This Week in Jewish History: Nisan 6-12
Sunday, 6 Nissan: Rav Shmuel Yehuda (ben Meir) Katzenellenbogen (1521-1597). The son of the Maharam Padua, Reb Shmuel was born in Padua. He served on the Beis Din of Venice and became Rav of the city and headed its yeshiva. His sefer, Drashos R’ Shmuel Yehuda, also called Shteim Esre Drashos, is sometimes erroneously named Drashos Mahari Mintz.
Rav Yaakov Temerlis (1668). Borns in Worms, he traveled to Lublin and then Kremenitz, Poland. Late in life, he moved to Vienna. His sefarim included Sifra
DiTzniyusa DeYaakov, a kabbalistic commentary on the Torah.
Rav Chaim Abulafya, born in Chevron, Rav of Tzefas, Izmir (Turkey), Tveria
(1660-1744), known as a miracle worker
Rav Meir Dan (ben Chaim Yitzchak Ber) Plotsky of Warsaw (1866-1928). At the age of nine, Reb Meir Dan was sent to learn in the yeshiva of Rav Chaim Eliezer Wacks, the Nefesh Chayah, in Kalish. Shortly before his Bar Mitzvah, he became a talmid of Rav Avraham of Sochotchov, the Avnei Nezer, whom he considered his lifelong rebbi muvhak. He married at the age of 15 and spent the next 10 years in Dvohrt with his in-laws. In 1891, he became Rav in Dvohrt. Later he helped expose the forged Yerushalmi on Kodshim, claimed to be discovered by Shlomo Yehuda Friedlander, who also claimed he was a Sefardi named Shlomo Yehuda Algazi. At the age of 36, he published his work on the Sefer Hamitzvos of the Rambam, called Chemdas Yisrael. In 1918, he became Rav of Ostrov-Mozbaisk in eastern Poland. He was voted chairman of Agudas Harabbanim of Poland, a prelude to Agudas Israel. At the age of 60, he left rabbanus to head a large yeshiva in Warsaw, known simply as the Mesivta. Rav Meir Dan also authored Kli Chemda on Chumash and Chemdas Shlomo on Orach Chaim.
Rav Aharon (ben Shmuel Yaakov) Roth, author of Shomer Emunim (1894-1947). Born in Ungvar, Hungary, Rav Aharon had an exceptionally close relationship with the Bluzhever Rebbe. Following the Rebbe’s petira in 1924, the Chassidim wanted to appoint Rav Aharon as Rebbe, but he refused. In 1936, he moved from Satmar to Bergsas, where he founded a yeshiva with students of the highest caliber. It was there that he named his followers “Shomer Emunim.” On Chol Hamoed Sukkos in 1940, he set sail for Eretz Yisrael, where he was niftar six and a half years later.
Monday, 7 Nissan
Rav Yitzchak of Drovitch (Drohobitch, Drohobycz, Drohobich, Drogobycz,
Drogobich, Drobich, Dobrowlany, Dobrovlyany) (1758). He was the father of Rav
Yechiel Michel, the Maggid of Zlotschov. In later years, Rav Yitzchak served as
the official maggid or “mochiach” (admonisher) and dayan in the beis din of Brod
at the time when Rav Yitzchak of Hamburg was serving as the town’s rav. Rav
Yitzchak’s name is specifically attached to Drohobitch, a town that lies 40
miles south of Lvov and today is a major petroleum refining center. Like many
towns in this region, the town switched nationalities periodically during its
history, starting off as a Ukrainian village before becoming part of Galicia. In
the 14th century Drohobitch became Polish when King Kazimierz annexed Galicia to
Poland. Then Austria seized the town in 1772 during a partition of Poland.
Poland grabbed it back for 20 years just before World War II and, today it is
once more under Ukrainian control, minus its Jewish population. In 1939
Drohobitch had about 10,000 Poles, 10,000 Ukrainians and 15,000 Jews. [Hamodia
2006, 2009 says 1744, and noted that “others say 1750”]
Rav Pinchas Zelig, Rav of Lask and author of Ateres Paz (1670).
Rav Aryeh Leib Yelin (ben Shalom Shachna) of Bialystock (1820-1884[or 1886]).
Born in Yasinovka, He is the author of Yefeh Einayim, which lists sources,
parallel passages, and variant readings in midrashim and in the aggadah of the
gemara and draws attention to differences between the Bavli and Yerushalmi.
He was also the author of Mitzpeh Aryeh, short notes on the Rif, and of Kol
Aryeh, further drashos on the Mitzpeh Aryeh. The Penei Aryeh is a comprehensive
commentary on the Yerushalmi.
Rav Aryeh Yehuda Leib (ben Techiel Chaim) Epstein (Leibush the 2nd) of Oztrov
[Ozhorov] (1852-1928), grandson of Rav Aryeh Yehuda Leib HaLevi (Leibush
HaGadol), founder of the Oztrov dynasty. In his early teens, he married
Rebbetzin Draizel, who herself learned Gemara and personally tested their five
sons. Rav Leibush succeeded his father as Rebbe in 1888. His most famous
follower was Rav Meir Yechiel HaLevi Halshtok of nearby Ostrovtza. Rav Leibush
was succeeded by his oldest son, Rav Avraham Shlomo, whom in turn was followed
by his son Rav Moshe Yechiel HaLevi Epstein (the Aish Das of Oztrov, 1890-1971).
Save for its 350-year old cemetery, nothing remains today of the town of Oztrov.
[Hamodia says 1914]
Dr. Moshe Wallach, founder of Shaarei Tzedek hospital (1957)
Tuesday, 8 Nissan
Rav Eliyahu Hakadosh of York, Rabbeinu Yom Tov (ben Yitzchak), and several other
English Tosafists, who perished at Clifford’s Tower, during the Crusades, 1146
Rav Eliyahu (ben Binyamin Wolf) Shapiro MiPrague, the Eliyah Rabba on Shulchan
Aruch, and Eliyah Zuta on the Levush to Orach Chaim. He was a student of the
Magen Avraham in his youth (1660-1712).
Rav Yaakov Tzvi Yales of Premezyl, author of Melo Haroim and Kehillas Yaakov
Rav Yechiel Michel (ben Aharon) Tikochinsky, author of Gesher HaChaim (1955)
Rav Mordechai of Neshchiz (1740-1800)(or 1880). Descended from the Maharal of
Prague and Don Yitzchak Abarbanel, Rav Mordechai was a disciple of Rav Yechiel
Michel of Zlotchov. His sayings were collected in Rishpei Eish. He was succeeded
by his son, Rav Yitzchak of Neshchiz.
Wednesday, 9 Nissan
Rav Yosef Yozpe Norlingen (1637), author of Yosef Ometz.
Rav Yaakov Tzvi Yalish (Yolles) of Dinov(or of Premezyl) (1778-1825). He was born in Premeshyl, but moved in with his grandfather, the Rav of Mezhibuzh, after his mother passed away at an early age. He was a chassid of the Chozeh of
Lublin. Rav Yaakov Tzvi served as Rav in Dinov, and later of two other cities, but decided to devote himself to full-time learning and left Rabbanus. He authored Beis Vaad Lechachamim on the history of the Tana’im and Amora’im, Emes Le’Yaakov on Torah, Chinuch Beis Yehudah (named for his grandfather) on Chanukah, Parashas Derachim Zuta, Kehillas Yaakov, Kol Yaakov (on Torah and Nach), and his most famous sefer Melo Haro’im.
Rav Binyamin Zev Rappaport (1837)
Rav Tzvi Hirsch Orenstein, Rav of Lvov(1888). Beginning in 1861 (or 1865), he
served as Rav in Brest Litovsk, Rzeszow, and – after the death of Rav Yosef
Shaul Nathanson – Lvov. He published teshuvos in Birchas Retseh and drashos in
Ohr HaTzvi. He also authored Brachos Tzvi Hirsch.
Rav Aryeh Levine (ben Binyamin Beinish), the Tzadik from Yerushalayim
(1885‑1969). Born in the town of Urla, near Bialystok in northern Lithuania, he left home at the age of 12 to learn in the yeshivas of Slonim and Slutsk, then to the Volozhiner Yeshiva, where he learned under Rav Chaim Berlin. Rav Aryeh emigrated to Eretz Yisrael in 1905, where he continued his learning at Yeshivas Toras Chaim. He became Mashgiach at Yeshivas Eitz Chaim. After the establishment of the State of Israel, Rav Aryeh founded Yeshivas Beis Aryeh, appointing his son-in-law, Rav Eliezer Platzinsky, as Rosh Yeshiva.
Rav Chaim Meir (ben Yisrael) Hager, the Imrei Chaim (1887-1972). Son of the
Ahavas Yisrael of Vizhnitz, he became the son-in-law of Rav Zev of
Rachmistrivka. In 1910, he became Rav of Wilhovitz. After World War II, he moved
to Eretz Yisrael and established Kiryat Vizhnitz in Bnai Brak where he rebuilt
Chassidus Vizhnitz as Rebbe for 35 years.
Thursday, 10 Nissan
Miriam HaNavia (1395-1272 or 1270 BCE)
Rav Betzalel Hacohen, Rav of Vilna, author of Mareh Cohen and Shu”T Reishis
Rav Shalom Mashash, Sephardic Rav of Yerushalayim (1909-2003). Born the Moroccan
city of Meknes, a city of Torah known as the Yerushalayim of Morocco. Rav Shalom
learned under Rav Meir Toledano until the age of 14. His father then sent him to
learn under the great sage Rav Yitzchak Sabag. Writing in his sefer, Tevu’as
Shemesh, Rav Shalom declares, “The fact that I was able to grow in Torah may be
credited to my father, who did not yield to the pressures and offers that I
pursue lucrative positions in banks….Thus, all the credit for my Torah learning
is his, too.” His other main mentor was his relative from both his paternal and
maternal sides, Rav Yehoshua Birdugo, the raavad of Meknes. In 1960 with the
petirah of the chief rav and dayan of Casablanca, Rav Dovid Ibn Sussan, Rav
Shalom became its raavad and chief rav, serving there for thirty years. In 1978,
he moved to Eretz Yisrael to take the position as Chief Sepharic Rav of
Rav Henoch Leibowitz, Rosh Yeshiva of the Chofetz Chaim Yeshiva in New York
(1918-2008). Born town of Selechnik, on the border between Poland and Lithuania.
The yeshiva was started by Rav Leibowitz’s father, Rav Dovid Leibowitz, in 1933,
and was named after the latter’s great uncle, the Chofetz Chaim, who died the
same year. Still in his twenties, Rav Hencoh Leibowitz became rosh yeshiva when
his father died in 1941. The Rosh Yeshiva’s methodology closely followed that of
his father’s, placing an emphasis on the rebbi-student relationship and
inculcating in students the importance of mussar. He also encouraged capable
alumni to start yeshivas in communities with little or no formal yeshiva
instruction in place. There are some two dozen affiliate yeshivas in the United
States, Canada and Israel. There are also three affiliate girls’ schools. Rav
Henoch’s first wife, Pesha Leibowitz, died in 2002. He had no children, and is
survived by his second wife Danielle Leibowitz, and all his talmidim who
considered him like their father.
Friday, 11 Nissan
Rav Moshe ben Nachman, the Ramban, (1194-1270). Born in Gerona, he remained
there most of his life. He was a student of the Ramah (Rabbeinu Meir ha’Levi
Abulefia). He authored the Milchamos Hashem on the Rif Alfasi against the
critique of Baal HaMaor and Ravad. He also wrote a work defending the Bahag
against the Rambam’s criticisms of his classification of mitzvos. He wrote an
account of his public disputation in Barcelona with the convert Pablo Christiani
in 1263. The Ramban’s commentary on Chumash is multi-dimensional including all
methods of interpretation from simple pshat to esoteric Kabbala. The Ramban held
that the mitzva of settling Eretz Yisrael applies even today and ultimately
settled there himself during the last years of his life.
Rav Yeshayah Horowitz, author of Shnei Luchos Habris (Shelah Hakodesh)
(1560-1630), born in Prague, where he became chief rabbi. In his later years he
moved to Eretz Yisrael and became the chief rabbi of Yerushalayim.
Rav Betzalel Hakohen of Vilna, author of Mareh Kohen (1878)
Next Shabbos, 12 Nissan, Parashas Acheri Mos (Shabbos Hagadol)
Rav Shlomo Zalman Lifshitz, Rav of Warsaw, author of Chemdas Shlomo (1839) [11
Nissan according to Yated 2007 and 2008] Rav Shlomo was born in Posen, which was
part of Poland at the time. Rav Shlomo learned under the son-in-law of the Noda
bi’Yehuda. After being supported by his father-in-law for 22 years, he took up
the yoke of rabbanus in about 1804. His first position was in Nashlask, Poland.
After 15 years, Rav Shlomo moved to the Warsaw neighborhood of Praga, and in
1819 he became the first chief rav of Warsaw, which boasted 5,000 Jewish
families and was the largest and wealthiest kehillah in Poland. An official 1826
census found that 2,500 talmidim were studying in 215 chedarim. However, an 1827
government report estimated that 25% of Polish Jews had no livelihood. After
serving as rav of Warsaw for 25 years, Rav Shlomo fell ill and passed away. Rav
Shlomo was survived by his son Rav Yoel from his first marriage.(From Yated
2007. Main source: “MiGedolei HaChassidus,” Rav Avraham Yitzchak Bromberg.
Hotza’as Beis Hillel Jerusalem 5742)
Rav Shimshon Dovid Pincus (1944-2001). Born to Rav Chaim Avraham and Chava Leah Pincus in the United States, he learned at Brisk in Yerushalayim. He married
Chaya Mindel, daughter of Rav Mordechai Man, Rosh Yeshiva of Kenesses Chizkiyahu, and continued his studies in Bnei Brak. Then, in 1981, upon the request of the Steipler Gaon and Rav Shach, he moved into the Negev to start up the community at Ofakim
· Yehoshua sent scouts to survey Yericho and the surrounding territory,
· Rabbi Ovadia MiBartenura, famous for his peirush on Mishnayos, arrived
in Yerushalayim, 1488.
· Rechovot was attacked by Arabs, 1893.
· Jews of Tel Aviv and Yaffo were expelled by the Turks, 1917
· The Polish army executed 35 young Jews who had helped distribute
packages sent by the Joint to the Jewish community of Pinsk, 1919.
· The official Nazi boycott of German Jewish merchants started, 1933.
· 2500 Lublin Jews massacred, the remainder deported, 1942.
· Dr. Jonas Salk announced his polio vaccine, 1953.
· One of the more notorious blood libels, 1475. A Franciscan monk,
Bernardinus of Feltre, Italy came to Trent and began preaching against the Jews
during Lent sermons. A week before Easter a boy by the name of Simon drowned in
the River Adige. The monk charged the Jews with using the body for its blood.
The body washed up a few days later near the house of a Jew who brought it to
the Bishop Honderbach. 17 Jews were tortured for over two weeks. Some confessed
under the torture. 6 Jews were burnt and two more were strangled. Pope Sixtus IV
ordered a temporary hiatus, but after five years the trial was reopened and 5
more Jews were executed. The papal inquest agreed with the trial, Simon was
beatified, and all Jews were expelled from the province for 300 years. The trial
served as the basis for anti-Semitic writings for hundreds of years. Only in
1965 was Simon debeatified and the Church admitted the confessions extracted
under torture were false.
· Emperor Charles V issued a general safe-conduct to Portuguese “New
Christians” and Marranos (though not to those who professed to being Jewish),
allowing them to live and work in Antwerp, 1526. Although they still had to live
under cover, they were safe from the Inquisition which was not allowed to
operate in the Southern “Low Countries,” though they were under Spanish rule.
Only after the Treaty of Utrecht (1713), when Antwerp passed to Austrian rule,
were the Jews able to live there openly.
· Jews of Genoa, Italy, were expelled, 1550.
· Shechita was prohibited in Saxony, 1893.
· The mourning for Moshe Rabbeinu ended, and Yehoshua commanded the people
to prepare provisions for the trip across the Yarden (Yehoshua, Perek 1), c.
· Yechezkel received the prophecy concerning Egypt’s conquest by
Nebuchadnetzar, 419 BCE
· 150 Jews massacred in York, England 1190. Even though the Jews were
under special protection from Richard I, because of their wealth that could help
fund the Crusades, the mob attacked 150 Jews hiding in the castle at York. Most
committed suicide rather than be murdered, but the rest, believing promises that
they would be spared if they came out, left the castle and were promptly
massacred when they refused to submit to baptism. R’ Eliyahu Hakadosh of York,
Rav Yom Tov bar Yitzchak of Jouny and several other English Ba’alei Tosfos were
among the martyrs.Due to this cruel massacre, the Jews accepted upon themselves
a cherem never to sleep in the city of York overnight which is still in
· Rabbeinu Ovadiah Bartenura arrived in Eretz Yisrael after a three tear
· The feast of Achashveirosh, which lasted for 180 days, came to an end,
· First rabbinic hisnagdus to Chassidim was announced in Vilna, 1772. A
cherem, endorsed by the Vilna Gaon, was published in 1777 and again in 1781.
· Denmarkgrants citizenship to Jews, 1814.
· The Zion Mule Corps, consisting of Jewish volunteers from Palestine, was
formed, 1915. This was the first Palestinian Jewish military unit attached to a
regular army. It was the forerunner of the Jewish Legion, which was formed in
· Germanyinvades Denmark and Norway
· Hungaryissued a decree ordering all Jews to wear a yellow star, 1944.
· 57 Jews were killed in
Bury St. Edmunds, England, 1190.
· Anti-Jewish riots broke out in Seville, Spain, 1391. (The riots took
place on Ash Wednesday and initiated a wave of violence which spread rapidly
over the Iberian Peninsula, claiming 50,000 Jewish victims before the year was
up. A substantial number of Jews escaped with their lives only because they
converted. This marked the emergence of Marranos, said to number 200,000, in the
kingdoms of Aragon and Castille. They were to provide tens of thousands of
martyrs in the Old, and New Worlds for centuries to come.
· Jews of Vienna, Austria, were accused of profaning the host. Many of
those who refused to embrace Christianity were burned at the stake, 1421.
· Germanyinvaded Yugoslavia and Greece, 1941. Yugoslavia and Greece were
partitioned among the Axis allies. Germany annexed most of Slovenia, and
occupied northwestern Yugoslavia, Serbia, and the region around Salonika in
northern Greece (home of most Greek Jews at the time). Germany also established
the pro-German, fascist state of Croatia in northern Yugoslavia. Germany and
Italy jointly occupied Athens, the Greek capital. The Prime Minister of Greece,
General Ioannis Metaxas, attempted to maintain neutrality until the war began.
On October 28, 1940, however, the Italians invaded his country. Metaxas died in
· Nazis established two ghettos in Radom, Poland, 1941.
· Yehoshua leads bnei Yisrael across the Jordan, 1271 BCE
· Hizbullah operatives bombed a restaurant near the U.S. Air Force base in
Torrejon, Spain, killing 18 American servicemen, 1984
· London Jews were martyred following ritual charges, 1279.
· Prussian ruler Frederick the Great imposed oppressive restrictions upon
Jews, 1750. His anti-Jewish policies were proof that anti-Semitism would survive
in the age of “Enlightenment”.
· Birthday of the last Lubavitcher Rebbe (1902)
· First two Nazi anti-Jewish decrees, barring Jews from public service and
· Nazis establish Kielce ghetto, 1941
· Ezra and his followers departed from the River Ahava on their way to
Yerushalayim, 373 B.C.E.
· The Dutch West India Co. granted Michael Cardozo the right to practice
law in Brazil, a privilege no other Jew enjoyed at that time anywhere else,
· Jews from Mashad, Iran were forcibly converted and a pogrom perpetrated
against them, 1839.
· The Russian revolutionary government granted equality to all Russian
Jews for the first time in Russian history, 1917. (In the first decade of the
20th century Russia had about 50 percent of the total world Jewish population
under its effective control and domination. The grant of equality by the Russian
revolutionary government thus affected a major part of world Jewry. By the end
of the second decade Russia had only about 18 percent of the total Jewish
population under its jurisdiction.)
· Three days after entering Yugoslavia and Greece in 1941, Germany
occupied Salonika, which had a Jewish population of 54,000. Within a week, the
members of the Jewish community council were arrested, Jews’ dwellings were
expropriated, and the Jewish hospital was requisitioned for the use of the
Wehrmacht. In April-May 1941, Einsatzstab Rosenberg (Rosenberg Operational
Staff), aided by units of the Wehrmacht, systematically looted 500-year-old
literary and cultural treasures in dozens of private and public libraries and
synagogues in this city. Most of the booty was taken to Frankfurt, where the
Nazis were establishing a library for the study of Judaism.
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