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A heretic once said to Rabbi Haninah, “Now that you are impure, as the verse in Lamentations states ‘Her (the Jewish People’s) impurity is in her skirts (meaning, in the extremities, in exile) (Lam. 1)’ what is your relationship with God?”

Rabbi Haninah answered, “Come and see what is written, ‘He dwells with them in the midst of their impurity.’ (Lev. 16) Meaning, even when the Jewish people are impure, the Divine Presence is with them.

Yoma Chapter 5

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1 July in History

In 1878, at the insistence of Prussian Prime Minister Otto von Bismarck the Congress of Berlin incorporated into the Treaty of Berlin an article intended to provide the Jews of Romania with the opportunity for full citizenship. Unfortunately, the Romanians evaded the article and only a hand full of Jews would gain citizenship.

19 Tammuz in History

Today is the Yahrzeit of Rabbi Yitzchak HaLevi Herzog (1889-1959) was born in Łomża, Poland, and moved to the United Kingdom with his family in 1898. He served as rabbi of Belfast from 1916 to 1919 and was appointed rabbi of Dublin in 1919. He went on to serve as Chief Rabbi of Ireland between 1922 and 1936, after which he immigrated to Israel to succeed the late Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook as Chief Rabbi of Israel. He served as Chief Rabbi until his death in 1959. He authored numerous works including Divrei Yitzchak, an anthology of Talmudic discourses, and the halachic work Hechal Yitzchak.

When one encounters reasons to refrain, or elements that seem to contradict, love, whether those reasons come from the world, or from the Torah, they must be refined until they reach the exalted place of Godly Love: He created all of creation; He sustains all of creation at every moment.

Rav Avraham Yitschak HaKohen Kook
Al HaMidot
Ahava

~~~

30 June in History

In 1838, the Swedish government abolished discrimination against Jews. Unfortunately due to public objections it was repealed. Another 30 years were to pass before Jews were given the right to vote.

18 Tammuz in History

In 1313 BCE, Moses destroyed the Golden Calf, and re-ascended Mount Sinai to plead to God for forgiveness for the Jewish people.

Rabbi Eliezer says, “Based on the verse, ‘These are the generations (or offspring) of heaven and earth when they were created’ (Gen 2) we can infer that everything that is of the heavens, such as the sun, moon, and starts, were created from the heavens, and everything that is of the earth was created from the earth.”

But the Sages say, “Everything that is of the land, and everything that is of the heavens, was created from Zion, as the verse states, ‘From Zion, the perfection of beauty’ (Ps. 50:1) meaning, the beauty of the entire world is from Zion.”

Yoma Chapter 5

~~~

29 June in History

In 1942, A 13-year-old girl in Amsterdam who would gain fame as Anne Frank wrote in the diary which she had received as a birthday present only eight days before, “I want to write, but, more than that, I want to bring out all kinds of things that lie buried deep in my heart.”

17 Tammuz in History

The Talmud (Taanit 28b) identifies five tragic events that happen on the 17th of Tammuz:

In 1313 BCE:
Moses descended from Mt. Sinai and saw a portion of the Jewish people serving the Golden Calf. He then smashed the Tablets which had the Ten Commandments.

In 423 BCE:
The daily sacrificial offerings (Korban Tamid) in the Holy Temple were discontinued, three weeks before the Babylonians’ destruction of the First Temple in 423 BCE

In 69 CE:
–The walls of the besieged city of Jerusalem were breached.

–The Roman general Apostomus burned the Torah and,

–placed an idol in the Holy Temple.

The fighting in Jerusalem continued for three weeks until the 9th of Av, when the Holy Temple was set aflame.

It is for these reasons that the 17th of Tammuz is observed as a fast day, dedicated to praying and repentance.

Aggadah

When the Priests, Levites, and Israelites would leave the Temple, they would turn their backs towards the door and their faces towards the Alter.

And so too when a student leaves the teacher.

Yoma Chapter 5

~~~

28 June in History

Former President James Madison passed away (1836). Madison worked with his mentor Thomas Jefferson to ensure freedom of religion in the state of Virginia in the years between the Revolution and the ratification of the U.S. Constitution. Madison played in a key role in the ratification of the first ten amendments of the Constitution known as the Bill of Rights. The first of those amendments guaranteed the separation of church and state. Madison was the first President to appoint a Jew to a U.S. diplomatic post.

16 Tammuz in History

In the year 2448 from Creation (1313 BCE), Tammuz 16 was the 40th day following the Giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, and the people of Israel wrongly expected Moses’ return from the mountain (he would actually return on the following day). When their leader failed to return, they demanded from Aaron: “Make us a god that shall go before us”. Hur (Moses’ nephew, the son of Miriam and Caleb) tried to stop them and was killed by the mob. Aaron fashioned a calf of molten gold.

Aggadah

It happened that once the high-priest made his prayer very long when leaving the Holy of Holies. When the other priests became alarmed (concerned that he had died, since priests that did not possessed enough sanctity  could die when entering the Holy of Holies), they went to see whether he had died, and met him while he was returning.

They asked him why he had made his prayer so long. He said, “Is this displeasing to you, that I prayed to the Lord that the Temple might not be destroyed?” They said to him, “Do not repeat your prayer, since it is taught in the Mishna, ‘The High Priest should not make his prayer long, lest he alarm the congregation.'”

Yoma Chapter 5

~~~

27 June in History

In 1941, German units in Bialystok began to randomly shoot Jews. Eight hundred were locked in the Synagogue, which the Nazis then it set on fire. More were forced in during the blaze. Resisters were shot. The Germans threw hand grenades into Jewish homes. By the end of the day, 2,000 Jews were murdered. Similar horrors took place in Minsk.

15 Tammuz in History

Today is the Yahrzeit of Rav Chaim ben Atar, the Or HaChaim Hakadosh, (1696-1743). Born into a well-respected family in Sali, Morocco, Rav Chaim spent his early years learning with his grandfather, whose name he shared.

Rav Chaim’s dream was to go to Israel. With 30 followers he arrived in Israel, four days before Rosh HaShanah in 1742 and settled in Acco. Rav Chaim and his students spent Yom Kippur in the cave of Eliyahu HaNavi, Elijah the Prophet, on Mount Carmel. Purim was spent in Tzfat and Miron, where a great deal of time was spent studying the holy Zohar.

On the 15th of Elul of 1743, Rav Chaim finally arrived in Jerusalem with his group. He immediately established a yeshiva called Knesset Yisrael and second secretive yeshiva for the study of Kabbalah. One of his new students was Rav Chaim Yosef Dovid Azulai, later to be known as the Chida, who at that time was only 18 years old.

I will tell you, humanity, what is good, what God seeks from you:
Only to do justice,
Love kindness,
Walk humbly with your God.

Michah 6:8

~~~

July 25 in History

In 1656, Rabbi Menashe Ben Yisrael applied for official permission to practice Judaism in England. The Council of State granted permission. This took place during the period when Oliver Cromwell was in effect the ruler of England. Cromwell and his followers were devout Christians. The agreed to the readmission of the Jews to England because it was pointed out to them that the Second Coming could not take place until Jews populated all parts of the world.

July 26 in History

In 1629, Rabbi Yom Tov Lipmann Heller was imprisoned. Rabbi Yom Tov Lipmann Heller was born in 1579. He was the author of Tossafoth Yom Tov,a major commentary on the Mishna. While he was serving as a Rabbi in Prague, he was involved with the distribution of tax money. He was wrongfully accused by some of showing favoritism in his work. He ended up being taken to Vienna in chains. The Christian officials respected his integrity and released him. Considering that this took place during the Thirty Years War, it is surprising that Heller did not come to some barbarous end. He passed away in 1654, the same year in which the American Jewish Community began.

13 Tammuz in History

Today is the Yahrzeit of Rav Moshe Ravkash, the author of Be’er HaGolah. During the fury of the Cossacks in Vilna, most of the community did not believe that the danger was imminent, so they did not escape. A few of the great Torah scholars of that generation did, in fact, escape to freedom. Among them were the Shach, the Shaar Ephraim and the Be’er HaGolah. He spent a few years in Amsterdam until it was safe to return.

14 Tammuz in History

Today is the Yahrzeit of Rav Yaakov Halevi Ruderman, (1901-1987) Rosh Yesiva of Ner Israel, Baltimore. Born on Shushan Purim in 1901 in Dolhinov, Russia; studied in Yeshivas Knesset Yisrael in Slobodka, then headed by Rav Nosson Zvi Finkel (the Alter) and Rav Moshe Mordechai Epstein. Among his colleagues in Slobodka were Rav Reuven Grozovsky; Rav Ruderman’s first cousin, Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky; Rav Aharon Kotler; Rav Yitzchak Hutner;

In ~1926, Rav Ruderman published his only written work, Avodas Halevi.

In 1930, Rav Ruderman joined his father-in-law, Rav Sheftel Kramer, at the latter’s yeshiva in Cleveland.

In 1933, Rav Ruderman moved to Baltimore and founded the Ner Israel yeshiva, leading that yeshiva for 54 years until his passing. His death in 1987 followed less than one-and-a-half years after the passing of Rav Kaminetzky and Rav Moshe Feinstein.

Posthumously, Rav Ruderman’s students have published two volumes of his teachings: Sichos Levi contains mussar/ethical insights based on the weekly parashah, while Mas’as Levi contains lectures on the 19th century work Minchas Chinuch and other Tamudic and halachic insights.

Aggadah

R. Hanina b. Dosa happened to be on the road. It began to rain. He said, “Master of the Universe, the whole world enjoys, but Hanina is afflicted.” The rain ceased.

When he reached home, he said, “The whole world is in anxiety because no rain comes, only Hanina is contented” (since he did not have fields).

Rain began to come again.

Yoma Chapter 5

~~~

22 June in History

It was on this day in 1908 that President Grover Cleveland died of heart failure. In 1897 Cleveland vetoed an immigration bill that included a literacy test. The literacy test was a thinly veiled attempt to close the doors to immigrants including the wave of Jews coming from Eastern Europe.

12 Tammuz in History

Today is the Yahrzeit of Rabbeinu Yaakov ben Asher, the Baal Haturim (1268-1340), son of the Rosh. When his father fled Germany with his entire family to Spain in 1803, Rav Yaakov first lived with his brother Rav Yechiel, in Barcelona, then moved to Toledo, where his father was Rav. His younger brother, Rav Yehuda, who would marry Rav Yaakov’s daughter, succeeded the Rosh as Rav of Toledo, while Rav Yaakov himself preferred to take a position on the rabbinical court, Beit Din.

His monumental halchic work, the Arba’ah Turim included virtually all opinions available to Rav Yaakov, as well as a wealth of customs. The many commentators on the Tur include those of Rav Yosef Karo (the Beis Yosef), Rav Moshe Isserles (Darkei Moshe), Rav Yoel Sirkes (The Beis Chadash), Rav Yehoshua Falk (Derishah uPerishah), and Rav Yosef Escapa (the Rosh Yosef), who deals with only a part of the work.

Rav Chaim Yoesf David Azulai, Chida, (1724-1807) comments that without a proper study of the Tur and its commentaries, one cannot begin to determine halachah.

Rav Yaakov also authored Sefer HaRemazim (also known as Kitzur Piskei HaRosh), an abridged version of his father’s compendium of the Talmud, quoted in Sefer Mesharim. Rav Yaakov died in Toledo.

The quality of love that lives in the heart of the righteous includes all of creation, and does not exclude any nation or people. Even Amalek is only “erased from under the heaven” but the refining it too can return to its good source, which is higher than the heavens, and is included in the exalted love for everything.

Yet, it requires great power and purity for this unification.

Rav Avraham Yitschak HaKohen Kook
Ahava
Al-HaMidot

~~~

23 June 2010

An incident, known as the Mortara Affair, began in Bologna, 1858. Edgardo Mortara, a seven year old Jewish boy, was kidnapped by the Roman Catholic Church on the pretext that a servant girl claimed that she had baptized him. The pope, Pious IX, refused to surrender him despite many protests. The combination of the Damascus affair and this affair led to unification among many Jews and later to the establishment of the Alliance Israelite.

Aggada

The High Priest, when leaving the Holy of Holies, would say a short prayer. What was this short prayer?

May it be Your will, Lord our God, that is this year be a hot one, that you give us plenty of rain.

Another opinion maintained:

May no ruler cease from the house of Judah. May your people Israel not depend on gifts for their livelihood. May you not heed the prayers of travelers who ask for the cessation of rain.

Yoma Chapter 5

~~~

22 June in History

Today is the birthdate of Michael Todd (June 22, 1909 – March 22, 1958), producer of Around the World in Eighty Days. He was one of Elizabeth Taylor’s husbands.

The name he was given at birth was Avrom Hirsch Goldbogen.

10 Tammuz in History

Today is the yahrzeit of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Benjamin Nathan Cardozo (1870-1938). Born in New York City to Albert and Rebecca Nathan Cardozo. His ancestors were Sephardic Jews who immigrated to the United States in the 1740s and 1750s from the Iberian peninsula via the Netherlands and England. Of the six children born to Albert and Rebecca Cardozo, only Emily, married, and she and her husband did not have any children.

As far as is known, Benjamin Cardozo led the life of a celibate. As an adult, Cardozo no longer practiced his faith, but remained proud of his Sephardic Jewish heritage.

In the time of the forty years during which Simeon the Upright was high-priest in the Temple, the lot with God’s name always came into the high-priest’s right hand (on the Day of Atonement, when he would dray lots), but thereafter it sometimes fell into his right, sometimes into his left hand.

And the piece of crimson wool, during the time of Simeon the Upright, always became white (after the service on the Day of Atonement, as a symbol of God’s atonement of the Jewish people). But after Simeon the Upright, sometimes it became white, sometimes it remained red.

In Simeon the Upright’s time the western light (of the candelabra) ever burned, but after him it sometimes burned and sometimes went out.

The fire of the altar ever waxed in strength, and except the two measures of wood prescribed they had not to add any wood, in Simeon the Upright’s time; but after him, sometimes the fire persisted and sometimes wood had to be added.

Yoma Chapter 4

~~~

21 June in History

Today is birthdate of Alexander the Great (356 B.C.E.). Alexander traveled back forth across Judea; first when he went down to conquer Egypt and then when he came back from his Egyptian conquest and moved east to conquer more of the Persian Empire. There is a tale about him coming to Jerusalem, that he refused to destroy the Temple. Simon the Righteous came to greet Alexander as he approached Jerusalem. He’s treatment of the Jews was tolerant since he left them to practice their religion in peace and Jews found it easy to settle throughout his newly conquered domains. This attitude set allowed for a mixing of the Jewish and Greek cultures.

9 Tammuz in History

The Babylonian armies of King Nebuchadnezzar breached the walls of Jerusalem on the 9th of Tammuz in the year 3338 from creation (423 BCE); King Ziddikiahu of Judah was captured and taken to Babylon (Jeremiah 39:5. A month later, the capture of Jerusalem was completed with the destruction of the Holy Temple and the exile of all but a small number of Jews to Babylon). Tammuz 9 was observed as a fast day until the second breaching of Jerusalem’s walls (by the Romans) on the 17th of Tammuz, 3829 (69 CE), at which time the fast was moved to that date.

Today is the Yahrzeit of Rav Yekusiel Yehuda Halberstam, the Klausenberger Rebbe (1905-1994), great-grandson of the Divrei Chaim of Sanz. He spent most of World War II in concentration camps. During his last 15 years of life, he founded Kollelei Shas in Eretz Yisrael and America. These Kollelei Shas were intended for premier students who were already known for their sharp intellect and dedication.

The goal of the kollel was that in the course of three years, the members had to complete the entire Shas. Every member had to obligate himself to be tested on 75 pages of Gemara with the Tosafot commentary each month and know them by heart.

In 1983, at his house in Kiryat Sanz, Netanya, he laid the cornerstone for what would ultimately become Mifal HaShas, where students would learn 30 pages of Gemara with Tosafot with a built-in review program and be tested monthly on the material learned.

In addition to his tremendous efforts on behalf of Torah learning, the Rebbe also used his experiences from the war to stimulate him in another area. Having survived the horror of witnessing the murder of his wife and their 11 children, Reb Yekusiel vowed to dedicate his life to welfare and good health of all Jewish children. He founded Laniado Hospital in Netanya in 1975 after 15 years of fund-raising. His vision of a proper Jewish hospital was confirmed in 1990, as it was one of the only hospitals in Israel to have every employee working during the 127-day doctors’ strike. After his death, his eldest surviving son, Rav Zvi Elimelech Halberstam, became the new Sanz Rebbe in Israel, as well as President of the Hospital.

Aggadah

The box that held the lots that the high priest used on the day of atonement to decide which goat would be offered to God on which would be brought to Azazel was made of wood.

Why was it of wood? We have a tradition that all vessels used in the Temple were of a precious metal?

Since the Torah is concerned for the money of the Israel.

Rashi: we learn the principal of being “concerned for the money of Israel” from the extra precautions that must be taken when inspecting a leporous house. If God is so compassionate on those who have transgressed His law, all the more so for the righteous!

Yoma Chapter 4

~~~

20 June in History

In 1808, today is the birthdate of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch. He articulated many principles that guide how an Orthodox Jew can live as a part of the modern world.

8 Tammuz in History

Today is the yahrzeit of Rav Eliyahu Mani of Chevron (1899). An associate of the Ben Ish Hai in Baghdad, Rav Eliyahu moved to Eretz Yisrael and became the Head Rabbi of the jewish community in Chevron.

Haftara

Yiftach made a vow to God, “If You will give the descendents of Moav into my grasp, I will offer as a sacrifice that which comes out of my house first when I return to my home in peace.”

Judges 11:30-31

~~~

June 18 in History

In 1815, Napoleon was defeated at the Battle of Waterloo. According to one account, fifty-two French Jews lost their lives in the battle. This defeat marked a return of the reactionaries to power in Europe. The laws of emancipation that had benefited the Jews of Europe were rolled back. It would take many decades for the Jews of Europe to win them back.

June 19 in History

Today is the birthdate of comedian Moe Howard (1897), who gained fame as one of the Three Stooges.

6 Tammuz in History

Jewish hostages held by Arab terrorists at Entebbe Airport, Uganda, were rescued by Israeli commando units in 1976.

The operation rescued 102 out of 105 of the hostages. The event greatly bolstered the importance of the Jewish State, as this event showed that there was a modern state that was willing to extend itself to rescue Jews, no matter where they were.

In the operation, Jonathan Netanyahu, the unit’s leader and older brother to the current Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, was killed. Jonathan is buried on Mount Herzl.

7 Tammuz in History

Today is the yahrzeit of Rav Gedalia Schorr (1911-1979). Born in the town of Istrik to Rav Avraham Schorr, a Rizhiner chasid, Rav Gedalyah moved to America with his family at the age of 10 and was one of the first students of Mesivta Torah Vodaas under Rav Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz.

He joined the first group of the Daf Yomi (study of a page of Talmud daily) cycle when he was 12 years old, and started delivering shiur, lecture, on the Daf when he was 15. At Torah Vodaas, he studied with Rav Dovid Leibowitz, grandson of the Chafetz Chaim’s brother. When he was 20, he began giving shiur at the Mesivta. After he was married, he left for Europe to study under Rav Aharon Kotler at Kletsk. However, one year later, he was told by the American consul in Warsaw to return home because of the imminent danger. He worked closely with Agudas Yisrael’s rescue efforts during the war.

In 1946, he was appointed menahel ruchni, along with Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky, of Mesivta Torah Vodaas, a post he maintained for 33 years. In 1956, after the death of Rav Reuven Grozovsky, he also became Rosh Yeshiva of Beis Medrash Elyon, the post-graduate division of Torah Vodaas. His discourses have been collected in the sefer Ohr Gedalyahu.

Aggadah

Sin constricts the heart of a man.
If a person defiles himself a little, here below, he becomes defiled even more so from Above.
If a person comes to sanctify a little, here below, he becomes purified even more so from Above.

Yoma Chapter 3

17 June in History

In 1242, at the decree of Pope Gregory IX and King Louis, all copies of the Talmud were confiscated in Paris. Declaring that the reason for the stubbornness of the Jews was their study of the Talmud, the Pope called for an investigation of the Talmud that resulted in its condemnation and burning. Twenty-four cartloads of Hebrew manuscripts were publicly burned. Rabbi Meir was an eyewitness to the public burning of the twenty-four cartloads of Talmudic manuscripts (and he bewailed this tragedy in his celebrated “Kina” Shaali serufah (שאלי שרופה) which is still recited on Tisha B’Av.

5 Tammuz in History

Today is the Yahrzeit of Rav Ezriel Meir of Lublin (1873-1941). Born to Rav Avraham Eiger of Lublin, a descendent of Rav Akiva Eiger. He reluctantly took the reigns of the Lublin Chassidim after his father’s death in 1914. In 1913, Rav Ezriel Meir and his brother founded Yeshivas Ahavas Torah in Lublin, moving it to Warsaw a few years after WW I.

Warsaw had the largest Chassidic community in the world at that time. Jews had first settled there during the 14th century, after the reign of King Kasimierz, and was then inundated by the Chassidic movement at the end of the 18th century. By 1939, Warsaw had a population of about 393,950 Jews, which was approximately one-third of the city’s total population.

On the 5th of Tammuz of the year 3332 from creation (429 BCE), Ezekiel, the only Prophets to prophesy outside of the Holy Land, beheld a vision of the Divine “Chariot” representing God’s presence following the Jewish people into exile.

Love for all of creation must live in the heart and in the soul. Love for all individuals, and love for all nations: a desire to see them exalted in spirituality and physical well being. Hatred is reserved only for that which is evil in the world.

It is impossible to come to the state of, “Give thanks to God, call on His name, make known among the nations His deeds” without an inner love in the heart and soul, to cause them good, to to make beautiful what they possess, to enrich their lives.

Rav Avraham Yitschak HaKohen Kook
Al- HaMidot
Ahava

~~~

16 June in History

It was today in 1904 that Irish author James Joyce begins a relationship with Nora Barnacle, and subsequently uses the date to set the actions for his novel Ulysses. This date is referred to as “Bloomsay”; a reference to Leopold Bloom, Joyce’s protagonist in Ulysses. Bloomsday has been celebrated since 1994 in the Hungarian town of Szombathely, the birthplace of Leopold Bloom’s father, Virág Rudolf an emigrant Hungarian Jew.

4 Tammuz in History

Rabbi Yaakov ben Meir of Romereau (1100?-1171), known as “Rabbeinu Tam”, was a grandson of Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, 1040-1105), and one of the primary authors of the Tosaphot commentary on the Talmud; the Bet-Din (rabbinical court) he headed was regarded as the leading Torah authority of his generation.

Then, Joshua spoke to God, on the day God gave the Emorites to the Children of Israel. He said in plain view of the Children of Israel:
Sun, in Givon, be still.
And the moon, in the valley of Ayalon.
The sun was still,
and the moon stood
while the nation demolished its enemies.

Is it not written in the Book of the Just: The sun stood in the middle of the sky, and did not press on to set for an entire day. There was not a day like it before, or a day after it again, when God listened to the voice of a man, since God was fighting for Israel.

Joshua 10:12-15

~~~

15 June in History

In 1888, Crown Prince Wilhelm becomes Kaiser Wilhelm II. Ten years after coming to the throne, the Kaiser would visit Jerusalem in 1898 where Herzl tried, and failed, to interest him creating a Jewish homeland in Palestine.

3 Tammuz in History

On the third of Tammuz of the year 2488 from creation (1273 BCE), Joshua was leading the Jewish people in one of the battles to conquer the Land of Israel. Victory was imminent, but darkness was about to fall. “Sun,” proclaimed Joshua, “be still at Giv’on; moon, at the Ayalon valley” (Joshua 10:12). The heavenly bodies acquiesced, halting their progress through the sky until Israel’s armies brought the battle to its successful conclusion.

Aggadah

If one wishes to defile himself (to sin) the door is opened to him; but he who comes to purify himself, he is assisted. The disciples of R. Ishmael have told a parable to explain this, “When one sells both pitch (which has a bitter smell) and perfumes, when one arrives to buy pitch, the store owner says to him, ‘Measure the quantity you need’; but if one arrives to buy perfumes, he says, ‘Wait, we will both measure it, and (I will be able to enjoy) the pleasing smell.'”

Yoma Chapter 3

~~~

14 June in History

In 1656, directors of the Dutch West India Company sent a strong letter to Peter Stuyvesant in New Amsterdam ordering him to give “more respect” to the “Jews or Portuguese people” in his city. A principle shareholder in the company, a Jew named Joseph d’Acosta had assisted in obtaining this statement.

2 Tammuz in History

Today is the Yahrziet of Rav Shmuel ben Yechiel of Cologne, who was killed by Crusaders. He was one of the Baale Tosafot, who were a group of scholars that co-authored one of the most insightful, analytic, and authoritative commentaries on the Talmud.

Listen


Aggadah

The Holy One, blessed be He, perceived that righteous people are few, He therefore planted them in every generation, as it is written (1 Sam. 2:8), “The pillars of the earth are God’s; He has set the world on them.”

Yoma Chapter 3

~~~

13 June in History

Birthdate of Esther Ofarim (1941), a sabra who became a popular Israeli entertainer and singer.

1 Tammuz in History

Joseph, the son of the patriarch Jacob, was born in Charan (Mesopotamia) on the 1st of Tammuz of the year 2199 from creation (1562 BCE), the first child of Jacob’s most beloved wife, Rachel, born after 7 childless years of marriage. He passed away on the same date 110 years later, in Egypt.

When Joseph was six years old, Jacob and his family returned to the Holy Land, eventually settling in Hebron. Though younger than 10 of his 11 brothers, he was his father’s favorite, and a great rivalry existed between him and his brothers, whose animosity toward him increased when he related two dreams he had forecasting that he is destined to rule over them.

When Joseph was 17, he was sold into slavery by his brothers and taken to Egypt; when he refused the advances of his master’s wife, she had him placed in prison, where he languished for 12 years. At age 30, he interpreted a pair of mysterious dreams dreamt by Pharaoh, and was appointed viceroy of Egypt to oversee the gathering and storage of grain in preparation for the seven years of famine that Pharaoh’s dreams had predicted. He married Asnat, and had two children, Menasseh and Ephraim.

The great famine brought his brothers to Egypt to purchase grain; after subjecting them to a series of trials to test their loyalty to each other and their remorse over what they had done to him, Joseph revealed his identity to his brothers, was reconciled with them, and settled his father and entire family — 70 souls in all — in Egypt.

Joseph passed away in Egypt on his 110th birthday, in 1452 BCE. The first of his brothers to die, he transmitted to them the divine promise to Jacob that his children will be taken out of Egypt and restored to their homeland, and made them promise to take his remains with them when they go.

Listen

Haftara

So says God:

The gate to the inner court which faces east,
will be closed for the six working days,
but open on the Sabbath, and on the New Moon.

The Prince will come through this gate,
and stand by the door posts.
The priests will bring his elevation offering and peace offering.
He will worship at the threshold of this gate;
the gate will not be closed until evening.

The common people will come to the opening of this gate,
and worship,
on the Sabbaths and New Moons,
before God.

Yechezkel 46:1-3

~~~
11 June in History

In 1954, Archeologist Yigael Yadin sent a telegraph to Teddy Kollek stating that four Dead Sea Scrolls, including the Book of Isaiah, had been brought to the United States and were being offered for sale. Yadin said they could be purchased for $250,000, what he considered a paltry sum for so great a treasure. He said that he could raise the money from private sources but that it would take a year. He pleaded with Kollek to get the Israeli government to provide the funds immediately. Prime Minister Sharett agreed and authorized the Minister of Finance to provide the funds. Thanks to the quick action, this national treasure was secured for Israel.

12 June in History

In 1867, following its defeat by Prussia, Austria reorganizes itself into the Austro-Hungarian Empire and grants legal equality to Jews living with the new constituent states.

29 Sivan in History

In 1312, the 12 spies were sent by Moses to tour the Holy Land before the Jewish people were to enter it.

30 Sivan

Rav Shlomo Kluger (1783-1869), author of Sefer HaChaim (a commentary on Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim), and Chochmat Shlomo. Rav Kluger was born to Rav Yehuda Aharon, rabbi of Komarow. Rav Yehuda Aharon was a sickly man who died before age 40, leaving his son a homeless orphan.

One day, R’ Yaakov Kranz (the “Dubno Maggid”) met the young boy wandering the streets of Zamosc, Poland, and he took him in. The Dubno Maggid arranged teachers for his charge, including R’ Mordechai Rabin, rabbi of Zamosc, and R’ Yosef Hochgelernter.

A prolific author and posek, he wrote of himself that he had authored “115 large works on Tanach and the entire Talmud, and commentaries on the early and later poskim.” This statement was written in 1844, 25 years before his death. Ha’eleph Lecha Shlomo, his best-known work of halachic responsa, has 1,008 chapters. He also authored Imrei Shefer on Chumash. Rav Kluger served as Head of the Rabbinical Court, Rosh Beit Din in Grodi, Galicia, and Rav in Broide.

Listen

Aggadah

R. Hiya b. Abba said in the name of R. Johanan, “A righteous man does not depart from the world, till another righteous man like him has been created, as it is written (Eccles. i. 5), ‘The sun rises, the sun goes down.’ Before the sun of Eli had been extinguished, the sun of Samuel of Ramah already shone.

Yoma Chapter 3

10 June in History

A year ago, an American white supremacist, opened fire at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum Wednesday, killing a security guard before being shot himself. The Holocaust museum issued a statement, “”This tragedy is a powerful reminder that our cause of fighting hatred remains more urgent than ever.”

28 Sivan in History

Today is the Yahrzeit of Rav Yisrael Zev Gustman (1908-1991), a student of Rav Shimon Shkop in Grodno. He served on the rabbinical court of Rav Chaim Ozer Grodzinsky. In fact, he was the youngest judge in the history of Vilna (at age 19). When the Nazis invaded Vilna, they stormed the yeshiva beat Rav Gustman him until he collapsed. By a miracle he was spared, and he fled for his life. In 1961, Rav Gustman moved to Eretz Yisrael and transferred his yeshiva, Netzach Yisrael Ramailles, to the Rechavia section of Jerusalem.

Listen

On Love

The flames of the holy fire of love for God are always burning inside the soul. They heat the spirit and give clarity to life. There is no end of pleasure to those who enjoy it.

But how cruel can a person be to themselves, that they sink into physicality, thinking of the many calculations as to what they should do, but the real substance of living life, the fundamental pleasure, they have forgotten from their heart… a person continues on this path, which is against nature, the nature of the soul and the nature of all of existence.

The kindness of the Exalted One is destined to break through, and the holiness will create paths to pour pleasure in all of its colors, in its full exaltedness. “God, beside you, the eye has not seen that which you will do for those who hope to You” (Is. 34:3).

Rav Avraham Yitschak HaKohen Kook
Al HaMidot
Ahava

~~~

9 June in History

1931, Birthday of comedian Jackie Mason. In addition to being a famed comedian, he is also one of the founders of an organization called One Jerusalem, which has the stated mission of “maintaining a united Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel”.

27 Sivan in History

Rabbi Chananya ben Tradyon, one of the “Ten Martyrs” was killed on this date. When the Romans discovered him teaching the outlawed Torah they wrapped him in a Torah scroll, piled bundles of twigs around him, and before setting him afire they placed damp woolen cloths on him to prolong the agony of being burned to death.

As the flames engulfed him, his disciples asked him, “Master, what do you see?” Rabbi Chananya replied: “I see a scroll burning, but the letters flying up to Heaven.

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Aggadah

The rabbis taught: Ben Kamtsar did not want to teach the art of writing. It was said of him: He used to take four quills between his four fingers, and when he had to write a word of four letters, he wrote it at once.
The Rabbis asked him, “Why do you not teach it to others?”
He found no answer.
Therefore of the first (the families of Garmu and Avtinas it is said “The memory of the just is blessed”; and of Ben Kamtsar and his family it is said: “The name of the wicked shall rot.”

What is meant by “rot”? How can a name “rot”? R. Elazar said, “Their name will contract such a rottenness that children will not be named after them.”

Yoma Chapter 3

~~~

8 June in History

In 1789, James Madison introduces a proposed Bill of Rights in the House of Representatives. Those favoring ratification of the U.S. Constitution promised that a Bill of Rights (what would be the first ten amendments to the Constitution) would be enacted as soon as the new federal government was formed. The First Amendment is of particular importance to adherents to a faith tradition in general and Jews in particular because it guarantees freedom of religion in the nation’s organic document. This has made the experience of Jews in the United States different from all other Diaspora Communities.

26 Sivan in History

Today is the Yahrzeit of Rabbi Yonatan Ben Uziel. He lived in the Second Temple era and was a student of Hillel the Elder.
There is a Rabbinic saying that attests to his stature of scholarship and piety, “Hillel the Elder had eighty students. Thirty were worthy of the Divine Presence resting on them as it did for Moses; another thirty were worthy of having the sun stop as it did for Yehoshua the son of Nun. The other twenty were in between. The greatest of this group was Yonatan Ben Uziel.”

He wrote a translation on the Bible and the Books of the Prophets in Aramaic . This translation is printed in most Bibles.

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Aggadah

The family of Avtinas were skilled at making the incense, but would not teach how to make it. As with the family of Garmu (see yesterday’s post) the Avtinas family refused to teach how to make the incense out of fear that when the Temple would be destroyed, other people might make the mixture to serve idolatry.

The Avtinas family’s memory is a blessing: on account that their women would never wear perfume, so people should not suspect that they were taking the Temple’s incense for their personal use. Further, anyone who married into the family, had to agree not to use perfume.

Yoma Chapter 3

~~~

7 June in History

For the first time, Jews were ordered to wear distinctive clothing was mandated in Spain (1233). The following year Pope Gregory IX developed guidelines for this, sent in the form of a letter to the King of Navarra: “Since we desire that Jews be recognizable and distinguished from Christians, we order you to impose upon each and every Jew of both sexes a sign, one round patch of yellow cloth of linen to be worn on the uppermost garment.”

In 1936, then 25 year old John F. Kennedy arrived in Jerusalem during a visit to the Middle East

25 Sivan in History

Among the millions of Jews cruelly killed by the Romans in the 2nd Century, BCE, were the “Ten Martyrs”–all great sages and leaders of Israel–memorialized in a special prayer recited on Yom Kippur. Three of them–Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel, Rabbi Yishmael ben Elisha and Rabbi Chanina S’gan Hakohanim–were killed on Sivan 25.

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Aggadah

The family of Garmu were experts at making the Lechem HaPanim, or Show Bread, which was present in the Temple and would miraculously stay fresh from week to week. This family did not want to teach this skill to others, and the Rabbis applied on them the disgraceful name of “and the name of the wicked should rot” (Prov. 6).

The Rabbinical leadership of the time brought experts from Alexandria in Egypt, who were also able to make the bread, as the family of Garmu. However, the bread the Alexandrines made did not stay fresh. The Rabbis proclaimed, “All that is called by My name, I have done for my Glory,” (Is 43) and they invited back the family of Garmu.

The family of Garmu did not resume work until the Rabbis agreed to double their wages.

The Rabbinical leaders asked them, “Why do you refuse to teach this skill to others?” They responded, “We have a tradition in our family that the Temple is going to be destroyed, and perhaps someone who is unworthy will take the recipe and serve idols, being able to attract others by advertising that they are serving the same bread that was once offered in the Temple in Jerusalem.”

From then on, the family of Garmu was always known as a praise, and “The memory of the righteous is a blessing” (Prov. 6).

Yoma Chapter 3

~~~

6 June in History

In 1944, Allied forces led by the United States land on the beaches of Normandy. While no exact figures exist for the number of Jews who took part in “The Longest Day” the graves marked by Stars of David attest to the fact that Jews were not only present but paid the last full measure. According to one source 550,000 Jews served in World War II in the U.S. military. Of those, 11,000 were killed, 40,000 were wounded, and 52,000 were decorated for gallantry. Jews made up some 3.5 percent of the U.S. military during the war.

24 Sivan in History

Rav Yisrael Chaim Friedman of Rachov, author of the Likutei Maharyach, a commentary on the Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim (1922). His work was entirely printed by the author over the course of 11 years. He died in an accident that occurred while he was in the “Palinina” (where the flocks graze) to assure the that the cheese was kosher. There was a sudden cloud burst of heavy rain, which resulted in a sudden flash flood in which Rabbi Yisrael Chaim Friedman drowned.

Listen


Haftara

Rahav said to the spies that Joshua sent, “I know that God has given you this land. Your awe has fallen on us: the inhabitants of this land melt before you. We heard how God dried the Red Sea before you when you left Egypt, and what you did to the two Emorite Kings on the other side of the Jordan, Sichon and Og; you annihilated them. We heard, our hearts melted, we have no spirit to stand up to you, since Hashem is the Lord in the heavens above and on the earth below.

Joshuah 2:9-11

~~~

4 June in History

In 1912, Massachusetts became the first state to pass a minimum wage law. Boston attorney Louis Brandeis, the future Supreme Court Justice, was an ardent advocate for minimum wage laws.

5 June in History

Today in 1967, the Six Day War began after Egypt violated agreements that ended the Suez Crisis of 1956 and 1957. On the morning of June 5, the Israeli Air Force destroyed the Egyptian Air Force while much of it was still on the ground. Almost the entire Israeli Air Force went on this mission, leaving only 12 planes behind in case of attack from another country.

22 Sivan in History

According to some authorities, it was today in 1312 BCE Miriam, the elder sister of Moses and Aaron, was afflicted with tzaraat (leprosy) after speaking negatively of Moses, and was quarantined outside of the camp for seven days–as related in Numbers 12.

23 Sivan in History

After King Solomon’s passing in 797 BCE, Jeroboam ben Nebat, a member of the tribe of Ephraim, incited ten of the twelve tribes of Israel to rebel against Solomon’s son and heir, Rehoboam. The Holy Land split into two kingdoms: the “Kingdom of Israel” in the north, with Jeroboam as its king and the city of Samaria as its capital; and the southern “Kingdom of Judah” with its capital Jerusalem, where Rehoboam ruled over the two tribes (Judah and Benjamin) that remained loyal to the royal house of David.

The spiritual center of the land, however, remained Jerusalem, where the Holy Temple built by Solomon stood, and where every Jew was obligated to make a thrice-yearly pilgrimage for the festivals of Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot.

Seeing this as a threat to his sovereignty, Jeroboam set up, on Sivan 23 of that year, roadblocks to prevent the people’s pilgrimage to Jerusalem, introducing instead the worship of two idols, in the form of gold calves, which he enshrined on the northern and southern boundaries of his realm.

The barricades remained in place for 223 years, until Hosea ben Elah, the last king of the Northern Kingdom, had them removed on the 15th of Av of 574 BCE. By then, the ten tribes residing there were already being expelled from the land in a series of invasions by various Assyrian and Babylonian kings. The last of these occurred in 556 BCE, when Shalmanessar of Assyria completely conquered the Kingdom of Israel, destroyed its capital, exiled the last of the Israelites residing there, and resettled the land with foreign peoples from Kutha and Babylon.

These peoples — later known as the “Samarians” — assumed a form of Judaism as their religion, but were never accepted as such by the Jewish people; they subsequently built their own temple on Mount Gerizzim and became bitter enemies of the Jews. The “Ten Lost Tribes of Israel” were never heard from again, and await the coming of the Messiah to be reunited with the Jewish people.

Listen

Aggadah

What is the source for the obligation for those who hear God’s praises to also respond with a praise?
Rabbi said, “It is written (Deut. 32:3), ‘When I call on the name of the Lord, ascribe greatness to our God.” Moses said to Israel, ‘When I mention the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, you should add greatness to it.’

Hananiah the son of R. Joshua’s brother said, ‘From the following verse [Prov. x. 7], ‘The memory of the just is blessed.’ That means, the prophet says to Israel, ‘When I mention the just One of the Worlds, you should add a blessing.’

Yoma Chapter 3

~~~

3 June in History

In 1361, in Spain orders are given for the construction of a Juderia (Jewish Quarter) in Tarazona. The Jewish Quarter is to be separated by walls from the Christian community. The Christians living where the Juderia is to be built were given property of the same value and relocated.

It was this day in 1888 that the Jewish Publication Society of America (JPS) was founded. Its purpose was and is to publish in English books of Jewish interest.

21 Sivan in History

Today is mentioned by some sources as the day Miriam, Moses’s sister was afflicted with Tzoraat, leprosy. Others maintain is was the 22nd or the 23rd of Sivan. The event was significant as it demonstrated the severity of slanderous speech.

Listen


On Love

It is impossible to not love God; it is impossible to not grow from the power of this sweet love actual deeds, to love, to act, and to act on behalf of all that is connected to the light of God.

It is impossible to not love the Torah and commandments; they are so tied with God’s goodness. It is impossible to not love that which is upright and righteous… It is impossible to not be filled with love for all of creation, since God’s light shines on everything. Everything is a revelation of the sweetness, the pleasantness, of God. “God’s kindness fills the earth” (Psalms 33:5).

Rav Kook. El HaMidot. Ahava.

~~~

2 June in History

In 1879, as a result of Russian mistreatment of a Jewish American businessmen, the U.S. House of Representatives requested the President to have all international treaties which impair the rights of American citizens because of religion amended to secure equal rights.

20 Sivan in History

Today marks two tragedies, both of which have been upstaged in our national consciousness by worse events. The first, was in 1171, in Blois France 34 Jewish men and 17 Jewish women were burned at the stake. They were accused for using blood from Christian babies in preparing Matza. The day was instituted as a fast day by the great medieval sage Rabbinu Tam, who was the grandson of Rashi. However, this tragedy was follow by 150 years of crusades, and the observance of the fast day gradually fell out of practice.

In 1648, six thousand Jews of the city of Neimirov were killed on this day. The fast day was reinstituted, but again was replaced by more recent events. However, many prayer books do have additional supplication prayers to be said on the twentieth of Sivan.

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