Rav Yannai would remark, “What a waste to one who builds a gate to a court yard but has no court yard!”

Rashi: The Torah is like a gate that one needs to enter into having awe of heaven. A person must have some measure of awe of heaven prior to studying Torah.

Yoma Chapter 7

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19 July in History

The Roman Emperor Julian, known to Christians as Julian the Apostate, left Constantinople and arrived in Antioch to prepare for the invasion of Persia. While preparing for the invasion he met Jewish leaders to whom he promised he would re-build the Temple. Julian’s short reign would come to an end in the following year and nothing came of his plans for the Third Temple.

8 Av in History

In 1312 BCE, the Spies dispatched 40 days earlier by Moses to tour the Promised Land return to Israel’s encampment in the desert, bearing a huge cluster of grapes and other lush fruits. But even as they praise the land’s fertility, they terrify the people with tales of mighty giant warriors dwelling there and assert that the land is unconquerable.

In 67 CE, fighting breaks out inside the besieged city of Jerusalem between Jewish factions divided on the question of whether or not to fight the Roman armies encircling the city from without. One group sets fire to the city’s considerable food stores, consigning its population to starvation until the fall of Jerusalem three years later.

Today marks the passing of Rav Shimon Agasi who was born in Baghdad (1852-1914). His family originated in Persia. In Persian, his name Agasi, means “commissioner,” a position some of his forebears, who were very wealthy and influential, had occupied in their native land.

Rav Shimon’s father, Rav Aharon, had been a very successful businessman who imported paint from India. At the age of eleven, Shimon began to study in Baghdad’s Medrash Talmud Torah, founded by Rav Abdallah Somech.

It developed rapidly to become the top Torah institution in the city, where over three thousand students studied free-of-charge. Among those who learned there were Rav Eliyahu Mani (the chief rav of Chevron), the Ben Ish Chai and Rav Salman Mutzafi.

In 1865, a man, named Yitzchak Luria, came to Baghdad and attempted to open an Alliance school, which offered secular studies and tried to modernize the lifestyles of its students. However, Baghdad’s sages placed a cheirem (banishment) on the school and thwarted his efforts.

From Medrash Talmud Torah, Rav Shimon proceeded to its adult division, Beit Zilcha, where he became one of its finest students. His main mentors in Beit Zilcha were Rav Abdallah Somech’s two best students, Rav Shmuel Majled and Rav Nissim HaLevi. At the age of 17, Rav Shimon began to study Kabbalah from Rav Chaim Vital’s Eitz Chaim. A number of years later, he joined the Chacham Yitzchak yeshivah, founded by Rav Yitzchak Berabi Mordechai Sasson, another of Baghdad’s great sages.

Among its illustrious students were Rav Yehuda Petaya, Rav David Sofer, Rav Rafael Shlomo Laniado, Rav Nissim Kadouri and Rav Yitzchak Nissim. In 1898, his oldest son, Aharon, passed away on Purim of that year.

Rav Agasi was the author of Shem MiShimon.

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