You are currently browsing the monthly archive for August 2010.

Faith in God is the most exalted thought, and as such can be understood on every level, even the lowest. At every level, it illuminates corresponding to its framework, at that level.

Those who wish to becomes wiser than the small level of faith raise their spirit from the lower level, and break through, since the understanding of faith at the lower level is no longer appropriate for them, and yet, they are not ready to receive the higher level of comprehension: they are woven into a point of contradictory ideas, until their help comes from the Holy Source.

Rav Avraham Yitschak HaKohen Kook


1 September in History

The Liberty Bell arrives in Philadelphia. The Bell is inscribed with words from the 25th chapter of Leviticus, “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof. It is but one of many examples of how Jewish culture and values had an impact on Western civilization in general and, in this case, early American culture specifically.

22 Elul in History

Today marks the passing of Rav Mordechai Dov Ber of Hornesteipel, grandson of the Mitteler Rebbe, author of Haemek Sheelah (1903).

The Day of Atonement atones for a sin against God; but does not atone for a sin against another person until that person has been appeased.

Rabbi Eliezer son of Azariah explained, “It is written (Lev. 16:30), “From all your sins before God will you be cleansed [on the Day of Atonement].’ Meaning, the sin towards God, the Day of Atonement atones for; but sins toward man, the Day of Atonement cannot atone for till the neighbor has been appeased.

Yoma Chapter 8


31 August in History

In 1909, Nobel laureate Paul Ehrlich began the first chemotherapy when with his assistant Sahachiro Hato, a rabbit infected with syphilis was injected with “Preparation 606.” This number marked the 606th chemical devised and tested by Ehrlich’s team at his Frankfort laboratory. The compound was so successful that the sores on the rabbit promptly healed. The term “chemotherapy” meaning therapy with chemicals, was coined by Erhlich.

21 Elul in History

Today (or tomorrow according to some) marks the passing of Rav Yaakov HaLevi ben Moshe Moellin (the Maharil). Born in Mainz, Germany, he was the primary disciple of Rav Shalom of Neustadt. The Maharil authored Minhagei Maharil, the primary source of Minhagei Ashkenaz, cited frequently by the Rema in Shulchan Aruch. The Maharil lived through the mass slaughter of Jews in Austria in 1420 and the Hussite wars in 1421, which brought suffering to the Jews of Bavaria and the Rhine.

For a person who thinks, “I will sin and the Day of Atonement will atone for my sins,” the Day of Atonement does not atone.

Yoma Chapter 8


30 August in History

In 1835, today marks the founding of Melbourne, Australia. The first synagogue opened in Melbourne in 1847. Melbourne provided the first native born Australian to serve as Governor-General – a lawyer named Isaac Isaacs. King George V was reportedly reluctant to appoint Isaacs to the post because he was Jewish. Prime Minister James Scullin assured the reluctant monarch that Australians took a more liberal view than most Englishmen did in such matters. They were not bothered by the matter of religion and therefore, the appointment was made without further complications

20 Elul in History

Today is the passing of Rav Eliyahu Lopian (1872-1970), author of Lev Eliyahu. He was the mashgiach (spiritual advisor) of Kelm; Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Etz Chaim in London, and mashgiach at Kfar Chassidim. R’ Shalom Schwadron (1911-1997) was one of his students.

After having dedicated 25 years of his life to Yeshivat Eitz Chaim, Reb Elyahu passed the leadership of the yeshivah over to Rav Greenspan.

Reb Elyahu moved to Israel in 1950, when he was 76 years old.

For a person who says, “I will sin, then repent, I will sin again, then repent again,” it is not within such a person’s reach to repent.

Yoma Chapter 8


29 August in History

Birthdate of English philosopher John Locke, 1632. Locke influenced the Founding Fathers of the United States. In 1689 he wrote his “Letter Concerning Toleration” in which he stated “Neither Pagan, nor Jew, ought to be excluded from the civil rights of the commonwealth because of his religion.” Locke was asked to right a constitution for the new colony of South Carolina. At the time, Christian merchants were complaining about the active involvement of Jews in the trade between South Carolina and the English Colony of Barbados. Locke saw the problem as bigotry, not “swarming Jewish merchants.” He inserted a line in the colonial charter that called for the protection of “Jews, heathens and other dissenters.”

19 Elul in History

Today marks the passing of Rav Moshe Zvi Aryeh Bick (1911-1990). Born in Medzbosz (Mezhbizh), Ukraine, but grew up in New York, he is recognized as one of the first great sages to be raised on American soil.

He studied under R’ Moshe Soloveitchik at the Yeshiva Rabbeinu Yitzchak Elchanan Spektor and attended New York City public schools at night. At age 21, R’ Bick was hired by a shul in the Bronx. While there, he founded schools for both boys and girls. Later, he moved to Boro Park.

He was recognized as a master posek by both chassidic and non-chassidic communities, but never published his responsa.

Rise, be radiant, your light has come.
God’s honor will shine on you.
Darkness will cover the land,
Thick clouds will cover people;
God will shine on you,
His honor will be seen on you.

Nations will walk by your light;
Kings, by your shining radiance.


Your people, all of them are righteous;
They will inherit the land, forever.
[They are] the sprout I have planted;
My handiwork, which will glorify Me.

The smallest will be a thousand,
The young, a mighty nation.

I am God.
In its time, I will hasten it.

Isaiah 60:1-3; 21-22


27 August in History

In 1929, while Moslem leaders in Jerusalem have issued an appeal to Arab raiders to return to work and cease their attacks, widespread disorders occurred in Palestine. Marauding band of Arabs have left hundreds of victims, dead and wounded, from Dan to Beersheba while British troops have been unable to stop the violence.

17 Elul in History

In 2105 BCE, following the failed attempt to dispatch a raven from the ark, Noah sent a dove from the window of the ark to see if the great Flood that covered the earth had abated. “But the dove found no resting place for the sole of its foot” and returned to the ark; Noah waited seven days before making another attempt.

28 August in History

In 430 CE, St. Augustine of Hippo passed away. Augustine believed that Jews should be allowed to survive in a Christian world to provide credence to roots of Christianity. But Jews should live at best as “second class” citizens in that Christian world to serve as a reminder of their fall from God’s favor for rejecting Jesus as the Son of God and as proof that God had made the Christians the new Chosen People.

18 Elul in History

Today is the sixth of the the seven weeks of consolation that bridge the Shabbat after the Ninth of Av with the Shabbat preceding Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year. A passage of consolation from the book of Isaiah is read as the Haftara.

Today marks the passing of Rav Yehuda Loew, the Maharal (1525-1609). Born in Posen, Poland, on the night of the Pesach Seder, to a distinguished family of rabbis that traced its ancestry to King Dovid.

He was the youngest of four brothers. The Maharal married at the age of 32 to Pearl. He had six girls and one boy who was named after the Maharal’s father, Betzalel. In 1553 he was elected rabbi of Nikolsburg and the Province of Moravia, where he remained for the following 20 years.

In 1573 he moved to Prague, where he opened a yeshiva. In 1592 the Maharal accepted the position of rabbi in Posen, returning to Prague in 1598 to serve as its chief rabbi.

The Maharal castigated the educational methods of his day where boys were taught at a very young age and insisted that children must be taught in accordance with their intellectual maturity. One of his leading disciples was R. Yom Tov Heller, author of the classic mishnaic commentary, Tosafos Yom Tov, who, in his introduction informs us that the Maharal greatly encouraged group study of the Mishna.

At the same time, he was fully conversant with the scientific knowledge of his time as well as friendly with some of the contemporary eminent scientists. His disciple, Dovid Ganz, worked in the observatory of Tycho Brahe, the distinguished astronomer.

He was a prolific writer, and his works include: Tiferet Yisrael on the greatness of Torah and mitzvot (good deeds); Netivot Olam, on ethics; Be’er Hagolah, a commentary on rabbinic sayings; Netzach Yisrael, on exile and redemption; Or Chadash, on the book of Esther; Ner Mitzvah, on Chanukah; Gevurot Hashem, on the Exodus; and many others.

Rav Kook stated that the “Maharal was the father of the approach of the Gaon of Vilna on the one hand, and of the father of Chasidut, on the other hand.” He has been described as a Kabbalist who wrote in philosophic language.

Rabbi Yonatan son of Joseph said, “How do we know that the Sabbath should be violate to save a person’s life? The Torah states, (Ex. xxxi. 14) “For it is holy to you.” To you: The Sabbath is for you, but not you for the Sabbath.”

Rabbi Simeon son of Menasseh says, “It is written (ibid. 16): ‘And the children of Israel should keep the Sabbath.’ The Torah states: Violate one Sabbath, that you may keep many Sabbaths.”

Rabbi Jehudah said, “Samuel has said, “If I had been there, I would have said a thing better than this; namely, it is written (Lev. xviii. 5): “You should keep my statutes . . . which, if a man do, he should live by them.” He shall live by them, but not die because of them.”

Yoma Chapter 8


26 August in History

In 1920, the 19th amendment to United States Constitution takes effect, giving women the right to vote. Numerous Jewish women were active in the “suffragette movement” including Rose Schenidermann who was the leader of New York City’s Women’s Suffragette Party and the untold numbers of “Jewish women garment works who represented the very core of the National American Woman Suffrage Association.

16 Elul in History

Today marks the passing of Rav Avraham Landau, the Strikover Rebbe of Bnei Brak (1917-2001). Born in Kinov, in the Ostrovtze region of Poland. His father, Rav Yaakov Yitzchak Dan, served as rabbi of the city.

Avraham was raised by his grandfather, Rav Elimelech Menachem Mendel. At the age of 13, Avraham began to study in the Chachmei Lublin yeshiva. When the 2nd World War broke out, he was at his parents’ home and he fled with his father to Lodz, from which the family fled to Warsaw, and from there, at the directive of his father, Avraham fled to Baranowitz.

A week after his arrival in Baranowitz he fled to Vilna, during Chanukah 1939. There, he began to study under the Griz (Rav Velvel Soloveitchik) of Brisk.

In 1946, he married a great-granddaughter of the Chiddushei Harim of Gur. After their marriage he learned that his father and eight of his siblings had perished in the Holocaust, and that only he and his sister remained alive from the entire Strikover dynasty.

For a person who has the light of faith shine on himself in all its purity, such a person loves all of creation with an unmeasurable love.

All that such a person sees are ways for humanity to be exalted and corrected; the pathways for this correction are filled with ethics and are upright, in proportion with the degree faith appears in his heart.

Rav Avraham Yitschak HaKohen Kook


25 August in History

In 1530, today was the birthdate of Tsar Ivan IV, known to history as Ivan the Terrible. In keeping with Russian policy, few Jews were permitted in Russia and those that came on trading missions from Poland were often treated roughly. In 1563 Ivan conquered a Lithuanian city (Polotsk) and gave the Jews the choice of converting to Russian Orthodoxy or death. In carrying out his threat, Ivan had holes drilled in the ice of the nearby river and shoved three hundred Jewish men, women and children to their death.

15 Elul in History

Today marks the passing of Rabbi Akiva Eger, in 1837. He was a scholar and expert in matters of Jewish law. His opinions are weighted heavily in deciding matters of Jewsih law.

He was born with the last name Guns. As a child prodigy, he studied with his uncle, Rabbi Wolf Eger, who’s surname he adopted out of respect.

The rabbis taught, “The Sabbath is superseded when life is threatened; and with more alacrity this is done, the greater the person is to be praised. Permission from Beth Din (the Rabbinical court) need not be taken to try to save a life.

How so? If a child is seen to have fallen into the sea, it should be fished out for immediately; and the sooner one does this, the more praiseworthy he is; and no permission from Beth Din is to be taken for it, even if in the process he will take up in the net some fish (fishing is not allowed on the Sabbath).

Yoma Chapter 8


24 August in History

In 1936, three United States Senators, Royal S. Copeland of New York, Warren Austin of Vermont and Daniel Hastings of Delaware, marked the second day of their tour of Palestine which had begun in Jerusalem.

14 Elul in History

Today, the oldest existing ketuba (marital contract) was written in the Western Hemisphere, 1643 (Yitzchak and Yehudit).

The danger to life supersedes Sabbath, not only if the danger is this Sabbath, but will be the next Sabbath as well. Violated the Sabbath must not be done through Gentiles or Samaritans, but the greatest Israelites.

Yoma Chapter 8


23 August in History

In 1567, the Polish king, Sigismund II Augustus, issued an edict, granting the Jews permission to open a yeshiva at Lublin. “As a result of the efforts of our advisors and in keeping with the request of the Jews of Lublin we do hereby grant permission to erect a yeshiva and to outfit said yeshiva with all that is required to advance learning. All the learned men and rabbis of Lublin shall come together for among their number they shall choose one to serve as the head of the yeshiva. Let their choice be a man who will magnify Torah and bring it glory.”(Edict dated August 21, 1567)

13 Elul in History

Today marks the passing of, Rav Yosef Chaim of Baghdad, author of Ben Ish Chai, Od Yosef Chai, Rav Pe’alim, Ben Yehoyada, Aderet Eliyahu, and Imrei Bina, and many other works (1832-1904). Both his grandfather, Rav Moshe Chaim, and his father, Rav Eliyahu, served as Rav of Baghdad.

Rav Eliyahu and his wife were childless for many years. Finally, 10 years after their marriage, his wife made the long journey from Baghdad to Morocco to request a blessing from the renowned Rav Yaakov Buchatzeira, the Abir Yaakov. The tzaddik blessed her that she would give birth to a child who would one day illuminate the eyes of Jews everywhere. Less than a year later, she gave birth to a boy, who was named Yosef Chaim.

As a child, he spent most of his time studying in his father’s large library. At the age of 10, he left the Sephardic cheder in which he learned and began to study with his uncle, the tzaddik Rav Dovid Chai Nissim. Rav Dovid later founded the famed Shoshanim LeDovid Yeshiva located in the Beis Yisrael section of Yerushalayim. When his father passed away, Rav Yosef Chaim was only 25 years old. Nevertheless, the Jews of Baghdad accepted him to fill his fathers position as Rav of Baghdad.

His opinion on halachic issues was sought throughout the Sephardi world and is still followed by thousands of people from these communities, and even outside these communities. Rav Yosef Chaim’s son, Rav Yaakov, succeeded him as rav and maggid of Baghdad. His main disciple was the kabbalist and tzaddik Rav Yehuda Moshe Petaya.

Rabbi Yohanan had scurvy. He went to a matron of Rome. She did something to relieve him on a Thursday and the eve of Sabbath. He asked her, “What should I do on the Sabbath?” She said, “You will not need to do anything.”

He said, But if it wasn’t the Sabbath, should I should do something?” She said, “Swear to me that you will not tell of it to anyone, then I will tell you.”

After this, when she had told him, he went and lectured about it to everybody. But he had sworn not to tell? He had sworn, “To the God of Israel I will not tell”; but to the people of Israel he could.

But wasn’t this deception was a profanation of God’s name? He had told her immediately: I had sworn not to say it to God, but to Israel I would.

Yoma Chapter 8


22 August in History

In 1938, Yonah Israelovitch, a 36 year old laborer was shot to death by Arab snipers who fired on a bus near Tel Aviv that was carrying workers to Holon while firefighters in Jerusalem fought to contain a blaze in a Jewish owned lumberyard started by Arab arsonists that threatened to spread to nearby petroleum storage tanks owned by Standard Oil. Authorities found the bodies of three Arabs on the Acre-Safed road with a note pinned to the victims written in Arabic that state “So may it be done traitors.” The dead bodies with the note attach appear to be part of a campaign by Arab terrorists to intimidate those in their community who do not support their aims and/or tactics.

12 Elul in History

Birth of Nachmanides (“Ramban”, Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman, 1194-1270) — Torah scholar, Kabbalist, philosopher, physician and Jewish leader — in Gerona, Spain, in the year 4954 from creation.

Shout out barren one,
You without child;
Shout, sing, chant,
One who has not labored,
For your children born of your desolation,
Are greater than the children of your marriage,
Says God.


For a tiny moment I left you,
With enormous compassion I will draw you in.


As the waters of Noah,
Which I have promised will not again pass over the land,
So I have sworn,
To never be furious with you; to never rebuke you.

The mountains may disappear,
The hills may move,
My kindness to you will never disappear,
My covenant of peace will never move,
Says God, who loves you.

Isaiah 54:1, 7, 9-10


20 August in History

In 1856, in the “English Celebrities” a column published today, the author provides a description of Benjamin Disraeli which includes the following, “Nor is his faithfulness to his friendships less remarkable than his devoted attention to his old and silly wife…as Disraeli says ‘I owe her everything. But some men forget these things. Not so Disraeli…at no party is he to be found without fat, middle-age, gray-haired lady, hanging on his arm. But this domestic love is an essentially Jewish trait.”

In 1893, Sh’chita (ritual slaughter) was banned in Switzerland. (The ban is still in place and the Jewish community gets its meat from several different countries.)

10 Elul in History

On the 10th of Elul of the year 1656 from creation (2105 BCE), as the Great Flood neared its end, Noah opened the window of the Ark and dispatched a raven to determine if the flood waters had begun to recede (Genesis 8:1; Rashi)

21 August in History

In 1906, today was the birthdate of Fritz Frelang. Born in Kansas City, Frelang was one of the great cartoon animators. He worked for Warner Brothers for over thirty years. His work includes the Merry Melody series, The Pink Panther, Tweety Bird and Yosemite Sam. He passed away in 1996.

In 1923, today is the birthdate of Shimon Peres, Israeli political leader.

11 Elul in History

Today is the fifth of the the seven weeks of consolation that bridge the Shabbat after the Ninth of Av with the Shabbat preceding Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year. A passage of consolation from the book of Isaiah is read as the Haftara.

n 1522, Rabbi Yosef Caro started writing the Beit Yosef, his famous commentary on the Arba Turim, Yaakov Ben Asher’s comprehensive Halachic code. He started writing this commentary in Adrianople, Turkey, and continued for the next twenty years, during which time he relocated to Safed, Israel. He completed the monumental work on the 11th of Elul. It took another ten years for the writings to be published.

If a building collapses, and it is doubtful whether anyone is buried beneath the ruins or not; if it is doubtful whether he be dead or alive, it is permitted to remove the ruins from above him on the Sabbath.

If he is found alive, the ruins are to be entirely removed. If he is dead, he is to be left there.

Yoma Chapter 8


19 August in History

In 1622, French philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal passed away. Unlike some other French philosophers Pascal thought highly of the Jewish people as the following quote proves, “It is certain that in certain parts of the world we can see a peculiar people, separated from the other peoples of the world and this is called the Jewish people…. This people is not only of remarkable antiquity but has also lasted for a singularly long time… For where as the people of Greece and Italy, of Sparta, Athens and Rome and others who came so much later have perished so long ago, these still exist, despite the efforts of so many powerful kings who have tried a hundred times to wipe them out, as their historians testify, and as can easily be judged by the natural order of things over such a long spell of years. They have always been preserved, however, and their preservation was foretold… My encounter with this people amazes me….”

9 Elul in History

Nachmanides (Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman, 1194-1270) arrived in Jerusalem, after being forced to flee his native Spain and renewed its Jewish community there in 1267. The synagogue he established is functional today, having been restored following the liberation of the Old City during the Six-Day War in 1967.

All clarity comes from faith. Faith is a combination, at its beginning, of fear and love. The soul, in its inner recesses, senses that faith, fear, and love at their foundation only turn to the concept of God. And all differences in these traits only shift based on the Godly spark that is reaching the soul.

Rav Avraham Yitschak HaKohen Kook


18 August in History

In 1856, birthdate of Asher Zvi Hirsch Ginsberg who gained fame using the Hebrew pan name Ahad Ha’am (אחד העם‎,). A pre-eminent essayist he was the founder of Cultural Zionism with a vision of a Jewish “spiritual center” in Palestine. Ha’am strived for “a Jewish state and not merely a state of Jews.”

8 Elul in History

Today marks the passing of Rav Chisdai ben Shmuel HaKohen Perachia (1678). He was the author of responsa called Toras Chessed. He died in Salonika (then Turkey, now Greece).

Rabbi Mathia son of Harash said, “If a person has a sore throat, it is permitted to put drugs into his throat on Sabbath (usually, taking medicine on Shabbat is prohibited), because the disease may endanger his life, and what ever threatens a person’s life supersedes Sabbath.”

Yoma Chapter 8


17 August in History

In 1790, President George Washington visits Newport, Rhode Island, where he is given “the address of the ‘Hebrew Congregation of Newport’” that expressed their appreciation for the rights and liberties that the Jews enjoyed in the United States. It was in response to this document, that Washington wrote his famous reply guaranteeing the Jews religious liberty. He wrote:

May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants—while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.

May the father of all mercies scatter light, and not darkness, upon our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in His own due time and way everlastingly happy.

G. Washington

7 Elul in History

Amram and Yocheved, Moses’s parents, had separated because of Pharaoh’s decree that all male Jewish babies be killed. Prompted by their six-year-old daughter Miriam’s rebuke, “Pharaoh decreed againsat the males; you decreed against the males and the females”, they remarried on the 7th of Elul of the year 2367 from creation (1394 BCE).

Moses was born six months and one day later on Adar 7, 2368 (Talmud, Sotah 12b).

From the Mishnah:
“A sick person is fed on Yom Kippur according to the decision of a medical doctor”

Rabbi Yanai said, “When a sick person says, ‘I must eat,’ and the physician says he does not need to eat, the patient is obeyed. Why? Because it is written [Prov. xiv. 10]: “The heart knows its own bitterness.'”

Is this not self-evident? No, it is not, since we might think the physician has a better comprehension of the patient’s needs.

What if the case is reversed? Then the physician is obeyed, because the patient only wishes he does not need to eat.

Yoma Chapter 8


16 August in History

In 1933, three hundred Polish Jews including a group of 140 chalutzim leave for Palestine.

6 Elul in History

Today marks the passing of Rav Gershon Shaul Yom Tov Lipman Heller (1579-1654). Born several days after the death of his father, Nosson, he was raised by his grandfather, Moshe Wallerstein HaLevi Heller in Vienna. At the age of 13, he was sent to study in Prague with the MaHaRaL. At 18, he was appointed to the MaHaRaL’s judicial court in Prague, a position he held for 27 years. In 1622, he left Prague for Nicholsburg where he served as Rav and Av Beis Din. However, after 6 months he was called to serve in Vienna, as Av Beis Din.

In 1627, he was chosen to head the Beis Din of Prague. However, after only 6 months, he was imprisoned for 40 days after which he was released penniless. He was forbidden to practice his profession as well. By 1630 the ban was lifted and in 1631, he was asked to take a position in Nimerov. In 1634 he was elected rabbi in Ludmir where he remained for a total of 7 years.

In 1641 he became Av Beis Din and Rav of the Jewish community in Crakow where he died 13 years later. He is buried in the Crakow cemetery along the fence in the area devoted to the poor and the needy.

In addition to his famous Tosefos Yom Tov, one of the most important commentaries on Misha, he authored the Sefer “Tzuras HaBayis,” a detailed explanation of Rashi’s view of the Third Temple as described by Ezekiel (chapters 40-43).

A pregnant woman who wants a food that she smells, should be fed until relieved.

The rabbis taught: If a pregnant woman has smelled sacred meat (meat that is prohibited for regular Jews to eat since it is for the Priests), or pork, something should be dipped in the sauce of one of these, and presented to her mouth. If she is relieved thereby, it is good; otherwise, the sauce must be given to her. If this has not satisfied her either, the meat itself must be given to her. Because nothing is prohibited which is needed to save a life, except idolatry, adultery, and bloodshed.

It happened to a pregnant woman that she smelled food. They came to ask Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi. He said, “Go, tell her, ‘Today is the Day of Atonement.'”

They did, and she became composed. Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi said of this child the verse in Jeremiah (i. 5): “Before I had formed you in your mother’s body, I knew you.”

That child became Rabbi Yohanan.

Yoma Chapter 8

15 August in History

In 1096, the armies of the First Crusade set out from Europe to deliver Jerusalem from the occupying forces of Islamic Turks. Championed by Peter the Hermit in 1093, Pope Urban II had sanctioned the crusade at the Council of Clermont in 1095.

5 Elul in History

The first Chassidic aliyah (“ascent” – immigration to the Holy Land), led by Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk, Rabbi Abraham of Kalisk and Rabbi Yisroel of Polotzk, reached the Holy Land on Elul 5 of the year 5537 from creation (1777 CE). They were all disciples of the 2nd leader of the Chassidic movement, Rabbi DovBer, the “Maggid of Mezeritch” (who had passed away five years earlier) and colleagues of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, founder of Chabad.

Initially, Rabbi Schneur Zalman was part of the group; but when the caravan reached the city of Moholiev on the Dnester River, Rabbi Menachem Mendel — whom Rabbi Schneur Zalman regarded as his teacher and mentor after the Maggid’s passing — instructed him to remain behind to serve as the leader of the Chassidic community in White Russia and Lithuania. Rabbi Schneur Zalman retained close ties with the settlers in the Land of Israel and labored to raise funds for their support.

How pleasant are the footsteps on the mountain
The footsteps of the messenger,
Calling out peace,
Announcing goodness,
Calling out salvation,
Saying to Zion:
“Your God is King!”

The voice of your watchmen
Shout out together, for joy,
Each eye will see
God’s return to Zion.

Break out, shout together,
Ruins of Jerusalem.
God will comfort His nation:
He will redeem Jerusalem.

Isiah 52:7-9


13 August in History

In 1872, birthdate of German born chemist, Richard Willstätter. Willstatter won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1915 for his study of the structure of chlorophyll and other plant pigments. He resigned his position on the faculty at a university in Munich over the issue of anti-Semitism. After Hitler’s rise to power, he fled to Switzerland where he died in 1942.

3 Elul in History

Today marks the passing of Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook, Chief Rabbi of Israel for 19 years of his life (1865-1935). The first chief rabbi of what was then Palestine, Rav Kook was perhaps the most misunderstood figure of his time. Born in Latvia of staunch Chassidic and Misnagid stock, he retained throughout his life a unique blend of the mystical and the rational. He was a thorough master of the entire Halachic, Midrashic, philosophic, ethical, and Kabbalistic literature.

He saw the return to Eretz Yisrael as not merely a political phenomenon to save Jews from persecution, but an event of extraordinary historical and theological significance. Rabbi Hutner once said that Rav Kook peered down on our world from great heights and hence his perspective was unique. Above all, Rav Kook pulsated with a sense of the Divine.

Though keenly aware of the huge numbers of non-observant Jews, he had a vision of the repentance of the nation. His concept of repentance envisioned in addition to the repentance of the individual, a repentance of the nation as a whole; a repentance which would be joyous and healing. He refused to reject Jews as long as they identified themselves as Jews. He called for and envisioned a spiritual renaissance where “the ancient would be renewed and the new would be sanctified.”

14 August in History

In 1447, following a fire in Posen (Poland) where the original charter granting the Jews “privileges” was written, (by Casimir the Great), Casimir IV renewed all of their rights, making his charter one of the most liberal in Europe. This charter lasted less than a decade before it was revoked.

4 Elul in History

Today is the fourth of the the seven weeks of consolation that bridge the Shabbat after the Ninth of Av with the Shabbat preceding Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year. A passage of consolation from the book of Isaiah is read as the Haftara.

Today is the Yahrzeit of Rav Meir Simcha Hakohen of Dvinsk, the Ohr Someach and Meshech Chochma (1843-1926). In a famous near prophetic passage written before 1926, he presents a brilliant theory of Jewish history in exile and refers to those who forget their origins and think “Berlin is Jerusalem”, and are doomed to destruction (B’chukosai). R’ Meir Simcha served as Rabbi of Dvinsk for nearly 40 years. R’ Meir Simcha was a strong supporter of the settlement of Eretz Yisrael and greeted the Balfour Declaration with enthusiasm. In 1906 he was offered the position of rabbi of Jerusalem but bowed to the entreaties of his congregants to remain in Dvinsk.

The students asked Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, “Why did the Manna not fall once a year?”

He responded, “I will explain it with a parable. There was once a king who had a son, and he gave him his stipend once a year. The son only came to visit his father once that year. The king then decided to give him his stipend every day. So too Israel, if a person had four or five children would be concerned that his children would die, perhaps there would not be more Manna. They would then pray to God daily.”

Yoma Chapter 8


12 August

In 30 BCE, today Cleopatra committed suicide. According to Josephus, the Egyptian tried to convince her lover and co-ruler, Marc Antony, to give her control over lands to the east including Syria and Palestine. Herod was so afraid of her that he reportedly built the fortress at Masada as place of refuge should she attack. While Antony did not give into all of her demands, he did give her control over Jericho and several towns surrounding the ancient city.

2 Elul in History

The first printing of the Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law) authored by Rabbi Joseph Caro (1488-1575) was completed in the Holy Land on this date in 1555.

Education, in it’s common meaning, begins when the child reaches a certain degree of awareness. Education of the natural world begins when a child enters the air of the world; and education of faith starts when the child is formed, “Sanctify yourselves, and you will be holy.”

Rav Avraham Yitchak HaKohen Kook


11 August in History

In 1840, Lord Palmerston the British Foreign Secretary wrote a letter to the ambassador in Constantinople that said, “There exists…among the Jews…a strong notion that the time is approaching when their nation is to return to Palestine…. I instruct you… to strongly recommend that the Turkish Government … encourage the Jews of Europe to return to Palestine.” Palmerston was not philo-Semite or a proto-Zionist. Rather he was an English statesmen looking to bring what he considered Western civilization to the Orient.

1 Elul in History

On the early morning of the 1st of Elul of the year 2448 from creation (1313 BCE) Moses ascended Mount Sinai, taking with him the stone tablets he had hewn by divine command, for God to re-inscribe the Ten Commandments. On the mountain, G-d taught Moses the “Thirteen Attributes of Mercy” (Exodus 33:18-34:8).

Moses remained on the mountain for 40 days, until the 10th of Tishrei (Yom Kippur), during which time He obtained God’s forgiveness and reconciliation with the people of Israel following their betrayal of the covenant between them with their worship of the Golden Calf. This was the third of Moses’ three 40-day periods on Mount Sinai in connection with the Giving of the Torah. Ever since, the month of Elul serves as the “month of Divine mercy and forgiveness.”

The manna was referred to as “bread,” “oil,” “honey.” What does this signify?

For the young it was bread, for the old it was oil, and for the children it was honey.

Yoma Chapter 8


10 August in History

In 70 CE, according to some sources, this is the date on the secular calendar when the Second Temple was destroyed.

30 Av in History

On the last day of Av of the year 2448 from creation (1313 BCE), Moses carved, by G-d’s command, two stone tablets — each a cube measuring 6x6x6 tefachim (a tefach, “handbreadth”, is approximately 3.2 inches) — to replace the two divinely-made tablets, on which G-d had inscribed the Ten Commandments, which Moses had smashed 42 days earlier upon witnessing Israel’s worship of the Golden Calf.

“When the dew fell in the morning” (Num.)
“The nation went out and gathered” (Ex.)
“The nation wondered, looking to gather (Num. 11)

How to interpret these three verses?

For the righteous, the Manna fell by their door. For the average, it fell nearby and they would collect it. For the wicked, they had to scavage to find their food.

Yoma Chapter 8


9 August in History

In 1933, in Vilna, Chamber of Commerce unanimously votes to proclaim a boycott against German goods in protest against the Nazi treatment of the Jews.

In 1938, in article entitled “Children Go to Palestine,” the New York Times reports on the migration of 167 Jewish children from Austria and Germany to Palestine. The youngsters are part of the Third Aliyah and are being settled at Ain Harod and Kfar Jecheskiel.

29 Av in History

In Vilna, Chamber of Commerce unanimously votes to proclaim a boycott against German goods in protest against the Nazi treatment of the Jews.

While in the desert, the Jews asked for meat rudely, it was therefore granted inappropriately (at dusk, when it would be difficult to prepare it for dinner).

And yet, Abaye taught that a person should only eat their meals at day time (so why did the Jews in the desert eat their dinners at night). The intent is that they should eat their meals as if it is day time (by torch light).

Until Moshe, the Jews would eat like chickens, grazing on their food through out the day. From Moshe and onward, the Jews began having meals in the morning and evening, since that is when the Manna fell.

Yoma Chapter 8


8 August in History

In 117 C.E., Hadrian named Emperor of the Roman Empire. He is remembered as the man who accepted the limits of the Roman empire, as can be seen by the construction of Hadrian’s Wall in what is today Great Britain. It was designed to keep the barbarians out of the empire and was viewed as the greatest engineering feat of the Roman legions. Hadrian was also seen as a man of culture who a devotee of Greek learning.

Jews remember him as the man who brought on Bar Kochba’s Rebellion. At the end of this extended but ultimately failed clash of arms. Hadrian made war on Judaism itself. He sought to build a temple to Jupiter on the Temple Mount. He hunted down the Jewish sages and created the list of martyrs some of whom we invoke by name each year on the High Holidays. In Jewish writings he is referred to as “the Wicked or the Evil One.”

28 Av in History

Today is the yahrzeit of Rav Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin, the Netziv, (1817-1893). He was born in Mir, the son-in-law of Rav Isaac, son of Rav Chaim of Volozhin (1749-1821) he married the granddaughter of Rav Chaim Volozhiner when he was 14 years old.

In 1849, upon the petira of Rav Yitzchak, the father-in-law of the Nertziv, Rav Yitzchak was succeeded by his older son-in-law, Rav Eliezer Yitzchak. However, he died five years later, and the Netziv was appointed Rosh Yeshiva, a position he held for 40 years. Volozhin was forcibly closed by the Russians in 1893.

He wrote Haamek Davar, a commentary on the Chumash (Bible), Haamek She’elah on the She’eltos of Rav Achai Gaon, and Meshiv Davar, a collection of his responsa. Among his children were Rabbi Chaim Berlin and Rabbi Meir Bar-Ilan (born to two different mothers).

Impoverished, storm tossed, and uncomforted:
I will lay red garnets as your building stones,
Make your foundations of sapphire.

I will make your walls rubies,
Your gates will be of precious stones.
Your boundaries will be of precious gems.

All of you children will be students of God;
Your children will have great peace.


No weapon formed against you will succeed,
Every tongue that rises against you in judgement,
You will defeat.
This is the inheritance of God;
Their vindication is from Me,
Declares the Lord.

Isaiah 54:11-13; 17


6 August in History

In 1926, Harry Houdini performs his greatest feat, spending 91 minutes underwater in a sealed tank before escaping.

7 August in History

In 1933, the Nazis murdered Felix Fechnebach, a Jewish Editor in Dachau.

26 Av in History

Today marks the passing of Rav Meir Ashkenazi, Rav of Shanghai (1891-1954). Born in Tcherikov, in Russia’s Pale of Settlement., to Lubavitcher Chassidim. At the outbreak of the First World War, his family — together with many others — fled Russia to Manchuria. It was there, in the city of Harbin, that Rav Meir and Toiba Liba were married. Rav Ashkenazi and his family moved to the port-city of Vladivostok on the eastern coast of Russia.

Not long afterwards, in 1918, the community there appointed Rav Ashkenazi as their rabbi. After seven years, he moved to assist the small Jewish community in Shanghai, China. Deteriorating conditions in Europe in the 1930’s led to a slow stream of German, Austrian, and Russian Jews into the Far East, which increased considerably at the outbreak of the Second World War. By the end of 1941, there were 18,000 Jewish refugees in Shanghai, ten times the number of Jews in Shanghai just ten years earlier.

27 Av in History

Today is the third of the the seven weeks of consolation that bridge the Shabbat after the Ninth of Av with the Shabbat preceding Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year. A passage of consolation from the book of Isaiah is read as the Haftara.

Today is the yahrzeit of Rav Yehoshua Charif of Cracow (1648), author of Maginei Shlomo, an attempt to resolve the questions of the Baalei Tosefos against Rashi. He was the great-grandfather of the Pnei Yehoshua.

Born in Vilna at end of 16th century, he arrived in Cracow in 1640 as Rosh Yeshiva, replacing Rav Yoel Sirkis (the Bach) as Rav a few months later. He held the position until Rav Yom Tov Lipman Heller (Tosefos Yom Tov) became Rav in 1643. Among his talmidim was Rav Shabsai Cohen (the Shach).

“The Manna was like Gad(Num).”

What is Gad? The Sages say [Gad] refers to the words of Agadah {notice the phonetic similarity} (the parables and ethical teachings of the Talmud) for they draw a person’s heart like water [is drawn from a well.]

Yoma Chapter 8


5 August in History

In 1264, Anti-Jewish riots broke out in Arnstadt Germany.

In 1885, Herzl withdrew from the court service in order to become a writer.

25 Av in History

Today marks the passing of Rav Yeshayahu Menachem ben Yitzchak of Cracow, the originator of the form of the Heter Iska, which allows Jews to enter into business agreements and charge interest, rather than consider granting the money as a loan, where interest would not allowed to be charged.

Who is able to stop the exalted Godly love, which moves and pulsates in the hearts of the remnant, the pious, the holy, the upright of heart.

Like a clear wind full of the spices of Aden, and with this raging and bustling, like the sea rages its waves, the soul rages from expansive pleasure, shining with exalted pleasantness. This pleasure of pleasures magnifies and expands all of one’s spiritual capabilities, and emotional traits: the entire soul is sanctified.

Anyone who has even a distant contact with this pleasant light of the souls of these holy ones, the mighty ones of God, is elevated.

All of the Torah, ethics, commandments, acts and study, are introduced to clear the stumbling blocks along the path, so this love of all the world is able to spread out, to expand to every village in life, in all of their roads.

The many branches of the roots of this love are also the holy of the holiest. They are all the good traits, upright in particular and in general, individual and societal, in order to judge the earth in righteousness, and nations with upright [judgements].

Rav Avraham Yitschak HaKohen Kook



4 August in History

The Hasmoneans reinstated the rule of Jewish civil law, replacing Hellenist secular law, and declared this day a holiday.

24 Av in History

The Hasmoneans reinstated the rule of Jewish civil law, replacing Hellenist secular law, and declared this day a holiday.

Rabbi Assi said, “Come and see, how the traits of the Holy One Blessed is He are not like the traits of humanity.

When a human curses another, he tried to punish him thoroughly.

But God, He punished the snake, and if the snake should go up on a roof, or down on the ground, his food is with him.

He punished Cannan (with being the progenitor of slaves) and the slave gets to eat whatever the master is eating.

He punished women, and all run after her.

He punished the land, and all are sustained from her.

Yoma Chapter 8


3 August in History

It was on this day in 1492 that Columbus set sail for the New World. There is an entry in Columbus’ diary noting the expulsion of Jews from Spain right before he set sail. He was accompanied by Luis de Torres who is considered to be the first Jew to arrive in the “New World.”

23 Av in History

Today marks the passing of Rav Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky, the Steipler Gaon, author of Kehillas Yaakov (1899-1985). His father, Reb Chaim Peretz, was a shochet, ritual slaughter, in Horensteipel. When Ren Chaim Peretz was 60 years old, his wife died, leaving him with three daughters. He asked his rebbe, Rav Mordechai Dov, the son-in-law of Rav Chaim Sanzer, whether he should remarry. On the latter’s recommendation, he married a young woman, and he fathered three sons.

The oldest was Rav Yaakov Yisrael. At the age of 11, Rav Yaakov Yisrael was recruited to learn with Rav Yosef Yosel Hurvitz at Novardock. At 19, he was sent by the Alter of Novardock to head a yeshiva at Rogatshov. After a stint in the Russian army, he was appointed rosh yeshiva of Novardock at Pinsk. The Chazon Ish saught him as a husband for his sister. He authored many works, most notably Kehillas Yaakov. His son, Rav Chaim Kanievsky, is a leading Torah authority in Yisrael.

“To the snake He said, ‘Dust will be your food.'” (Gen. 3).

Rav Ami and Rav Assi both commented on this. One said the explanation of this curse is that even if the snake were to eat any of the delicacies of the world, those foods would taste like dust.

The other explains the punishment was even if the snake were to eat any of the delicacies of the world, the snake would only be satiated when he ate dirt.

Yoma Chapter 8


2 August in History

The United States conducts its first census in 1790. Out of a population of four million people, there are approximately 2,000 Jews. Today the Jewish population is estimated at 5,128,000, or about 1.7% of the total population as of 2007.

Today is the birthdate of movie mogul Jack Warner (1892). Born in Canada, Warner and his four brothers founded Warner Brothers, which became a giant in the film industry. Among other claims to fame Warner Brothers produced “The Jazz Singer,” the first “talking” motion picture. Some of his stars included Bette Davis, James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart. Warner was known fir his frugality and was not necessarily that well liked. At one point his son and namesake said of his dad, “At times he gloried in being a no-good sonofabitch. If his brothers hadn’t hired him, he’d have been out of work.

In 1903, the first branch of Bank Leumi’s opened in Turkish Jaffa.

22 Av In History

Today marks the passing of Rav Mordechai ben Hillel, the “Mordechai” (~1230-1298). A descendent of the Ravyah, he was a principle disciple of the Maharam miRottenberg, and a close friend of the Rosh, who is considered one of the main pillars of Halacha, legal decision, to this day. The Mordechai cites views of French and German authorities and brings the piskei halacha (legal decisions) of the Tosefot (main European commentators on the Talmud) without the discussion, making their conclusions more easily understood.

He, his wife, and their five children were all burned at the stake during the Rindfleisch pogroms, when over 100,000 Jews in Bavaria and Austria were murdered, and well over 100 communities disappeared.

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August 2010