kehillah were upset at the appointment of the new Rav. Their late Rav had been an elderly and respected person, and had a large family who lived in the city. But they didn’t have the audacity to refuse the request of the Divrei Chaim. Rather, they came up with a scheme to ask the new Rav an intricate halachic she’eilah, with the hope that he wouldn’t know the answer.
The night before they planned to carry out their scheme, Reb Yechezkel Shraga had a dream in which his father appeared to him and told him that the next day he would be asked a complex she’eilah, and he should prepare the relevant halachot. He answered their she’eilah without hesitation.
They did not give up. They thought up another complicated she’eilah, and again he was able to answer without any problems. Seeing that Reb Yechezkel Shraga was able to answer fluently, they finally accepted him as their Rav.
Reb Yechezkel Shraga led the city with an iron fist. He did not allow any changes in the traditional Torah ways; he did not allow mingling with the non-Jews or copying the way they dressed. He was active in setting up many tzedakah funds, ensuring all poor people got what they needed.
On 3 Shvat 5645/1885, Reb Yechezkel Shraga was suddenly niftar.
His sefer, Divrei Yechezkel, on the Torah and halachah, was being prepared for publication, but unfortunately Reb Yechezkel Shraga did not live to complete the task. His son Reb Shimon Alter also wanted to print the sefer, but didn’t succeed. It was finally published by his son Harav Simchah Frankel-Teumim.
He was succeeded by his son-in-law, Rav Shmuel Shmelke Azriel Frankel-Teumim.
HaRav Yosef Kalish, Rebbe of Amshinov, zt"l, (5638 / 1878 - 5695 / 1935).
The son of Rav Menachem of Amshinov, grandson of Rav Yaakov Dovid of Amshinov, and great-grandson of Rav Yitzchak of Vorka. On his deathbed, his grandfather, Rav Yaakov Dovid, told the family to name the new baby Yosef, and was then niftar before the brit took place.
The young Reb Yossele was acknowledged to be a phenomenal genius. He received semichah from the Chelkat Yoav of Kinsk and the gaon Harav Eliyahu Chaim Meisels of Lodz. He married the daughter of Harav Chaim Elazar Waks, author of Nefesh Chayah and son-in-law of Harav Yehoshua’le Trunk of Kutno.
Once his father, Harav Menachem, was in the resort town of Marienbad with his two sons, Reb Yosef and Reb Shimon. The Ohr Sameach, Harav Meir Simchah of Dvinsk, was also there at the time and was very impressed with Reb Menachem’s sons. He later gave heter horaah to Reb Yossele and commented at that time that he had never met a young lad as expert as he in the laws of Shabbat.
At the age of 27, Reb Yosef was appointed Rav of Ostrova. When his father was niftar in 5678 / 1918, he was named to succeed him as the leader of Amshinover Chassidim, who became attached to him heart and soul. Even as many Chassidim flocked to his door, he continued learning with great hasmadah.
Once, a Chassid came to take leave of the Rebbe before ascending to Eretz Yisrael. The Rebbe said that he could leave on three conditions: He must daven with a heimishe minyan; he must send his sons to Talmud Torah; and he must always button his clothes right on left, as Jews had always done. Seeing the Chassid’s surprise, the Rebbe explained that the smallest deviation from a minhag or a chumrah could eventually lead to the total abandonment of Yiddishkeit, chas v’shalom.
Later on in life the Rebbe became blind. In his last year, a heart ailment rendered him very weak; during this illness the names Yerachmiel Aharon were added to his name. He moved to Otvotsk, where he was niftar on the third of Shvat 5695/1935 (Others 5696/1936)..
His sons were Harav Yaakov Dovid, Hy”d, (1906-1942), Rav of Dzerdav, who succeeded his father in Amshinov; and Harav Yitzchak, zy”a, the Amshinover Rebbe of America. He had three other sons who died at a young age: Menachem, Hy”d; Yisrael Yehoshua, z”l; and Chaim Elazar, z”l. He also had 10 daughters, all of whom married prominent Rabbanim and Chassidim. All these families were killed during World War II. Hy”d.
HaRav Yerachmiel (ben Meir Mordechai Dovid) Unger, zt"l, (1916-1999). In 1909, Rav Yerachmiel's father moved his family from Melitz, Galicia, to New York. Rav Yerachmiel married a daughter of the Kamarna Rav in 1934, and he served as magid shiur at Yeshivat Chasam Sofer for many years. He moved to Boro Park in 1962, and became a mispallel at the Amshinover shul, where he became the official posek.
4 Shvat 5699 - Jan. 24, 1939:
Nazi S.S. leader Reinhard Heydrich was appointed to head Germany's Office for Jewish Emigration.
4 Shvat 5706 - Jan. 6, 1946:
Islamists encourage the local population to attack the Jewish community of Zanzur, Libya. Rioting spread to a number of small towns near Tripoli leaving 180 Jews dead and 9 synagogues destroyed, Hy"d.
4 Shvat 5717 - Jan. 6, 1957:
Yeshivat Kol Yaakov was established in Moscow with the approval of the Soviet government, after the Communists had destroyed all Jewish religious life during the 1920s and 30s. According to Soviet propaganda, this showed the world that the Communists weren’t anti-Semitic.
4 Shvat Yahrtzeits
Asher ben Yaakov Avinu (1562-1439 B.C.E.). (Others 2 Shvat).
HaRav Yisrael Charif from Stanov, zt"l, author of Tiferet Yisrael, disciple of the Baal Shem Tov. (1781)
HaRav Moshe Leib of Sassov, zt"l, (1745 - 5567 / 1807). Moshe Leib was a student of R' Shmuel Shmelke of Nickolsburg, R' Dov Ber (the Maggid of Mezritch), and R' Elimelech of Liszhensk. His teachings are contained in Likutei RaMal, Torat ReMaL Hashalem, and Chidushei RaMal.
HaRav Avraham Hakohen Katz of Kalisk, zt"l, (5570 / 1810).
Harav Avraham Hakohen was born in Kalisk, Lithuania, to Harav Alexander, a staunch disciple of the Vilna Gaon. He was recognized as a genius and talmid chacham already in his youth. Like his father, Reb Avraham was a follower of the Gaon.
For seven years Reb Avraham sat in an attic in Kalisk, immersed in Torah and avodat Hashem, totally oblivious to the outside world. One day a local Yid burst into Reb Avraham’s secluded room and shouted, “How can you sit there in total isolation? Travel to Mezritch to seek out the great light of the Maggid! The Maggid explains the passuk, ‘…the earth is full of Your possessions’ (Tehillim 104:24), as meaning that the earth is full of means of acquiring G-dliness and closeness to Hashem.”
“Is that what he said?” responded Reb Avraham. Electrified, he leaped out of his window and made his way to Mezritch.
Reb Avraham became a fervent and devoted Chassid of the Rebbe Reb Ber, the Maggid of Mezritch.
Upon his return from Mezritch, he gathered a group of young talmidei chachamim and taught them the teachings of his Rebbe, the Maggid. He also arranged a program of avodat Hashem for them that featured fervent tefillot and rejection of their own egos.
He studied with these disciples for two years. He also taught his Chassidim about the importance of ahavat Yisrael, and the good that one achieves through it.
After the Maggid’s petirah, Harav Avraham attached himself to Harav Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk, the Pri Haaretz.
The best-known historic Chassidic aliyah to Eretz Yisrael was the one led by Reb Mendel Vitebsker, Reb Avraham Kalisker and Harav Yisrael of Plotz, with hundreds of their Chassidim. The entourage reached Eretz Yisrael on 5 Elul 5537/1777. At first they settled in the holy city of Tzfat, but they were obliged to leave the city in 5543/1783. The majority moved to Teveria.
After an illness of a few months, Reb Mendel Vitebsker was niftar on Rosh Chodesh Iyar 5548/1788. He was buried in Teveria, in the section of the beit hakevarot that came to be designated for the talmidim of the Baal Shem Tov.
After the petirah of Reb Mendel Vitebsker, Reb Avraham was named Rebbe of the Chassidic yishuv in Eretz Yisrael.
Reb Avraham was niftar on 4 Shvat 5570/1810, and buried in Teveria, near the kever of Reb Mendel Vitebsker.
Letters of Harav Avraham are printed in the sefer Pri Haaretz.
HaRav Dovid of Brod, zt"l, (5576 / 1816).
HaRav Menachem Nachum Twersky, zt"l, of Trisk-Brisk, (5589 / 1829 - 5647 / 1887) .
Harav Menachem Nachum Twersky was the oldest son of Harav Avraham, the Trisker Maggid, who was the son of Harav Mordechai of Chernobyl, the Chernobyler Maggid. He was born on 22 Nissan, Acharon shel Pesach, 5589/1829. He was named for his great-grandfather, the Meor Einayim of Chernobyl.
He married the daughter of his uncle, Harav Dovid of Tolna.
Reb Menachem Nachum founded his own court during the lifetime of his father, in Brisk. He was on good terms with all residents of the city (many of whom were misnagdim); all held Reb Menachem Nachum in the highest esteem.
Reb Menachem Nachum was known as one of the leading tzaddikim of his generation and was especially noted for his mofsim; thousands traveled to his court, seeking his brachot and yeshuot.
Reb Menachem Nachum was niftar on 4 Shvat 5647/1887 at the age of 58. He predeceased his father, who was niftar about two years later, on 2 Tammuz 5649/1889.
HaRav Avraham Eliezer Mintzberg, zt"l, Rav of Yuzefov, (5664 / 1904).
HaRav Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg, author of Seridei Aish, zt"l, (1885 - 5726 / 1966). A student of the Mir and Slabodka yeshivot. When World War 1 broke out he went to Germany and studied at the university of Giessen, receiving a Ph.D. for a thesis on the masorectic text. He subsequently taught and eventually became rector of the Berlin Rabbinical Seminary founded by Rabbi Ezriel Hildeshimer.
HaRav Yisrael Abuchatzera, zt"l, the great Sephardic sage and kabbalist known as the “Baba Sali” (1889 or 1890 - 5744 / 1984). Born on Rosh Hashanah of 5650/1889 in Tafillalt, Morocco to the llustrious Abuchatzera family, Rabbinic leaders of the Moroccan city of Tafilalet for over a century.
The young Rav Yisrael observed how his father, Rav Masoud, would lock himself in an attic for hours, deep in study of both the revealed and hidden Torah. His brother Rav Dovid, 24 years his senior, never slept in a bed; rather, he would doze off a bit at the table, over his sefer.
Unlike most children his age, the young Rav Yisrael never longed for toys or sweets. All he wanted was a new siddur. He learned to daven with great devotion.
After his bar mitzvah, he went on to master Shas with many Rishonim and became expert in such areas as shechitah, milah and safrut. From a young age he was renowned as a sage, miracle maker and master kabbalist.
Most of Moroccan Jewry began emigrating to Eretz Yisrael after 1948. Rav Yisrael’s brother Rav Yitzchak founded a kehillah in Ramle, and urged Rav Yisrael to share the challenge of reorienting Moroccan Jewry to their new environment.
In Elul 5711 / 1951, Rav Yisrael boarded a ship for Eretz Yisrael, which arrived on Erev Rosh Hashanah at the Haifa port.
Rav Yisrael went to Yerushalayim, where he intended to settle. He was deeply pained by the spiritual condition of Yerushalayim at that time. After much thought, he decided to leave Eretz Yisrael.
At first, he went to France. In 5713 / 1953 he decided to return to Tafilalet, which had a then-stable government.
Rav Yisrael lived near his son, Rav Meir, who served as the regional Rabbi and Dayan. In 5723 / 1963 Rav Yisrael turned 73, the age when both his father and grandfather were niftar. That year Rav Yisrael did not travel, so that if he was niftar he could be buried alongside them in Tafilalet, in accordance with Chazal’s teaching that when a man reaches the life span of his father, he should prepare himself for death.
But the year passed and Rav Yisrael was healthy and vigorous. In 5724 / 1964 he moved back to Eretz Yisrael eventually settling in the small southern Negev development town he made famous, Netivot which has a largely Moroccan-Jewish population.
From the moment Rav Yisrael arrived in Netivot, it became a magnet for people in need of a tzaddik’s wise counsel, blessings, and in many cases, miracles.
The Baba Sali had a profound impact on Netivot and its surrounding settlements. Many residents of these towns changed their lifestyle and began to observe mitzvot.
Stories abound of his supernatural abilities -- if someone complained about a physical malady, he would prescribe a spiritual action to rectify it. If he was presented with money as a gift, he could identify if it was earned in a "kosher" way or not. He had elevated beyond the physical to the extent that he would eat only small morsels each day. His graveside in Netivot has become a holy site visited by thousands annually.
Rav Yisrael had seen Rav Meir as his replacement, to continue the family tradition. After Rav Meir’s death on Chol Hamoed Pesach 5743 / 1983, it was clear that Rav Yisrael was not well. He was rarely able to receive the public and would often remain in bed. On 4 Shvat 5744/1984, he returned his pure soul to its Maker.
The Baba Sali zy"a
HaRav Yaakov Elazar Friedman, zt"l, (2002), son of Rav Shlomo Zalman Friedman, Rav of Rakoshegy, Hungary. He was a descendent of the Shaarei Torah, Shemen Rokeach, Yeriat Shlomo, Ponim Meirot, Chacham Tzvi, Bach, Tosfot Yom Tov, Maharshal, and Levush.
In the time of the Beit HaMikdash, on this day barley would be planted (70 days before Pesach), so it would be ready for the Korban Omer.
5 Shvat 2516 - 1245 B.C.E.:
According to one opinion, the last of the Zekeinim (elders), who were contemporaries of Yehoshua / Joshua and outlived him, were niftar on this date. They were part of the unbroken chain of Torah transmission (the mesorah) as listed at the beginning of Pirkei Avot / Ethics of the Fathers: "Moshe
received the Torah from Sinai and gave it over to Yehoshua. Yehoshua gave it over to the Zekeinim, the Zekeinim to the Nevi'im..." who continued the chain of the mesorah,
Today is a Taanit Tzaddikim commemorating that event. According to another opinion, it took place on 8 Shvat, 1245 B.C.E. (see Shulchan Aruch 580:2 and commentaries there. Others say that this occurred 17 years later, in 2531 - 1230 B.C.E.. See Shabbat 105b and Seder Hadorot, under “Yehoshua.”)
5 Shvat 5500 - Feb. 3, 1740:
The Jews of Sicily and Naples were invited to return (having been expelled previously) by Charles de
5 Shvat 5543 - January 8, 1783:
Death of Moses Mendelsohn. In 1783, Mendelsohn and his pupil, Naphtali Wessely, translated the Torah into German to teach Jews German and give them an entry to the non-Jewish world. He founded Ha Me’assef, a Hebrew magazine, and tried to convince his fellow Jews to seek to integrate with the modern world with his famous motto “Be a Jew at home and a man outside.” Sadly, his ideas rapidly led to assimilation and disdain of traditional Judaism.
5 Shvat 5559 - Jan. 11, 1799:
A state of siege was declared in Yerushalayim, as Napoleon approached Gaza and Yaffo.
5 Shvat 5652 - Feb. 3, 1892:
The Russian government closed the Yeshiva of Volozhin..
5 Shvat 5705 - Jan. 19, 1945:
The Red Army captured Lodz and Tarnow.
5 Shvat 5705 - Jan. 19, 1945:
The Russians liberate 2,819 survivors of Auschwitz.
5 Shvat 5708 - Jan. 16, 1948:
35 Haganah fighters on the way to protect the besieged Gush Etzion (Hebron hills area) were ambushed
and massacred, Hy"d.
5 Shvat 5728 - Feb, 4, 1968:
The Dakar submarine disappeared in the Mediterranean Sea.
Built in 1943, the submarine was purchased by Israel in 1965. On January 9th 1968, following a refitting and further testing in Portsmouth, INS Dakar left Portsmouth and started her ill-fated journey. Six days later, on the morning of January 15th Dakar entered Gibraltar. Ya’acov Ra’anan, skipper of the Dakar, received approval to enter Haifa on January 29th. Later Ra’anan requested to enter yet another day earlier, on January 28th. This request was denied by the HQ, as the welcoming ceremony had already been planned. At 0610 hours, on the 24th of January 1968, Dakar just passed Crete and transmitted her last known position. Two minutes after midnight on the 25th of January 1968, Navy HQ received the last coded telegram from the Dakar. No further signals came from Dakar. On the morning of the 26th of January an international Search And Rescue operation was launched. All available Israeli ships and airplanes joined the SAR efforts. Navy and air units from Great Britain, the USA, Greece, Turkey and even Lebanon took part in the SAR efforts. On March 6th, Israel’s defense minister, Moshe Dayan gave an official statement at the Kneset about the loss of INS Dakar and her crew. A day of national mourning was proclaimed. The IDF Chief Rabbi declared that all of the sixty-nine missing sailors would be considered dead according to the halacha.
The empty hull was discovered on 13
Sivan 5759 (May 28, 1999) in the depths.
5 Shvat Yahrtzeits
HaRav Chaim David Chazan (Hazan) , zt"l, Rishon L’tzion (5629 / 1869). Son of Joseph ben Hayyim Hazan; born at Smyrna Oct. 9, 1790; He was one of the leading Talmudists of his age. In 1840 he was appointed chief rabbi of Smyrna; in 1855 he went to Yerushalayim, where he was made Chacham Bashi (Rishon L'Tzion) in 1861. He was niftar in Yerushalayim on 5 Shvat 5629 / Jan. 17, 1869.
He wrote: Torat ha-Zebach on the laws of ritual slaughter (Salonica, 1852; reprinted, Jerusalem, 1883); Nediv Lev, responsa with other works. Yishre Lev, halachic discussions, with additions by his grandson, Elijah Bechor Hazan (ib. 1870).
HaRav Shalom Shachna Yellin, zt"l, Rav of Bielsk and author of Yefeh Einayim (5634 / 1874). Bielsk is a town, 52 km south of Bialystok, in northeastern Poland, which had a substantial Jewish presence before World War II. Bielsk became part of the Russian Empire in 1807 after the partitioning of Poland. In the 1840s, the town was absorbed into Grodno Gubernia, a province of the Russian Pale of Settlement allowing Jewish residency. In 1898, a large wooded synagogue was built and called Yefeh Einayim in honor of Rav Yelin.
HaRav Shlomo Auerbach, zt"l, Rav of Luntshitz, author of Divrei Shlomo and Imrei Shlomo, (5665 / 1905). Harav Shlomo was the son of Harav Meir Auerbach, the Imrei Binah, son of Harav Yitzchak Eizik, author of Divrei Chaim on the Shulchan Aruch.
Reb Shlomo married the daughter of Harav Moshe Yehoshua Baharir.
His first rabbinic post was in Iniva. In 5633 / 1873 he was appointed Rav of Luntschitz, where he served for the next three decades until his petira.
He wrote Divrei Shlomo, which was printed in the back of his father’s Imrei Binah, and Imrei Shlomo, printed in the back of Drashot Imrei Binah. He left other works in manuscript form.
Reb Shlomo was niftar on 5 Shvat 5665/1905.
His sons were Harav Menachem Nosson Nota, Rav in the Mazkeret Moshe neighborhood, Yerushalayim; and Harav Eliezer, Rav in Luntschitz.
HaRav Aryeh Yehuda Leib Alter of Ger, zt"l, the Sfat Emet (1847- 5665 / 1905), leader of the Ger chassidic dynasty.
The Sfat Emet was born on 29 Nisan 5607/1847. When he was two years old his mother passed away, and when he was eight he lost his father, Rav Avraham Mordechai, son of the Chiddushei Harim of Gur. Rav Yehuda Aryeh Leib was then raised by his grandfather, the Chidushei Harim, who became his father figure and primary Rebbe.
Despite being showered with attention by his grandfather, he remained a humble child.
The Sfat Emet was only 14 years old when he became engaged to Yocheved Rivkah, the daughter of Harav Yehudah Kaminer, a prominent Chassid of Kotzk and Gur. The date of the chasunah was set for 3 Adar 5622/1862 (after the Sfat Emet’s 15th birthday), in the town of Gur, where the couple settled after they were married.
After his chasunah, the Sfat Emet remained in Gur with his grandfather. During this period he completely detached himself from the world and immersed himself totally in Torah and halachah. He almost never spoke to anyone, other than to a few close friends with whom he would speak words of Chassidut.
In 5626/1866, after the Chiddushei Harim’s petirah, the leaders of his Chassidim asked his grandson to become Rebbe, but the Sfat Emet refused to assume such responsibility at so young an age. Four years later, in 1870, at 23, the Sfat Emet became Admor of Ger.
In the Sfat Emet’s time, Gerrer Chassidut reached new heights. Thousands joined the ranks of its Chassidim, until there was not a town in Poland without a Gerrer shtiebel.
The last five years of the Sfat Emet’s life were especially difficult.
On 18 Elul 1901, his wife, Yocheved Rivkah, passed away. He then married Raizel, daughter of Rav Baruch of Gorlitz, the son of the Sanzer Rav. In 1902, almost the entire town of Gur burned down, including the Rebbe’s beit medrash and home.
Tens of thousands of Jews were being drafted daily into the Tsar’s army and sent to the front in far-off Japan and Manchuria. Hundreds of Gerrer Chassidim were among them. This gave the Rebbe no respite; he spent much time davening for their welfare.
On 24 Tevet, the year he was niftar, the Rebbe, who was only 58 years old and had until then been healthy, took ill. The illness, which the doctors could not diagnose, made him increasingly weak. Chassidim from all over Poland converged on Gur to storm the Heavens with tefillah. But alas, on 5 Shvat the Sfat Emet returned his pure soul to his Maker.
He fathered a total of ten children. Four passed away in childhood and the surviving children were: his eldest son the author of the Imrei Emet, Rav Moshe Betzalel, Rav Nechemia of Lodz, and Rav Menachem Mendel of Pavinezh. His two sons-in-law were Rav Yaakov Meir Biderman, dayan in Warsaw, and Rav Tzvi Chanoch HaKohen Levine, Rav of Bandin.
He built up Ger as the largest chassidic group in Poland prior to the Holocaust, numbering 250,000. His son, escaped the Nazis, and came to Eretz Yisrael, where he oversaw the rebuilding of the Ger community, which remains vibrant till today.
His published works were Sfat Emet on the Torah and Shas.
HaRav Avraham Eliezer Alperstein, zt"l, (1853-1913). Born in Kobrin, White Russia he studied under R’ Yaakov Dovid Willowsky (the Ridvaz) and in yeshivot in Kovno and Vilna. R’ Alperstein moved to New York in 1881, then Chicago in 1884, where he was rabbi of the Kovner and Suvalker congregations. In 1899, he relocated to St. Paul, Minnesota. In 1901, R’ Alperstein returned to New York. There, he was an early leader of Yeshiva Rabbeinu Yitzchak Elchanan (RIETS), which later evolved into Yeshiva University. The following year, he participated in the organizing convention of the Agudat Harabanim / United Orthodox Rabbis of America and signed its Constitution as one of its 59 charter members. R’ Alperstein published a commentary on Masechet Bikkurim with an haskamah from R’ Yosef Dov Halevi Soloveitchik (the Beit Halevi).
HaRav Avraham Aharon Yudelevitch, zt"l, (1850-1930). Born in Novardok, White Russia, his mother was a sister of Rav Meir Marim Saphit (d. 1873), Rav of Kobrin, White Russia, and author of Nir, a famous commentary on the Talmud Yerushalmi. Beginning in 1874, he served as Rav in several Russian towns before moving to Manchester, England, and from there to Boston and finally New York. He was a prolific author. His works include the multi-volume Darash Av, on Chumash and the festivals, and the multi-volume halachic responsa, Beit Av. In Av Be’chochmah, he defends what was probably his best-known and most controversial ruling, that the chalitzah act could be performed al yedei shli’ach, (via messenger). Among those who opposed his ruling were Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer and the Rogatchover. (Others 4 Shvat)
HaRav Shlomo Zalman Friedman, zt"l, Rachover Rav (1980). He was author of Kedushat Yom Tov and a follower of the Rebbe of Sziget. He survived the Holocaust after experiencing the horrors of the death camps of Auschwitz. After the war he settled in Satmar. In 1947, he left Romania and settled in Logano in Switzerland where he served as Chief Rabbi and Av Beit Din. His last years were spent in the home of his son-in-law, Rav Menahem Mendel Horowitz, in Bnei Brak.
6 Shvat - Jan. 21, 1393:
The Jews of Majorca were guaranteed protection. Following a massacre of Jews at Majorca, the governor of Majorca issued an edict for the protection of the Jewish inhabitants, providing that any citizen who injures a Jew will be hanged.
The advantageous position of the islands, (one of the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea), as well as their newly found protection, attracted many Jews from Provence, Sicily, Tunis, and Algiers, amongst other African cities. The Jews even had their own organizations and representatives by sanction of the King.
This was "forgotten" about 20 years later, when persecution started up again in 1413. 20+ years later, by 1435, the Jewish community had been completely destroyed, with many Jews forcibly converted to Christianity. These forced converts retained Jewish practice in private, but they publicly boiled pork lard in large pots, as a way to appear non-Jewish. (Hence these Jews were nicknamed Chuetas -- "pork lard.")
6 Shvat Yahrtzeits
HaRav Yosef of Breslau, zt"l, author of Shoresh Yosef, (5512 / 1752).
HaRav Yitzchok of Kalusch, zt"l, (5600 / 1840).
Harav Yitzchak of Kalusch was a son of Harav Aharon of Premishlan who, in turn, was the son of Harav Meir Hagadol of Premishlan, who was one of the talmidim of the Baal Shem Tov. Reb Yitzchak married the daughter of Harav Isamar of Tchizkov, who was a close friend of Harav Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, zt”l.
Many tzaddikim attested to the great kedushah and taharah of Reb Yitzchak Kaluscher. Reb Yitzchak would sit in the beit medrash all day, wrapped in his tallit and tefillin, learning and davening with great fervor. He was also known as a tremendous baal chessed and for his hospitality.
Reb Yitzchak was a devoted talmid and chassid of his father. He was also a talmid of Harav Moshe Leib of Sassov, who was very fond of this talmid, and shared with him great sodot haTorah.
Reb Yitzchak became Rav in Kalusch after his uncle Harav David of Kalusch was niftar. He served there as a Rebbe for chassidim, as well.
In his later years he became gravely ill. While his household and chassidim were worried and pained, he remained extremely calm as he prepared himself for his journey to the Olam Haemet.
Reb Yitzchak was niftar on 6 Shvat 5600/1840.
HaRav Rafael Yom Tov Lipman Halpern of Bialystock, zt"l, the Oneg Yom Tov (5576 / 1816 - 5639 / 1879).
Harav Refael Yom Tov Lipman Halpern was born in 5576 / 1816 in Rosnoi. His father was Harav Yisrael. Later the family moved to Minsk.
Reb Yom Tov was known for his greatness in Torah.
He served as Rav in the kehillot of Mezeritch, Keidan, Tchernowitz and Kreva. He was later appointed Rav in Bialystok, where he served until his petirah.
Aside from his greatness in Torah, Reb Yom Tov waged battle against the vicious decree of catching children and sending them to the army. The persecution he endured from his actions forced him to leave Keidan.
From there he moved to Tchernowitz, where the government did not snatch children for the army.
His last appointment was as Rav of Bialystok. He was niftar there on 6 Shvat 5639/1879 and buried there.
After the petirah of Reb Yom Tov, his halachic responsa were published under the name She’eilot U’teshuvot Oneg Yom Tov. Other works of Reb Yom Tov on the Torah, and drashot, were also published under the name Oneg Yom Tov.
HaRav Chaim Tzvi Teitelbaum of Sighet, zt"l, the Atzei Chaim (5640 / 1880 or 1879 - 5686 / 1926), the oldest son of Rav Chananya Yom Tov Lipa Teitelbaum, the Kedushat Yom Tov, and brother of Rav Yoel Teitelbaum, the Satmar Rebbe.
The Atzei Chaim of Sighet, Reb Chaim Tzvi, was born in 5640/1880 after his parents had been married for 20 years. His father was the Rav of Sighet; his mother was the daughter of Harav Yoel Ashkenazi, the Rav of Zlotchov.
Reb Chaim Tzvi married the daughter of Harav Shalom Eliezer Halberstam, Hy”d, of Ratzfert, who was the son of the Divrei Chaim of Sanz.
As a youth, the Atzei Chaim traveled to the Beit Yitzchak, the Rav of Lemberg, to receive semichah; his father’s gabbai, Reb Asher, was his traveling companion. When they reached the Beit Yitzchak’s door, Reb Chaim Tzvi asked Reb Asher to allow him to enter alone, for he wished to be tested thoroughly, with no special treatment, and didn’t want his identity known. Introducing himself to the Beit Yitzchak as Chaim Hirsch Tab, abbreviating his last name, he asked to be tested.
The Beit Yitzchak was extremely impressed with the young man and wrote him a glowing semichah. Then he accompanied him to the door, where he saw Reb Asher sitting outside. Assuming Reb Asher, whom he did not know, was waiting to see him, he asked how he could help him. Reb Asher replied, “Oh no, Rebbe. I’m just here as the gabbai of that bachur who just left your room.”
“And who is that young man?” the Beis Yitzchak asked, wondering how so young a person would come to have a gabbai.
“He is the son of the Sigheter Rav!” the gabbai exclaimed.
Taken aback, the Beit Yitzchak called over Reb Chaim Tzvi so he could revise the semichah as befitted the son of the Kedushat Yom Tov. But the future Atzei Chaim refused.
“I came to get semichah for myself,” he replied, “not for my father.”
In 5664/1904, Reb Chaim Tzvi succeeded his father as Rav of the esteemed community of Sighet.
After World War I, the province of Marmorosh was divided between Romania and Czechoslovakia, with Sighet ending up on the Romanian side. Poverty in the town increased considerably, and the Atzei Chaim’s family was hit particularly hard, since the little they received went right out again to the needy.
At the beginning of 5686/1926, the Atzei Chaim sent a letter to one of his followers, Reb Menachem Meir Jakobovitz in Hungary, asking to be rescued from his oppressive debts, which he had accumulated through helping the poor.
In fact, his very last Shabbat was dedicated to tzedakah. He had traveled to Kleinvardein, and had promised everything he would collect to a certain needy person. It was there, in Kleinvardein, that he was niftar, at the age of 46, on 6 Shvat 5686 / 1926. He was interred in Sighet.
His published works are all titled Atzei Chaim, with volumes containing She’eilot U’teshuvot, commentaries on Chumash and the Yamim Tovim, and other topics.
HaRav Shalom Halberstam, zt"l, of Pikla-Sanz, (5691 / 1931).
HaRav Dovid Yitzchak Eizik Rabinowitz, zt"l, the Skolya Rebbe, (5698 / 1898 - 5739 / 5739 / 1979), author of Tzemach Dovid and many other seforim.
Harav Dovid Yitzchak Eizik Rabinowitz was born in Brad, Czechoslovakia, in the summer of 5698/1898. His father, Reb Baruch Pinchas, was the son of Harav Eliezer Chaim of Yampoli, whose grandfather, Harav Yitzchak of Yampoli, was a grandson of the Zlotchover Maggid (Harav Yechiel Michel) and a son-in-law of the Rebbe Reb Baruch’l of Mezibuzh (grandson of the Baal Shem Tov). He traced his lineage to Rashi, Maharal, Rema, and the Shelah (R. Isaiah HaLevi Horowitz 1565-1630).
Even when he was a young child reb Dovid Yitzchak enjoyed writing his original torah thoughts. He would write his own original chiddushim late at night. In the frost of the Galician winter, he would climb up to the attic and write---until the ink would freeze.
At the age of 14, young Dovid Yitzchak Eizik received warm semichah from a number of leading Gedolei Hador, among them Harav Meir Arik. A short time later, he married the daughter of Harav Chaim Eizen of Svirzh, a granddaughter of Harav Yehudah Tzvi of Stretin. Tragically, just a few months after their chasunah, the town of Svirzh was raided by soldiers who pillaged Jewish homes. The young Rebbetzin jumped out a window to her death.
For the next five years, through World War I, Reb Dovid was at his father’s side, enduring imprisonment and privation. After years of wandering, Skolya Chassidut was re-established in Vienna, where Reb Baruch Pinchas emerged as a leading figure for the burgeoning refugee community. A magnificent Skolya beis medrash was erected, and the Chassidut thrived.
During this period, the Rebbe married Yocheved Esther Devorah, the daughter of Harav Moshe Dovid Landau, the Rav of Burshtyn.
On 20 Adar 5680/1920, Reb Baruch Pinchas was niftar, and his son was crowned Rebbe.
The reputation of the young Skolya Rebbe as a talmid chacham and a baal mofet spread, and he was invited to spend Shabbotot in kehillot across Poland, Galicia, Romania and Hungary, though he remained based in Vienna. The Chassidut flourished until World War II.
As the danger grew, the Rebbe sent his wife and children, who were Austrian citizens, abroad, while he, accompanied only by his son Reb Yosef Baruch Pinchas, hid in the home of his brother-in-law, Reb Shalom Frankel.
Through open miracles, he and his son eventually reached Switzerland, where they were reunited with the rest of the family. At the end of the summer of 1939 they arrived in America, and the Rebbe settled on Henry Street on the Lower East Side. By that time, he had written most of his more than twenty seforim on a wide range of torah topics.
In 5701/1941, the Rebbe established one of the first chassidic shtieblach in Williamsburg, and the Skolya beit medrash would remain a magnet for people seeking Torah and Chassidut for the next 30 years.
In 5734/1974, the Rebbe acquiesced to the requests of his children and Chassidim and settled in Boro Park. During the last five years of his life, his beit medrash on 48th Street hummed with people.The Rebbe was an outstanding shaliach tzibbur. His sweet voice was complemented by the feeling of love and awe of his Creator, which permeated his words.
Reb Dovid Yitzchak Eizik was known for genius and depth in Torah learning. At his tischen, someone would be invited to read a passuk from the parashah. The Rebbe would instantly begin to expound on the passuk, continuing for up to two hours. The person honored with giving the Rebbe the passuk was usually a guest or somebody prominent. The Rebbe never failed to hold rapt those present at the tisch.
Once, a prominent Rav in Ireland who was hosting the Rebbe said, “Why doesn’t the Rebbe tell the truth! Everyone knows that the Rebbe chooses which passuk is going to be said ahead of time.” The Rebbe asked the Rav for a passuk. “Reuven, Shimon, Levi, v’Yehudah,” answered the Rav. The Rebbe closed his eyes, and expounded on the passuk until the Rav had to stop him at 2:30 a.m. He begged the Rebbe’s forgiveness. “I forgive you,” said the Rebbe, “but in the future, please don’t accuse another Jew of lying.”
During the last year of his life, the Rebbe dropped several hints that his end was near. In the winter of 5739/1979 he took ill. His family brought him to London for treatment and there, on 6 Shvat, Shabbos night, Parashat Bo, he was niftar.
He was buried on Har Hazeitim, next to Harav Shloime of Zhvill, like him a ben achar ben of the Zlotchover Maggid.
His wrote more than twenty seforim and his work was revered by Talmudic giants, receiving approbations from Rabbi Aharon Kotler, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein and the Steipler among others.
7 Shvat 2449 - 1312 B.C.E.:
Yahrtzeit of Moshe Rabbeinu, according to the Yalkut Shimoni. According to most sources, however, the Yahrtzeit is 7 Adar.
7 Shvat 5679 - Jan. 8, 1919:
Bela Kuhn (real name Moritz Cohen), a communist dictator who ruled in Hungary for 133 days, was disposed of with the help of Rumania and Admiral Nicholas Horthy. Since Kuhn was a Jew, all the Jews were accused of being communists, and an estimated five thousand Jews were killed., Hy"d.
7 Shvat 5703 - Jan. 13, 1943:
Plans were finalized to deport the Jews of Athens, Greece. From 1941-1943, Greece was under control of the Italians, who by and large protected the Jews against the Germans. But in 1943, things changed for the worse; as punishment for Greece's fighting against the Axis, freedom of movement was restricted for all Jews. Some Jews fled and hid in the countryside, but most were deported to Auschwitz. Jews had lived in Athens since the 3rd century B.C.E. -- the longest continuous Jewish presence in Europe; the remains of an ancient synagogue were found at the foot of the Acropolis. In the Holocaust, 77 percent of Greek Jewry were murdered -- 60,000 Jews, Hy"d.
7 Shvat Yahrtzeits
Moshe Rabbeinu, (2449 / 1312 B.C.E.), according to the Yalkut Shimoni. According to most sources, however, the Yahrtzeit is 7 Adar.
HaRav Naftali Hersh Shor, zt"l, Dayan of Brisk and Lublin, (5347 / 1587).
HaRav David Nito, zt"l, (5485 / 1725).
HaRav Yisrael Charif of Satinav, zt"l, the Ateret Tiferet Yisrael, (5541 / 1781).
Harav Yisrael was a son of Harav Shlomo. His mother was Rebbetzin Baila, the daughter of Harav Yechiel of Mikolayev, zy”a.
Reb Yisrael was known for his understanding of sifrei Kabbalah, aside from his vast knowledge and fluency in all of Shas and Poskim.
When one of his children got sick, his Rebbetzin asked him several times to go to the Baal Shem Tov. Finally, after a while, he answered that since it is written that in the days of Selichot it is correct to reduce the amount of one’s learning and rather meditate on yirat Shamayim, he would take the opportunity to travel to the Baal Shem Tov.
Reb Yisrael arrived at the Baal Shem Tov’s court before the first night of Selichot. When he came to shul, he realized that he didn’t have his Selichot with him, so he stood at the amud next to the baal tefillah, looking on together with him.
The custom of the Baal Shem Tov was that he personally davened at the amud the Keil Rachum Shimecha and Aneinu, at the end of Selichot. When the Baal Shem Tov came to the amud, Reb Yisrael didn’t notice him, because he was mentally engrossed in a complex Tosafot. When the Baal Shem Tov started saying Aneinu, the Tosafot suddenly became clear to him.
From then on, Reb Yisrael was a fervent and devoted follower of the Baal Shem Tov.
His sefer remained unpublished for many years after his petirah, until in 5625/1865 his grandson, Harav Avraham Yeshayah Yaffe, zt”l, published it with the haskamah of Harav Avraham Yaakov of Sadigura, zy”a.
The sefer, Ateret Tiferet Yisrael, is full of deep Kabbalistic themes, based on the holy Sheimot, Names of Hashem, among other topics. Although the Tiferet Yisrael has been reprinted many times, his other sefer, Mefaresh Shem, remains unpublished to date.
HaRav Dovid Biderman, the first Lelover Rebbe (5506 / 1746 - 5574 / 1814),
He was born in a town near Lelov, Poland. (According to some, he was born in a different location.) His parents were Harav Shlomo Tzvi and Rebbetzin Rivka Biderman.
When Reb Dovid was but a child, two great brothers, the Rebbe Reb Elimelech of Lizhensk and the Rebbe Reb Zusha of Anipoli, passed the family’s home during their galut wanderings and recognized the greatness of young Dovid’s neshamah. When they inquired into the merit that had brought such a great neshamah into the world, Reb Dovid’s mother told them that every Shabbat her husband, Reb Shlomo Tzvi, would daven the tefillah in zemirot, “Veyizku lir’ot banim u’vnei vanim oskim baTorah uv’mitzvot”with great passion. At times his davening would be so intense that he would faint. The tzaddikim understood that this was the zechut for such a child.
Once, when Reb Dovid was a young boy, his father bought him a warm coat for the winter, but soon discovered that it was missing. Inquiry revealed that young Dovid had given away the coat to a poor child, who was freezing from the bitter cold.
Reb Dovid married Rebbetzin Chana, the daughter of Harav Yaakov of Negiven. For a time he supported his family by running a small store. Reb Dovid did not reveal his kochot in Torah. The Chiddushei Harim attested that Reb Dovid succeeded in hiding his geonut like no one else. He spent days and nights learning in an attic with great mesirut nefesh. By the age of 20 he had completed Shas 14 times! Harav Yeshayah of Pshedborz said about his Rebbe: “In the revealed parts of the Torah, his strength was like Harav Yonasan Eibschutz, but in the hidden aspects of Torah, no one could grasp his level.”
Reb Dovid was a close follower of the Chozeh of Lublin, and was known for his extraordinary compassion and inability to see faults in his fellow Jews. He was known for his extraordinary ahavat Yisrael. The Tiferet Shlomo brings down, in his name, that one should not chastise a Yid in order to bring him close to Hashem, but should rather go about it b’darchei noam.
Once, a Jew asked him for a segulah to attain yirat Shamayim. Reb Dovid replied that he only had asegulah for ahavat Hashem, and that is ahavat Yisrael, loving one’s fellow Jew.
Reb Dovid was niftar on 7 Shvat 5574/1814. His Torah is published in Likutei Divrei Dovid. His son, Harav Moshe, son-in-law of the Yehudi Hakadosh, succeeded him as Rebbe. Harav Moshe ascended to Eretz Yisrael in 5611/1851 and the Chassidut continued to flourish in Yerushalayim.
His other two sons were Harav Nechemiah and Harav Avigdor. He also had a daughter, Rebbetzin Leah, who was married to Harav Meir Krakowitzki, later Rebbe in Pshedborz.
The Lelover Rebbe’s kever was a makom tefillah for many Jews; the Avnei Nezer, zy”a, and the Sfat Emet, zy”a, used to send bachurim who were in danger of being drafted into the army to daven there.
His main disciple was Rav Yitzchak of Vorki, whose son, Yaakov Dovid, was the first Amshinov Rebbe.
Two printed collections of stories about Rav Dovid are Migdal Dovid and Kodesh Halulim.
HaRav Nosson Dovid of Partzova, zt"l, (5590 / 1830).
HaRav Mordechai Dovid Ungar, zt"l, Dombrover Rebbe (c1770-1846).
Harav Mordechai Dovid was born in 5530/1770. His father, Harav Tzvi Hirsh, zt”l, was a close Chassid of the Rebbe Reb Elimelech of Lizhensk and Harav Avraham Yehoshua Heshel of Apta, the Ohev Yisrael. Although Reb Tzvi Hirsh was a wine merchant, his Rebbe, the Ohev Yisrael, said of him that as he poured wine for his customers, he was formulating yichudim comparable to what the Rishonim would do through their davening.
In his youth, Reb Mordechai Dovid jouneyed to Harav Yisrael, the Kozhnitzer Maggid. He learned in his yeshivah, and grew in Torah and avodat Hashem, with exertion and diligence. He was known as a genius, and was taken as a chassan by one of the negidim in Tshemlov.
Later Reb Mordechai Dovid became a devoted Chassid of the Chozeh of Lublin, journeying often to his court.
Adamant about not being supported by others, Reb Mordechai Dovid took up the trade of his fathers and became a wine merchant. Due to his frequent business trips to Ungarin (Hungary), he was named Ungar.
Only after the Chozeh implored Reb Mordechai Dovid to stop his business dealings and establish his own court did Reb Mordechai Dovid become a Rebbe. He held court in Dombrova, opening a beit medrash that attracted thousands of Chassidim. Reb Mordechai Dovid was known as an ish Elokim and a baal mofes.
Reb Mordechai Dovid was held in high esteem by the leading Rebbes of his generation. Notable among them were the Divrei Chaim of Sanz (later his mechutan), Harav Shalom of Kaminka, Harav Asher Yeshayah of Ropshitz and the Aryeh Dbei Ila’ah. Reb Mordechai Dovid would journey one Shabbat each year to the Aryeh Dbei Ila’ah, where he was honored to deliver divrei Torah.
Reb Mordechai Dovid was niftar on 7 Shvat, 5606/1846. In his tzavaah, he wrote that no one be buried near his kever except his children. He also requested that no elaborate titles be written on his matzeivah.
He was survived by his children: Harav Yosef of Dombrova; Harav Menachem Mendel of Stavnitz; Harav Avraham Elchanan of Koloshin; Harav Moshe — son-in-law of the Divrei Chaim of Sanz — who settled in Eretz Yisrael and was buried in Tzefat; Harav Yechiel Tzvi Hirsh of Tarnov and Harav Naftali of Zabna.
His son-in-law was Harav Menachem Tzvi Teitelbaum of Drohovitch, brother of the Yetev Lev. (Others have 5603 / 1843).
HaRav Yitzchok Aharon Itinga of Lvov, zt"l, author of She'eilot U'Teshuvot Mahariya Halevi, (5587 / 1827 - 5651 / 1891). He was the son of Harav Mordechai Ze’ev, author of Mefarshei Hayam and other sefarim. He was born on 11 Sivan 5587/1827 in Lvov (Lemberg).
At the age of 13 he received an unheard-of honor: to deliver a drashah in the main shul of Lvov. All who attended were astounded by the young bachur’s memory, and spellbound by his command of the entire Torah.
A few days later his uncle, Harav Tzvi Hirsh Orenstein, the Rav of the city, wrote him a letter noting his grasp of halachah and enclosing a semichah.
Reb Yitzchak Aharon was known for his exemplary middot, especially his humility.
He became Rav of Premislau, but after the petirah of Harav Tzvi Hirsh Orenstein, Rav of Lvov, Reb Yitzchak Aharon was chosen to be his successor.
As the head of the most prestigious community in the area, Reb Yitzchak Aharon also held the position of Nasi of Eretz Yisrael, and was responsible for the collection and distribution of all tzedakah funds earmarked for the poor of the Holy Land.
Reb Yitzchak Aharon received halachic queries from far and wide; they were compiled as She’eilot U’Teshuvot Mahariya Halevi.
He was niftar on 7 Shvat 5651/1891, at the age of 64.
HaRav Yerucham Yehuda Leib Perlman, zt"l, (5656 / 1896), known as “The Gadol of Minsk”.
HaRav Nosson Dovid (ben Yitzchak Yaakov) Rabinowitz, the oldest son of the Divrei Binah of Biala (1930). He became the Partzever Rebbe. He left manuscripts, but none were published until his grandson and namesake released V'elah Ha'devarim She'Nemru L'Dovid in 2012.
HaRav Yaakov Yitzchak Neiman, the Pupa Rav and the Belzer Dayan in Montreal (1919 - 5767 / 2007).
8 Shvat 2516 - 1245 B.C.E.:
According to one opinion, the last of the Zekeinim (elders), who were contemporaries of Yehoshua / Joshua and outlived him, were niftar on this date. They were part of the unbroken chain of Torah transmission (the mesorah) as listed at the beginning of Pirkei Avot / Ethics of the Fathers: "Moshe received the Torah from Sinai and gave it over to
Yehoshua. Yehoshua gave it over to the Zekeinim, the Zekeinim to the Nevi'im..." who continued the chain of the mesorah,
Today is a Taanit Tzaddikim commemorating that event. According to another opinion, it took place on 5 Shvat, 1245 B.C.E. (see Shulchan Aruch 580:2 and commentaries there. Others say that this occurred 17 years later, in 2531 - 1230 B.C.E.. See Shabbat 105b and Seder Hadorot, under “Yehoshua.”)
8 Shvat 5108 - 1348:
Jews of Colmar (Northern France) were arrested in response to a libelous accusation that they had poisoned a well. They were burned at the stake al kiddush Hashem several months
later. Hy"d. See 11 Shvat.
8 Shvat 5414 - Jan. 26, 1654:
According to the terms of the capitulation protocol of January 26, 1654, Portugal which recently regained control of Brazil from the Dutch decreed that Jewish and Dutch settlers had three months to leave Brazil. Approximately 150 Jewish families of Portuguese descent fled the Brazilian city of Recife, in the state of Pernambuco. By September, twenty-three of these refugees had established the first community of Jews in New Amsterdam.
8 Shvat 5664 - Jan. 25, 1904:
Herzl met Pope Pius X and unsuccessfully tried to convince him to support the vision of Zionism.
8 Shvat 5720 - Feb. 6, 1960:
Jonas E. Salk finalized a proposal to build the Salk Institute for Biological Studies near San Diego. Salk (1914-1995) had achieved fame as the physician who discovered the first polio vaccine while working at the University of Pittsburgh. Polio was a widely-feared disease that caused paralysis and oftentimes death. A polio outbreak in 1916 left 6,000 Americans dead and 27,000 paralyzed. (President Franklin Roosevelt had contracted polio at age 39.) In 1952, some 57,000 cases of polio were recorded in the U.S. After the vaccine became available, the numbers dropped by 90% in two years. (Another Jew, Dr. Albert Sabin, developed the first oral polio vaccine.) Since its founding, Salk's Institute has focused on molecular biology and genetics, and has trained more than 2,000 scientists including numerous Nobel Laureates.
8 Shvat 5729 - Jan. 27, 1969:
Nine Jews were publicly executed al kiddush Hashem in Damascus, Syria, Hy"d.
8 Shvat Yahrtzeits
HaRav Tzvi of
Butchatch, zt"'l, author of Neta
Shaashuim, (5574 / 1814).
HaRav Yitzchak Teib of Tunis, zt”l, the Erech HaShulchan,(c. 5513 / 1753 - 5590 / 1830).
At a young age, he was orphaned of his father, Rav Binyamin. He was then brought up by his mother, who dedicated herself to his chinuch and proper upbringing. Unfortunately, she also passed away when he was still young, leaving Yitzchak bereft of both parents. He received his main Torah education and derech halimud from Harav Yosef Zarka, whom he considered his rebbi muvhak.
As a bachur, Rav Yitzchak devoted himself to learning in isolation, keeping himself out of the limelight. One time, when he was learning in the main shul, one of the rich members of the community saw him learning and, upon realizing the great potential of this young bachur, he undertook to fully support him.
When the Rav of Tunis, Harav Shlomo Alfasi, noted the excellence of Rav Yitzchak, he appointed him to serve as a Dayan on the city’s beit din.
Rav Yitzchak served as Rav in Tunis for nearly 40 years, and in 5578/1812, he was appointed Av Beit Din.
Rav Yitzchak was blind in one eye, but he did not allow this to affect his outstanding hasmadah.
He is best known for the Erech HaShulchan, his six-volume work on Shulchan Aruch. Rav Yitzchak also wrote Vavei Ha’amudim, on the Yere’im; Chukat HaPesach, on hilchot Pesach; Sefer Hazikaron, on Shas; Vayizra Yitzchak, his chiddushim on the Torah; and Shittah Shleimah, on Bava Metzia.
In 5589 / 1829, Rav Yitzchak’s eldest son, Rav Yosef, was niftar. Rav Yitzchak took his passing very much to heart and fell ill; he was niftar shortly thereafter, on 8 Shvat 5590 / 1830. Rav Yitzchak was buried in the Alkadimah cemetery in Tunis. In 5720 / 1960, the cemetery was dug up and the remains were all reinterred in the Burgel cemetery.
HaRav Baruch ben Rav Shmuel of Pinsk, zt"'l, (1834). In 1830, Rav Yisrael of Shklov, one of the closest of the disciples of the Vilna Gaon, began an effort to locate the “Ten Lost Tribes.” Rav Baruch ben Rav Shmuel of Pinsk served as the messenger and departed from Tzefat with a letter of introduction to the king of the Lost Tribes. (The Ten Tribes were believed to have an independent kingdom where they practiced true semichah of rabbis as handed down from Moshe Rabbeinu until the Fourth Century CE) Rav Baruch traveled through the Middle East for almost three years before he was murdered in Yemen.
Harav Shmuel of Shinev, zt"l, author of Ramasayim Tzofim, (5633 / 1873).
Harav Shmuel was born in 5547 / 1787. (According to some he was born about 11 years later). In his youth, he was a Chassid of the Chozeh of Lublin, the Yehudi Hakadosh, Harav Menachem Mendel of Kosov and Harav Shlomo Leib Lentcha. At about the age of 19 he became a very close talmid of the Rebbe, Reb Bunim of P’shischa, and was considered his personal attendant. While in P’shischa he lived in the home of the Rebbe Reb Bunim, but he regularly traveled home to his family in Galicia. On his way home, he used to visit Reb Shlomo Leib of Lentcha.
In his sefer Ramasayim Tzofim, he recounts a vort that best describes him. Once the Rebbe Reb Bunim, who was a close talmid of the Yehudi Hakadosh, asked his Rebbe, “Why is it that everything that is in contact with a pure object — is pure?” (see Keilim12,2) implying that a Chassid who is attached to his Rebbe is similarly holy. Doesn’t a Rebbe toil endlessly until he reaches that purity, while the Chassid seems to reach that level effortlessly? The Yehudi replied, “To be truly attached to a tzaddik is harder than being a tzaddik!” Reb Shmuel adds, “And those who frequent tzaddikei emet know this to be the truth!”
After his primary Rebbe, the Rebbe Reb Bunim, was niftar, he continued traveling to the Kotzker Rebbe, and after that to the Chiddushei Harim. He also traveled to Harav Yitzchak of Neshchiz.
Reb Shmuel served as Rav, first in Shinov, then in Voldova, Brok, Shedlitz and Lavitch. In his later years he was appointed Rav of Neshelsk.
His sefer is mainly a peirush on Tana D’vei Eliyahu, but he also recorded many verterand maamarim of his Rebbes. He also relates many hanhagot kodesh of his Rebbes.
He was niftar at the age of 88, in Neshelsk, where he is buried. (Some assert that he was only 77.)
HaRav Yosef Meir Kahana, the Spinka Rebbe of Yerushalayim, zt"l, (5738 / 1978).
Harav Yosef Meir Kahana was born on Rosh Chodesh Kislev 5670/1909, in Spinka, Romania. His father was Harav Tzvi Hirsh Kahana, zt”l, grandson of the Imrei Yosef of Spinka, zt”l, for whom he was named.
Reb Yosef Meir learned under his father, who was Rav in Spinka, and from his uncle, Harav Yitzchak Eizik Weiss, zt”l, the Chakal Yitzchak of Spinka.
Reb Yosef Meir was chosen as a son-in-law by Harav Yitzchak Teitelbaum, zt”l, the Hosakover Rebbe.
After receiving semichah, Reb Yosef Meir served as Rav in Ungvar, the city where his father-in-law resided.
In 5696/1936, he became Rav and Rosh Yeshivah in Seredna. In 5701/1941, during the War, Reb Yosef Meir was in danger of being expelled from the city, as he was a foreigner and didn’t have the correct documents; he managed to leave to Eretz Yisrael together with his family on the last ship to get out.
In Eretz Yisrael, he settled in Yerushalayim, founding a yeshivah and a beit medrash.
Reb Yosef Meir was niftar on 8 Shvat 5738/1978 at the age of 68. He was buried in Yerushalayim.
Reb Yosef Meir was succeeded by his son, Rav Mordecai Dovid Kahana.
HaRav Menachem Breier, zt"'l, father of the Boyaner Rebbe (2007)
9 Shvat - 1278:
Rav Isaac Males was burned at the stake by the Inquisition for allowing the burial of a ger tzedek in the Jewish cemetery. The severity of his punishment was to deter other converts who might feel drawn to Judaism, Hy"d.
9 Shvat 5702 - Jan. 27, 1942:
First transport of French Jews to Nazi Germany.
9 Shvat 5704 - Feb. 3, 1944:
HaRav Aharon of Belz, zt"l, and his brother HaRav Mordechai of Bilgorei, zt"l, were saved from the Holocaust. On this day they arrived in Beirut, Lebanon, where many chassidim anxiously awaited them.
9 Shvat 5713 - Jan. 25, 1953:
Pravda article touched off a wave of virulent anti-Semitism throughout Russia.
9 Shvat Yahrtzeits
Rabbeinu Nissim ben Reuven, the Ran, zt"'l, (1308-1376), author of a commentary to the Talmud and a halachic commentary to the work of Rabbeinu Yitzchak Alfasi (the Rif). His extant commentaries on the Rif cover mesechtot Shabbat, Pesachim, Ta’anit, Rosh HaShanah, Beytza, Sukkah, Megillah, Kesubot, Gittin, Kiddushin, Shevuot, and Avodah Zarah. He wrote in reply about 1,000 responsa, of which only seventy-seven have been preserved. (Others 5134 / 1374).
HaRav Eliyahu Yisrael, zt"'l, Rav of Alexandria and author of Ar'a DeYisrael (5544 / 1784).
Harav Eliyahu Yisrael was born about 5475/1715, in Rhodes.
In his youth he learned under his father, and also under Harav Yitzchak Hakohen, the Batei Kehunah.
In 5504/1744, Rav Eliyahu went up to Eretz Yisrael, settling in Yerushalayim, where he learned in YeshivaT Chessed L’Avraham U’Binyan Shlomo. He was also Rav of a shul, answering many she’eilot.
In 5523/1763, Rav Eliyahu was asked to go to Western Europe on behalf of the kehillah of Yerushalayim. He traveled to Egypt and from there to Italy, where he made the rounds to Livorno, Venice, and other cities. He also traveled to Amsterdam, Holland, and Frankfurt, Germany.
All the time that Rav Eliyahu was away from Eretz Yisrael, he longed to return; in his letters from abroad, he always ended with his longing to be back in Yerushalayim. He also complained about the lack during his travels of the sefarim he required for his learning.
When he finished his shlichut in 5529/1769, Rav Eliyahu settled in Rhodes, but he didn’t serve there as Rav.
In 5532/1772 he moved to Alexandria, Egypt, where he was appointed Rav the following year.
As one of the leading Rabbanim of the generation, Rav Eliyahu corresponded with many of the other Gedolim of his time. Most notable is his connection with the Chida, who knew him from the time he lived in Yerushalayim. The Chida quotes Rav Eliyahu many times in his works.
Rav Eliyahu was niftar on 9 Shvat 5544/1784. He was survived by two sons, Rav Moshe and Rav Yedidyah Shlomo.
Rav Eliyahu wrote close to 20 sefarim, although none was published in his lifetime. After his petirah, his youngest son, Harav Yedidyah Shlomo, undertook to publish his works. His best-known sefarim are She’eilot U’Teshuvot Kol Eliyahu; Shnei Eliyahu, his drashot; Ara D’Yisrael on many inyanim; and Kisei Eliyahu on halachah. Some of his manuscripts were never published.
HaRav Yisrael Yaakov of Vilkomir, zt"'l, son of Rav Menachem Mendel of Rimanov (5587 / 1827)
HaRav Yaakov Heilbrun, zt"'l, Rav of Zenta (5609 / 1849)
HaRav Yehosef Schwartz, zt"'l, (1804 - 5625 / 1865).
Harav Yehosef Schwartz was born on 17 Cheshvan 5565 / 1804 in Plaus, in the Bayern region in Germany. His father, Harav Menachem, was a talmid of Harav Nosson Adler.
While still a boy, Rav Yehosef was renowned for his sharp mind. At the age of 14 he went off to the yeshivah in Kalberg. He learned there for three years, until the age of 17. Then he moved on to the yeshivah of his older brother Rav Chaim in Wurzberg. Rav Yehosef remained in that yeshivah for five years.
(One of these Yeshivot was headed by a Rav Nosson Adler. This was not the same Rav Nosson Adler as the teacher of the Chasam Sofer, but perhaps his nephew, who later became Chief Rabbi of the British Empire).
Rav Schwartz also attended university (possibly the University of Wurzburg) where he studied languages, geography and astronomy.
Rav Yehosef wanted to fulfill his life’s dream to settle in Eretz Yisrael. At 22, in 5587/1827, he began to prepare himself with teshuvah for his forthcoming trip. He studied Torat Eretz Yisrael, and in 5589/1829 he published a map of Eretz Yisrael in Lashon Hakodesh and in German.
En route to Eretz Yisrael, Rav Yehosef traveled through Hungary, where illness delayed him for a year. He also spent a long time in Italy, due to war in the region. It was only in the winter of 5593/1833 that he was able to continue his journey.
On 13 Nissan he finally reached the shores of Eretz Yisrael, disembarking in Yaffo. Since there were no organized Jewish communities in Eretz Yisrael at that time, he couldn’t find any way to get to Yerushalayim before Yom Tov, and was forced to remain in Yaffo for the first day of Pesach.
Rav Yehosef writes in his Tevuot Haaretz that he already kept only one day of Yom Tov at that time, so firm was his decision to remain in Eretz Yisrael.
During Chol Hamoed, Rav Yehosef found a way to travel to Yerushalayim.
In Eretz Yisrael, Rav Yehosef dedicated himself totally to Torah. His family deemed it an honor to support him.
He studied and later wrote a sefer about astronomy. He also studied and wrote about the history of Eretz Yisrael. Rav Yehosef felt that by learning the history of Eretz Yisrael, those in chutz laAretz would feel closer to it.
His sefer Divrei Yosef contains two parts, Tevuot Haaretz about the borders of Eretz Yisrael, its cities, and its flora and fauna, and Tevuot Hashemesh about the proper way to calculate sunrise and sunset, Later he wrote Pri Tevuah and Pardes as a continuation to the earlier sefarim.
Rav Yehosef was niftar on 9 Shvat 5625/1865 at the age of 61.
HaRav Avraham Aminov, zt"'l, Chief Bucharian Rabbi of Shchunat Habucharim in Yerushalayim (1939)
HaRav Yeshayahu Zev Winograd, zt"'l, (1883-1956), born in Stuchin, Lithuania. His father, Rav Pinchas Mordechai Winograd, was one of Poland's gedolei Torah and the author of Toldot Aharon on Pirke Avot. When Yeshayahu Zev was 8 years old, his family moved to Yerushalayim. In 1912, he was sent to Europe by the City's sages to raise funds for city's needy. He made lengthy stops at Brisk, Biala, and Warsaw. In 1920, he returned to Yerushalayim and dedicated himself to expaning Yeshiva Etz Chaim, the oldest educational institution in the Ashkenazik community (founded 1855). His major work was a sefer called Shaarei Ziv, with chidushim on all of shas.
HaRav Eliezer Silver, zt"'l, (5642 / 1882 - 5728 / 1968), who served the Jewish community of Cincinnati for four decades.
Born in Kovno, Lithuania (Others Abel, Lithuania),to Rav Bunim Tzemach Silver, who was his first teacher. Rav Silver studied in Dvinsk with Rav Yosef Rosen, the Rogotchover Gaon, and Rav Meir Simcha, the Ohr Sameach.
At the age of 24, he received his Semicha from Rav Chaim Ozer Grodzinski with whom he developed a close relationship that lasted many years.
A year later and already married, he immigrated to the United States, arriving at its shores in 5667 (1907). Rav Silver held several Rabbinical
positions in New York , Philadelphia and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and Massachusets. In 1931 he accepted an invitation to become Rav in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he remained until his passing.
He strengthened Yiddishkeit, improving kashrut standards and implementing many reforms in all areas of Torah life. In both Harrisburg and Cincinnati he was instrumental in the founding of a Jewish day school.
Even though he was a great manhig with many responsibilities, he somehow managed to maintain an extremely high level of hasmadah. He would be seen “stealing” precious minutes from his sleep or his meals to learn just another little bit. He would often go to bed at 2:00 in the morning and arise at 6:00, using every spare second for learning.
In order for his directives and Torah decisions to be implemented, Harav Silver would often assume a strict — or even harsh — demeanor. In truth, however , he was a loving father, and mentor to Klal Yisrael. His koach was clarity and decisiveness, the signs of a true leader. His vast efforts to imbue Yiddishkeit in the barren wasteland of America were a foundation on which to build a safe Torah haven for Klal Yisrael.
His clarity in halachic matters was striking. His quick, sharp and incisive answers left his petitioners in awe. Learning his sefarim, one gets a glimpse of his vast knowledge of kol haTorah kulah. He was also endowed with exceptional energy and a unique simchat hachaim that complemented his serious nature.
In order to unite and strengthen America’s Torah-true community, Agudat Harabonim was founded in 5662 (1902). Harav Silver was extremely active in this organization, and from 5683 (1923) onward served as a member of its presidential board. He also helped found the renowned Ezrat Torah tzedakah fund. He founded the American branch of Agudat Yisrael.
HaRav Silver is best known for spearheading efforts to rescue Jews, including many Gedolim, from the Holocaust during WW II. When he received a telegram in the beginning of 5700 (1939), from Harav Chaim Ozer Grodzenski, notifying him of the severity of the situation in Europe, he immediately established the Vaad Hatzalah to aid the Jews in Europe. As head of the Agudat HaRabbanim, he tirelessly raised millions of dollars. He used the funds to
produce counterfeit documents and pay off smugglers -- in the end directly saving at least 10,000 Jewish lives. In October 1943, HaRav Silver organized a rally
of 200 rabbis in Washington; the effort prompted President Roosevelt to form the War Refugee Board, which rescued tens of thousands more from Hitler's
''Final Solution.'' After the war, HaRav Silver traveled to Displaced Persons (DP) camps to help the thousands of refugees who were languishing there. The Vaad helped these Holocaust survivors start a new life.
He also sought out hundreds of Jewish
children who had been placed by their parents in Catholic orphanages, to spare them the horrors of the concentration camps. Often, the parents were killed
during the war and there was no one to claim them. HaRav Silver discovered that the priests operating the orphanages were often unable (or refused) to identify
which children came from Jewish families. So HaRav Silver had a solution: He strode into the lunchroom, stood on a chair, and proclaimed in his loudest voice:
"Shema Yisrael, Hashem Elokainu, Hashem Echad!" Suddenly, the orphanage was filled with children's cries for their mothers. HaRav Silver looked at the priest,
and said, "These children are mine."
In his later years, Harav Silver compiled many of his chiddushei Torah, which were published in his sefarim, Anfei Erez and Tzemach Erez.
Harav Silver was niftar at 86.
HaRav Nachum Abba Grossbard, zt"'l, (1993), Rebbi in Rabbeinu Yaakov Yosef (RJJ) New York. He was one of the leading students of Rav Shimon Shkop of Grodno and Rav Boruch Ber Leibowitz of Kamenitz. He joined Yeshivat Mir in exile, and he formed a close bond with Rav Yechezkel Levenstein in Shanghai. Rav Grossbard is considered one of the leading rebuilders of the yeshiva world of America after the Holocaust. His son is Rav Shmuel Grossbard, rosh yeshiva of the Telstone Yeshiva Gedoloh in Israel.
HaRav Dovid of Skver-Boro Park, zt"'l, (5761 / 2001).
Harav Dovid’l, as he was fondly known, was the son of Harav Yitzchok, the Skverer Rebbe of Boro Park who was a great grandson of Harav Itzik’l, zy”a, the first Skverer Rebbe.
In 5683/1923 Reb Itzik’l, as he was affectionately called, emigrated to America and settled on the East Side of New York City. He later moved to Williamsburg and then to Boro Park, where he made his home and established his shul on 47th Street. Tragically, Reb Itzik’l was niftar in 1941, and at the age of 19, his young son, Reb Dovid, became Rebbe.
His dedication to mitzvah observance was remarkable. In 5745, when admitted to the hospital, he cried with bitter tears, “Since my bar mitzvah I never once failed to put on tefillin without first immersing in the mikveh. How can I fail to do so today?”
The Rebbe was selflessly devoted to all in need, especially to those in need of medical advice. World-renowned physicians heeded his call without question. Many sought guidance in every step of their lives. He also founded the Skverer Mosdot, the Talmud Torah and the Tomer Devorah girls’ school.
Once a young man came to him, crying hysterically. He’d brought his young wife to Mt. Sinai in New York from Eretz Yisrael hoping to secure her a healthy future. Scheduled for a liver transplant, she had slipped into a coma and the doctors were about to declare her clinically dead. The distraught man fell to the floor, pleading with the Rebbe to do something for the mother of their little children whom they had left behind in Eretz Yisrael.
The Rebbe, deeply touched, immediately took action. He phoned one of the first transplant pioneers, Dr. Starzel in Pittsburgh. After sending her medical records and consulting with him by telephone, Dr. Starzel concurred with the New York doctors and was unwilling to accept the woman as a patient.
Unable to bear the anguish of the young father, the Rebbe dialed Pittsburgh again. “Dr. Starzel, I am ordering you to operate on this woman. I will arrange her transfer to Pittsburgh by tomorrow, and you will perform the transplant and keep her in your care until she is fully recovered.” He kept contact with the doctor and the husband until he was assured that things were taking a turn for the better.
Several months later, in Adar, the young man and his wife came to personally thank the Rebbe for being the shaliach who saved her life.
Harav Aharon Kotler, zt”l, remarked, “There are those who are Rebbes in Torah, there are those who are Rebbes of Chassidut, and then there are Rebbes of chessed. The Skverer Rebbe is a Rebbe of chessed.”
On the ninth of Shvat 5761/2001, the heart that beat with compassion for the pain and suffering of so many others stopped beating, and the Skverer Rebbe returned his soul to his maker.
Rav Dovid was succeeded by his son, Yechiel Michel Twersky, the Skverer Rebbe of Boro Park.
HaRav Rafael Shmulewitz, zt"'l, (5776 / 2016), Rosh Yeshivat Mir-Yerushalyim. .
10 Shvat 4995 - 1235:
Seven German Jews were tortured and burned al kiddush Hashem, Hy"d.
10 Shvat - 1569:
Inquisition established in South America.
10 Shvat 5361 - Jan. 13, 1601:
The Church burned seforim and manuscripts in Rome.
10 Shvat 5553 - Jan. 24, 1793:
With the second partition of Poland in 1793, additional territory was added to the Pale Settlement where Jews were allowed to live, including parts of the Ukraine and the city of Kiev .
10 Shvat 5699 - Jan. 30, 1939:
In his annual speech, Hitler announced his intention to exterminate the Jewish people in the event of a war in Europe.
10 Shvat 5762 - Jan. 23, 2002:
Daniel Pearl, a reporter with the Wall Street Journal, was abducted in Karachi, Pakistan , by a group demanding the return of prisoners in Afghanistan . Nine days later he was gruesomely slain, Hy"d.
10 Shvat Yahrtzeits
HaRav Meir Katzenellenbogen, zt”l, the Maharam Padua (1482* - 5325 / 1565).
Harav Meir Katzenellenbogen was the son of Harav Shmuel Yitzchak. He was born in 5221/1461, in Katzenellenbogen, Germany. Generally called after his native town, and was the founder of the famed Katzenellenbogen family.
After studying in Prague under HaRav Yaakov Pollack, he went to Padua, Italy , and studied under Rav Yehuda Mintz. Recognizing the excellence of his talmid, Rav Yehuda suggested him as a shidduch for his granddaughter, the daughter of his son Harav Avraham.
He succeeded his father-in-law, Rav Avraham Mintz, as Rav of Padua, in 5285 / 1525, holding that post until his petirah. He also headed a large yeshiva in the city. Reb Meir was also nominal Rav of Venice, where he went several times a year, but his fixed residence was in Padua.
Reb Meir was considered by his contemporaries a great authority on Gemara and halachic matters, and many leading Rabbanim consulted him. Among his contemporaries who sent him shaylot were Rav Ovadiah Sforno and his relative Rav Moshe Iserles, the Rema, who addressed him as “Rav of Venice.”
Reb Meir added to the edition of his responsa his father-in-law’s Seder Gittin V’chalitzah, and a detailed index. He also edited the Rambam’s Mishneh Torah, with some commentaries, to which he added notes of his own.
Reb Meir was niftar in Padua, on 10 Shvat 5325 / 1565, at the ripe old age of 104.
His son Harav Shmuel Yehudah was a leading Rav, and was the father of Harav Shaul Wahl of Brisk. (*Others 5221 / 1461, 29 or 30 Shvat).
HaRav Shalom ben Yosef Shabazi, zt”l, Yemenite community leader (1619-1720). Shabazi was born in Southern Yemen where he worked as a weaver. He was one of the greatest Jewish poets who lived in 17th century Yemen and is considered the 'Poet of Yemen'. Approximately 550 of his poems and hymns are still in existence, written in Arabic, Hebrew and Aramaic. He wrote a commentary on the Torah called Chamdoth Yomim.
HaRav Shalom (Mizrachi Dida) Sharabi, zt"l, (5480 / 1720 - 5537 / 1777), known by the acronym of his name, Rashash. Rav Sharabi was born in 5480 / 1720 in the city of Sharab, Yemen. His father, Harav Yitzchak Mizrachi, was one of the sages of Sharab; he supported his family as a peddler, wandering among the villages to sell various items.
Rav Shalom’s superior intellectual gifts were evident at an early age. Unfortunately, the premature death of his father prevented him from remaining in Talmud Torah, as the young orphan became the sole supporter of his family. Rav Shalom continued in his father’s tradition and traveled around selling his wares from door to door. This left him with only the evenings free to pursue his one true goal: the study of Torah.
He would often remain in the beit medrash until the wee hours of the morning before going home to catch a few hours of sleep.
One day he left his friends and family to embark on the long, dangerous voyage to Eretz Yisrael. When he finally arrived in Yerushalayim he went to Yeshivat Beit El, the Yeshivat Hamekubalim headed by the renowned Harav Gedalyah Chayun, who led the yeshivah until his passing in 5511/1751.
Rav Shalom longed to become a talmid of the yeshivah, but he had no wish to reveal himself. Instead, he presented himself as a simple Jew and asked to be employed as the shamash of the yeshivah. For him this was a wonderful opportunity to learn without being observed.
Once, Rav Gedalyah was learning with the other scholars from the volume Eitz Chaim. He became confused by a certain paragraph, and no one could resolve the dilemma. Rav Gedalyah was filled with anguish.
After the shiur, Rav Shalom collected the sefarim and returned them to their places. He took the opportunity to write the answer to the Rosh Yeshivah’s question on a piece of paper, which he folded and slipped inside the appropriate page of volume.
The next day, when Rav Gedalyah found the mysterious note, his eyes lit up. This incident repeated itself time and again until, once, Rav Gedalyah’s daughter, Chana, happened to see Rav Shalom writing the answer. She immediately told her father what she had seen.
Rav Gedalyah summoned Rav Shalom and ordered him to reveal everything. With lowered eyes and a broken heart, Rav Shalom admitted that it was indeed he who had written the notes, but he requested that the Rav not publicize this.
Rav Gedalyah rose and embraced the young man. He kissed him on the forehead and said, “It is impossible to fulfill your desire, for it is a Heavenly sign that the time has come for your greatness to be revealed. From now on you will be our teacher.” Immediately Rav Shalom was appointed the leader of the yeshivah.
Rav Gedalyah gave his daughter to Rav Shalom in marriage. From then on Rav Shalom was considered the Rosh Hamekubalim in Yerushalayim.
For 30 years, until he was niftar, Rav Shalom served as head of the Beit El Yeshivah. During those years he succeeded, sometimes through miracles, in protecting the Jews of Yerushalayim from their Muslim neighbors.
Among his greatest students are the Chida (Rav Chaim Yosef Dovid Azulai) and Rav Gershon Kitover (the Ba’al Shem Tov’s brother-in-law).
He was a master kabbalist, and his prayer book, known as the “Sidur HaKavanot,” includes mystical meditations on various prayers and mitzvot, and is still used by the mekubalim today for prayer. He also authored other sefarim that are considered basic works in the study of Kabbalah. The most famous of them are Emes v’Shalom, Nahar Shalom and Rechovot HaNahar.
The Rashash is buried on Har Hazeitim / the Mount of Olives in Yerushalayim.
Before he was niftar he said, “If you should, chas v’shalom, be beset with any troubles, pour out your hearts at my grave, and if you pray with a sincere heart your prayers will not be in vain.”
HaRav Nosson Ashkenazi, zt”l, son of the Chacham Tzvi, (5538 / 1778).
HaRav Shlomo of Loitzk, zt”l, author of Dibrat Shlomo, (5573 / 1813).
Rebbetzin Rivka Schneersohn, A”H, (1833-1914) a granddaughter of Rav Dov Ber, the second Rebbe of Lubavitch. At age 16 she married her first cousin, Rav Shmuel, who later became the fourth Lubavitcher Rebbe. Surviving her husband by 33 years, for many years she was the esteemed matriarch of Lubavitch. She is the source of many of the stories recorded in the talks, letters and memoirs of her grandson, Rav Yosef Yitzchak (the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe). The Beit Rivka network of girls’ schools are named after her.
HaRav Yissachar Shlomo Teichtal, zt”l, Hy”d, Rav of Pishtian and author of Sh’eilot U’Teshuvot Mishna Sachir and (5705 / 1945).
HaRav Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson, zt”l, the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe (1880 – 5710 / 1950). The son of Rav Shalom Dov Ber, he dedicated his efforts to the yeshiva founded by his father, Tomechai HaTemimim. He was jailed by the Russian government for teaching Torah, and on his release, he settled in Riga , Latvia. He escaped to America in 1940.
HaRav Yitzchak Eizek Sher of Slabodka, zt”l, (5635 / 1875 – 5712 / 1952). Born in Halusk, Russia. His father was Harav Yosef Chaim Sher.
As a child, he was already known for refined middot. After completing cheder in Halusk, he attended shiurim given by Harav Baruch Ber Leibowitz, zt”l, who was then Rav of Halusk. Then he went on to learn in Volozhin under the Netziv’s son-in-law, Rav Refoel Shapira, before moving to Slabokdka. There he studied b’chavrusa with Rav Avraham Grodzinski.
In 5663 / 1903, Rav Yitzchak Eizek married the Alter of Slabodka’s youngest daughter, Maryasha Gittel, and moved to Kelm where he continued to learn diligently. There he became close with Harav Simchah Zissel Ziv, zt”l, who played a crucial role in shaping Rav Yitzchak Eizek's outlook.
He also studied for a brief period in the Mir, where his brother-in-law, Rav Eliezer Yehuda Finkel, served as rosh yeshiva. In 5671 / 1911, the Alter appointed Rav Yitzchak Eizek to the position of rebbi in the yeshiva.
Rav Yitzchak Eizek was outstanding in both his Torah learning and his perception of mussar, demonstrating that these two areas are not separate entities of Torah, but rather inseparable units. He even titled his monumental mussar work Shiurei Mussar, and not Sichot Mussar, to demonstrate that point.
With the outbreak of World War I, the yeshivah was forced to leave Slabodka and moved to Minsk and Kremenchug. During this trying period, Rav Yitzchak Eizek boosted the morale of the bachurim and strengthened their emunah and bitachon.
In 5680/1920, after the yeshivah finally returned to Slabodka, Rav Yitzchak Eizek headed the Beit Yisrael Kollel, founded by the Alter.
During this period, Rav Yitzchak Eizek began to put his chiddushim in halachah and mussar on paper. Some of them appear in the sefer Beit Yisrael, which he compiled.
In 5688 / 1928, Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel went to Eretz Yisrael, along with the majority of Slabodka’s students, and settled in Chevron. At that point, Rav Yitzchak Eizek was appointed rosh yeshiva of Slabodka’s European branch, with its mashgiach, Rav Avraham Grodzinski. Rav Yitzchak Eizek's position included shouldering the yeshivah’s financial burden. He traveled to America on several occasions to raise funds.
A few weeks before the outbreak of World War II, Rav Yitzchak Eizek traveled to a resort in Switzerland. As a result, he was spared the tragic fate which befell the staff and talmidim of the yeshivah, all of whom perished al kiddush Hashem
On Shabbat morning, the sixteenth of Av, 1929, the Arab massacred Chevron’s Jews. After the massacre, the survivors reestablished the Chevron Yeshiva in Yerushalayim. Rav Yitzchak Eizek, with the advice of the Chazon Ish, re-established the European branch of the Slabodka Yeshiva in Bnei Brak.
Rav Yitzchak Eizek was niftar on 10 Shvat 5712/1952 after suffering a heart attack. Many people attended his levayah in Bnei Brak.
HaRav Rachamim Chai Chavita, zt”l, Rav of Djerba, Tunisia, author of Minchat Kohen and Simchat Kohen (5661 / 1901 - 5719 / 1959).
Harav Rachamim Chai Chavitah Hakohen was born on 22 Sivan, 5661/1901, in Djerba. His father, Harav Chanina Hakohen, zt”l, was a talmid chacham who worked as a smith. He arose early for Tikkun Chatzot, after which he learned until Shacharit. He would ask his son to write down his chiddushei Torah, many of which appear in Harav Rachamim Chai Chavitah’s sefer Minchat Kohen.
As a bachur Harav Rachamim Chai Chavitah devoted himself to learning. He wrote every chiddush he heard, and corresponded with many Gedolei Yisrael.
Although Harav Chanina was struggling for a livelihood, he didn’t allow his son Harav Rachamim Chai Chavitah to go to work, as was customary at the time.
Harav Rachamim Chai Chavitah used to learn until late at night. His father wouldn’t go to sleep until his son had finished learning. After Harav Rachamim Chai Chavitah realized that he was keeping his father awake, he would interrupt his learning and go to bed, pretending to sleep. After his father fell asleep, he would arise and continue learning.
Along with Gemara, Harav Rachamim Chai Chavitah began delving into Halachah and hora’ah. He learned under Harav Khalfon Moshe Hakohen, zt”l, between 5675/1915 and 5680/1920. Harav Khalfon would pose a she’eilah, and direct the talmidim to the sources. They would all write their understanding of the words of the poskim, and would show him their answers on the following Shabbat.
In 5680/1920 Harav Chavitah married, and was appointed the sofer of the Beit Din.
In 5681/1921, at the age of 20, Harav Chavitah began teaching talmidim. At 24, Harav Chavitah was appointed Rosh Yeshivah of Beit Medrash Harav Eliezer.
Following the petirah of Harav Tzion Hakohen, zt”l, toward the end of 5691/1931, the kehillah of Djerba asked Harav Chavitah to serve as Dayan. Harav Kaddir Tzavan, zt”l, was appointed Rosh Yeshivah in his place. Harav Chavitah still made time to learn with the senior talmidim from the yeshivah.
In 5710/1950 the Rav of Djerba, Harav Khalfon Moshe Hakohen, was niftar. Harav Chavitah was appointed to succeed him.
On 27 Av 5714/1954, Harav Chavitah moved to Eretz Yisrael, settling in Moshav Berachyah near Ashkelon. Unofficially he was the Rav of all Tunisian Jews in Eretz Yisrael.
Harav Chavitah was niftar on 10 Shvat, 5719/1959.
He wrote many sefarim, some of which were published in his lifetime. They include She’eilot U’Teshuvot Simchat Kohen; Minchat Kohen on the Torah; Maggid Devarav LeYaakov on Haggadah shel Pesach; Pirchei Kehunah on Shas; and his drashot, Kesser Kehunah.
11 Shvat 5270
The Jews of Colmar, in northern France, (at times part of Germany), were expelled.
11 Shvat 5361 - Jan. 14, 1601:
From the end of 5236 / 1476 the community suffered greatly at the hands of the Swiss Confederates, who, on their way to France, plundered the Jews and committed many acts of violence. By 5238 / 1478 only two Jewish families were tolerated there. On Dec. 1507, the council requested from Emperor Maximilian I, permission to banish the Jews from Colmar, a request which was granted three years later, in 5270 / 1510. See 8 Shvat.
Hebrew books that had been confiscated by Church authorities were burned in Rome. This was an unfortunate theme throughout the Middle Ages: In 1592, Pope Clement VIII had condemned the Talmud and other Hebrew writings as "obscene," "blasphemous" and "abominable" -- and ordered them all seized and burned. Centuries earlier, Pope Gregory IX persuaded French King Louis IX to burn some 10,000 copies of the Talmud (24 wagon loads) in Paris. As late as 1553, Cardinal Peter Caraffa (the future Pope Paul IV) ordered copies of the Talmud burned in the Papal States and across Italy. Yet despite all attempts to extinguish our faith, the light of Torah shines brightly till today.
11 Shvat 5598 - Feb. 6, 1838:
Birth of the "Chofetz Chaim," the revered Torah scholar, pietist and Jewish leader, HaRav Yisrael Meir HaKohain Kagan (1838-1933) of Radin (Poland), author of Chofetz Chaim (a work on the evils of gossip and slander and the guidelines of proper speech) and Mishnah Berurah (a codification of Torah law).
11 Shvat 5677 - Feb. 3, 1917:
· British troops occupied Baghdad and brought relief to the local Jews. Their freedom lasted until 1929 when the British granted independence to Iraq and the new rulers passed a series of decrees against them.
11 Shvat 5737 - Jan. 27, 1972:
On this night, a Yugoslavian DC-9 jet flying 33,330 feet high over Czechoslovakia suddenly exploded and plunged to the ground. All 28 passengers perished except one flight attendant (Vesna Vulovic), perished. Responsibility for this horrific crime was claimed by the Ustashe organization, the same group responsible for some of the worst atrocities of World War II. A few of its demented members still dream of an independent, ethnically pure Croatia free of Serbs, Jews and Gypsies.
11 Shvat Yahrtzeits
HaRav Yehuda Leib, zt”l, of Dessau and Berlin, author of Korban Eidah, (5566 / 1806).
HaRav Nosson Dovid Deutsch, zt”l, son of R’ Yosef Yoel Deutsch, and the second Rav of Kretchenif (1879). (Others 5639 / 1839).
Harav Nosson Dovid was the son of Harav Yosef Yoel, who served as Rav in Chodorov and was the author of She’eilot U’Teshuvot Yad Yosef.
Reb Nosson Dovid married the daughter of Harav Yitzchak Eizik, a descendant of the Rebbe Reb Heshel of Cracow, the Taz and the Shach.
A gaon in Torah, Reb Nosson Dovid was also renowned for his exceptional middot. He served as Rav of Kretchinef, where he was actively involved in the growth of Torah life.
Despite being frail all his life, Reb Nosson Dovid dedicated his time to learning, day and night. He carried on halachic correspondence with many of the era’s Gedolim, notable among them the Menuchat Asher of Tchenger.
The davening of Reb Nosson Dovid was full of fervor and inspiration, motivating all around him to daven with deeper kavanah. His tefillot were also known for their koach of yeshuot.
Rav Nosson Dovid was niftar on 11 Shvat 5639/1839. He was survived by his sons, Harav Yitzchak Eizik of Teveria and Harav Moshe of Sighet. His sons-in-law were Harav Yechiel Michel, Rav of Mikolayev; Harav Avraham Reich of Yassin; and Harav Yeshayah Shalom Rokach, Rav of Litawisk.
Nearly 50 years after the petirah of Rav Nosson Dovid, his grandson Rav Mordechai, son of his son Rav Moshe, published his divrei Torah on Chumash under the name Nefesh Dovid.
HaRav Chaim Yehoshua Blumenthal, zt”l, Dayan of Kaminetz, (5640 / 1880).
HaRav Yehuda Tzvi Hakohen Yalas of Sambur, zt”l, (5612 / 1852 - 5679 / 1919).
Harav Yehuda Tzvi was a son of Harav Uri of Sambur, who was a talmid of the Sar Shalom of Belz. He was born on 12 Tammuz in 5612 / 1852 and, like his father, was diligent in his learning and became a great Gaon.
Reb Yehuda Tzvi received semichah at a very young age from the renowned Rav of Lvov, Harav Yitzchak Aharon Itinga.
The young scholar gained fame for himself, and in time he became Rav in the town of Sokolov, where he led the town with dignity, devotion and compassion. Upon his father’s petirah in 5670/1910, he inherited his position and returned to Sambur, from where he led the Chassidut.
The names of four of Reb Yehuda Tzvi five sons were Reb Moshe, Reb Nachum of Sambur, Reb Eliyahu and Reb Elazar of Sambur-Montreal. The latter was niftar in 5736 / 1976 in Montreal.
His sons-in-law were Harav Efraim Eliezer Yolles, a son of his brother Harav Shalom of Stry, who was a Rav in Philadelphia and mechaber of sefer Divrei Efraim Eliezer; and Reb Chaim Yoel Moskowitz of Sambur.
Reb Yehuda Tzvi was niftar on 11 Shvat 5679 / 1919.
HaRav Yisrael Noach (ben Yitzchak Mattisyahu) Weinberg, zt"l, (1930-2009). Born in the Lower East Side of New York, he learned at at Chaim Berlin and Ner Yisroel, and completed undergraduate work at Johns Hopkins University and post-graduate studies at Loyola Graduate School. He always considered his older brother, Rav Yaakov Weinberg, his rebbi muvhak. He married Denah Goldman and moved to Eretz Yisrael in 1958, where they raised their 12 children. Disturbed by the high rate of assimilation and lack of Jewish knowledge among Western youth, he opened his first yeshiva for assimilated young men in 1966. That short-lived effort was followed by several others before he co-founded Yeshivat Shma Yisrael (later renamed Ohr Somayach) with Rabbis Nota Schiller, Mendel Weinbach and Yaakov Rosenberg in 1970. A difference in philosophy led to his creation of Aish Hatorah in 1974, which over the next 35 years had expanded to 25 branches over five continents. Tens of thousands have attended seminars or listened to recordings, especially his widely-circulated "The 48 Ways to Wisdom". He also co-authored a book, What the Angel Taught You: Seven keys to life fulfillment.
·12 Shvat 5550 - Jan. 27, 1790.
The French extend active citizenship to the Sephardic Jews of Bordeaux. Their poorer Ashkenazic brothers in Alsace-Lorraine continued to struggle for rights for another year and a half.
12 Shvat 5701 - Feb. 9, 1941.
Nazis provoked the first anti-Jewish
riots in Amsterdam, but the Jews successfully fought off their attackers.
Shvat 5703 - Jan. 18, 1943:
As the Germans began their second deportation of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto, Jews in the Warsaw ghetto put up their first resistance to the Nazi effort at
liquidation. The deportation was halted within a few days; only 5,000 Jews were removed instead of 8,000 as planned. The Nazis retreated, only to return three months later,
at which time the Warsaw uprising started in earnest.
12 Shvat 5705 - Jan. 26, 1945:
The Russian army liberated the
last 2,819 survivors of the Auschwitz concentration camp. The gas chambers of Auschwitz II (Birkenau) were blown up by German troops in November 1944 in an attempt to hide their crimes. In January 1945 the Nazis began to evacuate the facility; most of the prisoners were ordered on a death march, which lasted for weeks in the cold and snow. In the end, some7,000 people survived Auschwitz; over one million perished, Hy"d.
12 Shvat Yahrtzeits
HaRav Chaim Kapusi, zt”l, (~5300 / 1540 - 5391 / 1631). Born in Algiers, his father was Harav Yitzchak, zt”l. He moved with his family to Egypt in his early years, where he learned in the yeshivah of Harav Yosef Beirav.
Harav Chaim came to be known as one of the noted talmidei chachamim of Egypt, and his rulings in halachah were accepted all over. Many Rabbanim sent him she’eilot, to which he would reply.
Harav Chaim was well versed in both the revealed and the secret Torah. He was especially close to Harav Yosef Bagiliar, who studied with the Arizal in Tzfat. This close friendship with Rav Yosef brought him into contact with the Gurei Ari, the close talmidim of the Ari, so that he is numbered among them.
Harav Chaim Kapusi was renowned as a miracle worker, most notably because of a certain incident. He served as a Rav and Dayan in Egypt, and his decision in a particular case caused certain people in the community to question his ruling. They were convinced that he was in error and began talking against him behind his back. “Surely Rav Chaim must have accepted bribery,” they said. Shortly afterwards, Rav Chaim became blind. This was a sure proof of his guilt, they claimed, since the Torah itself says, “bribery blinds the eyes of the wise.” He was thus being punished justly.
These implications reached the ears of Rav Chaim. He davened to Hashem with all his heart, begging Him to remove the shameful stigma. One day he declared in public, before the entire community, that people’s suspicions were false and unfounded. “If it is true that I accepted bribery,” he exclaimed, “then let me continue to be blind until the day I die. But if the allegations are false, let Hashem restore my eyesight!”
To the amazement of the entire kehillah, Rav Chaim’s sight was suddenly and miraculously restored, then and there. He even addressed all those surrounding him by name, to show that his eyesight had indeed returned.
The people who had implicated him hung their heads in shame at having suspected their worthy Dayan. From then on, they accepted his every word and followed his rulings. Many flocked to him for brachot. From then on, Rav Chaim used to sign his name “Hashem Nissi, Chaim Kapusi,” to commemorate the great miracle that occurred to him. Harav Chaim wanted dearly to settle in Eretz Yisrael, but this plan never materialized. He is buried in the Cairo Jewish cemetery. His kever, considered by many a place of tefillah, is still visited today. On his yahrtzeit, many gather at his kever to daven, and some even have the custom to pour oil on his kever. The Chidah wrote over 100 years after his petirah that “to this day, whoever swears falsely upon his grave is punished.”
Harav Chaim wrote numerous sefarim. Sifsei Chaim, a commentary on the Sifri and the Mechilta, remains unpublished thus far. His sefer on Torah, Be’or HaChaim, was published nearly 300 years after his petirah
HaRav Tzvi Hersh Shor, zt”l, (5395 / 1635), author of Torat Chaim.
HaRav Baruch Kapilish of Lublin, zt”l, (5499 / 1739).
HaRav Zev Dov Shiff of Zamoshitz, zt”l, (5528 / 1767 - 5602 / 1842), author of Minchat Zikaron.
Harav Zev (Wolf) Dov Shiff was born on Rosh Chodesh Tevet 5528/1767, in Zamoshitz. His father was Harav Tzvi Hirsh Heilprin (the family name was later changed by the government to Shiff). Rav Tzvi Hirsh was the son of Harav Yoel Baal Shem, the mechaber of Mifalot Elokim.
While he was still a young child, his parents made sure that he was close to talmidei chachamim, in order that he be inspired and yearn to grow in Torah and yirat Shamayim. Young Wolf Ber was seen as a clever child, whose achievements far surpassed those of his colleagues. Aside from the regular cheder hours, he would dedicate many long hours to learning on his own.
The city of Zamoshitz was a makom Torah, so he had the opportunity to learn under the famed Torah personalities who lived in the city: Harav Shlomo of Chelema, the Mirkevet HaMishnah, and Harav Dovid Mireles, the Korban HaEidah.
Reb Wolf Ber married on the day of his bar mitzvah, on Rosh Chodesh Tevet 5541/1780.
At the age of 20, Reb Wolf Ber began to tend to his parnassah; he opened a perfume business, which was very successful. As he had to be away from home three times a year at the fairs in Vienna, Leipzig and Brody, and knowing that he would have less time then for learning, Reb Wolf Ber would dedicate many of the night hours to learning.
Reb Wolf Ber was very generous with his tzedakah and helped out many families of talmidei chachamim.
On his way to fairs, Reb Wolf Ber would take detours to stop in the homes of Rabbanim, including those of Harav Mordechai Banet in Nikolsburg and Harav Baruch Frenkel-Teumim, the Baruch Taam. They would discuss many Torah topics with Reb Wolf Ber.
In 5569/1809, his business lost a lot of money, and later in the year, on Rosh Chodesh Sivan, Poland tightened its grip on Zamoshitz and ransacked the city. Reb Wolf Ber moved to Lvov, where he lived for the next five years. Later, he settled in Cracow.
In 5600/1840, Reb Wolf Ber devoted himself solely to limud haTorah, only leaving home for davening. During this period he wrote his chiddushim on the Shas.
Reb Wolf Ber was niftar on 12 Shvat 5602/1842, at the age of 74.
His chiddushim on masechet Eiruvin were published under the name Minchat Zikaron.
HaRav Meir Atlas, zt”l, (5608 / 1848-5686 / 1926), one of the foremost rabbis in Lithuania in the late 1800s and early 1900s, was born in 5608/1848 in Baisagola, Lithuania.
In 5635/1875 Rav Meir, together with Harav Shlomo Zalman Abel and Harav Tzvi Yaakov Oppenheim, and with the assistance of a German Jew, Reb Ovadiah Lachman, founded the famed yeshivah in Telshe, Lithuania, and brought Rav Eliezer Gordon to head it. The three were avreichim at the time.
Rav Shlomo Zalman Abel, a Telshe native, wrote Beit Shlomo on Choshen Mishpat; he was niftar at a young age. Rav Tzvi Yaakov Oppenheim later became Rav in Kelm. Rav Meir himself went on to become Rav in Libau, Latvia; Salant, Lithuania; and Kobryn, Belarus. Most famously, in 5664/1904, he was appointed Rav of the community of Shavel, Lithuania.
He was an outstanding halachic authority who authored many teshuvot.
Rav Meir was the father-in-law of two of the Gedolei Hador, Harav Elchanan Wasserman, Hy”d, Rosh Yeshivah of Baranovitch Yeshivah, and (in his zivug sheini) Harav Chaim Ozer Grodzinski, zt”l, Rav of Vilna and author of She’eilot U’teshuvot Achiezer.
Another son-in-law was Harav Yudel Kahana-Shapira, the son of Harav Zalman Sender Kahana- Shapira.
Towards the end of his life, Harav Shmuel Salant, Rav of Yerushalayim, began searching for his own replacement; he corresponded with Gedolim in Europe about this, among them Rav Meir Atlas.
In a letter from Rav Chaim Ozer (before he became the son-in-law of Rav Meir Atlas) to Rav Shmuel Salant, he writes that as Rav Shmuel asked him to help find a successor, he had offered the post of Rav of Yerushalayim to Rav Meir, who seemed willing to accept it.
Rav Meir actually received a ksav Rabbanut from Yerushalayim, but for unknown reasons he never left Europe for the Holy Land.
Rav Meir was niftar in Shavel on 12 Shvat 5686 / 1926, at the age of 78.
HaRav Shmuel Chamoula, zt”l, (1942-2004).
HaRav Shabtai Aton [Atun], zt”l, Rosh Yeshivat Reishit Chochmah (1925-2006). Born in Yerushalayim's Old City to Rav Ben-Tzion, one of the ten founders of Yeshivat Porat Yosef in the Old City, Reb Shabtai learned at his father's yeshiva and was appointed as Rav of the Yerushalayim neighborhood of Malcha. In 1957, he was appointed as the spiritual leader of Yeshivat Porat Yosef, under the Roshei Yeshiva, Rav Ezra Attiah and Rav Yaakov Addas. It was at this time that the Yeshiva moved from the Old City to Geulah. In Tevet 1960, Rav Aton was widowed and left with four small children. In 1967, he opened Yeshivat Reishit Chochmah. At first, the Yeshiva was located in the Yerushalayim neighborhood of Mekor Baruch, after which it moved to its present location in Sanhedria Murchevet.
13 Shvat 5550 - Jan. 28, 1790:
The French National Assembly granted
full and equal citizenship to the Portuguese and Avignonese Jews. France was
the first European country to pass such liberal legislation. (Look at France
now, For shame....).
The French Revolution, born of the ideals of Enlightenment, had become the first society to emancipate the Jews, permitting them to enter the highest levels of government and finance. In 1807, Napoleon created the French Sanhedrin -- a Jewish communal structure sanctioned by the state. (The French Sanhedrin sat in a semicircle, following the custom of the Sanhedrin in Yerushalayim that served as the Jewish supreme court during the times of the Holy Temple.) Despite these liberties, anti-Jewish measures were passed in 1808: Napoleon declared all debts with Jews annulled, which caused the near ruin of the Jewish community. Restrictions were also placed on where Jews could live in an effort to assimilate them into French society. The invective reached a head in the 1940s when the French Vichy regime took the initiative to round up and hand over 61,000 Jews to the Nazis.
13 Shvat Yahrtzeits
HaRav Yaakov Shimon of Zaslov, zt”l, (5568 / 1808).
HaRav Mordechai Perlow of Lechovitz [Lekovich] ("Reb Mordcha Lekovicher"), zt"l, (5502 / 1742 - 5570 / 1810), founder of Kobrin and Slonim dynasties. Born in Nesvizh, Belarus. His father, Rav Noach, named him Mordechai after the family patriarch, Harav Mordechai Yaffe, the Baal Halevushim.
When his son was still a child, Rav Noach took him to Harav Aharon of Karlin, who had come to visit their city. Rav Noach asked Reb Aharon to bless his son that he merit hasmadah b’Torah. Reb Aharon held the boy close and then told the father that from then on he would learn with much hasmadah. He always told his chassidim that he first learned Torah from Rav Aharon of Karlin, who taught him Torah from the heart, and he would add that Reb Aharon taught him at that time how to motivate people to teshuvah.
Reb Mordechai showed signs of kedushah and prishut from a young age.
After his father’s petirah, the residents of the town hired a private melamed for him. But Mordechai refused to learn with him; rather, he spent hours on end in the nearby forest, communing with Hashem, and he became a great scholar on his own. Yet even though he was never seen learning, at the age of 12 he delivered a pilpul in the main shul of Vilna that astounded everyone there with its brilliance and mastery of the subject.
When he became a famous Rebbe, Reb Mordechai davened that this episode be forgotten; in consequence, although he was fluent in Bavli, Yerushalmi, Midrashim, Poskim, Rishonim, Acharonim and sifrei Kabbalah, he was considered by many of his detractors to be an am ha’aretz, though his talmidim were treated to the full breadth of his erudition.
Reb Mordechai was a close talmid of Harav Shlomo of Karlin, zy”a, who shared his vast knowledge with his talmid. Rav Yisrael of Ruzhin attested that Reb Mordechai was the greatest of the chassidim of Reb Shlomo. When Reb Shlomo was murdered al Kiddush Hashem on 22 Tammuz 5552 / 1792, Reb Mordechai was crowned by the thousands of chassidim as the new Rebbe.
Reb Mordechai is considered the founder of Chassidut in Lithuania, much as the Baal Shem Tov was the founder of general Chassidut. He attracted many outstanding talmidei chachamim known for their yirat Shamayim.
One of his main avodot was to instill emunah in the hearts of Klal Yisrael
He was a mohel mumcheh, with a special inyan in this mitzvah. His talmid Rav Moshe of Kobrin called him the malach habrit.
Rav Mordechai was close with many of the generation’s leading Rebbes, among them the Rebbe Reb Baruch of Mezhibuzh, Rav Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev and Rav Yisrael of Ruzhin.
Many Gedolim were lavish in their admiration of Rav Mordechai. Rav Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev said that a third of the world existed in his merit, and Rav Yisrael of Ruzhin called him kodesh kodashim and the Manhig Hador.
Harav Avraham of Kalisk put Reb Mordechai in charge of the tzedakah for the yishuv in Eretz Yisrael. Reb Mordechai donated to this tzedakah every morning before davening, and called upon his chassidim to do the same. When he sent the money to Reb Avraham in Eretz Yisrael, he would list all those who had contributed — except himself.
The style of tefillah in his court was that of Karlin, full of enthusiasm and dveikut.
In 5570 / 1810 his grandson Reb Shlomo Chaim (the son of his son Harav Aharon, later the Koidenover Rebbe) was to be married in Stolin, home of the mechutan Rav Asher of Stolin. Reb Mordechai did not want to travel to the wedding. The chassidim set up a beit din, which ruled that the Rebbe had to go. Reb Mordechai went with a heavy heart, saying “Ales is farfallen — all is lost.”
On the wedding day, Friday, 13 Shvat, Reb Mordechai felt that his end was near. He took his tzitzit in one hand, his beard in the other, and began singing “Keil chai chelkeinutzaveh l’hatzil yedidut she’ereinu mishachat, l’maan briso asher sam bivsareinu — Living G-d, Who is our Portion and our Rock, command that our beloved remnant be saved from perdition for the sake of Your covenant that You placed in our flesh. …” (from the brachot at a brit) over and over until he was niftar. The levayah took place the same day as the wedding. He was 68, and had been Rebbe for 18 years, from 5552 / 1792 until 5570 / 1810. .
It is related that when his close confidant, Rav Avraham of Kalisk, was niftar on 4 Shvat, just days earlier, in Teveria, Reb Mordechai had cried out, “The western light has been extinguished!” A few days later, Reb Mordechai received a letter from Reb Avraham, sent out earlier, in which he wrote, “Tomorrow you will be with me in the same realm.” And so it was — just a few days later, Reb Mordechai was also niftar. Reb Moshe Kobriner used to say: 4 Shvat is the yahrtzeit of Reb Avraham Kalisker; 13 Shvat is the yahrtzeit of Reb Mordechai Lechovitcher; and the days in between are like Chol Hamoed.
Reb Shalom of Brahin related, “I heard from my brother, Reb Aharon of Koidenov, that our grandfather, the Rebbe of Lechovitz, said that he hoped not to be taken to Gan Eden via Gehinnom, but that if he did pass through, he wouldn’t leave a single soul there — for what kind of Gan Eden would he have if he knew that there were Jewish souls in Gehinnom?”
Reb Mordechai was succeeded by his son Rav Noach. His other son, Rav Aharon, had been niftar during his father’s lifetime, in 5566 / 1706. The Chassidut later branched out, and included the courts of Kobrin, Koidenov, Novominsk and Slonim.
Some of his divrei Torah are quoted in the sefer Ohr Yesharim, a compilation of the divrei Torah of the Lechovitcher Rebbes.
HaRav Binyamin Eisenstadt, zt”l, Rav of Utyein, Author of Mas’at Binyamin, (5680 / 1920).
HaRav Avigdor Pollack of Spinke-Sighet, zt”l, (5697 / 1937).
HaRav Raphael Baruch Sorotzkin, zt”l, Rosh Yeshiva Telshe Cleveland. (1917 - 5739 / 1979). Born on 13 Shvat 5677 / 1917in Zhetl, Lithuania, where his father, Rav Zalman Sorotzkin, was Rav His father was later known as the illustrious Lutzker Rav, mechaber of Oznayim LaTorah. Rav Baruch's mother was the daughter of Rav Eliezer Gordon, Rosh Yeshiva of Telshe.
Reb Baruch was a brilliant student with a great love of Torah. Throughout his life, Reb Baruch never rested; he used every precious moment to accomplish something, whether it was for his yeshivah or for Klal Yisrael.
As a young man, Rav Baruch studied under Rav Elchonon Wasserman, in Baranovich, and then under Rav Baruch Ber Lebovitz in Kamenitz.
When the war broke out and the yeshivah fled to Vilna, Reb Baruch went to study in the Telshe Yeshivah. The Rosh Yeshivah was his cousin, Harav Avraham Yitzchak Bloch, Hy”d.
Harav Bloch immediately recognized Reb Baruch’s greatness and soon Reb Baruch married the Rosh Yeshivah’s eldest daughter, Rachel(1940). Due to the war, Reb Baruch and his Rebbetzin escaped to the United States, where he joined his wife's uncles, Rav Eliyahu Meir Bloch and Rav Chaim Mordechai (Reb Mottel) Katz and helped them re-establish the Telshe Yeshivah in Cleveland, Ohio.
In 1943, Rav Baruch began delivering shiurim in the Yeshiva.
Upon Reb Mottel Katz’s petirah, (1964), Rav Baruch and Harav Mordechai Gifter became the Roshei Yeshivah of Telshe. Reb Baruch assumed responsibility for the Chinuch Atzmai school system, a position that had been held by his father in Eretz Yisrael, and was also very active with Torah Umesorah, and Agudath lsrael of America. He was a member of the Moetzet Gedolei HaTorah of Agudath Israel of America.
Reb Baruch’s ahavat haTorah knew no bounds. Every extra minute was spent learning, and every chiddush was recorded. The Rosh Yeshivah went to great lengths to write down every shiur he delivered. Every dvar Torah he said at a brit or a sheva brachot, every address at a public affair, whether prepared or impromptu, was committed to writing in one of his copious notebooks.
Of all the shiurim, speeches and shmuessen he delivered, the Rosh Yeshivah gave pride of place to the hashkafah discourses he delivered in the yeshivah’s beit medrash, known as shiurei daat.
In the year 5722/1962, Reb Baruch was diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. Although his illness made him very weak, Reb Baruch spent as much time as possible at the yeshivah.
Much to his doctors’ surprise, with the tefillot of the entire olam haTorah and a brachah from the Gerrer Rebbe, the Beit Yisrael, he recovered, and he continued to expand his Torah activities for the next 17 years.
In his last year of life, his illness returned with a vengeance. Reb Baruch succumbed to the illness on 13 Shvat 5739 / 1979. A collection of his chiddushei Torah, Sefer Habinah V’habrachah, was published posthumously.
14 Shvat 5498 - Feb. 4, 1738:
Yosef b. Yissochor Suesskind Oppenheimer,
a court Jew and financial expert, was executed in Vienna, Hy"d. (One example of many "court Jews" whose financial expertise was valued and used by nobility, who were able to
use their high positions to improve conditions for their fellow Jews, and who,
when they fell out of favor, were summarily disposed of.)
14 Shvat Yahrtzeits
HaRav Yaakov Yehoshua Falk (Pollack) Katz, zt"l, (5441 / 1680 - 5516 / 1756), known as the Pnei Yehoshua, the title of his brilliant sefer of Talmudic commentary. Born on 28 Kislev 5441 / 1680 in Cracow, (Others Reisha, Poland), he was named after his maternal great-grandfather, Reb Yehoshua, the Rav of Cracow, the author of Maginei Shlomo.
He studied at Lvov (Lemberg), where he became Rav in 1718, succeeding the Chacham Tzvi.; Rav of Berlin in 1730 and Metz in 1734, succeeding Rav Yaakov Rischer (the Shevut Yaakov); Rav of Frankfurt in 1740.
He sided strongly with Rav Yaakov Emden in his controversy with Rav Yonasan Eibeshutz.
The Pnei Yehoshua’s first wife, Leah, was the daughter of the parnas Reb Shlomo Landau Segal. On the 3rd of Kislev of 1702, he was trapped under fallen rubble following an explosion that killed a total of 36 Jews of Lemberg, including his first wife, Leah, and their only daughter, Gittel, his mother-in-law and her elderly father.
This changed the Pnei Yehoshua’s entire life, as he wrote in the introduction to his sefer:
“And so, on the day of my tragedy, I accepted an obligation and made a neder [to write a sefer]. For I had been sitting comfortably at home with friends and talmidim who follow me, when suddenly the city became a ruin, overturned in an instant. There was no thunder, just the sound of a burning fire advancing, and then the sight of enormous, licking flames, which began consuming our house. It had all resulted from one hundred large, terrible barrels of gunpowder that had exploded and taken the houses with them, including a number of large, tall, well-built dwellings that were reduced to rubble.
“…I succumbed, too, being knocked down to the depths and caught as if in a press by the weight above me… I couldn’t move or even breathe. In that moment I felt that my life was over; I feared that I would never see anyone again and that my home would prove [to be] my grave.
“However, Hashem in His mercy did not let any evil befall me… At that point, sitting under the ruins, I said, ‘If Hashem will be with me and will take me out of this place in peace, and will give me a new family and many talmidim, then I will not hold myself back from the beit medrash but will diligently study Shas and poskim there in depth and spend frequent nights in the depths of halachah, studying each subject for nights on end. For my soul desires to follow the ways of my fathers, especially my maternal great-grandfather, Reb Yehoshua, the Rav of Cracow, after whom I am named, the author of Maginei Shlomo.’
“Before I had finished speaking, Hashem heard my prayer and opened a path for me between the fallen columns so that I exited the place unscathed. This was a clear sign that my deliverance was Hashem’s direct doing, for there was no one near to rescue me.”
The outgrowth of this neder was the sefer Pnei Yehoshua.
While he learned, the Pnei Yehoshua hardly felt anything that was happening around him. One winter day it was so cold that his talmidim didn’t come to learn until noon, when the weather became a bit more bearable. When they arrived at the beit medrash, they found the Pnei Yehoshua sitting and learning, wrapped in his tallit, still wearing his tefillin, and with his icy beard stuck to the table. When he saw them, he asked why they hadn’t come earlier, and they told him how cold it had been. Only then did he notice his beard frozen to the table, and he said, “It seems that it must really have been cold.”
On 14 Shvat 5516/1756, shortly before Shabbat, at the age of 75, Harav Yaakov Yehoshua was niftar.
HaRav Yechiel Danziger (Danczyger), the first (Alter) Rebbe of Alexander (5588 / 1828 - 5654 / 1894). Born in 5588 / 1828 to Rav Shraga Feivel of Gritz-Makova, who was one of the prominent talmidim of the Chozeh of Lublin; of the Rebbe Reb Bunim of Peshischa, and later of Harav Yitzchak of Vorka. In his youth, Reb Shraga Feivel was a close talmid of Harav Yaakov of Lisa, the Nesivot Hamishpat, and he actually helped his Rebbe write his sefarim. He served as Rav in a number of towns, among them Sheps, Gembin, Gritza, and Makov.
Rav Yechiel’s genius became apparent in early childhood. He engaged in intense learning and davened with passion. Attesting to his gadlut was the fact that he was chosen as Rav in the town of Tortchin at the age of 17.
Rav Yechiel was his father’s only surviving son; all his siblings were niftar young. His father once took him to his Rebbe, Reb Yitzchak Kalish of Vorka, for a brachah that he should live. The Rebbe told him, “If you will give me the child I will make of him a kli chemdah [precious object].” He became a ben bayit (member of the household) of the Rebbe, and had arichut yamim, becoming a chasid of Rav Yitzchak of Vorka, then his son, Rav Mendel of Vorka. Following's Rav Mendel's petira, Rav Yechiel became a follower of Rav Dov Ber of Biala.
On Acharon shel Pesach 5608 / 1848, his Rebbe and mentor, Harav Yitzchak of Vorka, was niftar. The Chassidim began traveling to Reb Yechiel’s father, Reb Shraga Feivel, but he was niftar half a year later, on Shemini Atzeret of 5609/1848. Reb Yechiel was filled with grief at losing both his Rebbe and his father in such a short span of time.
Reb Yechiel succeeded his father in his Rabbanut in Gritza. Later he became Rav in Piltz, and afterward he moved to Alexander, a shtetl in close proximity to Lodz, Poland.
The Vorka Rebbe’s two sons became Rebbes in their own right: Harav Yaakov Dovid of Amshinov, and Harav Menachem Mendel of Vorka. Reb Yechiel became a devout Chassid of Reb Menachem Mendel. When Reb Mendel was niftar, the Chassidim crowned Harav Dov Berish of Biala as Rebbe. After his passing in 5636/1876, the Chassidim began traveling to Reb Yechiel.
Initially, Reb Yechiel refused to accept Chassidim; but at the insistence of Harav Yehoshua Trunk of Kutna (the Yeshuot Malko), and Harav Chaim Elazar Waks of Pietrikov (the Nefesh Chayah), two prominent Rabbanim of Poland, he reluctantly agreed to accept chassidim.
Eventually the Chassidim purchased the beit medrash that had been emptied upon the petirah of Harav Chanoch Henoch of Aleksander.
Although Reb Yechiel by then had a very sizable flock, he vehemently refused honor and conducted himself in an extremely humble fashion. He refused to keep any money that the chassidim brought to him, dispensing those monies as tzedakah, and lived from the meager stipend that he received as Rav of the city. In a letter he writes about himself: “Woe is to him about whom the world is mistaken…” His humility is especially apparent in his tzavaah, in which he requests not to be called a Rebbe, and that his chassidim not bring kvitlach to his kever.
His extraordinary avodat hatefillah indirectly obligated his Chassidim to reach ever-higher levels in davening. He would often cry and daven in heartbreaking tones.
One of the central themes of the Chassidut was ahavat Yisrael, a continuation of the unique Vorka derech.
Once, on Seder night, as chatzot swiftly approached and the festive meal had to end in time to meet the proper zman for eating the afikoman, the Rebbe quickly downed an extremely hot plate of soup. When Reb Yechiel noticed the chassidim’s amazement, he commented, “Why are you shocked that I risked burning my throat for the Eibershter’s sake?”
The Rebbe was niftar on 14 Shvat and buried in Alexander.
After his own petira, Rav Yechiel was succeeded by his son Rav Yisrael Yitzchak, and afterward his son Harav Shmuel succeeded his brother. Reb Yechiel also had a third son, Harav Betzalel Yair.
.HaRav Aharon Aryeh Leib Leifer, zt”l, Nadvorna Rebbe author of Yad Aharon (1817 - 1897). The son of R’ Issachar Dov Bertzi Leifer of Nadvorna, succeeding him as Rebbe
HaRav Yitzchak Abuchatzeira, Hy”d, of Tulal, Morocco, (5672 / 1912).
Harav Yitzchak Abuchatzeira was the fourth and youngest son of Harav Yaakov Abuchatzeira, the Abir Yaakov. He was born in 5620 / 1860, when his father was 56. He had two sisters. His father named him Yitzchak after the Arizal, stating that his neshamah had a spark of the Arizal’s. It was thus no wonder that his father allowed him to delve into kabbalistic works at a young age, unlike his other sons who weren’t permitted to do so until they were older.
As a young bachur, Reb Yitzchak didn’t learn in the yeshivah that his father had established, but rather remained secluded in the famous attic of his father.
One time, a shaliach from Eretz Yisrael was visiting Morocco, and was discussing an intricate sugya with the Abir Yaakov. When their debate remained unresolved, the Abir Yaakov called on his son - who was all of 15 — to ask his opinion on the sugya. After some time, Reb Yitzchak came up with an answer that astounded both of them. The shaliach noted that even in Eretz Yisrael it would be difficult to find a bachur as well-versed as he was …
Reb Yitzchak was accustomed to drink large quantities of machiyah — arak. He said that this would help him concentrate for lengthy periods.
When Reb Yitzchak was 20, his father, the Abir Yaakov, was niftar en route to Eretz Yisrael. He was buried in Damanhour, Egypt.
Following their father’s petirah, his sons accepted upon themselves his various undertakings. The oldest son, Harav Masoud, led the community. The second son, Harav Aharon, undertook to publish his father’s works. The third son, Harav Avraham, had already moved to Eretz Yisrael several years before, and lived in Teveria. Harav Yitzchak was appointed Rosh Yeshivah of his father’s yeshivah.
From time to time, Harav Yitzchak would leave Tafilalt to visit the communities and provide chizuk. The communities would host Harav Yitzchak, and he would conduct large seudot for the locals. Many were helped through his brachot and tremendous mofsim.
During the time he was absent from the yeshivah, it was run by his nephew Harav Yisrael Abuchtzeira, the Baba Sali. The Baba Sali had a nightly chavrusa with his uncle for six years, during which they completed the entire Shas with meforshim.
On his last trip, in Shvat 5672 / 1912, Harav Yitzchak managed to gather large sums on behalf of the yeshivah and the poor families in Tafilalt. On their way home, on 14 Shvat, mere hours away from their destination, Harav Yitzchak - who was accompanied by an attendant, Reb Moshe Shitrit, and an Arab who was hired to protect them — asked to dismount and daven Minchah. Both the Arab and Reb Moshe tried to convince Harav Yitzchak not to, noting that the area was dangerous. Reb Moshe added that it was only Minchah Gedolah, and Harav Yitzchak never davened Minchah so early, especially on Erev Shabbat.
Harav Yitzchak said, “Yes, I am waiting for the rioters. They plan to attack the Jewish community in Tulal, and I have decided to be moser nefesh on their behalf, and thus abate the decree.”
Harav Yitzchak sat and wrote a piyut, in honor of Shabbat, called Yom HaShvi’i. As he was sitting and writing, the rioters came past and stabbed Harav Yitzchak. He was buried before Shabbat in nearby Tulal. Until today, his kever is known as a place of yeshuot, and many travel there on the yahrtzeit.
Harav Yitzchak’s only son was Harav Abba Abuchatzeira, the son-in-law of Harav David Abuchtzeira, known as Ateret Rosheinu. Harav Abba’s son was Harav Yitzchak, who lived in Haifa.
Hashem yinkom damo.
HaRav Dovid Shapiro of Yerushalayim, zt”l, author of Bnei Tzion, (5731 / 1971).
HaRav Aryeh Kaplan, zt”l, (1935 - 5743 / 1983). an American author and scholar who inspired thousands of Jews to return to Jewish observance. Born in New York City, Rav Aryeh had a prolific but tragically brief career, producing over 60 works. After his early education in Torah Vadaat and Mir Yeshivot in Brooklyn, he studied at the Mir Yeshiva in Yerushalayim. He also received a master's degree in physics and was listed in the Who's Who in Physics and applied the same analytical approach to the study of "metaphysics.". He possessed an encyclopedic command of Jewish literature, and he produced over 60 books on philosophy, Jewish law and kabbalah. The Jewish world mourned his untimely death at the age of 49.
HaRav Elazar Hendeles, zt”l, close aid to the Gerrer Rebbes (1913-2004). Born in Lodz, Poland, he made aliya in 1937. He was a confidante of the Lev Simcha and was a loyal messenger of the Beit Yisrael, establishing homes for refugees, working on hachnasat kalla, helping the sick and poor, and establishing Orthodox communities in Tel Aviv, Ashdod, and Arad.
HaRav Daniel Frisch of the Toldot Aharon community, zt”l, (1935 - 5765 / 2005). After surviving the Holocaust, he became a mekubal in Yerushalayim. Among other works, he wrote a peirush on the Zohar entitled Matok M'Dvash. In it, each day has two tracks. One track describes three ways for a person to improve in his relationship with Hashem, based on that day's sefirot. The second track describes three ways that the sefirot relate to a person's behavior Bein Adam L'Chaveiro. The 34 page forward gives depth and insight to the avodah of the days of Sefira and the importance of Tikun HaMiddot. He also wrote a little booklet in Hebrew called "U'Sfartem Lachem," which provides a day-by-day guide to the sefirah period, based on the 49 combinations of the seven sefirot. His Otzar HaZohar is a 4-volume index of topics of the Zohar. His sefer Kavanot HaBrachot is a guide for having appropriate focus on each bracha. He also wrote a guide for the relationship between husband and wife called Kedusha VeTzniyut, as well as A spiritual guide and musar for young boys reaching Bar Mitzvah, to help them ascend higher, called Yemei HaBacharut veBar Mitzvah.
15 Shvat - Tu B'Shvat - Rosh HaShana
Today is Tu B'Shvat (the 15th of Shvat) which marks the beginning of a "New Year for Trees." This is the season in which the earliest-blooming trees in Eretz Yisrael emerge from their winter sleep and begin a new fruit-bearing cycle.
Halachicly, the New Year for Trees relates to the various laws of Maasrot, Orlah, Neta Riva'ei, (tithes that must be separated from produce grown in the Holy Land) and according to some, Shemittah. We mark the day by eating fruit, particularly from the "Seven Species" that are singled out by the Torah in its praise of the bounty of the Holy Land ("...a land of wheat, barley, grape vines, fig trees, pomegranates, a land of olive trees and (date) honey)." (Devarim / Deuteronomy 8:8).
According to our sages, the significance of the New Year for trees to mankind is based on the following Torah verse (Devarim / Deuteronomy 20:19), "Ki Ha'adam Eitz Ha'sadeh" - "Man is compared to a tree."
For more on Tu B'Shvat go here.
15 Shvat - 1492:
The First Chumash with Megillot was printed. ·
15 Shvat 5428 - Jan. 28, 1668:
The forced races of near naked Jews through the streets of Rome during carnival time (the Palio) - first introduced by Pope Paul II in 1464 - was cancelled after the Jews of Rome agreed to pay a special tax.
15 Shvat - Feb. 10, 1880:
Death of Adolphe (Isaac) Cremieux, a Jewish lawyer, orator, French Minister of Justice and founder of the Alliance Israelite Universelle (1796-1880). The most influential French Jew of his time, Cremieux was the paragon of the modern assimilated late nineteenth century. The Alliance was responsible for thousands of Jews abandoning Jewish observance.
15 Shvat 5685 - Feb. 9, 1925:
The Technion opened in Haifa, becoming Israel's first modern university. Albert Einstein served as president of the first Technion Society. Today, Technion graduates comprise the majority of Israeli-educated scientists and engineers, and Israel is now home to the greatest concentration of high-tech start up companies anywhere outside of the Silicon Valley. High-tech industry accounts for more than 54% of Israel's industrial exports. In Israel, nine out of every 1,000 workers are engaged in R&D, nearly double the rate of the U.S. and Japan. More achievements: The Technion is credited with the birth of fiber-optics. In 1998, the Technion became the fifth university worldwide to successfully design, build, and launch its own satellite. In 2004, two Technion professors received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their research in the protein breakdown in cells.
15 Shvat 5691 - Feb. 2, 1931:
The First siyum HaShas of the Daf
Yomi cycle was celebrated.
15 Shvat 5701 - Feb. 12, 1941:
The Ghetto in Lodz was
established by Nazi decree.
15 Shvat 5709 - Feb. 14, 1949:
The first session of
the Knesset in Yerushalayim.
15 Shvat Yahrtzeits
HaRav Chaim Mordechai Margulies, zt"l, author of Shaarei Teshuva (5583 / 1823).
HaRav Gedalya Aharon (ben Rav Yitzchak Yoel) Rabinowitz of Linitz, zt"l, author of Chen Aharon (1877).(Others 5638 / 1878). Born in 5575 / 1815, he was orphaned at a young age. He learned under Harav Yisrael of Ruzhin, Harav Moshe Tzvi of Savran, and Harav Shmuel of Kaminka.
He married the daughter of Harav Shmuel Abba Shapira, the son of Harav Moshe of Slavita, a scion of the Koritzer dynasty. The couple lived in Reb Shmuel Abba’s home until 5599 / 1839, when they returned to Linitz. There Reb Gedalyah Aharon was appointed successor to his father, as Rebbe and Rav of the town.
In 5602 / 1842, for an unknown reason, Reb Gedalyah Aharon moved to Sokolovka, a small town near Linitz. He resided there until 5628 / 1868.
Although Reb Gedalyah Aharon was known for his greatness in Torah, he barely ever delivered public divrei Torah. He led the chassidim in the Koritzer style, as he had seen in the home of his father-in-law.
Reb Gedalyah Aharon was nearly taken away by the Russians to Yeruslav, but he was forewarned and managed to escape to Romania, where he spent the last 10 years of his life. He was niftar on 15 Shvat 5638/1878, at the age of 63.
One of his chassidim in Romania compiled many of his divrei Torah and published them under the name Chen Aharon.
Reb Gedalyah Aharon’s sons were Harav Yitzchak Yoel of Kantikozbah; Harav Pinchas of Sokolovka; Harav Yosef, Rav in Boheflah; and Harav Yaakov of Tcherkas. His sons-in-law were Harav Yaakov Shimshon Chodarov; Harav Shaul, Rav in Chatin; and Harav Yaakov Leib of Lubashov.
HaRav Shlomo Dovid Yehoshua Guterman of Radzimin, zt”l, (5663 / 1903).
HaRav Rafael Shlomo Laniado, zt"l, Rosh Yeshivat Porat Yosef (5685 / 1925).
Harav Refael Shlomo Laniado was born in 5636 / 1876 in Aleppo, (Aram Tzovah/Chalab), Syria. His father was Rav Meir. The family was the fourth generation of the Rabbinic Laniado family in Aram Tzova, beginning with Harav Shmuel Laniado.
While still young, Refael Shlomo displayed outstanding diligence in Torah. He learned b’iyun under Harav Yosef Yedid Halevi, later Raavad in Yerushalayim, and Harav Ezra Chamui, Rav in Aleppo. With his phenomenal memory, he could recall large portions of Shas. His understanding was comprehensive, and he was proficient in Shas,Poskim and the works of the darshanim.
Rav Refael Shlomo also excelled in Torat hanistar, learning together with Harav Avraham Adess.
Rav Refael Shlomo was active in chessed work founding the Chevrat Tzedakah U’marpei in Aleppo that cared for the poor and the ill. All his life he tended to other Jews, both in gashmiyut and in ruchniyut.
In 5660 / 1900 Rav Refael Shlomo moved to Eretz Yisrael, settling in Yerushalayim. Initially he was a Gemara teacher in the Bucharian Talmud Torah.
A few years later, in 5667 / 1907, the mekubal Harav Ezra Halevi Raful founded Yeshivah Ohel Moed, and Rav Refael Shlomo was appointed Rosh Yeshivah. He also taught Gemara in Beit Medrash Doresh Tzion.
In 5682 / 1922, at the urging of the Ben Ish Chai, Yeshivah Porat Yosef was founded in Yerushalayim’s Old City. When the yeshivah opened its doors, the staff of Yeshivat Ohel Moed was transferred there and Rav Refael Shlomo became its Rosh Yeshivah.
Aside from being Rosh Yeshivah, Rav Refael Shlomo also served on the beit din for the Syrian community in Yerushalayim, together with Rav Yosef Yedid Halevi and Rav Adess.
Rav Refael Shlomo took ill suddenly, though few knew about it. On Shabbat 14 Shvat, 5685 / 1925, Harav Avraham Adess had a dream during which he said “Rav Shlomo Laniado is sick.” When he woke up, he said he hoped that the dream was only devarim beteilim. On Motzoei Shabbat the sad news became public.
Late Sunday, 15 Shvat, while Rav Avraham Adess was learning, his candle flickered and then went out. He understood that Rav Refael Shlomo was niftar. An hour later, the message came that at that exact time, Rav Refael Shlomo, 49 years old, had passed on.
HaRav Baruch Kunstat, zt"l, (1885-1967), born in Pressburg , Hungary, to Rav Avraham Aryeh, a descendent of the Chasam Sofer. He studied in the yeshiva of Rav Simcha Bunim Sofer (the Shevet Sofer) and his son Rav Akiva Sofer (the Daat Sofer), he was appointed Rav of Fulda in 1907 at the age of 22. There, he married Tzipora, daughter of Rav Elchanan Moshe Emanuel, and he founded a yeshiva. After spending time in Buchenwald , he was released and moved to Eretz Yisrael. Along with Rav Yechiel Michel Shlesinger (who also escaped from the camps), he founded Yeshiva Kol Torah in 1939. It was the first Azhkenazi Yeshiva in Eretz Yisrael in which shiurim were delivered in Hebrew and not Yiddish, the format having been approved by the Chazon Ish. In his will, Rav Shlesinger, who was niftar in 1946, expressed the hope the Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach would replace him as Rosh Yeshiva.
16 Shvat 5491 - Jan. 23, 1731:
The Ramchal (Rav Moshe Chaim Luzzatto) formed his Chabura Hakdosha in Padua.
16 Shvat 5627 - Jan. 22, 1867:
Emancipation for Jews is passed by the Diet in Hungary.
16 Shvat 5725 - Jan. 19, 1965:
Francisco Franco met with Jewish representatives to discuss the legal status of the Jewish community in Spain, for the first time since the expulsion in 1492.
16 Shvat 5747 - Feb. 15, 1987:
Opening of the Ivan Demjanjuk trial in Yerushalayim.
16 Shvat Yahrtzeits
HaRav Dovid of Kolomai, zt"l, a talmid of the Baal Shem Tov (5492 / 1732).
HaRav Yona Navon, zt"l, Rav of Yerushalayim (1713 - 5520 / 1760).
Rav Yona was born in 5473 / 1713 in Yerushalayim. His father, Harav Chanoun, was one of the Gedolei Yerushalayim and a Dayan in the city.
Rav Yonah toiled in Torah all his life, despite the dire poverty in which he and his family lived.
As a bachur, he learned in Beit Medrash Beit Yaakov under Harav Yisrael Meir Mizrachi, the author of Pri Ha’aretz, who wrote of him, “A talmid who enlightens his rebbi.”
At the age of 19 he was appointed Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Gedulat Mordechai, founded and supported by the nagid Harav Mordechai Taaluk. He also taught in Yeshivat Yefaer Anavim.
Even under these new conditions, Rav Yonah still could not make ends meet, so he was forced to leave Eretz Yisrael for Italy. There he found members of his father’s family, who gladly supported him. Thus Rav Yonah was able to publish his halachic responsa in the sefer Nechpah Bakessef.
He also authored Get Mekushar, his explanations on the sefer Get Pashut of Rav Moshe ibn Chaviv, as well as Pri Mipri to refute the questions on Pri Chadash raised by the Pri Toar and the Simlah Chadasha.
Among his many talmidim was Rav Chaim Yosef Dovid Azulai, the Chida, Rav Pinchas Yosef Mizrachi, the son of the Pri Ha’aretz; and Harav Refael Chaim Sorangah.
In his Shem Hagedolim, the Chida writes of Rav Yonah: “My teacher Rav Yonah, one of the Rabbanim in Yerushalayim — there was nearly no posek like him in our region. He was a chassid and a mekubal. Due to the sins of the generation, he was plucked from our midst at the age of 47.”
Rav Yonah made numerous trips on behalf of Yerushalayim’s inhabitants.
Rav Yonah was niftar on 16 Shvat 5520/1760. He was survived by three sons: Harav Efraim, Harav Binyamin and Harav Mordechai, all talmidei chachamim.
HaRav Asher Tzvi of Ostraha, zt"l, author of Maayan HaChachmah (5557 / 1817).
HaRav Yaakov of Zabeltov (Zablatov), zt"l, (5641 / 1881).
HaRav Shalom Mordechai Hakohen Schwadron, zt"l, the Maharsham (5595 / 1835 - 5671 / 1911), also known as the Brezhaner Rav.
Harav Shalom Mordechai Hakohen was born on 27 Nisan 5595 / 1835 in the city of Zlototchov, Galicia. His father, Reb Moshe, made a comfortable living from his winery, in the town of Binov, but as his son attested, even while he was dealing with customers, he constantly learned Torah. He finished Shas six times with Tosafot and Maharsha, and mastered the entire Rambam and Tur, Shulchan Aruch, Zohar and Midrashim.
The Maharsham’s mother was a tzaddeket in her own right, a descendant of Harav Yitzchak of Drohovitz and other great luminaries.
The Maharsham’s exceptional talents and incredible memory became famous when he was still very young, and the maskilim envisioned this precious bachur as one of theirs. They gave him one of their texts on the pretense of requiring his help, hoping to entangle him in their net. Just around that time, his father traveled with his son to Reb Meir’l of Premishlan. The Rebbe turned to the innocent boy and quoted: “‘Bni, al teilech b’derech itam, mena raglecha mi’nesivasam.’ Do not read a single book before your father has censored it and given you permission to do so.” In this way he was saved from the clutches of the maskilim.
At 16 he married Yenta, the daughter of Reb Avraham Yakir, a Stretiner chassid, and spent many years with his father-in-law.
While in his father-in-law’s home, he became a close chassid of the Sar Shalom of Belz, and after his petirah he traveled to Reb Avraham of Stretin. Years later, when the Stretiner Rebbe was niftar, the Maharsham became very attached to Reb Yitzchak Eizek of Ziditchov.
The years of his financial support ended with his father-in-law’s petirah, and he returned to his hometown, Zlotochov. Since he refused to assume a rabbanut, he worked as a dealer in timber until he was 32 years old. His grandchild later said he had heard from his grandfather that in those two years as a worker he reviewed the entire Shulchan Aruch 400 times!
His fame spread, and he corresponded on halachah questions with many contemporary Gedolim. When he once met Harav Shlomo Kluger, Rav of Brodi, the Rav tried to force him to accept semichah and acquire a position, but the Maharsham refused vehemently. Harav Yosef Shaul Natansohn also tried to convince him to accept a rabbanut, but he insisted that he preferred to continue earning a livelihood as a simple Yid.
In 5627 / 1867, during the war between Austria and Germany, he lost all his assets and was finally forced to accept a rabbinical post in Potok-Zloti, near Sadigura. He later became Rav in Yoslovitch, Butchatch and then in Berzhan.
Over the years he became one of the most profound poskim, responding to over 3,800 she’eilot in halachah. He was the ultimate rabbinical authority not only for the rabbis of Galicia, Poland and even Lithuania, but for the entire Disapora. His writings are printed in the nine volumes of She’eilot U’teshuvot Maharsham.
His other writing include Mishpat Shalom on Choshen Mishpat, Darchei Shalom on Talmud and its commentators, Da’at Torah on the laws of kosher slaughter, Galui Da’at on sections 61-69 of Yoreh De’ah. (One prominent opponent on the latter book was Rav Tzvi Hirsh Shapira, author of Darchei Tshuvah, head of the rabbinical court of Munkatch.)
He gave semicha to Rav Meir Shapiro of Lublin. In addition to his scholarship, Rav Shwadron was of such exemplary character; he set aside time every morning to go into his yard and throw crumbs to the waiting birds.
While lying on his sickbed, the Maharsham overheard a dispute in learning taking place between two talmidim who had come to visit him. Speaking in whispers so as not to disturb the Rav, the two began to argue whether nowadays one should give matnot kehunah or if it would be considered an act driven by pride.
From his bed, the Maharsham murmured to himself that the answer could be found in Darchei Moshe, Hilchot Mezuzah. The startled talmidim consulted the cited source and found a clear explanation. Those who were present asked, “Rebbe, how is it possible to remember all the tiny writing of the commentaries of the Tur?”
“Have a look at what I have written in the back cover of my own Tur,” replied the Maharsham. Opening the sefer they found inscribed in the Maharsham’s handwriting, “Today I managed, b’ezrat Hashem, to finish the Tur 101 times.” This story was recounted by his talmid Reb Meir Shapiro of Lublin, zt”l.
When the Maharsham was very close to his petirah, the doctor suggested that he be given strong wine to alleviate his pain. The Maharsham refused to drink it, explaining, “A person who has drunk wine is forbidden to pasken halachot, for his thinking may not be totally clear. Since I am reaching the end of my days, I am preparing my drashah to present before the Heavenly Court. How can I drink now and confuse my train of thought? I prefer to suffer physical pain and have a lucid mind to prepare a fitting drashah.”
He was niftar on Tuesday, Parashat Yitro, 16 Shvat.
HaRav Alter Yechezkel Horowitz (1930-1994). At the age of 15, he was deported with his father to Aushwitz, then to Gluzen in Austria. His mother was nifter when he was 12, and his father did not survive the war. In 1946, he joined a yeshiva for refugees in Austria. When he was 19, he came alone to America. He met Rav Aharon Kotler and joined the yeshiva in Lakewood. At the same time, he also became a very close follower of the Satmer Rebbe. In the 1960s, he moved his family to Monsey and became part of the Kollel of Bait Midrash Elyon. In 1968, he opened his beit midrash, the Sanzer Kloiz. In 1984, the Viener Kehilla in Boro Park asked him to serve as their dayan. Thereafter, he also took on the position of Rosh Bait Din of Kehillat Adat Yereim.
HaRav Avraham Shlomo Biderman, zt"l, the Lelover Rebbe of Yerushalayim (5687 / 1927 - 5760 / 2000). Harav Avraham Shlomo was the bechor of Rav Moshe Mordechai,the Lelover Rebbe. He was born on Rosh Chodesh Adar 5687/1927 in Cracow, Poland, a leading center of Torah and Chassidut. The sandak at his bris was Harav Yeshayah of Tchechov, zy”a, the youngest son of the Divrei Chaim of Sanz, zy”a.
He was only four years old when his father decided to take up residence in Eretz Yisrael, settling in the Batei Warsaw neighborhood in Yerushalayim. He learned at the Chayei Olam Talmud Torah and later at Yeshivat Torah v’Yirah.
When his father moved to Tel Aviv in 1943, he went to learn in Bnei Brak at the Beit Yosef Novardok yeshiva. He developed close ties with the Mashgiach, Harav Mattisyahu Shetzigel, zt”l, and with the Rosh Yeshivah,the Steipler Gaon, zt”l, with whom he learned Yoreh De’ah each Friday.
He was especially close to his father, whom he served with dedication. He was his father’s confidant and dealt with many matters on his behalf, both of private concern and of importance to the chareidi public as a whole. He was especially involved in helping people far from Torah make their way to living a Torah life, and was his father’s messenger to outlying villages where he opened successful Torah learning centers.
After his marriage to the daughter of Harav Zundel Hager, zt”l, Rav Avraham was appointed Rosh Yeshivah of Yerushalayim’s Lelover Yeshivah. In 5725/1965, when his father moved from Tel Aviv to Bnei Brak, he became Rav of the beis medrash in Tel Aviv. Then, after his father’s petirah in 5784/1984, he succeeded as Lelover Rebbe, guiding his chassidim from the Lelover beit medrash in Yerushalayim.
He organized activities for Jews from the former Soviet Union and even visited the CIS to help residents there with their Yiddishkeit. His help to people was not confined to spiritual matters; he regularly and quietly helped needy families.
The Rebbe was hospitalized several times towards the end of his life. He was niftar on Motzoei Shabbat, the night of 16 Shevat 5760/2000.
After a large levayah, the procession made its way to Har Hazeitim, where he was laid to rest next to the kever of his father in the chelkah of the Lelover Rebbes.
Shvat 5180 - 1420:
Purim Saragossa (or Siracusa) was established because of a miracle in the Jewish community of Saragossa, Spain.
Scholars still debate the location of the story. Many favor Siracusa (Syracuse, on the island of Sicily) as the
location of our story some 600 years ago. (1420 or 1421). Others refer to Saragossa,
as the capital city of Aragon, Spain as the location of this miracle.
Saragossa had 12 kehillot, numbering thousands of Jews. It was their minhag to go out to greet the king with sifrei Torah from each kehillah whenever he passed by. At one point, the Rabbanim decided that this was not kvod haTorah, so they ordered the shamashim to remove the holy scrolls from their cases. This way, they could go out to greet the king with the beautiful cases while preserving the honor of the Torah scrolls.
Saragossa Purim commemorates the miracle that occurred when an apostate slandered
the Jews. He told the king that the Jews were going to honor him by parading
about with empty sifrei Torah cases, having left the holy scrolls in
the Aron Kodesh. That night, Eliyahu Hanavi appeared to the shamash
of each of the kehillot and warned him to return the holy scroll to its case, warning him to tell no one of his dream. Each of the shamashim obeyed, thinking he was the only one to have dreamt the warning. The next day, when
the king checked and found that the information was false, he killed the apostate and the Jews were saved. The Jews of Saragossa
decided to observe the 17th and 18th days of Shvat as days of prayer and joyous
thanks to the Almighty, so that their children and future generations would
remember the story of how they had been miraculously saved from destruction
at the hands of a cruel enemy. (Some sources date this miracle on 16 Shvat, as well as in 1428 or 1440).
17 Shvat Yahrtzeits
HaRav Moshe of Kitov, zt”l, (5498 / 1738).
Harav Moshe of Kitov was born on 26 Tevet 5448 / 1688, the oldest son of Harav Shlomo. Rav Shlomo’s two other sons were also Gedolim in their own right: Harav Avraham of Kossov, the father of Harav Baruch Kossover (the Amud Ha’avodah), and Harav Chaim of Horodenka, brother-in-law of Harav Nachman of Horodenka.
Reb Moshe was the son-in-law of Harav Menachem Mendel of Kolomai.
There are some who consider Harav Moshe of Kitov to be a talmid of the Baal Shem Tov; others consider him to be the Rebbe of the Baal Shem Tov, and the one who revealed the Baal Shem Tov to the world.
Harav Avraham Gershon of Kitov, zt”l, brother-in-law of the Baal Shem Tov, served as a Dayan on the beit din of Reb Moshe in Kitov. Initially, Reb Avraham Gershon was against the ways of the Baal Shem Tov, though later he became one of his most devoted followers. Although Reb Avraham Gershon’s father made the shidduch of the Baal Shem Tov with his daughter, he didn’t fully comprehend the mysterious ways of the Baal Shem Tov. He reportedly asked Reb Moshe, knowing that he had an influence on the Baal Shem Tov, to reprimand his brother-in-law and show him the correct path.
Reb Moshe was niftar on 17 Shvat 5498/1738, at the age of 50, and was buried in Kitov. He was survived by two sons-in-law: Harav Yonah Halevi of Kitov, his successor as Rav in the city, and Harav Efraim, Dayan in Kitov. He also had a son.
Some of his divrei Torah were published by his nephew, Reb Baruch Kossover, in his sefarim.
There is a kabbalah that Reb Moshe promised that any of his descendants — up to the eighth generation — who come to daven at his kever will be answered.
HaRav Yechezkel of Kazmir [Kuzmir], zt”l, (1772-5616 / 1856). Rav Yechezkel was born in Plonsk, Poland, c. 5530 /1770 (or 1772, 75, 76, or 87). His father was Harav Tzvi Hirsch, author of the Shabbat zemer Chavatzelet Hasharon. In his youth, Reb Yechezkel learned from his father, who was a gadol b'Torah v’yirah. Reb Yechezkel later married the daughter of Harav Moshe of Dvuhrt.
At a young age, Reb Yechezkel became a talmid of the Chozeh of Lublin, and traveled often to his Rebbe.
During one of his first visits he hid behind the oven, but the Chozeh immediately spotted him, stood up and declared, “Whoever wants to see the tzurah of Avraham Avinu should look right behind the oven!”
Subsequently, he became a talmid of Harav Shmuel of Karov and, after Harav Shmuel was niftar, of his successor Harav Yitzchak of Vengrov. Upon the petirah of Harav Yitzchak of Vengrov, Reb Yechezkel was crowned Rebbe in 5587/1827. Thousands flocked to his open doors.
He was the grandfather of the first Modzitzer Rebbe. After opponents of chassidut drove Rav Yechezkel out of Plonsk, he moved to Shanana. Rav Yechezkel later moved to Kuzmir. One of the most idyllic towns in Poland, Kuzmir lies next to the Vistula river, in the shadow of a fourteenth century castle, reputedly built by King Casimir the Great. A Jewish community existed there since 1406 and, by Rav Yechezkel's time, Jews comprised half the town's population. Today, Jewish visitors to Poland pass through the town to visit the surviving shul and cemetery that date back to the sixteenth century.
Reb Yechezkel emphasized the power of niggunim for spiritual elevation. He would often say, “I don’t feel an oneg in Shabbat except with a special niggun.” This unique aspect of Chassidut was inherited by the Modzitzer dynasty, which was a successor of Kuzmir.
Rav Yechezkel's Torah insights were collected by a son-in-law and published in the sefer, Nechmad MiZahav, which was reprinted, along with other divrei Torah of the dynasty, in the sefer Torat Yechezkel, in 1973. He was niftar at approximately age 85 on 17 Shvat (heard from the current Modzitzer Rebbe), and is buried in Kuzmir.
HaRav Chaim Falagi (Palagi) , zt”l, Rav of Izmir (1788-1858 [others 5548 / 1787 - 5628 / 1868]).
Rav Chaim was born on 19 Cheshvan 5548/1787 in Izmir, Turkey. His father, Harav Yaakov, was the son-in-law of Harav Raphael Yosef Chazzan, the Chikrei Lev.
As a youth, Reb Chaim learned under his grandfather, the Chikrei Lev, and Harav Yitzchak Gatinyu, author of Beit Yitzchak on Rambam, who led the esteemed “Beit Yaakov Rebbe Yeshivah.”
Rav Chaim derived much of his Torah knowledge from his grandfather, and together with him, wrote the work, Semicha L'Chaim. Reb Chaim received semichah at 25 from his esteemed grandfather but refrained from assuming a rabbinical position until he was over 40.
In 5588/1828, after his father’s petirah, Reb Chaim became a Dayan in Izmir, and also served as Rosh Mesivta in the yeshivah. With time, he began serving as Rav, and eventually, in 5615/1855, he became the Chief Rabbi of Izmir. The government also granted him and his bet din authority, enabling him to truly enforce gidrei haTorah v’hakedushah.
Reb Chaim was known for his sterling character, his nobleness and kindheartedness. He founded a hospital in Izmir, strengthened the Talmud Torah and founded the first kollel of its kind, unique in those days, in which he ensured that the talmidim received their stipend so they could live comfortably.
Reb Chaim was a prolific author with 72 known works on all topics of Jewish life. Some of his manuscripts were destroyed in the great fire which struck Izmir in 5601/1841. After the fire, his son, Reb Avraham, sat with him as Reb Chaim recounted by heart the content of some of the manuscripts, thus rewriting them from scratch.
The most famous of his works are Kaf Hachaim and Moed L’chol Chai. He also wrote twenty-four books on halacha, fifteen on midrashim and homiletics, nine on chiddushim on Bavli and Yerushalmi, seven on Tanach, five on various other subjects and three mussar works. He also wrote a sefer called Tenufat Chaim.
The Turkish government accorded Rav Palagi the honor due to royalty.
When asked to what he attributed his long life, he enumerated 10 acts that bring longevity -- including attending to one's parents, despite their mental infirmity.
HaRav Yehuda Chitrik, zt”l, (1899-2006). A Lubavitcher chassid known for his encyclopedic memory, and for passing on the chassidic mesora of previous Rebbes. A book of translations of his stories, "From My Father's Shabbos Table," was published in 1991. Rabbi Chitrik was born in Russia and was sent by his father at the age of 15 to study at the central Lubavitch yeshiva near Smolensk, Russia. After World War II, he moved to the Netherlands and then to Montreal. He moved to New York City in 1983 after the death of his wife. He is survived by well as over 300 children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
18 Shvat 5188
King Alfonzo V ordered the Jews of Sicily, Italy to attend conversion sermons and convert to Christianity.
18 Shvat 5399 - Jan. 23, 1639:
With the inquisition having arrived on American shores, 12 Jews were killed Al kiddush Hashem at an Auto Da Fe in Peru, Hy'd. (Some have the number killed as more than 80 and in Mexico).
Of the sixty-three Jews who were condemned at the time to various punishments, eleven were burnt alive at the stake, along with the body of a twelfth, who had committed suicide during the trial.
Amongst those burnt was Manuel Bautista Perez, reported to have been the richest man in Peru at the time, as well as Francisco Maldonado de Silva, a surgeon, poet, and philosopher who was seized in Chile in 1627, and remained in the dungeons of the Inquisition for nearly twelve years. His devotion to his faith never wavered; while in prison he even converted two Catholics to Judaism!
18 Shvat 5740 - Feb. 5, 1980:
Following its peace treaty with Israel, the Egyptian parliament voted to end its economic boycott of Israel. The Arab boycott was formally declared in 1945, stating that Arab countries would not do business with Israel, nor with any company which sold products to Israel. (Officially, the boycott extended its blacklist one step further, to include any company that did business with a company that did business with Israel.) The objective of the boycott was to isolate Israel from the international community, and deny it the ability to build military and economic strength. In 1977, the U.S. Congress passed a law prohibiting American firms from cooperating with the Arab boycott. Companies such as Pepsi, which had long observed the boycott, now began selling in Israel. In recent years, with greater peace overtures between Israel and Arab neighbors, the boycott has withered in strength, though it remains official policy of most Arab countries.
18 Shvat 5746 - Jan. 28, 1986:
The Space Shuttle Challenger disintegrated 73 seconds after the launch of its mission, when an O-ring seal in its right solid rocket booster failed. All seven crew members were killed, including Judith Resnik, 36-year-old Jewish American. Challenger was one of two space shuttles destroyed during a mission, the other being Columbia in 2003 which included Israeli Ilan Ramon.
18 Shvat Yahrtzeits
HaRav Yaakov Margulies, zt”l, Av Beit Din Nuremberg (1492 [others state 1501 or 1520]). Author of Seder Haget V'hachalitza, which is quoted extensively by the Rema. His son, Rav Isaac, was a Rav in Prague and was the one who compiled his father's sefer.
HaRav Yisrael Yonah Landau, zt”l, author of Maayan Habrachot, (5584 / 1824).
HaRav David Heilprin of Sadigura, zt”l, (5581 / 1821 – 5654 / 1894).
Harav David Heilprin was born in 5581/1821. He was the son of Harav Yaakov Yosef of Berditchev, a descendant of the Seder Hadorot.
He married Rebbetzin Leah, the daughter of Harav Yisrael of Ruzhin. Reb David was known as a ben aliyah, and chassidim would throng to the Rebbe’s son-in-law to receive guidance and chizuk in their avodat Hashem.
After the petirah of his illustrious father-in-law, some chassidim wanted to accept him as Rebbe, but he refused.
It is said that his father-in-law once gave him a brachah that all his wishes be fulfilled. Reb David responded, “And that’s all?” The Ruzhiner Rebbe wondered, “What is there to add to such a brachah?” Reb David replied, “There are things that do not even come to the mind of a person to want. For example, did I ever think that I would have the privilege of being the son-in-law of the Rebbe?”
The Ruzhiner then bentched his son-in-law that all his wishes should be fulfilled — even those that he had not thought of.
After his petirah on 18 Shvat, he was buried near his father-in law, in the beit hachaim of Sadigura.
The Vasloi Rebbes are direct descendants of Reb David, bearing his last name, Heilprin.
HaRav Binyamin Beinish Finkel, zt”l, Rosh Yeshivah of Yeshivat Mir (1911or 1912 - 5750 / 1990). Born on Yom Kippur 5672 / 1912 in Mir, Poland. His father was the illustrious Harav Eliezer Yehudah Finkel.
During his youth he learned with great hasmadah. He was taught primarily by his father, who would learn with the young boy up to five pages of Gemara every morning, review whatever they had studied the day before, and then ask his son for a chiddush.
In his teens he learned in Mir, where he was one of its most outstanding talmidim. In 1931, he traveled to Radin to learn under the Chofetz Chaim, and and in 1934-35 he learned under Rav Yitzchak Zev Soloveitchik, the Gri”z of Brisk.
During World War II, Yeshivat Mir moved first to Japan and then to Shanghai, from where Reb Eliezer Yehudah and his family (with the exception of his son-in-law, Harav Chaim Shmuelevitz) ascended to Eretz Yisrael.
Reb Eliezer Yehudah invested much effort to gain entry visas to Eretz Yisrael for the many talmidim left behind in Shanghai, but his efforts bore no fruits. In 5704/1944 he founded Yeshivat Mir of Yerushalayim, where he served as Rosh Yeshivah until his petirah in 5725 / 1965.
After arriving in Eretz Yisrael, Reb Binyamin Beinish was sent by his father to the Chazon Ish to ask when the yeshivah in Shanghai should keep Shabbat, since Shanghai is located near the International Dateline and may be considered on one side of the dateline or the other, depending on halachic opinion. Reb Binyamin Beinish became close to the Chazon Ish, and upon his advice married his niece, a daughter of Harav Shmuel Greineman, the Chazon Ish’s brother-in-law.
After his marriage, Reb Binyamin Beinish became a maggid shiur in Yeshivat Beit Baruch in Yerushalayim, founded by his father. Later, he began delivering shiurim in Yeshivat Mir, and became its Rosh Yeshivah after his father’s petirah.
Reb Binyamin Beinish’s honesty and integrity in money matters were striking. At first he refused to take a salary as maggid shiur, and even after he was forced to take one, the money would somehow reappear in the yeshivah’s account.
He lived a simple lifestyle; material possessions did not mean anything to him. His house was sparsely furnished with only the most basic necessities; his was a life of Torah and kedushah.
He would go out of his way to make others feel happy and important. Often, when walking home from yeshivah, immersed in Torah thoughts, he would stop and say a few encouraging words to a passerby or a broken-hearted Jew.
In Cheshvan of 5750/1990 Reb Binyomin Beinish fell gravely ill, and on 18 Shvat he returned his pure soul to its Maker.
HaRav Avrohom Moshe Weintraub of Markishov, zt”l, Talmid and successor of Rav Tzadok HaKohen of Lublin (1915).
19 Shvat 5109 - Jan. 9, 1349:
In the wake of the Black Plague, raging throughout Switzerland, poison was reported to have been found in the wells at Zofingen. Some Jews were put to the "Dümeln" (thumbscrews) test, whereupon they "admitted" their guilt of the charges brought against them. This discovery was then communicated to the people of Basel, Zurich, Freiburg-im-Breisgau, and even Cologne. In the medieval town of Basel, Switzerland, where the Jewish community had flourished until 1348, the Christians constructed wooden houses on an island in the Rhine, gathered all the Jews (700) inside them, and burned them alive, Hy"d. Their children, who were spared, were taken and forcibly baptized.
In modern history, Basel became better known as the host of the first Zionist Congress in 1897. Ironically, on this date in 1949 -- exactly 600 years after the massacre in Basle -- the State of Israel elected its first president, Chaim Weizman.
19 Shvat 5558 - Feb. 5, 1798:
After the occupation of Rome by General Berthier, the local republicans dethroned the Pope and Jews removed the yellow badge..
19 Shvat Yahrtzeits
HaRav Binyamin Zev (ben Asher Anshel) Shapiro, zt”l, of Prague (5478 / 1718).
HaRav Yitzchak Baruch Sofer, zt”l, father of the Kaf Hachaim (5665 / 1905)
HaRav Shmuel Weinberg of Slonim, zt”l, the Divrei Shmuel (5621 / 1860 - 5676 / 1916). Born in 5610/1850, (or 5621 / 1860), he was the son of Harav Yechiel Michel Aharon and a grandson of Harav Avraham of Slonim, founder of the Slonimer dynasty and author of Yesod HaAvodah.
His father-in-law was Harav Avraham, son of Harav Shlomo Leib of Lentchna.
Reb Shmuel learned Torah and Chassidut under his grandfather, the Yesod HaAvodah; Harav Chaim of Sanz, the Divrei Chaim; Harav Avraham of Chechanov; Harav Dovid Moshe of Tchortkov; Harav Mordechai Shraga of Husyatin, and Harav Yochanon of Rachmastrivka.
He visited Eretz Yisrael twice in his early years.
After the petirah of his grandfather, the Yesod HaAvodah, on 11 Cheshvan 5644/1883, the Chassidim appointed Reb Shmuel as their new Rebbe, although he was only 34 years old.
Initially Reb Shmuel refused to accept, as he wrote in a letter to Harav Dovid Moshe of Tchortkov: “Have mercy on my forlorn soul, which is surrounded by troubles. The Chassidim are mistaken about me. Woe to me if I accept their proposition. They will be left without a real leader, and I will have lost my portion in both worlds. Maybe it would be correct for me to leave the country.”
As Rebbe, Reb Shmuel was active on behalf of Klal Yisrael in ruchniyut and in gashmiyut. Together with the Chofetz Chaim, Reb Shmuel founded an organization to help fund Talmudei Torah, and for building and maintaining mikvaot.
Reb Shmuel was the Nasi of Kollel Reisin in Eretz Yisrael, known as the leading kollel in Teveria, and sent many of his Chassidim to settle in Teveria. In 5659/1899, Reb Shmuel opened Yeshivat Ohr Torah in Teveria, at the site of the kever of Rabi Meir Baal Haness, which still exists today.
On 19 Shvat 5676/1916, during World War I, Reb Shmuel was niftar in Warsaw. He was 66 years old.
Some of Reb Shmuel’s divrei Torah on Bereishit and Shemot and on various Torah topics were published posthumously as Divrei Shmuel.
He was succeeded by his sons Rav Yissachar Leib and Rav Avraham, the Beit Avraham.
HaRav Shimon Greenfeld (Grunfeld) of Semihali (Szemihaly), zt”l, the Maharshag (5621 / 1860 - 5690 / 1930).
Harav Shimon was born in Chust, Hungary, on 4 Cheshvan 5621 / 1860. His father, Harav Yehudah Grunfeld, was Rav of Semihali. The family descended from the Tosafot Yom Tov.
As a bachur, Reb Shimon learned in the yeshivah of Harav Avraham Yehudah Schwartz, the Kol Aryeh, in Bergsas. Later he learned under the Maharam Shick, his rebbi muvhak.
Married at 16, he continued to learn day and night. At 34, he became Dayan in Munkacs. In 5668 / 1908 he was appointed Rav of Semihali, succeeding his father. He was notable for his humility and exalted middot. He was also well versed in Torat hanistar, which he learned under Harav Yitzchak Eizik Weiss, Rav in Swalieva.
The many halachic she’eilot addressed to him are printed in the three-volume She’eilot U’Teshuvot Maharshag, which contains thousands of teshuvot. He was also the author of Zehav Shva on Torah and Maharshag al HaTorah. Other works remain in manuscript form, including his chiddushim, many masechtot of Shas, hilchot mikvaot and hilchot taaruvot.
Reb Shimon was niftar on 19 Shvat 5690/1930 at the age of 69.
His nephew and talmid, Rav Shmaya, was the first Rav of the Satmar Kehilla in Montreal.
HaRav Elimelech Menachem Mendel Landau, zt”l, first Admor of Strikov (5619 / 1859 - 5696 / 1936).
The Strikover Rebbe was born in 5619/1859. His father was Harav Dov Berish of Biala, the son of Harav Avraham Landau of Tchechonov. He was named Menachem Mendel after the Kotzker Rebbe; the name Elimelech was added a year before his petirah, during an illness.
Reb Menachem Mendel strove to reach great heights in avodat Hashem, all the while remaining unassuming and subjugating himself to his Rebbes.
After the petira of Rav Yitzchak of Vorka in 1848, the majority of Vorka Chassidim chose to follow Reb Menachem Mendel's father. After his father's petirah in 1876, none of the sons were willing to accept leadership, so the Chassidim followed Rav Dov Berish's primary talmid, Rav Yechiel of Alexander. Reb Menachem Mendel and his brothers moved to Alexander to follow Rav Yechiel, and - after his petirah in 1894 - his son, the Yismach Yisrael. When the Yismach Yisrael died childless in 1910, Reb Menachem Mendel's brother, Reb Aharon Tzvi founded a court. Only when he passed, did Menachem Mendel accept leadership of the Chassidim and set up court in Strikov.
His dynamic personality, his vast erudition in all aspects of the Torah, including Kabbalah, and his unique style of leadership drew Chassidim from all corners of Poland.
The Rebbe was an outstanding Gaon. The great Gedolim of prewar Europe were constantly amazed by the Rebbe’s vast knowledge, especially in areas of issur v’heter.During WWI, the Rebbe was forced to flee to Lodz. After World War I, he settled in the town of Zhgierzh, adjacent to Lodz, and founded Yeshivat Beit Aharon, named after his brother. During his time, 150 batei medrash of Strikover chassidim were scattered throughout Poland. He visited Eretz Yisrael twice, and founded Yeshivat Zechusa DeAvraham.
During his second visit to Eretz Yisrael he fell ill and suffered greatly. Many tefillot were said for his refuah, and the name Elimelech was added. Upon his return to Poland, his health required him to move to Otvotzk, a resort town near Warsaw. There he remained and continued to serve his Creator with mesirut nefesh until his petirah on 19 Shvat 5696/1936. After his petirah, he was replaced by his son, Rav Yaakov Yitzchak Dan, the rav of Kinov, who led the group until he perished al kiddush Hashem in 1944.
His divrei Torah were printed in Maggid Devarav L'Yaakov and in Bayeshishim Chachmah.
HaRav Shmuel Carlebach, zt”l, (1927-1999). Educational director of the Bnei Brak Or Hachaim Seminary and the Bait Yaakov Seminary of Ashdod. Born in Frankfort, Germany. He was sent to Belgium during the War. In 1939, the Carlebach family settled in Tel Aviv. Reb Shmuel merited to be one of the first students of Yeshivat Kol Torah under Rav Yechiel Michel Schlesinger, its founder. In 1946, he learned at Ponovezh and became close to Rav Abba Grossbard and Rav Eliyahu Dessler. After his marriage in 1951, he continued his studies at the Ponovezh Kollel In 1954, Rav Wolf asked him to direct the Or Hachaim Seminary for girls. He headed this institution for thirty years. In1985, he was appointed head of the Seminar Avot of the Ponovezh Institutions of Ashdod, and the educational director of Be'er Miriam in Bnei Brak, and remained in those capacities until his final day.
HaRav Hershel Mashinsky, zt”l, (1925-2004), co-founder of Kupath Ezrah of Rockland County. He began teaching at Yeshiva of Spring Valley in 1947, then after marrying Malka Leah Felsenburg and moving to Monsey, at the Talmud Torah and Mesivta Ohr Reuven.
Shvat 2196 - 1565 B.C.E.:
of Asher, the son of Yaakov Avinu. According to some accounts, this is also the date of his passing in 2073 - 1688 B.C.E.
Shvat - 1523:
printed edition of Tzror HaMor, commentary on Chumash by HaRav
Avraham Sebag was published in Venice. HaRav Sebag had been expelled from Spain in 1492, and made the unfortunate choice of
fleeing to Portugal. Their he was persecuted, his two sons
were taken from him and forcibly baptized. He buried his manuscripts to save them from confiscation
and destruction. (Unfortunately, he never saw them again). After his release from prison, HaRav Sebag made his way to Africa where
he managed to rewrite some of his works. It was this edition of Tzror HaMor that was published in 1523.
Shvat 5542 - Feb. 4, 1782:
doctors of Galicia were now allowed to treat Christian patients.
20 Shvat Yahrtzeits
Asher, the son of Yaakov Avinu. (2073 / 1688 B.C.E.),
He was also born on this date in 2196 / 1565 B.C.E.
HaRav Yosef of Yampoli, zt"l, (5572 / 1812). Son of Rav Yechiel Michael HaMaggid of Zlotskov.
HaRav Chaim Dovid "Doctor" Berenhard (Bernhard) of Pietrokov, zt"l, (5618 / 1858), famed baal teshuva known as the "holy doctor" of Pietrokov, who became a Rebbe.
Harav Chaim Dovid Berenhard was born in Zolashim, near Pietrokov. His father, Reb Yissachar Ber, was zocheh to have his only son, Chaim Dovid, in his old age; this was attributed to a brachah he received from the Rebbe Reb Elimelech of Lizhensk after he distributed a fortune for the mitzvah of pidyon shevuyim.
In his youth he was persuaded by a local maskil to leave the yeshivah and go out into the world. He left his native Poland and traveled to study in Breslau, an unheard-of thing in those years. He was approved to serve as a doctor in Erfurt, and eventually served as a physician in the royal Prussian court.
In 5567 / 1807, during the Napoleonic wars, he returned to Poland as a doctor to the Polish Legions. He was also one of the founders and supporters of a Jewish school for Polish speakers led by the maskilim.
Reb Chaim Dovid was brought back to authentic Yiddishkeit through Reb Dovid Lelover, zy”a. After he heard that Reb Dovid Lelover healed a deathly ill patient, Dr. Chaim Dovid decided he had to seek him out. He reached Lelov on Yom Kippur, while the local Yidden were davening and this awoke in him memories of his past.
He was later taken by Reb Dovid Lelover into his private room. They spoke for a long time, and when Reb Dovid returned to the anxious Chassidim in the beit medrash he told them it was worth the delay, as he was now able to return a neshamah to its right path. After Yom Kippur, Reb Dovid bade farewell to Reb Chaim Dovid, and the doctor returned home. His wife, too, was inspired by Yidden davening on that Yom Kippur, and she, as well, wanted to return to her roots.
Thus, in their thirties (the exact year is unknown), both Reb Chaim Dovid and his wife became sincere baalei teshuvah. His parents were overjoyed; now the brachah of the Rebbe Reb Elimelech was fulfilled and they had a son, a tzaddik. From then on, he was no longer called Professor, but rather Reb Chaim Dovid Doctor. He is considered the most famous baal teshuvah in chassidic history.
At the wedding of Reb Dovid Lelover’s son he made an agreement with the Chozeh of Lublin that the Chozeh would heal his neshamah, while he would heal the Chozeh’s body.
Reb Chaim Dovid spent many hours of the day learning and davening, and became known for his strong dveikut. Following the advice of the Chozeh, he continued as a doctor. Whenever he went out to a patient, he would say Tehillim beforehand on his behalf. Sometimes he didn’t even give a prescription to a patient, giving shirayim from Shabbat instead. From those who couldn’t pay, he didn’t request payment.
Reb Chaim Dovid was niftar on 20 Shvat 5618 / 1858, and was buried in Pietrokov. There is an ohel on his kever, and it is still visited today.
HaRav Meir Mordechai Dovid (ben Yisrael) Ungar, zt"l, Stavnitz-Dombrover Rebbe (1851-1948). Born in Stavnitz, where his father served as Rav, he moved to Dombrov after his marriage. He moved to New York in about 1908, eventually opening a beit midrash in his home on East Eighth Street in the Lower East Side, and becoming a popular Dayan.
HaRav Ovadyah Hadaya, zt"l, (5650 / 1890 - 5729 / 1969), Rosh Yeshivat Beit El.
He was born in Aleppo, Syria, in Tevet 5650 / 1890. His father, Harav Shalom, was a descendant of a famed family of Rabbanim of Aleppo.
The family moved to Eretz Yisrael and settled in Yerushalayim. Rav Ovadyah learned in Talmud Torah Doresh Tzion and later in Yeshivot Chessed L’Avraham and Tiferet Yerushalayim.
As a bachur Rav Ovadyah was already regarded as one who was destined to become a leader of Klal Yisrael. He was especially known for his phenomenal memory, not forgetting anything he learned.
When Yeshivat Porat Yosef was founded in Yerushalayim’s Old City in 5683/1923, Rav Ovadyah served as one of the Roshei Yeshivah. A part of the yeshivah was Yeshivat Oz V’hadar, dedicated to the learning of Kabbalah. Rav Ovadyah served as shliach tzibbur in the yeshivah, leading the tefillot according to the kabbalistic lessons of the Arizal.
On Rosh Chodesh Elul 5699/1939, Rav Ovadyah was appointed Chief Sephardic Rabbi; later he sat on Yerushalayim’s Beit Din Hagadol.
He was Rosh Yeshivah of Yeshivat Beit El (kabbalah) for 30 years.
Rav Ovadyah is best known for his eight volume She'elot U'teshuvot Yaskil Avdi in which his greatness — as well as his clarity in Torah and halachah — is evident. Seven volumes were published in his lifetime, the eighth volume was published posthumously.
He also wrote She'elot U'teshuvot De'ah Vhaskel, responsa on Kabbalah; Vayikach Ovadyahu, a collection of his drashot, Eved Hamelech on the Rambam, and Avda D'Rabbanan, his chiddushim on Shas.
Rav Ovadyah was niftar on Shabbat afternoon, Parashat Yitro, 20 Shvat 5729 / 1969, while learning at home, after having received the aliyah of the Aseret Hadibrot. His life ended as he grasped a sefer.
HaRav Ezra Attiah, zt"l, (1970).
HaRav Avraham Abba Freedman, zt"l, (1920-2002). He was sent from Brooklyn to Detroit in 1944 by his rebbe, Rav Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz in order to help launch the day school that had been established there by Rav Simcha Wasserman. On his first Shavuot there, the only two people to stay up learning Torah were Rabbis Freedman and Wasserman. Rav Freedman is credited with the growth of Detroit into a Torah metropolis, including a yeshiva ketana, a mesivta, a Bait Yaakov, a beit medrash, and a kollel.
21 Shvat 363:
Roman Emperor Flavius Claudius Julianus (whom the Christians call "Julian the Apostate") gave permission to the Jews to start rebuilding the Beit Hamikdash. His death in June 26, 363 in a war with the Persians put an end to the plan.
21 Shvat 5417 - Feb. 4, 1657:
Lord Protector of England in the 17th century, issued the first residence permit
to a Jew (one Luis Carvajal), since the expulsion of all Jews from England by King Edward I in the year 1290. The edict of expulsion had been officially overturned in the previous year, 1656. The re-admittance of Jews into England was partially due to the efforts of the great scholar Rabbi Menasseh Ben Israel.
Shvat 5535 - Jan. 22, 1775:
The Jewish homes on the outskirts of Warsaw, in a settlement known as
"New Yerushalayim / Jerusalem" were demolished, after which the Jews of Warsaw were expelled.
21 Shvat 5535 - Jan. 22, 1775:
Pope Pius VI (1717-99), pope (1775-99)) reinforced all existing anti-Jewish legislation as part of his campaign against liberalism in his "Editto Sopra Gli Ebrei." The 44 clauses included prohibitions against possessing talmudic writings and erection of grave stones. They also forbade Jews from passing the night outside the ghetto under pain of death. The regulations were in effect until the arrival of Napoleon's army 25 years later.
21 Shvat 5708 - Feb. 1, 1948:
A car bomb exploded in front of the Palestine Post (known today as the Jerusalem Post) building on Havatzelet Street in Yerushalayim. A stolen British police pickup loaded with half a ton of TNT pulled up in front of the Post building. Five minutes later, a second car pulled up: Its driver lit the fuse and drove away. Three people were killed and dozens injured. The bomb destroyed the printing press; its aim was to stop the growing international influence of Yerushalayim's only English language newspaper. (Further, since most Israeli newspapers were published in Tel Aviv, the Post was the only source of news in Yerushalayim during the Arab siege.) The bombing was perpetrated by the Arab militia, assisted by former British soldiers. As an act of ultimate defiance, the Post published an edition the next morning, albeit reduced in size to two pages. Arab violence intensified leading up to Israel's independence: A few weeks later, three trucks carrying explosives blew up on Yerushalayim's Ben Yehuda Street, destroying buildings and killing 56 Jews; two weeks later another car bomb blew up at the Jewish Agency building in Yerushalayim, killing 13 people.
21 Shvat Yahrtzeits
HaRav Efraim Alankava, zt"l, one of the Rabbanim in Spain, author of Shaar Kavod Hashem, (5202 / 1442).
HaRav Yehuda Leib Chaneles of Lublin, zt"l, author of Vayigash Yehuda, (5356 / 1596).
HaRav Moshe (ben Yehonasan) Galante (Galanti) II, zt"l, the Rishon LeTzion (Sephardic Chief Rabbi) of Yerushalayim (1620 - 5449 / 1689), grandson of Rav Moshe Galante the elder (1540-1614) who studied with Rav Yosef Karo. He wrote two halachic works, Elef HaMagen, which includes 1,000 responsa on various topics, Zevach Shelamim on the Talmud and Korban Chagigah on Tractate Chagigah.
He strongly argued against the popularity of Shabtai Tzvi.
His grandson was Rav Yehuda Aryeh Leib Alter of Ger, the Sfat Emet. Among his students were Rav Chizkiyah De Silva, author of Pri Chadash (which is printed in the standard edition of the Shulchan Aruch), and Rav Yaakov Chagiz and his son Rav Moshe Chagiz. Refusing to accept the title of "Chief Rabbi" that was offered to him, he coined a new title - Rishon Le'tzion,(Sephardic Chief Rabbi).
HaRav Aryeh Yehuda Navon, zt"l, author of Kiryat Melech, son of the Degel Machaneh Efraim, (5521 / 1761).
HaRav Yitzchak Shapiro of Neshchiz, zt"l, (5628 / 1868).
Harav Yitzchak Shapiro was the youngest son of Harav Mordechai of Neshchiz, zy”a. He was born about 5550/1790.
At the age of just 11 he lost his father, and was brought up in the homes of his brothers, Harav Yosef of Ostila and Harav Yehudah Leib of Kobla, zt”l.
Rav Yitzchak was a talmid of Harav Mordechai Mardosh of Paritzk, zt”l, who wrote a commentary on the Maharam Schiff.
He traveled to the Rebbe Reb Baruch of Mezhibuzh, zy”a, and to the Chozeh of Lublin, zy”a. His main Rebbe was Harav Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, zy”a, whose granddaughter he later married.
At a young age Rav Yitzchak was appointed Rebbe, and although he was his father’s youngest son, he was considered the main successor of the Neshchiz dynasty.
In 5597/1837, Rav Yitzchak was appointed Rav of Neshchiz as well.
As Rebbe, Rav Yitzchak was known for his mofsim, and he was held in the highest esteem by the Gedolim of the generation.
Rav Yitzchak was mekarev those who were far from the ways of Yiddishkeit, saying that in his court there is room for all Yidden.
Among Rav Yitzchak’s more famous Chassidim were Harav Elimelech, Rebbe of Grodzisk; Harav Moshe Yosef of Groitza; Harav Yaakov Tzvi, Rebbe of Porisov; Harav Yehoshua of Sosnovtza; Harav Baruch Shapira, Rav of Stutchin; and Harav Yosef, Rebbe of Radvill, zt'l.
Rav Yitzchak Shapiro was niftar on 21 Shvat 5628/1868, and was buried near the kever of his father.
HaRav Yaakov Yitzchak Elchanan of Peshischa, zt"l, (5633 / 1873).
HaRav Yechiel Meir Lifschitz (Lipschutz) of Gustinin [Gostynin; Gastinin], zt"l, (1816 - 5648 / 1888).
Harav Yechiel Meir, the son of Harav Yaakov Tzvi, was born in 5576/1816. In his youth, Reb Yechiel Meir was orphaned of both parents, after which he lived with his uncle, Harav Shmuel Noach Lipshitz, author of sefer Divrei Shmuel.
He married the daughter of the maggid of Gostinin, Poland, Reb Leibush, who supported the couple generously. He devoted all his energy to Torah and avodah.
The townspeople would often say about him, “Here is our tzaddik.” After his father-in-law’s petirah he opened a store, and while his wife took care of the business he toiled over his Gemara in the beit medrash.
From his youth, he was drawn to Chassidut, and he became a very close disciple of Rav Menachem Mendel of Kotsk, the Kotzker Rebbe. At the behest of his Rebbe, he accepted the rabbanut of Gostinin. He was a mere 30 years old when he was crowned Rav, and he served his community for 40 years. As Rav he was characterized as caring, yet stern; loving, yet forceful and unyielding.
He continued traveling to the Kotzker Rebbe for many years. He was considered one of his closest talmidim, and would be allowed in to the Rebbe even when the Rebbe was not seeing others.
After the Kotzker Rebbe was niftar, Reb Yechiel Meir became a talmid of the Chiddushei Harim, and after his petirah he traveled to Harav Avraham Landau of Tchechenov. It was only after Harav Avraham was niftar that Reb Yechiel Meir succumbed to the many requests of Yidden that he become a Rebbe of Chassidim in his own right.
As Rebbe he refused to accept pidyonot, and supported his family on the salary that he received from his Rabbanut. He dispersed much tzedakah and performed many maasei chessed. He led his Chassidim for 13 years, and many Yidden flocked to him for brachot and hadrachah.
Reb Yechiel Meir was named “the Tehillim Yid” because of his remarkable trait of constantly reciting Tehillim with utmost emotion and fervor. He often advised Chassidim who approached him for a brachah to recite Tehillim.
His Rebbe, Reb Avraham Tchechenover, often said, “Reb Yechiel Meir could accomplish more with his 10 kapitlach Tehillim than I could with all my davening.”
Reb Yechiel Meir would conduct a yahrtzeit seudah for his Rebbe, the Rebbe of Kotzk, one day after his actual yahrtzeit, on 23 Shvat. When questioned about this, he explained, “I know that I will leave this world either on my Rebbe’s yahrtzeit, a day later, or a day beforehand. Therefore, every year, after I live through these three days I make a seudah.”
He was actually niftar on 21 Shvat, one day before the yahrtzeit of his Rebbe!
His talmid Harav Yaakov Chaim of Lubrantz, wrote divrei hesped on his great Rebbe.
Reb Yechiel Meir’s sefarim, Merom Harim and Bechi Harim, have been reprinted and revised into a collection, Mei Hayam.
HaRav Yaakov Weidenfeld of Tchebin (Harmilov), zt"l, (5654 / 1894), the Kochav MiYaakov.
Harav Yaakov was born in Stry, Galicia, c. 5600/1840. His parents were Harav Eliezer and Rebbetzin Leah.
“Reb Leizer Reb Yaakov’s,” as his father was called, was a talmid of the Nesivot Hamishpat, and was known as a talmid chacham, especially in the halachot of Choshen Mishpat. He was a Chassid of Harav Moshe Leib of Sassov, the Chozeh of Lublin and later of Harav Yisrael of Ruzhin.
It is related that as a young boy, Yaakov could not grasp the letters of the alef-beit. His mother was worried, but Reb Leizer was not concerned; he asked the melamed to begin teaching the boy Chumash. The melamed refused; if the boy could not read alef-beit, how was he to learn Chumash? Reb Leizer instructed the melamed to teach him Chumash, even promising him Olam Haba if he complied.
As soon as he began learning Chumash, Yaakov understood all that he learned. Reb Leizer later explained that his son had such a complex mind that he could not be limited to learning the “simple” letters of the alef-beit.
Aside from his outstanding intellectual powers, Reb Yaakov was also renowned for his hasmadah and toil in learning.
Reb Yaakov went to learn under Harav Meshulam, Rav of Stanislav, and gained fame as an outstanding iluy.
He married the daughter of Harav Shabsi Hakohen Rappaport, Rav of Dombrova. While living near his father-in-law, Reb Yaakov made the acquaintance of many of the generation’s Gedolim.
At age 24, Reb Yaakov was appointed Rav and Rosh Yeshivah in Hormilov. Reb Yaakov was a kind and thoughtful person, and the people of his town appreciated his refined middot.
His fame spread and Reb Yaakov began to receive halachic queries from across Europe. Most of these teshuvot were not saved, and of those that were, many were destroyed during World War I. After the war, those that were extant were published in Kochav MiYaakov. There were more teshuvot prepared for another volume, but unfortunately these were lost in the Holocaust.
Rav Yaakov's glosses to Seder Taharot and Talmud Yerushalmi were written in one day, as is indicated by their original title, Hagahot Chad Yoma.
In winter 5654/1894, Reb Yaakov came down with pneumonia. Two days before his petirah, he still managed to sign a semichah for the Rav of Strizov.
On Sunday, 21 Shvat 5654/1894, Reb Yaakov returned his holy neshamah to his Creator.
HaRav Yechiel Yehoshua Rabinowitz, the Bialer Rebbe, zt"l, (5661 / 1901 - 5742 / 1982). Born in Biala, Poland, to Rav Yerachmiel Tzvi, the son of the Divrei Binah of Biala and a direct descendent of the Yid Hakadosh. The Divrei Binah passed away when Yechiel Yehoshua was only 4, and tragically, Rav Yerachmiel Tzvi passed away shortly thgereafter at the age of 26. In 1919, Rav Yechiel married Beila Chana Pesha, and in 1924, he was formally installed as Rebbe of Biala, and set up court in Shidlitz, with a population of 200,000 Jews. He was exiled to Siberia with his family in 1940. In 1947, he moved to Eretz Yisrael, living in Tel Aviv for 8 years before setting up his beit midrash and kollel in Zichron Moshe in Yerushalayim, where he remined for the next 27 years. He authored the sefer Chelkat Yehoshua.
HaRav Yehoshua Heshel Brim, zt"l, Rosh Yeshivat Tiferet Yisrael of Ruzhin-Yerushalayim (5746 / 1986).
Harav Brim was born in Yerushalayim in 5672 / 1912. His father was Harav Mordechai. The holy city of Yerushalayim was his home for most of his life and he thrived in its aura of holiness.
As a young boy of just nine, Yehoshua would awaken before sunrise and start learning. He learned in Talmud Torah Etz Chaim, and then in Yeshivat Etz Chaim, where he was one of the top talmidim of Harav Isser Zalman Meltzer. Later, as a Rosh Yeshivah in his own right, Reb Yehoshua would often mention the sevarot of his rebbi, Reb Isser Zalman.
Reb Yehoshua married the daughter of his uncle Harav Reuven Klapholtz.
He was called to join the elite group of talmidei chachamim in Kollel Midrash Beit Tzion, under the leadership of Harav Yitzchak Rosenthal, assistant to Harav Tzvi Pesach Frank, Rav of Yerushalayim. The products of this kollel became Gedolim, Rabbanim and Poskim. Among them were Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Harav Eliezer Yehudah Waldenberg, Harav Yisrael Yaakov Fisher, Harav Shmuel Rozovsky, Harav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv and Harav Ovadiah Yosef, zecher tzaddikim livrachah. This select group of which Reb Yehoshua was a member dealt with the halachot that apply to Eretz Yisrael.
Later, Reb Yehoshua was asked by Harav Shimshon Aharon Polonsky, the Tepliker Rav, to join his kollel.
When Harav Eliezer Yehudah Finkel arrived in Yerushalayim and re-established the famous Mirrer Yeshivah, Reb Yehoshua was a Ram in the yeshivah for close to ten years.
In 5713 / 1953, when the Boyaner Rebbe, Harav Mordechai Shlomo, expressed his wish to build a yeshivah in Yerushalayim in memory of the Ruzhiner Rebbe, Reb Yehoshua was called upon to be Rosh Yeshivah. Reb Yehoshua was able to combine the derech halimud of Reb Isser Zalman with the chassidishe bren.
Reb Yehoshua delivered both shiurim and shmuessen in the yeshivah. But most of all, the bachurim learned from his example of hasmadah and devotion.
Reb Yehoshua would lead the chassidim in commemorating the yahrtzeit of the Ruzhiner Rebbe, 3 Cheshvan, and of the Boyaner Rebbe, 5 Adar, with whom he was especially close.
When the Boyaner court was re-established with the appointment of the Boyaner Rebbe, shlita, in 5744 / 1984, Reb Yehoshua was one of its foremost chassidim.
Several of Reb Yehoshua’s children married into the Ruzhiner dynasty. His sons-in-law include the Vasloier Rebbe, shlita, and the Bohusher Rebbe, shlita.
Reb Yehoshua was niftar suddenly on 21 Shvat 5746/1986, at the age of 74.
HaRav Shabsi Shlomo (ben Yaakov Dovid) Wigder, zt"l, (1941-2010). Born in the Bronx to Lithuanian immigrants, he was orphaned of his father at an early age and learned at Chaim Berlin, then at Beit Midrash Elyon in Monsey, where he moved after his marriage. He wrote the 8-volume Likutei Halachot, and moved to Ramat Beit Shemesh.
22 Shvat 3801 - 41 C. E.:
The Roman Emperor Gaius Caligula was assassinated, and Shimon Hatzaddik, the Kohain Gadol, heard a bat kol announcing the termination of the emperor’s intention to profane the Beit HaMikdash with sculptures of idols. The day is mentioned in Megillat Taanit to be observed as a Yom Tov.
22 Shvat - 641 C. E.:
Byzantine Emperor Heraclius died. Among his crimes, he massacred the Jews of Yerushalayim, despirte their assistance in helping him conquer the city from the Persians, he forced conversion on North African Jews, and he supported riots against Constantinople Jews. His death brought relief to Jews all over.
22 Shvat - 1095:
Emperor Henry IV of Germany issued a charter to the Jews and a decree against forced baptism. He also permitted forcibly baptized Jews to return to Judaism and attempted to protect Jews during the Crusades. He was criticized by the Church for his "liberal" views.
22 Shvat 5568 - Feb. 20, 1808:
Ezekial Hart, (1767-1843), the first Jew elected to Canadian Parliament was
denied his seat because he would not be sworn in "on the true faith of
a Christian." This first officially introduced anti-Semitism into Canada.
Though re-elected in May 1808 and in April 1809, he was prevented from being
seated each time. Only in 1832 did legislation pass allowing Jews to hold public
office and giving them full civil rights.
Shvat 5701 - Feb. 19, 1941:
The Nazis raided the Jewish community
of Amsterdam and detained 429 young Jews for deportation.
22 Shvat 5701 - Feb. 19, 1941:
Some 1,100 Jews were deported from their homes in Vienna, to Kielce Poland.
22 Shvat 5755 - Jan. 23, 1995:
The National Commission of Inquiry into the disappearance of Yemenite children between 1948-1954 (the third commission of inquiry in 18 years) was appointed by High Court president Meir Shamgar. Its findings again exonerated the government of all wrongdoing in the disappearance of at least 1,700 children.
22 Shvat Yahrtzeits
HaRav Menachem Mendel Morgenstern of Kotzk, zt"l, (5547 / 1787 - 5619 / 1859), the great chassidic leader known as the Kotzker Rebbe. Born in Goray, near Lublin, Poland, Rav Menachem Mendel received a thorough Torah education from his father, Harav Aryeh Leibush Morgenstern, a descendant of Harav Yisrael Charif Halperin, Rav of Ostraha. He studied Torah under Harav Yosef Hoichgelerenter, the Mishnat Chachamim of Zamoshtch.
After his marriage at 14, his father introduced him to the world of Chasidut. Thereafter, he became an ardent follower of the Chozeh of Lublin, and became attached to his talmidim, the Yid Hakadosh of Peshischa and the Rebbe Reb Bunim of Peshischa, whom he eventually succeeded.
After the petirah of the Yehudi Hakadosh and the Chozeh, Reb Bunim of Peshischa began leading a flock, to which the Kotzker Rebbe devoted himself totally.
After his marriage to Rebbetzin Glikel, the daughter of Reb Yitzchak Eizik Reiz of Tomashov, he lived for several years in Tomashov, during which time he became known for his vast Torah knowledge and his exceptional yirat Shamayim.
Upon the petirah of his primary Rebbe, Reb Bunim of Peshischa, Reb Menachem Mendel began leading his own court in Tomashov. Reb Menachem Mendel soon moved his court to Kotzk, where he remained for the rest of his life.
The Kotzker Rebbe had one of the sharpest minds of his generation. Even his greatest opponents were amazed at the breadth and depth of his Torah knowledge.
Kotzk was like a magnet drawing multitudes of young men who worked on perfecting themselves, eventually becoming gedolei hador. The Rebbe’s speech was measured, but the Chassidim learned volumes from his every hint and gesture.
The Rebbe demanded perfection of his talmidim, and he succeeded in influencing them greatly. The Kotzker Rebbe did not seek to increase the number of his Chassidim; rather, he sought to lead an elite group that devoted itself selflessly to avodat Hashem.
The Kotzker era is considered the golden age of Polish Chassidut. The Kotzker Rebbe’s talmidim included the Chiddushei Harim, Reb Chanoch of Alexander, Reb Wolf Landau of Strikov, Reb Mordechai Yosef of Izhbitz, Reb Meir Yechiel of Gustinin, Reb Mendele of Vorka, Reb Moshe of Rozvadov, Reb Hirsch of Tomashov, Reb Elazar of Sochatchov and his son-in-law, Reb Avraham of Sochatchov, the Avnei Nezer.
After the Kotzker Rebbe’s petirah on 22 Shvat, many Chassidim became followers of the Chiddushei Harim.
R' Menachem Mendel was a new type of chassid. If the Baal Shem Tov embodied chessed, Reb Mendel represented din. While the Baal Shem sought to reach all the people, Reb Mendel knew that what he sought could only be attained by the elite. The Baal Shem lifted the people up, Reb Mendel rebuked them for their inadequacies and always demanded more. He was said to be completely uncompromising in the quest for faith, honesty and truth. He abhorred rote piety, and taught his followers that they must renew their quest for self-knowledge and truth on a daily basis. He is known for his sharp wit and catchy phrases, for example: "Where is
G-d? Wherever you let Him in."
Reb Leibel Eiger was entranced by Kotzk, to the despair of his father, Rav Shlomo. Reb Mendel and Reb Mordechai Yosef of Ishbitz had been close friends and disciples of Reb Simcha Bunim of Pshischa. After Reb Bunim's passing Reb Mendel became Rebbe. However, because of Reb Mendel's extreme aloofness the two friends were traveling on a collision course. Finally, on the Simchat Torah of 1840 there was an irrevocable split between the two and Reb Mordechai Yosef left with his chassidim to form a new chassidut. Most prominent among his students were the Chidushei Harim of Ger and Rav Chanoch of Alexander.
HaRav Yehuda Aryeh Leib Eiger, zt"l, (5576 / 1816 - 5648 / 1888), the Torat Emet. A grandson of the renowned Rav Akiva Eiger, Rav Leibel was born in Posen in 5576/1816. His father, Harav Shlomo, was Rav of the city. Young Leibel grew up on the knee of his illustrious grandfather.
When the family moved to Warsaw, Reb Leibel learned in the famous yeshivah of the Chiddushei Harim (Rav Yitzchak Meir Alter, later the Rebbe of Ger), where many top lomdim gathered.
The Chiddushei Harim attracted him to Chassidut. His father, Rav Shlomo, was upset, and sent him back to Posen where Chassidut had not yet appeared. Reb Leibel learned with his grandfather, saying later that these were his best learning years, and that he regretted not making the most of them.
The Chiddushei Harim used to say, "True misnagdim don't really deserve to be punished, because they fight chassidut for the sake of heaven. Therefore, they are punished with a punishment that is not really a punishment - their sons become chassidim."
In 5595 / 1835, Reb Leibel married the daughter of the nagid Reb Ezriel Gratenstein, and settled in his wife’s home town of Lublin. Lublin at that time was a metropolis of Chassidut, still under the influence of the Chozeh (despite his petirah several years earlier), and Reb Leibel found his place among the Chassidim. He davened in the beit medrash of the Chozeh. There, he befriended Rav Yisrael, the Chozeh's son.
The Kotkzer Rebbe lived at the time in Tomashov. Reb Leibel’s friends suggested that he join them on a nesiah to their Rebbe.
With the consent of his wife, and in spite of fierce opposition from his family and his in-laws, Reb Leibel traveled to Tomashov. His father and grandfather sent messengers to convince him to leave, but Reb Leibel stood firm: there he found his place and way of avodat Hashem, and he was there to stay. With time, resistance weakened — notably his grandfather’s, who saw that his intent was solely l’shem Shamayim.
. Under the watchful eye of the Rebbe, Reb Leibel became a devoted chassid. The Rebbe appointed as his madrich in Chassidut one of the lions of the chaburah — Harav Mordechai Yosef of Izhbitza. Reb Leibel soon became one of the foremost Chassidim.
In 5600/1839, when Reb Mordechai Yosef left Kotzk and founded his own court in Izhbitza, Reb Leibel joined him. In Izhbitza, Reb Leibel was considered the right hand of Reb Mordechai Yosef.
After the petirah of Reb Mordechai Yosef on 7 Tevet 5614/1854, Reb Leibel considered returning to Kotzk. He discussed this with Harav Tzadok Hakohen, another of the leading Chassidim in Izhbitza. Reb Tzadok returned to him with a kvittel, thus appointing him as new Rebbe.
Reb Leibel held court in Lublin, where he taught the ways of avodat Hashem. He was known for mofsim.
Despite agreeing to become a Rebbe, Reb Leibel didn’t deliver divrei Torah as long as the Kotkzer Rebbe was alive, in deference to his Rebbe. He kept many of the Kotzker ways, like lengthy preparations before davening, which were done with much emotion.
On 22 Shvat 5648 / 1888, the yahrtzeit of the Kotzker Rebbe, Reb Leibel was niftar at the age of 72 and buried in Lublin. He was succeeded by his son Harav Avraham.
Reb Leibel’s manuscripts, printed after his petirah by his son, were Torat Emet and Imrei Emet.
HaRav Yehudah Leibish Landau of Sadigura, zt”l, (5660 / 1900), author of Yad Yehudah
HaRav Yitzchak Chiyus of Brod, zt”l, (5661 / 1901).
Rebbetzen Chaya Mushka Schneerson, A'H, (1901-1991).
HaRav Yehuda Zev Segal, zt"l, the Manchester Rosh Yeshiva (5670 / 1910 - 5753 / 1993). Born in Manchester, England, (others London) on 17 Sivan 5670/ 1910 to Rav Moshe Yitzchak Segal, the Rosh yeshiva and a former talmid of the Alter of Novardok, who received smicha from Rav Yechiel Michel Epstein, the Aruch Hashulchan.
He had to attend a secular school, but his father, learned Torah with him at every available opportunity. His unique personality was apparent from a young age, and growing up in such a remarkable home immeasurably enhanced his devotion to Torah and middot.
He attended the Mir at the age of 20, where he learned with Rav Chaim Shmulevitz, and was soon known as one of its outstanding talmidim. He formed a close bond to the famed Mashgiach of Mir, Rav Yechezkel Levenstein, zt"l, whom he referred to as "mori v'rabi," while in turn Rav Yechezkel would often say, “Yehuda Zev is my son!”
In 5694 / 1934, after he married Rebbetzin Yocheved, the youngest daughter of Harav Shlomo Zalman Cohen, a prominent Gerrer Chassid from Gateshead, he learned at Gateshead, but moved to Manchester after the Germans bombed Gateshead in 1940. During World War II Reb Yehuda Zev worked tirelessly to ensure that as many Yidden as possible obtained British visas.
On April 16, 1950, he was officially inducted as Rosh Yeshiva by Rav Yechezkel Abramsky, supported by Dayan Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss (the Minchat Yitzchak), then the Manchester Av Beit Din.
The strength of the kesher he had with his talmidim as Rosh Yeshivah was unusual, reflecting his warm and caring nature. His main goal was the success of each talmid, no matter what it took. He also demanded from his talmidim a high level of kedushah and shemirah, among which was included shemirat halashon.
He is famous for initiating the Shemirat Halashon Luach, which divides the sefer Chofetz Chaim into daily segments to enable people to complete the entire sefer once a year. This began when Reb Yehuda Zev was still in Mir, where he became very active in promoting shemirat halashon. He personally studied mishnayot for the neshamah of the Chofetz Chaim every day, calling this shiur “his passport to Gan Eden,” and asked that the calendars be buried next to him. He would advise people who sought his brachot to learn this daily shiur, and there are countless miracles that occurred for those who heeded this advice.
Reb Yehuda Zev was niftar Friday night, 22 Shvat 5753 / 1993.
HaRav Shalom Flam, Strettiner Rebbe, zt"l, (1929-2003). Born in Montreal, he was the fifth of eight children born to Rabbi Dovid Flam, the Olesker Rebbe, and his Rebbetzin Sarah, the daughter of Rabbi Moshe Langner, the Strettiner Rebbe of Toronto.
23 Shvat - 1188 B.C.E.:
Today is a Taanit Tzadikim commemorating the war that Bnei Yisrael waged against Shevet (Tribe) Binyamin, after the incident of Pilegesh Begiva (Shoftim ch. 19-21). Forty thousand men of Shevet Binyamin were killed in that Civil War, which nearly wiped out the Shevet.
. According to some, today also commemorates the infamous ‘pesel Michah” as described in Shoftim 17-18.
23 Shvat - 1253:
Henry III of England ordered that Jewish worship in Synagogues must be held quietly so that Christians should not hear their prayers when passing by. He also ordered that Jews may not employ Christian nurses or maids, nor may any Jew prevent another Jew from converting to Christianity.
Shvat 5057 - Feb. 9, 1297:
of Silesia (once an independent country, divided after WWI between Poland, Germany and Austria) were ordered to wear a special cap in all public appearances, to identify them as Jews.
23 Shvat 5098 - Jan. 14, 1338:
The Ralbag (Rabbi Levi ben Gershon) celebrated the completion of his commentary on the Chumash.
23 Shvat 5678 - Feb. 5, 1918:
The Jewish Legion left England to join the Allies in liberating Palestine from the Turks. Four years earlier, Zev Jabotinsky had proposed that a Jewish legion be formed, but the British resisted the idea of Jewish volunteers fighting on the Palestinian front; this led instead to the establishment of the Zion Mule Corps. Meanwhile, Jabotinsky pursued his project of a Jewish Legion, which was eventually designated as the 38th Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers. It included British volunteers, members of the former Zion Mule Corps, a large number of Russian Jews, and later joined by a large number of American volunteers. A few years later, the Jewish Legion was demobilized by the anti-Zionist British Military Administration. Yet it would be remembered as the first organized Jewish fighting force since Roman times, and a precursor to the Israeli Defense Force (IDF)
23 Shvat 5701 - Feb. 20, 1941:
The Nazis began their liquidation of the Ghetto of Plock, Poland.
Shvat 5701 - Feb. 20, 1941:
Polish Jews were
barred by the Nazis from using public transportation.
Shvat 5701 - Feb. 20, 1941:
First Nazi transport
of Polish Jews to concentration camps left Plotsk, Poland.
23 Shvat Yahrtzeits
HaRav Aharon ben Chaim Avraham HaKohen Perachia, zt"l, (1627-1697). He was a wealthy man and was appointed chief rabbi of Salonika in 1688. He authored a responsa called Parach Mateh Aharon.
HaRav Yehoshua [Shayaa’le (Shee’a'le)] Rokeach of Belz, zt"l, fifth son and successor of Rav Shalom, the Sar Shalom, founder of the Belz dynasty (1825 - 5654 / 1894). He married a granddaughter of the Oheiv Yisrael, the Apter Rav. After Rav Shalom was niftar in 1855, the Belz Chasidim had no leader for two years. Rav Yehoshua replaced his father two years later, in compliance with his father’s wishes, despite the fact that Rav Yehoshua had 4 older brothers. He led the Belz Chasidim for 39 years. He was also the founder of Machzikei HaDat, perhaps the first Orthodox Jewish organization to be involved in government politics. Some of his discourses are published in Ohel Yehoshua, a supplement to the book of his father’s teachings, Dover Shalom. He was succeeded by his second son, Rav Yissachar Dov.
HaRav Yaakov Chaim Yisrael Refael Alfiyiah ben Harav Yitzchak, zt”l, (5683 / 1923). Born in Aleppo, Syria, c. 5623/1863, He was a talmid of Harav Mordechai Abadi, and was already recognized as a budding talmid chacham at a young age. Rav Yaakov Chaim was known as an outstanding gaon, in both nigleh and in nistar. He was also famous for his drashot, and taught many talmidim.
In 5650 / 1890, he moved, together with his family, to Eretz Yisrael, where they settled in Yerushalayim. Rav Yaakov Chaim learned in the yeshivah of the mekubalim, Beit E-l.
Rav Yaakov Chaim suffered from many illnesses throughout his life, and was niftar on 23 Shvat 5683/1923. His son, Rav Yitzchak, published his father’s work Reiach L’Yitzchak, a compilation of many Torah topics from Kabbalah to chiddushim on Tanach and Shas, based on Kabbalah; the correct nuschaot for shtarot, and drashot that he delivered before tekiat shofar, arousing the crowd to teshuvah. Other chiddushim of Rav Yaakov Chaim are still in manuscript form, including his famous correspondence with his rebbi, at the age of 17, in Masechet Me’ilah.
HaRav Yitzchak Bokovza, zt”l, (5690 / 1930), Rav in Tripoli, Libya.
Harav Yitzchak was born in Adar 5613 / 1853 in Gaves. His father, Rav Gavriel, was a respected inhabitant of the city, and his mother, Esther, was renowned for her chessed and tzedakah work. It is related that the collector for the tzedakah fund of Rabi Meir Baal Haness would stay in their home, and one night the Tanna Rabi Meir Baal Haness appeared to her in a dream and informed her that she would give birth to a son who would be great in yirah and chochmah.
When this son was born, she handled him with extra kedushah and taharah. She would wash her hands before feeding him and, from when he was three or four months old, she would only give him something to eat after she partook of the food herself, making a brachah on it, so that his eating would be covered by her brachah.
In his youth Yitzchak learned under Harav Avraham Alush, who was Dayan of Gaves.
When his father traveled to Tunisia, he took Yitzchak with him. There he learned under Harav Moshe Zamour and Harav David Jaoui.
Rav Yitzchak served as Rav in his hometown of Gaves. He was also a melamed and a shochet. Later he was appointed Dayan in Muchnin, where he served for 18 years.
Following that, he was again asked by the community of Gaves to serve as their Rav, a post he held for the next five years.
Later, he was asked by the community of Tripoli to serve as their Rav, and he remained in this position until his petirah.
Rav Yitzchak was niftar on Erev Shabbat, 23 Shvat 5690 / 1930, at the age of 77. He was buried in Tripoli. He gave instructions that at the time of yetziat neshamah, many candles should be lit, and only those who toiveled in the mikveh would be permitted to carry his mittah.
Rav Yitzchak wrote numerous sefarim: Lev Yamim on the klalim in Shas; Beisa D’Rabbanan, a list of the sefarim of the Rishonim; Ginzei Brachah on the Zohar; Lev Hamelech on Megillat Esther; Tovat Tochachot on Mishlei; Brachah U’Tehillah; Chai Yoducha on Tehillim; Beit Halachmi, his halachic responsa; Brit Yitzchak on Masechet Makkot; Korban Avi Lechem on the Torah; Mivtzar Yitzchak on Shas; and Lechem Lefi Hataf.
HaRav Moshe Kliers, zt"l, (5634 / 1874 - 5694 / 1934). Born in Tzefat,on 7 Adar 5634 / 1874. His father, Meir, was a simple Jew who labored to earn a living for his family.
Even as a child, Rav Moshe had a thirst for Torah, and was granted amazing talents by Heaven. Though he never studied in a regular yeshivah or enjoyed the tutelage of any of the great Sages of his day, he attained great heights in Torah study through siyatta diShamaya and the toil of his independent study.
When there was not even a piece of bread for him in his father’s home, he would satisfy his hunger with leftover dry bread crusts kindly given to him by a poor widow who lived near the Karliner beit medrash in Tzefat. Lacking oil to light his lamps at night, he would use lamps with wicks dipped in kerosene. The smoke gave him headaches, which he tried to soothe with wet rags. His love for Torah helped overcome all obstacles.
When he had difficulty understanding a topic, he beseeched Hashem with the verse “Ner l’ragli devarecha ve’or l’nesivasi — Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path” (Tehillim 119:105).
During those days in Tzefat, he became known to the holy Gaon Harav Mordechai Chaim of Slonim, zt”l, and began to study under him. He became very close to him, and later married Rav Mordechai Chaim’s sister.
After their wedding they settled in Teveria. Rav Moshe detached himself from the mundane and confined himself to a private room where he immersed himself in intense Torah study.
When his wife brought him his daily meals, she left them on the windowsill. At his request, she was careful never to tell anyone about his schedule.
In Tishrei of 5663 / 1902, tragedy befell him when his wife died after a difficult illness. Later, when Rav Moshe traveled abroad, he married his uncle Elisha’s daughter, who remained his devoted helpmate until his last day.
In 5668/1908, the Rav of Teveria, Reb Yechiel Michel Halperin, zt”l, was niftar. The Teveria kehillah immediately turned to Rav Moshe Kliers and, upon the advice of the Slonimer Rebbe, he accepted the position.
As soon as he became Rav of Teveria he worked on restoring the original atmosphere of Teveria, strengthening Yiddishkeit. He also acted as an arbitrator between litigants, and answered halachic questions. His fame as a posek grew, as is obvious from his magnum opus, Moreshet Moshe, which contains a diverse range of answers and decisions in practical halachah.
In response to a request by Rav Shmuel, the Slonimer Rebbe, Rav Moshe founded a yeshiva (Ohr Torah) by the kever of Rav Meir Baal Haness by the shores of the Kineret. He was involved in the Teshuva Campaign of 1914.
On the day before his petirah, on 23 Shvat, he completed Masechet Pesachim. Indeed, while advising one of his sons, he unwittingly revealed that he had completed all of Shas 36 times and certain masechtot, such as Shabbat, Eiruvin and Kesubot, more than 50 times!
Rav Moshe also authored the sefer Torat HaEretz.
HaRav Asher Eliach, zt"l, (1952-2004). Born in Yerushalayim’s Shaarei Chessed neighborhood, he learned at Yeshivat Kol Torah, where he cleaved to Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach. Later, he studied at Ponovezh under Rav Shach, Rav Povarksky and Rav Rozovsky, He learned masechet Eruvin with all of the Rishonim and Acharonim over 20 times, becoming an expert on the subject, and numerous chareidi communities consulted with him. He was involved in the setup of eruvin in every part of Eretz Yisrael, For the last 5 years of his life, he served as mashgiach at yeshivat Rabbenu Chaim Ozer. Tragically, he died suddently of a heart attack during a melava Malka.
HaRav Avraham Lopes Cardozo, zt"l, (1914-2006). Born in Amsterdam, Holland, the great-grandson of the Chief Rabbi of the Sephardim in Amsterdam, he attended Yeshiva Etz Haim in Amsterdam. In 1939 he was appointed by Queen Wilhemina to be rabbi of the Sephardic congregation in Paramaribo, capital of Surinam. He married Irma Robles of Surinam in 1951. He was appointed Chazan of the Portuguese Spanish Synagogue, Shearith Israel, in New York, in 1946, a position he kept for 40 years. On June 7, 2000, he was knighted by Queen Beatrix of Holland. He was the father of Rabbi Dr. Nathan Lopes Cardozo.
24 Shvat 3409 - 352 B.C.E:
Zechariah HaNavi (the prophet) received
the Nevuah (prophecy) that Hashem would return to Yerushalayim and the Beit HaMikdash would be rebuilt. He encourages the resumption of the building of the
Second Beit HaMikdash.
"On the 24th day of the 11th month, which is the month of Shvat, in the second year of the reign of Darius, the word of Hashem came to Zechariah the son of Berechiah the son of Ido the prophet, saying: ”...I will return to Yerushalayim in mercy, my house will be built within her...and the L-rd shall yet console Zion and shall yet choose Yerushalayim.'" (Zechariah 1:7-17).
Zechariah HaNavi (the colleague of Zechariah and Malachi), goes on to rebuke Klal Yisrael fo failing to rebuild the Beit HaMikdash after King Daryavesh gave them permission. He encourages the Jews to go ahead and begin building the Beit HaMikdash and describes the better times that lie ahead: “Hashem will have mercy on Tzion once again, and He will choose Yerushalayim once again.”
Subsequently, he prophesies about what will happen until the end of days. The well known Haftarah “Rani V’Simchi bas Tzion” (read on Shabbat Chanukah and on Shabbat Parshat Behaalotcha) is a continuation of the Nevuah (prophecy).
24 Shvat - 1195:
Ritual murder libel of the daughter of the Rav of Speyer. Although there was no proof of any wrongdoing, she was dismembered and her body was hanged in the market place for a few days. The Rav, along with many others, were killed and their houses burned. Hy"d..
24 Shvat 5209 - 1449:
New Christians (Conversos) especially the wealthy, were attacked in Toledo during a revolt against taxation. Three hundred citizens banded together to defend themselves and during one attack a Christian was killed. In response, 22 Marranos were murdered and numerous houses burned. Hy"d.
24 Shvat 5430 - Feb. 14, 1670:
Leopold I ordered Jews to be expelled from Vienna within a few months, having been persuaded to do so by Margaret, the daughter of the Spanish Regent Phillip IV, who blamed the death of her firstborn on the tolerance shown to the Jews.
24 Shvat 5539 - Feb. 10, 1779:
The Duke of Stuttgart, Germany, decreed that no Jew should be deprived of the right of residence. in Stuttgart.
24 Shvat 5677 - Feb. 16, 1917:
The First shul in Madrid dedicated after 425 years.
24 Shvat Yahrtzeits
HaRav Shaul Halevi Mortorah (Morteira), zt”l, Av Beit Din of Amsterdam, author of Givat Shaul (5420 / 1660).
Rav Shaul was born in Venice, c. 5356 / 1596. His father, Rav Yosef, was a Spanish Marrano.
In c. 5372 / 1612, at the age of 15, he moved to Paris together with Harav Eliyahu da Luna Montalto, the doctor of the Duke of Tuscany. At the request of the duke’s daughter, Marie d’Medici, who married King Henri IV of France, Rav Eliyahu moved to Paris. He too was a converso, but at that time he was permitted to live freely as a Jew, a privilege granted him as the royal physician.
In 5376 / 1616 Rav Shaul escorted the body of Rav Eliyahu Montalto from France for burial in Amsterdam, together with the son of Rav Eliyahu. At that time Rav Shaul made a positive impression on the city of Amsterdam, and the Sephardic community Beit Yaakov elected him as their leader. He gave a drashah every Shabbat, and was Rosh Yeshivah there.
In 5379 / 1639, the three kehillot of Amsterdam united: the Sephardic Beit Yaakov; Neveh Hashalom, also Sephardic; and the Ashkenazic Beit Yisrael. Rav Shaul was appointed Rav and Rosh Beit Din.
He founded Yeshivat Eitz Chaim, which attracted many of the leading bachurim.
Unfortunately, Rav Shaul did not live out his life in peace and tranquility. He was subject to a few disputes, and was forced to open a new yeshivah, Kesser Torah.
Rav Shaul delivered over 1,400 drashot, and his talmidim published a number of them under the name Givat Shaul. The sefer was published during his lifetime, and included his portrait.
On 24 Shvat (some record it as 25 Shvat) 5420 / 1660, Rav Shaul was niftar.
It is known that he had a son, Rav Dovid, who was active on behalf of Yeshivat Kesser Torah. A son-in-law, Rav Yeshayah Pardo, is also mentioned.
Besides Givat Shaul, Rav Shaul also wrote She’eirit Hanefesh, on the eternal nature of the soul, and Torat Moshe Emet, philosophical discussions. He authored works in Spanish which, though never printed, were a source of chizuk to the Marrano community.
HaRav Avraham Yechiel of Halberstadt, zt”l, author of Nezer Hakodesh (5490 / 1730).
HaRav Shlomo Margulies, zt”l, Rav of Zelitschek, a close talmid of the Baal Shem Tov (5493 / 1733 - 5565 / 1805).
Harav Shlomo Margulies was born in 5493/1733. His father was Harav Yitzchak Dov, the Rav of Yaslovitz, the brother of the famed Meir Nesivim; both were among the first talmidim of the Baal Shem Tov. His mother was a descendant of Harav Naftali Katz, the Semichat Chachamim, and he married the daughter of his uncle, Harav Avraham, Rav of Posen.
Harav Shlomo was a devoted talmid of the Baal Shem Tov; in his youth he spent an entire year in his court. Later he traveled to many tzaddikim who came to admire and cherish him.
Harav Shlomo was a great talmid chacham, and he lived a life of kedushah and taharah. He was asked to become Rav in the town of Zelitschek, and he served his community meticulously. Every Friday he would distribute funds to the needy of the town, and he tirelessly advanced peace and harmony between neighbors and friends of his kehillah.
Before he was niftar, he wrote in his will that he wished to be buried next to his mother in Yaslovitz. He also called the mayor of Zelitschek, requesting special permission for his family to take his coffin out of their town and promising the mayor that, in return, he would merit long life. The mayor complied, and lived past his 100th birthday.
Harav Shlomo was niftar in Zelitschek on 24 of Shvat, and was buried in Yaslovitz.
His son was Harav Meshulem Nosson, Rav in Berditchev, and his son-in-law was Harav Aryeh Leibush Broide, Rav of Krupitch.
HaRav Shabtai Shaltiel, Rav in Yerushalayim (5606 / 1846).
25 Shvat - Feb. 7, 1413:
In Aragon, an apostate Joshua Lorki (Geronimo de Santa Fe), known to the Jews as Hamegadef (the blasphemer), convinced anti-Pope Benedict XIII to stage a disputation at Tortosa, beginning February 7, 1413. Presided over by the Pope himself, its sixty-nine sessions lasted until November, 1414. The Jews were led by Rav Vidal Benvenisti and Rav Yosef Albo, the author of Sefer Haikarim. As the disputations failed to result in the conversion of the Jews, the pope issued a bill in which he interdicted the learning of the Talmud by the Jews, and ordered that the Talmud be confiscated and destroyed.
25 Shvat 5433 - Feb. 11, 1673:
· Charles II of England ordered the Attorney General to desist from prosecuting Jewish “offenders” of the Conventicle Act of 1664, which considered as seditious any prayer meeting of more the five persons that was not according to the Book of Common Prayer. .
Shvat 5591 - Feb. 8, 1831:
The French government under Louis Philipp gave financial support to Jewish institutions on par with
25 Shvat - Feb. 22, 1941:
A blanket decree was issued by the Nazis prohibiting the sale of anything to a Jew outside a ghetto.
25 Shvat 5730 - Feb. 1, 1970:
Israel's Eilat - Ashkelon pipeline was completed.
25 Shvat Yahrtzeits
HaRav Yechiel Mechel of Galina, zt"l,author of Nezer Hakodesh, (5490 / 1730).
HaRav Shabsai, zt"l, father of Rav Yisrael of Koshnitz, the Kozhnitzer Maggid, (5521 / 1761).
HaRav Dovid of Mikolayev, zt"l, (5560 / 1800).
Harav Dovid of Mikolayev was one of the close circle of talmidim of the Baal Shem Tov, zy”a, and later a talmid of Harav Pinchas of Koritz. His bittul to his Rebbe was outstanding, especially in light of the fact that he was a Gadol in his own right. He would walk to his Rebbe instead of riding in a carriage.
Reb Dovid served as baal Mussaf at the Baal Shem Tov’s beit medrash on Yom Kippur, and was very beloved by his Rebbe, the Besht, who attested that Reb Dovid’s tzelem Elokim came through in its entirety.
Some of his divrei Torah are printed in Yosher Divrei Emet, whose author describes Reb Dovid thus: “He looks like a malach Elokim, this talmid muvhak of the Baal Shem Tov.” A collection of all his divrei Torah is found in Kuntres Birkat Dovid, as part of the sefer Mishnat Chassidim.
He was a mechutan of Harav Zev Wolf Kitzes of Mezhibuzh; his son Reb Yosef was a son-in-law of Reb Zev.
Before his petirah, he humbly remarked, “When one goes to the market, he is asked upon his return what he brought from there. I, too, am returning from my lifelong yerid on this world. When I come up, I will be asked, ‘What did you bring along?’ What will I answer?”
Reb Dovid was niftar on 25 Shvat 5560/1800.
HaRav Yisrael Lipkin Salanter, zt"l, (5570 / 1809 - 5643 / 1883), founder and spiritual father of the Mussar (Jewish ethics) movement of spiritual growth. Born in Zager (near Kovno), Lithuania, to Rav Ze’ev Wolf Lipkin, a descendent of the Vilna Gaon. Rav Ze'ev Wolf, the Rav of the town, was the author of Hagahot Ben Aryeh, printed at the back of the Gemara.
As a child, Yisrael gained a reputation as an iluy; by age 10 he was delivering drashot to the talmidei chachamim in the local shul. When he was 12, his father brought him to Salant to learn under its Rav, Harav Tzvi Hirsch Broide, known for his tzidkut and brilliance in Torah.
At age 14, Rav Yisrael married the daughter of Harav Yaakov Eisenstein of Salant.
His primary Rebbe was Harav Zundel of Salant, who, despite his greatness in Torah, appeared to be a simple Jew and spent hours alone in the forest. Rav Yisrael would follow him secretly, watching as Rav Zundel studied mussar and conversed with Hashem. Once Rav Zundel noticed Rav Yisrael and said to him: “Yisrael, learn mussar, and you will be a yerei Shamayim.” From then on he became a talmid of Rav Zundel’s, who introduced him to the classic works of mussar.
Rav Yisrael decided that the times in which he lived did not allow him to remain a nistar. “One has to be ready to give up even one’s own Olam Haba in order to help others, to increase kvod Shamayim…” Rav Yisrael writes.
In 1840, he became rosh yeshiva of the Rameillas Yeshiva in Vilna. As Rosh Yeshivah, he realized how the haskalah movement was breaching the walls of our most hallowed institutions, and he fought it with a holy fire. He began publishing Hatevunah to fortify the yirat Shamayim of the Jews. By initiating a particular derech in mussar-study, he saved many from the temptations of haskalah. In addition, the fiery shmuessen that he delivered to the masses melted his listeners’ hearts and drew them closer to Yiddishkeit.
Rav Yisrael drew the anger of the ruling Russian authorities who attempted to confer legitimacy on the Reform movement by forcing Rav Yisrael to accept their “rabbinical” candidates. Rav Yisrael fled Vilna and settled in Kovna, where he further expanded the mussar movement and opened a yeshivah.
Rav Salanter's approach gained popularity in Lithuania, at a time when chassidic influences were growing. The idea of Mussar is to use meditations, guided imagery, and exercises to penetrate the subconscious. In this way an individual can break through the barriers that prevent the soul from expressing its purity. Mussar books such as "Path of the Just" give a road map to developing traits of humility, alacrity and purity. Rav Salanter encouraged people to set a time every day for the study of Mussar, an idea which remains popular until today.
After a number of years he moved to Germany, which had been spiritually ravaged by the Reform movement and was on a very low level of mitzvah observance. From 5617/1857 until his petirah, Rav Yisrael lived in Koenigsburg, and although he kept in constant mail contact with his talmidim, he remained there for the rest of his life.
Rav Yisrael was niftar on 25 Shvat 5643/1883 and was buried in Koenigsburg.
A compilation of his thoughts were recorded in a sefer, Or Yisrael, written by one of his closest talmidim, Rav Yitzchak Blazer of Petersburg. Among his other close disciples are Rav Simcha Zissel Ziv of Kelm and Rav Yosef Yozel Hurwitz of Novardok
HaRav Mordechai Pogramansky, zt"l, the Iluy from Telz (5710 / 1950). His body was flown from France to Eretz Yisrael for burial. Among the maspidim was Rav Eliyahu Dessler.
Rabbi Frand tells a famous story about Rav Pogramansky. Rav Pogramansky was once travelling on the train and happened to be sitting next to another Jew who was a Shochet and a Mohel. They began talking and got involved in their discussion and be came so engrossed in the topic that they missed their stop. The train continued on to another city. It was Erev Shabbat and they had no other choice but to get off the train in a strange location. The town was in the middle of nowhere and was not a Jewish village. They made inquiries and found that there was one Jew in the town. They located his house and knocked on his door Friday afternoon shortly before Shabbat. The homeowner had not seen a Jew in a long time. When he saw the two gentlemen who described their situation to him, he started crying and said he could not believe what had happened.
The previous Shabbat, his wife had given birth to a baby boy. He was not able to leave town and he did not know a Mohel would want to come to his town for Shabbat. He did not know how he would be able to arrange for his son to be circumcised on the eighth day. Then Hashem sent him not only a Mohel but also Rav Mordechai Pogramansky -- one of the great rabbinic personalities of the time -- to be the sandek!
HaRav Zerach Ephraim (ben Shlomo Zalman) Zelaznik (Zalaznik) (1931-2005), a son in law of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach. In 1956, he became one of the first talmidim in Brisk, under Rav Yosef Dov Soloveichik. He taught at Yeshiva Eretz Tzvi for most of his life (21 Adar, according to others).
HaRav Zalman Ury, zt"l, (1924-2006). A great-great-grandson of Rav Dovid Teveli, author of Nachalat Dovid, Rav Ury was born in Stolpce, Poland, and studied at Yeshiva Etz Hayim in Kletzk under Rav Aharon Kotler from 1934-1941. At the start of World War II, he was interned in a Siberian Concentration Camp, while his parents and siblings died at the hands of the Nazis. He spent the remainder of the war in Samarkand, Uzbekistan where he met his wife, Eva. They married soon after the war ended and emigrated to the United States in 1947, where he received his semicha at Lakewood. Rav Zalman received his B.S. from Washington University, St. Louis, then moved to Los Angeles in 1957. He earned his M.A. in Education from Loyola University and his Doctor of Education at UCLA. For 47 years, Rav Ury worked with the Bureau of Jewish Education, building and nurturing the yeshiva day school system. Under his direction, yeshiva enrollment in Los Angeles increased from less than 1,000 talmidim to more than 5,500, and the number of schools increased from five in 1960 to 21 by the time of his passing. He wrote over 100 articles and educational materials for journals and books, and authored the books, “The Musar Movement,” and “The Story of Rabbi Yisrael Salanter.” In 2001, he published Kedushat Avraham, a two-volume work containing chidushei Torah, mussar teachings and correspondences with gedolei Yisrael, including Rav Moshe Feinstein, Rav Henkin and Rav Simcha Wassermann, as well as an essay on his rebbe Rav Yosef Aryeh Leib Nanedik - the mashgiach at Yeshiva Etz Chaim. For many years he served as Rav of Young Israel Congregation of Beverly Hills.
HaRav Dr. Bernard Lander, z"l, founder and President of Touro College and Landers College, and Yeshiva Ohr HaChaim in Queens, where his son Rav Daniel Lander serves as Rosh Yeshiva (2010).
26 Shvat 5713 - Feb. 11, 1953:
The Soviet Union recalled its ambassador and cut off diplomatic relations with Israel.
26 Shvat Yahrtzeits
HaRav David ben Shmuel HaLevi Segal, zt”l, (1586 – 5427 / 1667), a primary Halachic authority, known as the Taz, an acronym of his famous work of Jewish law, Turei Zahav (Rows of Gold), a commentary on HaRav Yosef Karo's Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law). Now, four centuries later, "Taz" is printed in every standard edition of the Code of Jewish Law.
He was born in Vladomir in the province of Volhynia. His family was famed for their profound scholarship. His father, Harav Shmuel Halevi, was his prime teacher in his early years, and his eldest brother, Harav Yitzchak, taught him as well.
The affection between the two brothers never diminished and they continued to correspond with each other in later years, after they were separated. A portion of this correspondence has been preserved. These letters are of great interest not only because they testify to the deep friendship and love that existed between the two brothers, but because they contain an exchange of scholarly opinions on many halachic topics.
In addition to being a talmid chacham, Reb Dovid’s father was well-to-do, so the young prodigy, who had shown unusual talent for learning, was fortunate enough to grow up in an atmosphere of both wealth and learning. His happy youth stood in marked contrast to his later years, when he suffered great hardships and poverty.
The reputation of the budding talmid chacham spread far and wide, and Harav Yoel Sirkis of Brest, the Bach (from the initials of his work Bayit Chadash), selected him as his son-in-law. As was customary, Reb Dovid stayed in his father-in-law’s house for several years, during which he applied himself fully to learning Shas and Poskim. Afterward Reb Dovid and his family moved to Cracow. From there he was called to be Rav of Politsha, near Rava. During this period he suffered poverty and was stricken by other misfortunes as well; several of his children died in infancy.
Later he went on to Posen, where he remained for several years. Afterward, he became Rav of the old community of Ostroha, in Volhynia. This was in the year 5401 / 1641, and at that point his poverty had given way to a life of comfort as he earned the recognition and respect due such a talmid chacham. Here Reb Dovid founded his own yeshivah, but he found time also to write sefarim.
The leaders of this great Jewish community, many of whom were talmidei chachamim in their own right, did everything in their power to help their great and beloved leader in his work. It was through their influence and active cooperation that Reb Dovid, by nature a shy and modest man, wrote his commentary on the first two sections of the Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim and Yoreh Deah.
Turei Zahav was the name given to his phenomenal work, better known as Taz. It soon won worldwide recognition and established Reb Dovid’s name among the Gedolim of his day.
In the same year that Reb Dovid published his work (5406 / 1646) another leading Gadol, Harav Shabsai Cohen of Vilna, published a similar commentary on Yoreh Deah entitled Sifsei Cohen. He soon became famous as the Shach. However, neither detracted from the fame of the other, and they became the best of associates, although they often had conflicting opinions in interpreting the decisions of the mechaber, Harav Yosef Karo.
Several years after their commentaries were first printed; they cooperated in the publication of an edition of Yoreh Deah in which the text of the mechaber was printed in the center of the page, flanked on one side by the commentary of the Taz and on the other by that of the Shach. This edition of Yoreh Deah was called Ashrei Ravrevi. It was later enlarged by the addition of other leading commentaries, but the form given to the Yoreh Deah by the two great commentators, Taz and Shach, became the standard for the many reprintings of this sefer.
The Taz’s period of teaching Torah and writing piskei halachah in Ostroha was tragically interrupted by the eruption of the Cossack revolt under the leadership of the brutal Chmielnicki. Officially, the Cossacks were revolting against Polish nobility, but they overlooked no opportunity to pillage Jewish communities that were in their paths and to massacre the Jews.
Reb Dovid was fortunate enough to flee from Ostroha before it was captured by Cossacks. He also succeeded in saving his priceless manuscripts. He was invited to become Rav of Lvov (Lemberg), where he continued his work of spreading Torah.
A cruel blow struck the aged Taz when, three years before his petirah, he lost his two older sons, Harav Mordechai and Harav Shlomo, (others: Shmuel) who were murdered in a pogrom in Lemberg. Hashem yinkom damam.
In 1666, he sent his son Yeshaya and son-in-law Aryeh Leib (later to be the Shaagat Aryeh) to investigate Shabtai Tzvi.
Harav Dovid Halevi was niftar on 26 Shvat 5427 / 1667, at the age of 81. He was buried in Lvov. Legend says that 200 years after his death, his grave was accidentally opened and his body was found intact.
The Taz wrote a commentary to Rashi on Chumash entitled Divrei Dovid, as well as other works. He also wrote many responsa which, though sometimes quoted by others who accessed the manuscripts, were never published.
The descendants of the Taz were the Russian rabbinical family Paltrowitch, which produced more than 30 Rabbanim over several generations.
HaRav Mordechai Yosef Elazar Leiner, zt”l, the Tiferet Yosef of Radzin, (5627 / 1867 - 5689 / 1929).
Harav Mordechai Yosef Elazar Leiner was born in 5627/1867 in Radzin. His father was Harav Gershon Chanoch Heinich of Radzin, the Baal Hatecheilet. He was named for his great grandfather, the founder of the Izhbitza-Radzin dynasty, Harav Mordechai Yosef of Izhbitza.
He married the daughter of Harav Meshulam Margulies of Pintchov; after her petirah he married the daughter of Harav Shlomo Cohen of Krashick.
Following the petirah of his father, in 5651/1891, Reb Mordechai Yosef was appointed Rebbe in Radzin.
Until the outbreak of World War I in 5674/1914, Reb Mordechai Yosef lived in Radzin, but at that point he was forced to leave Radzin and move to Warsaw. His court attracted thousands of chassidim.
Reb Mordechai Yosef was respected by all the Gedolei Hador. He was known as a Gadol baTorah and an expert in all its facets.
He had a large library of valuable sefarim. He took it upon himself to refute the questions that arose on his father’s sefarim (his father was renowned for his new discoveries, the most famous being techeilet) and published Ein Hatecheilet and Dalsot Shaarei Ha’ir, written by his father. His own divrei Torah were published under the name Tiferet Yosef.
Reb Mordechai Yosef was niftar on 26 Shvat 5689/1929, at the age of 62. His levayah was well attended, although the temperature was many degrees below zero. The local yeshivot were closed for the levayah.
Reb Mordechai Yosef was succeeded by his son Harav Shmuel Shlomo. His sons-in-law were Harav Yaakov Gruman of Warsaw, Harav Tzvi Gur-Aryeh of Kremenchug, and the most famous one, Harav Avraham Yissachar Englard, who was crowned Radziner Rebbe in Eretz Yisrael after the Holocaust by descendants of the Radzin family and by Radziner chassidim in Eretz Yisrael and abroad. Under his leadership, the Radziner dynasty was rebuilt in Bnei Brak, where the center of Radziner institutions was established. The Rebbe also established Radziner shtieblach in many cities where Radziner chassidim lived.
HaRav Shaul Brach of Kashau, zt”l, (5625 / 1865 - 5700 / 1940).
Harav Shaul Brach was born on 29 Shvat 5625 / 1865, in Nitra, where his father was a wealthy, prominent member of the kehillah.
As a child he was known for his sharp mind.
After he became bar mitzvah he went to study in the Maharam Shick’s yeshivah in Chust. Nine months later, when the Maharam Shick was niftar, Reb Shaul went to learn in the Chasan Sofer’s yeshivah in Mattersdorf for four years. As he attested, during that period he would learn non-stop, except for three or four hours a night of sleep.
Reb Shaul’s father was niftar when he was 18 years old.
He married the daughter of a wealthy talmid chacham, Reb Naftali Tzvi Kraus of Ujhely, who supported him for about three years.
He traveled to many tzaddikim, in particular to the Rebbes of Sighet, Sanz and Belz.
In 5650/1890 he was elected Rav of Magendorf, and 20 years later, in 5670/1910, he was asked to become Rav of the Orthodox kehillah of Kroli.
Fifteen years later, in 5685/1925, Reb Shaul accepted the call of the Kashau kehillah to become their Rav. In each place where he officiated, he established a yeshivah; of special note was the one in Kroli, which was one of the greatest in Hungary, producing many great Rabbanim and Dayanim.
Wherever he was Rav he fought for Torah-true values and established many takanot to strengthen authentic Yiddishkeit.
Until his later years, Reb Shaul remained in perfect health and hardly ever visited a doctor.
Reb Shaul was considered one of the greatest Rabbanim of his time. He was niftar on 26 Shvat, 5700/1940, after suffering for several years from a liver ailment said to have been triggered by his distress over the destruction of European Jewry that had begun a few months earlier.
HaRav Yaakov Landau, zt”l, Rav of Bnei Brak for 50 years, (1893 - 5746 / 1986).
HaRav Ephraim Nachum Borodiansky, zt”l, of Yeshiva Kol Torah (5750 / 1990).
At the age of 13, he went to learn in Lubavitch under the fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rav Shalom Ber, the Rashab. At the age of 19, he replaced his father as Rav of Kornitz, and later became the emissary of the Rashab in Lubavitch. When the Bolsheviks began persecuting rabbanim, Rav Yaakov moved to Latvia, where he became close to the Rogachover Gaon. It was there that he married. In 1934, he moved to Eretz Yisrael, soon becoming Rav of Bnei Brak, a position he kept for the next 50 years.
27 Shvat - Feb. 19, 1349:
The entire Jewish community in the remote German village of Saulgau was wiped out during the Black Death massacres, Hy"d.
27 Shvat 5343 - 1583:
Joseph Sanalbo, a ger tzeddek, (convert to Judaism),
was burned at the stake in Rome, Hy”d.
In the second half of the 16th century, Jews were
subject to grave Church-sponsored persecutions: Pope Julius III and Pope Clement VIII condemned the Talmud
and other Hebrew writings as "obscene," "blasphemous" and "abominable" -- and ordered them all seized and burned.
27 Shvat 5416 - Feb. 22, 1656:
Jewish burial in a Jewish cemetery became legal in New Amsterdam (New York City).
27 Shvat 5703 - Feb. 2, 1943:
The surrender of the German army in Stalingrad, marked a significant turning point in World War II.
27 Shvat Yahrtzeits
HaRav Alexander Shor of Zolkov, zt"l, the Tevuot Shor, (~1660 - 5497 / 1737).
Harav Alexander (Sender) Shor was born into a family with impressive yichus. His father was Harav Efraim Zalman Shor of Zalkawa, who was descended from Rabbeinu Yosef Bechor Shor, one of the Baalei Tosafot. His mother was the daughter of Harav Sender, the son of Harav Meir, Rav of Brisk, who was the son-in-law of Harav Yaakov Temerles, mechaber of Sifra D’Tzniusa, and grandson of Harav Shalom Shachna of Lublin.
Reb Sender became known as an outstanding talmid chacham and a leading posek. His first Rabbinic position was in Hibniv, but after resigning from this post he returned to his hometown, Zalkawa. Despite the many appealing offers that came his way, he refused to take any another Rabbinic position.
Reb Sender stayed in his city, Zalkawa, for the rest of his life, supporting himself by making whiskey. It is related that the Baal Shem Tov once visited Zalkawa to observe and learn from the ways of Reb Sender, and to fulfill the mitzvah of serving talmidei chachamim.
Reb Sender was most famous for his sefarim: Simlah Chadashah on hilchot shechitah; and on treifot, Tevuot Shor, where he expounds on the halachot in his Simlah Chadashah; and Bechor Shor on Shas.
Not much is known about his life and times, but some of his grandchildren went on to become leading Gedolei Torah, notable among them Harav Efraim Zalman Margulies of Brody, author of Matteh Efraim, and Harav Alexander Sender Margulis of Satnav.
A close associate of Reb Sender, despite being much younger, was Reb Yitzchak Eizik of Zalkawa. They learned together for many years. In the last year of his life the Tevuot Shor, who was ill, followed doctors’ orders and traveled to a resort area. In the same period, Reb Yitzchak Eizik also took ill; he was niftar a few months before the Tevuot Shor. They tried to withhold the sad tidings about his close associate from the Tevuot Shor.
A few days before Reb Sender’s petirah, the community leaders came to visit him. In response to his question whether Reb Yitzchak Eizik was still alive, they said that he was. Reb Sender answered them that he knew they were lying, because he had seen Reb Yitzchak Eizik next to him, and he asked to be buried next to his friend.
After his petirah, the members of the local chevrah kaddisha went to look for a worthy plot for their venerated Rav, near Reb Yitzchak Eizik. They came and saw that there was no available spot in the vicinity, and they were sad that they weren’t able to fulfill the last wish of their Rav. Nevertheless, the head of the chevrah kaddisha started digging next to the kever of Reb Yitzchak Eizik, and to the great surprise of the people there, the ground opened and stretched out, leaving enough room for the kever of the Tevuot Shor. The friends were buried together. (See 28 Shvat)
HaRav Elazar Lev Rokeach, zt"l, (5518 / 1758 - 5597 / 1837). Born in Stanislow, (others in Varislav, in the Kielc region, Poland), his father was the nagid Rav Aryeh Leib, son of the famed Harav Pinchas Zelig, Rav of Lask, the baal Ateret Poz. On his mother Rebbetzin Leah Reitza’s side, Rav Elazar was descended from many Gedolim.
Realizing young Elazar’s potential, his parents hired private melamdim for him. At the age of eight he was like a yeshivah bachur of 18 in his comprehension of Gemara; by the age of 10, he was recognized as an iluy.
At this point his father could not find a melamed to teach the boy, so he sent him to the yeshivah of his grandfather, the Ateret Poz, in Lask. Under his grandfather, Elazar made great progress.
When he was 13, he celebrated three landmarks: his bar mitzvah, his engagement and his completion of Shas. (Some say he got married) to Yutaleh, the daughter of Harav Yoel, grandson of the Gur Aryeh. After his marriage Reb Elazar continued to live in Lask, near his grandfather.
When he was all of 16, he was approached to serve as dayan of his hometown of Varislav, and the next year, at the age of 17, he became the Av Beit Din.
In 5538/1778, at the age of twenty, he became Rav in Piltz, Poland (near Cracow), a city of talmidei chachamim. He held this position for more than 20 years. He opened a yeshivah that attracted many of the leading bachurim, among them the future Rebbe Reb Bunim of Peshischa.
During this period, he wrote his sefer Sheilot Uteshuvot Shemen Rokeach in which he printed his correspondence with the Noda B'yehuda. In 1800, he accepted rabbanut in Tritch. In time, Reb Elazar became a much sought-after posek.
In 5572 / 1812, he took over the rabbinate of Ransburg-Pilsen-Glatoi, and it was there that he waged his famous battle against the reformer Aaron Chaviner. Together with the Chasam Sofer, R’ Akiva Eiger and R’ Chaim Banet, he fought against the reformers in letters that are printed in the sefer Eileh Divrei Habrit.
Ransburg-Pilsen-Glatoi was a wealthy kehillah that was willing to finance the publication of his sefarim. In their honor, he wrote Yavin Shmuah on the Torah. But Reb Elazar felt the lack of a Torah environment, and so he returned to his previous position and to his yeshivah.
In 5590 / 1830, he moved to Sanatov, where he again founded a yeshivah. The next year, 5591 / 1831, his son Rav Aharon was niftar; in his memory Reb Elazar wrote the sefer Zichron Aharon on the halachot of chazakah.
In 5593 / 1833, tragedy struck again. During a thunderstorm he lost his vision, and from then on sefarim had to be read to him. He was still very active, though, and he would dictate his thoughts and teshuvot for others to record.
On midnight of 27 Shvat 559 7 /1837, Reb Elazar called the members of the chevrah kaddisha and informed them that his end was near. As the hours wore on, he continuously asked if it was time to don tallit and tefillin.
At daybreak, Reb Elazar wrapped himself in tallit and tefillin and began to recite Birchot Hashachar. When he reached “Echad ve’en yachid k’Yichudo — One and none is like his Oneness,” his neshamah went up to Shamayim.
Reb Elazar wrote many sefarim, most famously Shemen Rokeach, his halachic responsa, by which name he is known.
Harav Emanuel Weltfried of Pshedborzh, zt"l, (5625 / 1865).
HaRav Menachem Nachum Twersky of Chernobyl, zt"l, (5631 / 1871).
HaRav Yosef Zundel Hutner, zt"l, (1846-1919). Born in Dvinsk, he was taught by his father at an early age. At the age of 25, Rav Yosef Zundel published Bikurei Yosef. (In the introduction, he bemoans the passing of his young wife.) Thereafter he moved to Bialystok, where he remarried and learned bechavrusa with Rav Meir Simcha Hakohen of Dvinsk. In 1897, he became Rav of Eishishok.
HaRav Yitzchak Bochnik, zt"l, of Djerba, Tunisia, author of Vayomer Yitzchak and Bnei Chai, (5735 / 1975).
HaRav Mordechai Shulman, zt"l, (5742 / 1982), son-in-law of Rav Chaim Yitzchak Isaac Sher, he succeeded his father-in-law as Rosh Yeshiva of Slabodka. His only son was Rav Nosson Tzvi Shulman, who married a daughter of Rav Yechiel Schlesinger.
HaRav Dovid Moshe of Chortkov, zt"l, (1914-1988). Born to Rav Dov Ber of Chortkov in Boyan, Ukraine, he moved with his family to Vienna as a youth. When his grandfather, Rav Yisrael, the Chortkover Rebbe, died in 1934, he was succeeded by both of his sons, Rav Nachum Mordechai, and Rav Dov Ber. When Rav Dov Ber tragically passed away just two years later, Rav Dovid Moshe humbly refused to take his place. Shortly after Kristallnacht (November 9, 1938), Rav Dovid Moshe moved to England and settled in the suburb of Edgeware, London. In 1968, he married Leah and was blessed with three children. In 1988, he gave his final shiur in Golders Green.
28 Shvat 3598 - 163 B.C.E:
King Antiochus V (successor to Antiochus of the Chanukah story; this incident occurred about a year after Chanukah) abandoned his siege of Yerushalayim, and his plans for the city's destruction. During the siege the Jews had suffered greatly, unable to move around freely except at night. Antiochus left for home in response to bad reports he had received from there; he was killed soon afterwards. This day was observed in subsequent years as a holiday in Hashmonean times, as cited in Megilat Taanit.
Antiochus V was only nine years old when he became head of the Seleucid dynasty, following the death of his father Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the oppressor of the Jews who provoked the Maccabees' revolt that led to the Chanukah nes:
28 Shvat 4950 - Feb. 6, 1189:
The Jews of Norwich, England, are massacred, Hy"d.
The Jews in the nearby town of Lynn in Norfolk, had just suffered similar treatment
from their neighbors. Some Jews escaped to the Bishop's castle. Those Jews,
who remained in their homes were murdered and their property was looted. (others 1190).
28 Shvat - 1481:
The first auto-da-fe ("act of faith" i.e. burning Jews at the stake) by the Spanish Inquisition, in Seville, Hy"d.
28 Shvat - February 12, 1486:
Auto-da-fe at Toledo, Spain.
Toledo was one of the largest Jewish communities in Spain, and this auto-da-fe was the first in that city and unusually lenient. The Jews were forced to recant on their Judaism, fined 1/5 of their property and permanently forbidden to wear decent clothes or hold office.
28 Shvat Yahrtzeits
HaRav Alexander Sender (ben Ephraim Zalman) of Zholkov, (~1660-1737). He was the son of Rav Ephraim Zalman Shor, the Magid of Lvov and was orphaned as an infant. In 1704, Rav Alexander Sender went to live in Zholkov (Zolkiew) where he remained for the rest of his life, devoting himself to study and writing and earning his living working in a distillery. He was the author of Tevuot Shor, first published in 1733, on shechita and kashrut. He was a great-grandnephew of Rav Ephraim Zalman Shor, the author of a sefer by the same name, Tevuot Shor, a condensation of the Beit Yosef. (Others 27 Shvat - see 27 Shvat)
HaRav Ephraim Ezra Laniado, zt"l, author of Degel Machaneh Ephraim, (1798).
HaRav Emanuel of Preshedvorz, zt"l, (1802-1865). Successor to his father, the Rebbe Reb Yeshayale (d. 1831).
HaRav Yosef Dovid (ben Yitzchak Isaac) Zindheim (Sinzheim; Zunzheim; Sintzheim), zt"l, (1745 (or 1736) - 5572 / 1812). Born in the Alsace region on the border between France and Germany, Reb Yosef Dovid married at age 20. In 1778, his wife's wealthy brother, Naftali Herz (aka Cerf Berr de Medelsheim) established a yeshiva in Bischeim (near Strasbourg), and he appointed his brother-in-law to be Rosh Yeshiva. It was also at this time that Rav Zintzheim began composing his commentary on Shas, Yad Dovid. He also wrote Shelal Dovid on Chumash, Da'at
Dovid on the Shulchan Aruch, and an encyclopedia of halachic and Talmudic topics called Minchat Ani. He was appointed to the Assembly of Jewish Notables convened by Napoleon (1806), appointed president of the Great Sanhedrin, and named by Napoleon as inaugural chief rabbi of Central Consistoire.
HaRav Aryeh Leib Natazohn (Nathansohn) of Berzhan, zt"l, author of Beit Kel, (5633 / 1873).
HaRav Menachem Nachum (ben Yochanon) Twersky of Chernobyl, zt"l, the Rachmistrivka Rebbe (5600 / 1840 - 5697 / 1937). He was the third son of Harav Yochanan, the first Rebbe of Rachmastrivka, who was the son of Harav Mordechai of Chernobyl, who in turn was the son of the holy Meor Einayim, Harav Menachem Nochum of Chernobyl.
His mother, Rebbetzin Chana, was a descendant of the Ohr Hameir.
He married Chava, the daughter of Harav Zev Auerbach, who traced her lineage to Harav Yaakov Yosef of Polna’a, the Toldot Yaakov Yosef.
At the behest of his father, he acquired semichah from his uncle Harav Yitzchak of Skver (his father’s brother) and began traveling around to the villages and towns in the area of Rachmastrivka, Russia (present day Ukraine), to be mechazek the Chassidim. The Chassidim would come to him, each with his particular needs, and he would heap his blessings upon them, guiding and instructing them to the right path. His father wrote a letter to the people of the town of Sharigrad in which he said: “[he] is known to possess the light of chochmah and tevunah … he will listen in detail to your needs and will provide you a shefa of brachot…”
After his father was niftar in 5654 / 1896, he and his holy brothers mutually succeeded in leading theChassidut in Rachmastrivka. During the Bolshevik Revolution, in 5679 / 1919, when the resha’im burned down the whole town of Rachmastrivka, Reb Nochum fled the town and settled in Smilow.
After a number of years, in 5684 / 1924, he ascended to Eretz Yisrael with his sons Harav Avraham Dov and Harav Dovid and his grandson, Harav Yochanan. His brother, Harav Velvel, arrived about a year later. He spent the last 10 years of his life in Yerushalayim.
Initially, he decided to desist from leading the Chassidim and serve Hashem without distraction, but the Chassidim of Yerushalayim recognized his greatness and would not hear of it. They flocked to his door relentlessly, and he provided them with whatever they were seeking. He was greatly esteemed by the leading Rebbes and Rabbanim of that time.
Shortly before his petirah, he assembled the Rabbanim of Yerushalayim and took leave of them with utmost clarity of mind. He is buried on Har Hazeitim.
In his tzavaah, he requested that his two sons, Harav Avraham Dov and Harav Dovid, should succeed him. The present-day Rachmastrivka Rebbe of America, shlita, and, lhb”l, the late Rachmastrivka Rebbe of Yerushalayim, zy”a, are great-grandchildren of Reb Nochum, sons of Reb Yochanan, the son of Reb Dovid who was the son of Reb Nochum. (others 5696 / 1936).
Rav Yosef Friedlander (ben Tzvi Hersh), Liska Rebbe, author of Tzvi V'Chammid (1971). Arriving in the United States in 1947, he was one of the first Rebbes to establish his kehilla in Boro Park. He was a successor of the Ach Pri Tevuah, the Tal Chaim, and the Shaarei Hayasher. He was succeeded by his son, Rav Tzvi Hersh Friedlander, author of Chamudei Tzvi.
HaRav Mordechai (ben Gedalya Moshe) Goldman of Zhvill, zt"l, (5666 / 1905 - 5739 / 1979). Harav Mordechai Goldman was born in Zhvill, in Volhynia, in present-day Ukraine, on 11 Cheshvan 5666 / 1905. [Note: Novohrad-Volyns’kyi (Russian: Novgorodvolynsk, Yiddish: Zhvil, Zhvill) is a City in Zhytomyr Oblast, Volhynia, Ukraine.]
His father, Harav Gedalyah Moshe, was the son of the famous Harav Shloime (Shlomke) of Zhvill.
In 5685 / 1925, Reb Mordechai moved to Eretz Yisrael, where he learned in Yeshivat Sfat Emet in Yerushalayim. He was known there for his amazing hasmadah; he would literally fall asleep over his Gemara.
Reb Mordechai married the daughter of Harav Shmuel Mordechai of Neshchiz.
Reb Mordechai’s father came to Eretz Yisrael in 5697 / 1937, after many years of exile in Siberia.
Following the petirah of Reb Shloime, in 5705 / 1945, Reb Gedalyah Moshe was named Rebbe, a post he held until his petirah some four years later, in 5709 / 1948.
Reb Mordechai was appointed Rebbe in his father’s stead. He was noted for his unique hanhagah; unlike most other Rebbes and Rabbanim, he had no set time for receiving petitioners; his door was always open. He was also known for not having any gabbai or attendant; in his humility, he tended to his own needs.
Reb Mordechai was niftar on 28 Shvat 5739/1979, at the age of 74, and buried on Har Hazeitim.
He was succeeded by his sons, Harav Avraham, zt”l (who was niftar in 2009); and Harav Shlomo, shlita, Zhviller Rebbe in Union City. Reb Mordechai’s sons-in-law are, shlita, the Shomrei Emunim Rebbe; the Kamarna Rebbe; the Zutchka Rebbe and Harav Yitzchak Leifer, the son of the Temeshvar Rebbe. (others 29 Shvat).
HaRav Eliezer Alpa (originally Potshnik), zt"l, (1896-1990). Born in the Russian town of Ulshan, he joined the Novardok school in Charkov when he was only 11. During that period, he studied incessantly with his chavrusa, Rav Chaim Shmulevitz, the future Rosh Yeshiva of Mir. During the ravages World War 1, the bachurim to Poland and joined the Novardok yeshiva's branch in Bialystock. There, Rav Eliezer learned b'chavrusa with Rav Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky, the Steipler Gaon. He married Shulamit, the daughter of Rav Meir Karelitz. Under the recommendation, he headed a yeshiva in Galician city of Gorlitz, but he did not remain long because, in 1935, the Chazon Ish and other prominent rabbanim urged him to settle in Eretz Yisrael. At first, he moved into the one-room home of his uncle, the Chazon Ish, where the Steipler Gaon and his wife were also staying. Not long afterwards, Rav Eliezer decided to move to Haifa in order to found a yeshiva in that spiritual wasteland.
HaRav Shmuel Binyamin Rosenberg, zt"l, senior Rosh Mesivta of Yeshivat Beit Avraham-Slonim (1957-2005). A descendent of the Chasam Sofer and the Kesav Sofer, he learned for many years at Slonim and married the daughter of Rav Shmuel Weinberg, one of the heads of Chinuch Atzmai and the son of the Birkat Avraham of Slonim. His brother-in-law, Rav Tzvi Weinberg, is rosh kollel Slonim in Yerushalayim.
HaRav Nesanel (ben Zalman Pinchas) Quinn, zt"l, (1910 - 5765 / 2005), Menahel Ruchani at Mesivta Torah Vodaas for almost 80 years. Rav Nesanel's parents' were neighbors of the Rogochover Rav in Dvinsk, Lithuania, and were childless for 10 years. Upon the advice of Rav Shalom Ber of Lubavitch, they moved to America. They were promised a family and arichat yomim; they had 5 children, and she lived to 111 years. Reb Nesanel was a talmid of Rav Dovid Leibowitz. He later became the talmid muvhak of Rav Shraga Feivel Mendelovitz, at Torah Vodaat, and stayed there as an educator. In conjunction with his first yahrtzeit, the sefer Birkat Mo'adecha on Mesechta Beitza was released [along with] a supplement, Zichron Nesanel, which includes short stories about Rav Quinn and letters he wrote.
Passage of the Code of Theodosius, the first imperial compilation of anti-Jewish laws since Constantine. Jews were prohibited from holding important positions involving money, including judicial and executive offices. The ban against building new synagogues was reinstated. Theodosius was the Roman emperor of the East (408-450). The Code was also readily accepted by Western Roman Emperor, Valentinian III (425-455).
Shvat - Feb. 7, 1569:
The "holy office of the Inquisition"
established in South America.
29 Shvat - Feb. 7, 1569:
Jews of the Papal States (except for Rome and Ancona) were expelled by the pope.
- Feb. 8, 1940:
First major Ghetto in Poland established
by the Nazis in Lodz. All Jews (200,000+) were forced to move into the Baluty ghetto. The area of "Balut" was the poorest and most densely populated area of the city.
The ghetto was enclosed like a huge prison, and the residents had absolutely no contact with anyone in the outside world. Food was scarce and an enormous number of Jews died of hunger, R"l.
At the end of 5704 - 1944, the ghetto was evacuated and its inhabitants were sent to Auschwitz. Hy"d.
29 Shvat 5763 - Feb. 1, 2003:
The Space Shuttle Columbia, returning from its STS-107 mission, broke up upon re-entry, 16 minutes before its scheduled landing. All seven crew members perished, including Israel's first astronaut, Ilan Ramon, a combat pilot in the Israeli Air Force. Prior to his departing to space on Space Shuttle Columbia, where his mission included the manning of a multispectral camera for recording desert aerosol, he arranged to take along Kosher food, a Kiddush cup and a small Torah scroll that had survived Bergen-Belsen. He also brought along a mezuzah adorned with barbed wire -- symbolizing the Nazi concentration camps -- in tribute to his mother who survived Auschwitz and his grandfather who was murdered there. On board the Shuttle, Ramon welcomed the Shabbat with the first intergalactic Kiddush. As he passed over Yerushalayim, he recited "Shema Yisrael," the age-old declaration of Jewish faith.
During his 16 days in space, Ramon defied gravity by lifting his country from the morass of terror, by making Jews feel connected and proud.
29 Shvat Yahrtzeits
HaRav Eliyahu Habachur Halevi, zt"l, "the Ba'al Hatishbi," famous Hebrew grammarian (1549).
HaRav Aryeh of Brodi and Podheitz, zt”l, (5578 / 1818), author of Lev Aryeh.
HaRav Yissachar Berish Rubin of Dolina, zt”l, (5646 / 1886).
HaRav Chananya Yom Tov Lipa (ben Yekusiel Yehuda) Teitelbaum, zt"l, (5596 / 1836 - 5664 / 1904), author of Kedushat Yom Tov. Born in Stropkov, Slovakia, on 6 Sivan 5596 / 1836. to Rav Yekusiel Yehuda Teitelbaum, the Yitav Lev, who was a grandson of Rav Moshe Teitelbaum, the Yismach Moshe. The Kedushat Yom Tov’s maternal lineage can be traced back to the Toldot Adam.
One year at the Seder, when the Kedushat Yom Tov was a small boy, he accidentally extinguished one of the Yom Tov candles. His mother gasped in shock, but his father, the Yitav Lev, reassured her, “Er vet untzinden sheine licht — he will yet light beautiful candles.” Indeed, the Sigheter Rav lit up the world with his holiness.
Rav Chananya's primary teachers were Rav Chaim of Sanz and Rav Yitzchak Eizik of Ziditchov. No day would pass without him referring to his Rebbe, the Divrei Chaim, and for many years he spent every single Shabbat in Sanz. He was very beloved by his Rebbe; the Divrei Chaim would often call him “mein Lipa’le.”
After the Divrei Chaim’s petirah, the Kedushat Yom Tov would repeat stories about his Rebbe every day for a year, each time describing some aspect of his Rebbe’s greatness, saintliness and piety, but never once mentioning the many nissim he had performed.
In 5624 / 1864, at the age of 28, he became Rav of the small town of (Tetch) Tesh, a position he held for 19 years. After his father's petira in 5643 / 1883, he succeeded him in Sighet, Hungary, where he remained until his petirah on 29 Shvat 5664 / 1904. While he was Rav in Sighet, many followers traveled to him and their number continually grew. He was always in the forefront in fighting milchemet Hashem, and he fiercely opposed any movement that veered even slightly from the traditional derech of avodat Hashem. In those days in Hungary, when the Zionists and socialists had started to make inroads into the holy Jewish nation, this was especially important.
Although he was a kana’i when it came to opposing the slightest change in minhagei Yisrael, he was known to say that a Yid accomplishes more when he dances on Simchat Torah than through the many tefillot of the Yamim Nora’im.
Rav Chananya had no children with his first wife, a daughter of Harav Menashe of Ropshitz, a descendant of Harav Naftali of Ropshitz. This marriage lasted 14 years before the couple divorced and he married his cousin, the daughter of Harav Yoel Ashkenazi of Zlotchov, son of Harav Moshe Dovid of Toltchova. He remained childless for many years with his second wife as well, and he repeatedly petitioned his Rebbe, the Divrei Chaim of Sanz, for a brachah. Finally, after many futile attempts, Reb Chananyah Yom Tov Lipa’s older brother, Harav Moshe Yosef of Ujhely, managed to secure a written brachah for his younger brother, that stated, “We are hoping for offspring blessed by Hashem.” Indeed, he had two sons, Harav Chaim Tzvi, zt”l, the Atzei Chaim, who succeeded him as Rav of Sighet, and Harav Yoel, the Satmar Rebbe, zt”l. and two daughters. The Kedushat Yom Tov is buried in Sighet. His divrei Torah on the parshiyot and Yamim Tovim are printed in Kedushat Yom Tov.
When the Satmar Rav, zy”a, described his holy father, the Kedushat Yom Tov, to his nephew and successor, the previous Satmar Rav, zy”a, he said that on Shabbat the Kedushat Yom Tov would burn with a holy fire. The kedushah of Shabbat was so strong in their home that even the stones glowed with it. He added that he had spent Shabbatot with many tzaddikim and kedoshim, but nowhere had he felt kedushat Shabbat as he did with his father.
By 1941, 10,144 Jews lived in Sighet, comprising 39% of the town. The town was liquidated via deportation to Auschwitz. But, the community lives on in America and Israel.
HaRav Chaim Meir of Pintchov, zt”l, (5669 / 1909)
HaRav Yitzchak Yerucham (ben Yehoshua Yehuda Leib) Diskin, zt"l, (1839 - 5685 / 1925), son of the Maharil Diskin of Brisk and Rebbetzin Hinda Rochel. Born in Valkovisk, Russia, he started studying gemara on his own at the age of 5. After his Bar Mitzvah, he studied in seclusion for 14 hours a day. At 16, he left for Volozhin. After his father's petira in 1898, he was asked to succeed him as president of the Diskin Orphanage and head of the Ohel Moshe Yeshiva. At first, he refused, but in 1908, when he saw that Yerushalayim's Torah institutions were in danger due to Zionists' efforts to destroy them, he decided to make aliya. Together with Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, he faught against the Maskilim. Both of them were elected honorary presidents of the charedi Vaad Ha'ir, which soon became known as the Eida Hacharedit.
HaRav Zalman Sender (ben Moshe) Kahana-Shapira, zt"l, (1851-1923), born in Nisowiz, in the Minsk region of Russia, to Rav Moshe Shapira, av beit din of Lida and son-in-law of Rav Chaim of Volozhin. Rav Zalman Sender learned under the Beit HaLevi and his son, Rav Chaim Brisker, in Volozhin. He married and lived in Kobrin, where he raised 5 children (4 boys and a girl). When his wife tragically passed away, he married the widow of Rav Binyamin Wolf Hayahalomstein, Rav of Maltsch, and moved to that city. He eventually became Rav of Maltsch and started a yeshiva there, Anaf Eitz Chaim, modeling it after Eitz Chaim of Volozhin. In 1902, he moved the yeshiva to Kriniki where he became Rav. Among his students there were Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky and Rav Aharon Kotler. In 1921, he moved to the Shaarei Chesed section of Yerushalayaim.
HaRav Nosson Tzvi Finkel, zt"l, the Alter of Slabodka (5609 / 1849 - 5687 / 1927). Born in Rasei, (Rasein) Lithuania. His father was Reb Moshe Finkel, a prominent community figure. He was orphaned at an early age and was raised by a relative in Vilna.He grew up steeped in Torah and mussar.
As a young bachur, Reb Nosson Tzvi gained fame as a lamdan, an iluy and a master of deep thought.
Reb Meir Bashis, the son-in-law of the Rav of Kelm — Harav Eliezer Guterman — chose Reb Nosson Tzvi to marry his daughter Gittel, and supported him for a number of years.
He was known for his exceptional oratorical skills.
Once, while delivering a drashah in his hometown of Rasein, the Rav, Harav Alexander Moshe Lapidos, zt”l — a close disciple of Harav Yisrael Salanter, zt”l — realized his great potential and suggested that he travel to the giant of mussar, Harav Simcha Zisel Ziv, zt”l, the Alter of Kelm.
After coming to know Harav Simcha Zisel, Reb Nosson Tzvi became his talmud muvhak. Harav Simcha Zisel put Reb Nosson Tzvi in charge of his Talmud Torah in Kelm.
When Harav Yizchak Elchanan Spektor, zt”l, of Kovno, founded Kollel Perushim, he joined its hanhalah and instilled in its membership the mussar approach.
Rav Nosson Tzvi organized a kollel of ten men in Slabodka in about 5637 / 1877.
Harav Nosson Tzvi joined the Yeshivah Ohr Hachaim of Slabodka, and served as its Mashgiach. This yeshivah was the seed-institution of the future yeshivah gedolah of Slabodka, where he inspired thousands of talmidim.
Hundreds of bachurim flocked to the Slabodka Yeshivah, which became famous as a bastion of Torah and mussar. With his riveting shmuessen and humility, Rav Finkel inspired thousands of talmidim.
He was instrumental in starting the yeshiva in Telz and having Rav Eliezer Gordon appointed as Rosh Yeshiva.
He founded the Slabodka Yeshiva in 1884. In 1897, the Yeshiva split over the teaching of mussar. Seventy of the 300 students sided with the Alter and formed a new yeshiva, Kenesset Yisrael in honor of his Rebbe, Harav Yisrael Salanter. (The other camp named their’s Yeshivah Knesset Beit Yitzchok). Within a short time, Knesset Yisrael once again began growing rapidly, and Harav Nosson Tzi regained the hundreds of talmidim he had once had.
He was a master at bringing out the potential of every individual, encouraging students to refine their character and become great in both scholarship and ethics.
In 1897, he founded the yeshiva in Slutsk and appointed Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer its Rosh Yeshiva. After World War I, the yeshiva in Kletzk, headed by Rav Nosson Tzvi's disciple, Rav Aharon Kotler, developed. He also helped Rav Shimon Skop develop yeshivot by sending his own students. In 1909, a yeshiva was set up in Stutchin, led by his disciple, Rav Yehuda Leib Chasman, and the Lodz yeshiva was the first outpost of mussar in Poland. Many of his disciples, who studied at his famed Slobodka Yeshiva, became major leaders of 20th century Judaism -- Harav Yitzchak Hutner, Harav Yaakov Kamenetzky, Harav Yaakov Yitzchok Ruderman, Harav Yechezkel Sarna, and Harav Elazar M. Shach. His own son, Harav Eliezer Yehudah Finkel eventually became rosh Yeshia of the famed Mir Yeshiva, today located in Yerushalayim and the largest yeshiva in the world with 5,000+ students.. In the summer of 5685 / 1925, he fulfilled a long-standing personal vow by moving to Eretz Yisrael, with many talmidim, and reestablished the yeshivah in Chevron. During the final period of his life, while living in Eretz Yisrael, Harav Nosson Tzvi became increasingly weak. Harav Nosson Tzvi was niftar on 29 Shvat 5687/1927 and was buried on Har Hazeitim.
His discourses are collected in Or Hatzafun.
HaRav Nosson Horowitz, zt"l, (2001), Rav of K'hal Sheirit Yisrael of Williamsburg, then Rav of Kehillat Bait Yisrael of Monsey. He was born in Vienna, the son of the Riglitzer Rav and grandson of the Altshteter Rav and the Liminover Rav (the Meorot Nosson), for whom he was named.
30 Shvat 5404 - Feb. 7, 1644:
Tosfot Yomtov Appointed Rav of Krakow
The 30th of Shvat is celebrated by the descendents of HaRav Yomtov Lipman Heller (1579-1654) as a day of thanksgiving, for his liberation and restoration after his imprisonment in Vienna in 1629. Rav Yomtov Lipman was one of the important rabbinical figures of the early 17th century. Known as the "Tosfot Yomtov" after his commentary on the Mishnah by that name, he also authored important commentaries on the Rosh and other rabbinical works. A disciple of the famed Maharal of Prague, Rav Yomtov Lipman was appointed, at the tender age of 18, to serve as a dayan (rabbinical judge) in in that city. He subsequently filled a number of prestigious rabbinical positions, including Rav of Nikolsburg and of Vienna. In 1627 he was recalled to Prague to serve as the city's chief rabbi. That position earned him powerful enemies when he refused to follow the dictates of Prague's rich and influential citizens and strove to relieve the burden imposed on the poor by the suffocating "crown taxes" imposed on the Jews. His enemies informed on him to the government, falsely accusing him of treason. In 1629, Rav Yomtov Lipman was arrested, tried and sentenced to death. The Jewish communities of Bohemia succeeded in having the sentence commuted and reduced to a heavy fine, and raised the funds for the payment of the first installment that secured his release. However, his enemies obtained an imperial decision that he could not officiate as rabbi in any town of the empire, leaving him homeless and destitute. It took many years for him to pay off the balance of the fine and be restored to his former position. It was only in the winter of 1644, when he settled in Krakow after being appointed chief rabbi of the city, that he felt that that he could celebrate his release and restoration. Shvat 30th (the 1st day of Rosh Chodesh Adar)--the day that Rabbi Yomtov Lipman assumed the rabbinate of Krakow--was celebrated by him and his family as a day of thanksgiving to G-d. Rav Yomtov Lipman asked that future generations continue to mark the date, and the custom is upheld by his descendants to this day. See 1 Adar 5403 - Feb. 20, 1643:
Shvat 5427 - 1667:
The Jews of Rome ran the humiliating "Carnival race" for the last time. Every year, during Rome's annual carnival, (held on Monday), Jews had been subjected to a humiliating medieval practice of running a race along the main street, scantily-clad, while the crowd mocked them, threw trash, and reigned heavy blows. (The event often proved fatal.) As further indignity, Jews were forced to contribute financially to the operation of the Carnival. During this time, Jews were confined to living in the Roman Ghetto, a walled quarter with three gates that were locked at night. The Jews were subjected to other degradations, including having to attend compulsory Catholic sermons on Shabbat. Outside the ghetto, Jews were required to wear identifying yellow clothing.
30 Shvat 5705 - Feb. 13, 1945:
Allied planes began bombing Dresden, Germany..
30 Shvat 5705 - Feb. 13, 1945:
- The Soviets captured the city of Budapest, Hungary, from the Germans.
30 Shvat Yahrtzeits
HaRav Dovid Hakohen, zt”l, (5559 / 1799), Rav of Molitin and author of Nefesh Dovid
HaRav Reuven Halevi Horowitz, zt”l, (5587 / 1827 ) (Others 5570 / 1810), Rav of Zarnovtza, author of Duda’im BaSadeh.
HaRav Menachem Mendel of Shklov, zt”l, (5587 / 1827).
Harav Reuven Halevi Horowitz was the son of Harav Yaakov Chaim,
zt"l, Rav of Navipoli.
Rav Reuven was a talmid of Harav Yonason Eibschitz, in Germany, his home country. He quotes Rav Eibschitz in his sefer.
He was attracted to the ways of Chassidut while learning together with his brother Harav Meir, later Rav of Sheps, in the yeshivah of their relative, the Rebbe Harav Shmelke of Nikolsburg.
Following the petirah of Rav Shmelke on 1 Iyar 5538/1778, Rav Reuven began to travel to the Rebbe Harav Elimelech of Lizhensk, and was among his closest Chassidim. There is almost no parashah covered in his Dudaim Basadeh. without a quote from the Noam Elimelech. Rav Elimelech held his Chassid Rav Reuven in high esteem, although he was still quite young.
Rav Reuven was appointed Rav in Guaten, Germany, at a relatively young age. He was renowned for his drashot and the many she'eilot he addressed, which haven't yet been published, although some of his drashot have.
He was Rav there for a few years, until the followers of Shabsai Tzvi libeled him to the government, because he had fought viciously to rid the town of them. He was forced to leave Germany about 5555/1795.
Thus Rav Reuven returned to Navipoli, where his father had been Rav; later he settled in Zarnovtza, where, as one of the elder Chassidim of Rav Elimelech and the Kozhnitzer Maggid, he opened his court.
As Rav in Zarnovtza, Reb Reuven would also journey to the Chozeh of Lublin, who said that he was one of the lamed-vav tzaddikim of the generation.
When an epidemic broke out in Zarnovtza, a pidyon was sent to the
Chozeh, who told them to build a house for Rav Reuven. When they began preparations - just gathering the building materials - the epidemic stopped, in the zechut of the tzaddik.
The divrei Torah of Rav Reuven weren't published until 5619/1859 when his grandson, Harav Eliezer Yerucham, the son of his sonin-law Harav Yisrael Yitzchak of Radoshitz, did so, with a haskamah from the Divrei Chaim of Sanz, who named the sefer Dudaim Basadeh.
Rav Reuven was niftar on 30 Shvat. The exact year of his petirah is unknown, but it was certainly after the year 5587/1827, because he was mentioned that year as among the living. He was buried in Zarnovtza.
Reb Reuven was succeeded by his son, Harav Yehudah Aryeh Leibush,
as Rav in Zarnovtza. His sonsin-law were Harav Aryeh Leibush, Rebbe of Opale-Ozherov, the founder of the Ozherover dynasty, and Harav Yisrael Yitzchak, Rebbe of Radoshitz, the son of the Saba Kadisha. According to another opinion, Harav Yisrael Yitzchak was the son-in-law of Harav Yehudah Aryeh Leibush.
Harav Menachem Mendel of Shklov, one of the greatest talmidim of the Vilna Gaon, was a son of Harav Baruch Bendit. He humbly wrote about himself, “I am an empty person but chasdei Shamayim saw to it that I became a talmid of the Gaon of Vilna. Hashem gave me favor in his eyes, and I was privileged to be his meshamesh for almost two years. During that time I would not move away from him, and wherever he would be, I would be. He opened for me the gates of chachmah, and that is what sustains me.”
Eventually he became the leader of the Perushim, a group of the Gra’s talmidim who ascended to Eretz Yisrael. Their journey involved many hardships; and even after they settled in Eretz Yisrael they encountered adversity.
These challenges were also encountered by a group of Chassidim led by Harav Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk, which ascended to Eretz Yisrael at about the same time.
Reb Menachem Mendel writes that in 5567 / 1807 he settled in Tzfat, where he established “batei medrashim full of sefarim.” He subsequently relocated to Yerushalayim and there, too, he established houses of Torah and tefillah. He managed to acquire the abandoned Churvah Shul in the old city of Yerushalayim, which he considered a zechut. This famous shul was destroyed by the Jordanians in the war of 5708 / 1948. It has recently been rebuilt.
Historically, his wanting to settle in Yerushalayim was very significant because the first Ashkenazi settlement in Eretz Yisrael, led by Rabi Yehudah Hachassid, failed, leaving behind great debts. Subsequently, whenever Ashkenazic Jews tried to settle in Yerushalayim, the authorities would demand money from them and then evict them from the city. (Interestingly, traditional Yerushalmi garb closely resembles Arabic dress because their permission to live in Yerushalayim depended on complying with this stipulation.)
When talmidei haGra arrived in Eretz Yisrael, they initiated settling the old debts of the Ashkenazic community with the Yerushalayim authorities. Later, in 5597 / 1837, when a major earthquake struck Tzfat, groups of olim dispersed, many of them arriving in Yerushalayim. That is when the old debt was finally cleared, and the Ashkenazi Yidden, led by Harav Yisrael of Shklov, established themselves.
Reb Menachem Mendel was known for his vast Torah knowledge and his profound understanding of Kabbalah, and he devoted many years to writing chiddushim. It was known that he wrote 10 sefarim, but the only printed sefer of his chiddushim that remains is Mayim Adirim on the Idra Zuta, with footnotes from his talmid Harav Yitzchak Eizik Chaver Wildmann (1789-1853). He also printed many of the sefarim of his Rebbi, the Gra. Many of his writings remain in manuscript form, yet to be printed.
He was niftar on the first day of Rosh Chodesh Adar, 30 Shvat, [some say 1 Adar], and is buried on Har Hazeitim.(See 1Adar)
Many Minhagei Yerushalayim that were established by that Ashkenazi community. His leading student, Yitzchak Eizak Chaver, perceived that the obscurity of the kabbalistic system was a major factor in the flight of students and thinkers from Torah to science, secular philosophy and atheism. In Pischei She'arim, R. Yitzchak Eizak Chaver vindicates the kabbalah against its detractors, showing that behind its metaphors lies the only system with the power to provide satisfying answers to man's deepest questions about the meaning and purpose of the universe.
HaRav Moshe of Zaloshin, zt"l, author of Mishpat Tzedek, Tikkun Shabbat, and Geulat Yisrael (1788-1831). In 1815, he was appointed leader of the chassidic community in Zaloshin.
HaRav Yerucham Fishel Perla, zt"l, (1846-1934). Born in Warsaw in 1846 and studied under Rav Yehoshua Leib Diskin in Lomza and under Rav Yosef Dov Halevi Soloveitchik. While he was still young, he was offered prestigious rabbinates, including in Lublin and Krakow, but he turned them down so he could continue his studies. He is known for his encyclopedic commentary to the Sefer Hamitzvot by Rav Saadiah Gaon.
HaRav Shmuel Abba (ben Baruch) Hager of Horodenka, zt"l, (5625 / 1865 - 5655 / 1895), son of the Imrei Baruch of Vishnitz. He was born in 5625/1865.
Reb Shmuel Abba was chosen by Harav Moshe Mordechai Twerski of Makarov to marry his daughter, Hinda Mattel. (Reb Moshe Mordechai himself was the son-in-law of Harav Yehoshua of Belz.)
In 5553 / 1893, after the petirah of his father, the Imrei Baruch, on 20 Kislev, Reb Shmuel Abba was appointed Rebbe in Horodenka, despite his young age (he was 28 years old). Many chassidim flocked to his court. Unfortunately, Reb Shmuel Abba was not destined to lead the chassidim for long; just two years later, on 30 Shvat, the first day of Rosh Chodesh Adar 5655 / 1895, he was niftar at the age of 30.
The divrei Torah of Reb Shmuel Abba were published by his talmid Harav Yosef Friedman, Rav of Gvodzitz, under the name Sifsei Tzaddik. This was a compilation of the written works of Reb Shmuel Abba, talks that he had delivered at his tischen and later put to paper. It was published the year after his petirah.
Reb Shmuel Abba’s daughter was married to his nephew, Harav Menachem of Chodorov.
The town of Horodenka sits on the Dneister River some 30 miles from Chernovtsy, in the shadows of the Carpathian Mountains. Kiev is 250 miles northeast of Horodenka and Lviv (Lemberg) is 110 miles to the northwest. This area was also known as Galicia when under Austro-Hungarian rule. Jews first settled there under Polish rule during the middle of the 17th century. According to the census of 1765, there were 863 Jewish families in Horodenka. According to data of 1890, 4340 of the 11,162 inhabitants of the town and 7 of the 18 members of the municipal council were Jews. By the end of the 19th century a local Benei Zion society had been founded, which by 1897 consisted of about 150 members.
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