“For length of days, and years of life, and peace, will they increase to you (Prov 3:2).”

What does “years of life” mean? Are there any years not of life?

R. Elazar said, “Those are the years of man when his circumstances change from evil to good.”

Rashi explains, “When his circumstances change: One who was in poverty in his youth and becomes wealthy in his old age, it is as if he became alive while having been dead.”

Yoma Chapter 7

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15 July in History

In 1205, the Pope promulgated a Church doctrine which held Jews doomed to perpetual servitude and subjugation because they killed Jesus. This classic charge of deicide was officially removed in 1963.

Today is the birthdate of the Dutch painter Rembrandt van Rijn (1606). Rembrandt lived in a Jewish quarter in Amsterdam. He often depicted Jewish people on his canvases. One of his most famous paintings is styled “Moses Breaking the Tablets of the Law.”

A letter published in 2004 by Margaret S. Livingstone, professor of neurobiology at Harvard Medical School, suggests that Rembrandt, whose eyes failed to align correctly, suffered from stereo blindness. This conclusion was made after studying 36 of Rembrandt’s self-portraits. Because he could not form a normal binocular vision, his brain automatically switched to one eye for many visual tasks. This disability could have helped him to flatten images he saw, and then put it onto the two-dimensional canvas. Livingstone theorized that this was an advantage for the painter: “Art teachers often instruct students to close one eye in order to flatten what they see. Therefore, stereo blindness might not be a handicap—and might even be an asset—for some artists.”

4 Av in History

Rav Benzion Halberstam of Bobov (1874-1942). Born in Bokovosk, Galicia , to Rav Shlomo Halberstam, a grandson of Rav Chaim of Sanz. In 1893, Rav Shlomo moved to Bobov and appointed his son, Rav Benzion Rav of the town.

His father’s work at working with youth was sadly cut short when he died suddenly in 1905, at the age of 58. On the following Shabbat, Rav Shlomo’s brothers appointed Rav Benzion the Bobover Rebbe. He followed in his father’s footsteps by focusing on the youth.

He was murdered with 20,000 Jews after being forced to dig a mass grave in a forest outside of Lvov (Lemberg). Rav Benzion was survived by two sons – Rav Shlomo Halberstam, the Bobover Rebbe (d. 2000), and Rav Yechezkel Dovid (d. 1978), as well as 7 daughters, the oldest of whom was Devora Leah Twerski, of Milwaukee.