You are currently browsing the monthly archive for January 2011.

It happened once that a disciple of Beth Hillel brought his burnt-offering into the Temple-court for the purpose of laying his hands upon it, and a disciple of the school of Shammai (who maintain you do not need to lay your hands on the animal) met him and said: Why the handling? And he replied: Why are you not silent?

Thus, he silenced him with a rebuke, so that he went away.

Said Abayi, “From this we may infer that if a young scholar says to another a few words, the answer shall not be more lengthy than the remark which was addressed, as we have seen in the case of the two disciples, when he asked him: ‘Why the laying of the hands?’ he answered him: Why not be silent?’

Beitzah Chapter 2


31 January in History

In 1848, today was the birthdate of Nathan Straus who the wealthy American businessman and philanthropist who owned R.H. Macy & Company and Abraham and Straus. Born in Otterberg, Germany, Strauss moved to the United States with his family in 1854 where they first settled in Georgia before moving to New York City after the Civil War where young Nathan worked in his father’s firms L Straus & Sons.

In the 1880’s he began a life of philanthropy and public service that included leading the fight against tuberculosis and a major effort to improve the public libraries. His philanthropy extended to developing a Jewish homeland in Eretz Israel following his first visit to the area in 1912.

His support is memorialized by the fact that a street in the Jerusalem is called “Rehov Straus” and that the city of The modern Israeli city of Netanya, founded in 1927, was named in his honor.

26 Shevat in History

Shevat 26 is the yahrtzeit (anniversary of the passing) of Rabbi Dovid ben Shmuel Halevi (1586-1667), a primary Halachic authority, known as Taz after his work Turei Zahav (“Rows of Gold”) — a commentary on Rabbi Yosef Caro’s Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law).

A disciple taught in the presence of Rabina: “Who sanctified Israel, the Sabbath, and the festivals,” and Rabina rejoined: Does Israel then sanctify the Sabbath? The Sabbath is itself holy: Rather, say: “Who sanctified the Sabbath, Israel, and the festivals.”

Said R. Jose: The Halakha prevails according to Rabbi as interpreted by Rabina.

Beitzah Chapter 2


30 January in History

In 1893, today is the birthdate of Rabbi Yitzhak-Meir Levin a Haredi, politician, member of the Kensett and one of 37 people to sign the Israeli declaration of independence.

25 Shevat in History

Passing of Rabbi Israel Lipkin (1810-1883), known as “Rabbi Israel Salanter,” founder of the “Mussar” (ethicist) movement.

So says God,

“Were it not for my covenant,
Day and night,
The laws of heaven,
I would not not have placed them.”

Jeremiah 33:28


28 January in History

In 814, Charlemagne passed away. The grandson of Charles Martel was one of the greatest European rulers during the Dark Ages. For the most part, he ignored canon law and the wishes of the Pope and treated the Jews of his realm rather decently.

23 Shevat in History

Armies of the Tribes of Israel converged upon the tribe of Benjamin in the aftermath of the “Concubine at Givah” incident, in a war which nearly brought about the extinction of the Benjaminites.

29 January in History

In 1856, Queen Victoria institutes the Victoria Cross. Frank de Pass was the first Jew to be awarded Britain’s highest award for valor. He earned it for action on the Western Front on November 24, 1917. The award was made posthumously since he was killed the next day.

24 Shevat in History

“On the 24th day of the 11th month, which is the month of Shevat, in the second year of the reign of Darius, the word of G-d came to Zachariah the son of Berechiah the son of Ido the prophet, saying:
‘…I will return to Jerusalem in mercy, my house will be built within her…and the Lord shall yet console Zion and shall yet choose Jerusalem.'” (Zechariah 1:7-17)

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Hillel the Elder had a different approach than Shammai, Hillel would enjoy which ever food was present because all his deeds were for the sake of Heaven, he would trust in God to provide for Sabbath at the proper time, as it is written [Ps. lxviii. 20]: “Blessed be the Lord! day by day he loads us with benefits.”

Beitzah Chapter 2


27 January in History

In 661 CE, the Rashidun Caliphate ends with death of Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of Muhammad. Begun in 632, the Caliphate marked a period of conquest that gave Islam control over a large swath of North Africa, the old Persian Empire and the modern Middle East. It was during this period that the forces of Islam defeated the Byzantines thus giving them control over Jerusalem.

22 Shevat in History

Today marks the passing of Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk (1787-1859), renowned Chassidic leader, and forerunner of the “Ger” Chassidic dynasty.

It also marks the passing of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushkah Schneerson (b. 1901), wife of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, passed away on the 22nd of Shevat of the year 5748 (1988).

Precious little is known about her. Not due to lack of interest, but due to her fervent desire to remain unknown.  She was once asked why she preferred to hear the Shofar blown at home, rather than at Shul.  She responded, “I cannot bear the fuss people make of me when I appear in public.”

Her early twenties saw the intensification of the Communist war against the Jewish soul and the beginning of her father’s heroic struggle. During those dark Soviet nights, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak had his daughter Chaya Mushka at his side.

Cognizant of her wisdom and strength, her father involved her in much of his work. Young Chaya Mushka was asked to secretly transport food and supplies to Rostov’s underground Yeshiva, in the knowledge that she could be relied upon for her discerning judgment.

Life became increasingly dangerous for the Jews of Rostov, and in the spring of 1924 her family moved to Leningrad, where Chaya Mushka’s involvement continued.

In a recently discovered document dated December 4, 1924, her father wrote:

I hereby empower citizen Chaya Moussia Yosepuvna (daughter of Yosef) Schneersohn, residing at Machovaya Street 12/22, apartment 10, to receive monies on my behalf or documents that are addressed to me, in all forms, from the government bank and all of its branches and offices, and from other banks, government or communal, or from other organizations or private persons or by telegraph.

Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka was 23 years old at the time.

They called on to another, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of Hosts. The entire world is filled with His glory.”

Isaiah 6:3


21 January in History

In 1903, Harry Houdini escaped fromthe police station Halvemaansteeg in Amsterdam.

16 Shevat in History

Rabbi Chaim Mordechai Maroglis first served as rabbi in Brestitzki, Poland, and later in Dubno, Poland/Ukraine. He is the author of a digest of halachic responsa written after the publication of the Code of Jewish Law, known as “Shaarei Teshuvah.”

This work can be found in the margins of most prints of the Code of Jewish Law.

22 January in History

In 1167, Ibn-Ezra passed away at the age of 78 in Calahorra which was on the border between Navarre and Aragon. There is no way that any entry could do justice to this Sephardic writer, philosopher, scientist and world traveler.

17 Shevat in History

A noxious plot was brewing against the Jewish community of Saragossa, Spain, but they were completely unaware of the looming danger. They were spared, however, thanks to a handful of synagogues beadles who acted on a dream they all had. The resulting salvation on the 17th of Shevat was celebrated by Saragossan Jews, and dubbed “Purim Saragossa.”

A Hebrew Megillah (scroll) was penned, describing the details of the miraculous story. To this day, this scroll is read in certain communities on Purim Saragossa.

A person who is lost is a heretic, since they are not connected to the ideal of life, they no longer have they ability to drink in the radiance of the idea, and their life is worse then the life of an animal.

Rav Avraham Yitschak HaKohen Kook


26 January in History

In 1891, today is the birthdate of Ilya G Ehrenburg prolific Russian writer and journalist. Born into a middle class Jewish family living in Kiev, Ehrenburg was able to navigate the treacherous waters of the Soviet Union pursuing his career even during the days of Stalin’s anti-Semitic outbursts and dying peacefully in 1967.

21 Shevat in History

On February 4, 1657, Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of England, issued the first residence permit to a Jew, Luis Carvajal, since the expulsion of all Jews from England by King Edward I in the year 1290. The edict of expulsion had been officially overturned in the previous year, 1656. The re-admittance of Jews into England was partially due to the efforts of the great scholar Rabbi Menasseh Ben Israel.

It was said that Shammai the Elder used to eat all days for the honor of Sabbath. When he found a good animal, he used to say, “This one will be for Sabbath. But when he found a better one, he ate the former, and left the better one for Sabbath.”

Beitzah Chapter 2


25 January in History

In 1944, Hans Frank, governor-general of Occupied Poland, notes in his diary that approximately 100,000 Jews remain in the region under his control, down by 3,400,000 from the end of 1941.

20 Shevat in Histroy

Asher, the son of Jacob, was born on the 20th of Shevat of the year 2199 from creation (1562 BCE). According to some accounts, this is also the date of his passing.

R. Tachlipha brother of Rabanai Huzaah taught, “All the necessaries of a man are appointed for him in the Heavenly Court in the ten days between New Year and the Day of Atonement, except the expenses for Sabbath, the festivals, and the studies of his children: the amount for these purposes appointed for him in Heaven is the same as that which he spends.”

Beitzah Chapter 2


24 January in History

In 1902, today was the brthdate of economist Oskar Morgenstern. Morgenstern enjoyed a successful career in Europe until the coming of the Nazis forced him to flee to the United States, where he pursued his career.

19 Shevat in History

With the Black Death raging throughout Switzerland, poison was reported to have been found in the wells at Zofingen. Some Jews were put to the “Dümeln” (thumbscrews) test, whereupon they “admitted” their guilt of the charges brought against them. This discovery was then communicated to the people of Basel, Zurich, Freiburg-im-Breisgau, and even Cologne.

The Jews of Basel were burned on an island in the Rhine on January 9, 1349, in wooden huts that were especially built for the occasion. Their children, who were spared, were taken and forcibly baptized.

What is meant by “let the joy of God be your stronghold (following a verse that referred to celebrating the holidays)”?

R. Johanan in the name of R. Elazar bar Simeon said, “The Holy One, blessed be He, said to Israel, ‘My children, borrow money for my sake, and rejoice on the holy day, and trust to me, I will pay it back.'”

Beitzah Chapter 2


23 January in History

In 1492, the first printed copy of the Chumash with Megilot appeared. The two most famous printers of early Hebrew texts were the Soncino Family, who were Jewish and Daniel Bomberg, a Flemish Christian who worked in Venice.

18 Shevat in History

With the inquisition having arrived on American shores, twelve Jews were burnt in an auto de fe in Lima, Peru, on the 18th of Shevat 5399 (1639). Of the sixty-three Jews who were condemned at the time to various punishments, eleven were burnt alive at the stake, along with the body of a twelfth, who had committed suicide during the trial.

Amongst those burnt was Manuel Bautista Perez, reported to have been the richest man in Peru at the time, as well as Francisco Maldonado de Silva, a surgeon, poet, and philosopher who was seized in Chile in 1627, and remained in the dungeons of the Inquisition for nearly twelve years. His devotion to his faith never wavered; while in prison he even converted two Catholics to Judaism!

R. Shesheth used to repeat his studies every thirty days, and, supporting himself against the wall of the house of study, would say, “Rejoice, my soul! Rejoice, my soul! For your sake I have read, for your sake I have studied.”

Beitzah Chapter 2


20 January in History

In 1935, today was designated as Palestine Day by the Zionist Organization of America. Over 400 cities and towns throughout the United States planned on observing the event with a series of meetings and dinners.

15 Shevat in History

Today is Tu B’Shevat (“the 15th of Shevat”) which marks the beginning of a “New Year for Trees.” This is the season in which the earliest-blooming trees in the Land of Israel emerge from their winter sleep and begin a new fruit-bearing cycle.

Legally, the “New Year for Trees” relates to the various tithes that must be separated from produce grown in the Holy Land. We mark the day by eating fruit, particularly from the “Seven Kinds” that are singled out by the Torah in its praise of the bounty of the Holy Land (wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates).

When a person, as an individual or a group, pictures faith, and the ways to acquire faith, they may see paths that a full of dross, since they are standing at a low level.

Nevertheless, the ways to acquire faith do not, in any way, effect faith itself.

When a person, or group, raises, they can see paths that are full of joy, and truth, and gladness.  Yet if a person is not at this higher level, these paths seem full of darkness, and burden.

The upright path, is for a person to arrive at a place in their soul, when they find the correct paths on how to clarify faith, and trust with simplicity on the inheritance of our fathers.

Rav Avraham Yitschak HaKohen Kook


19 January in History

In 1795, the Batavian Republic was proclaimed in the Netherlands bringing to an end the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands. The Batavian Republic was a genuine expression of Dutch nationalism but it was also a product of the French Revolution. Following in the path of that revolution, the creation of the Batavian Republic brought total emancipation for the Jews of the Netherlands.

14 Shevat in History

Shevat 14 is the anniversary of the passing of Rabbi Yaakov Yehoshua Falk Katz (1680-1755), author of the Talmudic work “P’nei Yehoshua.” He served as rabbi of Lemberg (Lvov) in 1718, Berlin in 1730, Metz in 1734 and Frankfurt in 1740.

On the days of Shavuot (when the Torah was given) R. Joseph used to say to his servants, “Prepare for me a calf which is the third-born (of the third birth and which was the finest meat available).”

He would explain, “Were it not for this day, how many Josephs are there abroad!” (Were it not for the Torah, R. Joseph would not be distinguished among all the other people name Joseph).

Beitzah Chapter 2


18 January in History

On January 18, 1943, the Germans began their second deportation of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto, which led to the first instance of armed resistance. The deportation was halted within a few days; only 5,000 Jews were removed instead of 8,000 as planned. The Nazis retreated, only to return three months later, at which time the Warsaw uprising started in earnest.

13 Shevat in History

Wife of the fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Sholom DovBer Schneerson, and mother of the sixth Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak, Rebbetzin Shterna Sarah (1860-1942) lived through the upheavals of the first half of the 20th century. She fled the advancing front of World War I from Lubavitch to Rostov, where her husband passed away in 1920 at age 59.

In 1927, she witnessed the arrest of her son by Stalin’s henchmen the night he was taken away and sentenced to death, G-d forbid, for his efforts to keep Judaism alive throughout the Soviet empire.

After Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak’s release, the family resettled in Latvia and later, Poland; in 1940, they survived the bombing of Warsaw, were rescued from Nazi-occupied city, and emigrated to the United States.

Rebbetzin Shterna Sarah passed away in New York on the 13th of Shevat of 1942.

It once happened that R. Eliezer was sitting and lectured a whole day (of the festival) about the laws relating to festivals.

The first part of his audience arose and went out, and R. Eliezer said: These people must have great barrels of wine, and they are in a hurry to drink them.

The second portion of the audience went away, and he said: These people must have smaller barrels.

Of the third part he remarked: They must have cans.

Of the fourth he said: They must have lugs.

When the fifth part left him, he said: They must have only goblets.

When the sixth part began to depart, he said: They are worthy to be scolded (because the college began to be empty).

At the same time he looked upon his disciples (who remained) and saw the color of their faces was changed (they were afraid what would be said of them when they left), and he said to them: My children, I did not mean you. I spoke only about those people who leave eternal life for temporary affairs.

When his disciples were going away, he said to them [Nehem. viii. 10]: “Go your way, eat fat things, drink sweet drinks, and send portions unto him for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy unto our God: and do not grieve yourselves; but let the joy of the Lord be your stronghold.”

Beitza Chapter 2


17 January in History

In 2005, in London, survivors of the Lodz Ghetto gathered in London to view the unpublished photographs that Henry Ross had taken of the ghetto. Ross was the official of the photographer of the Jewish Council. Ross hid over three thousand negatives when the Germans liquidated the ghetto and shipped the survivors to Auschwitz.

Ross survived the war and moved to Israel where he died in 1991. His son gave the collection of photos to the Archive of Modern conflict in London in 1997. One hundred of the images were published in 2004 in the Lodz Ghetto Album.

12 Shevat in History

Today marks the passing of Rav Chaim Kapusi (~1540-1631). Born in Algiers, he moved with his family to Egypt in his early years. He became Rav and Dayan in Egypt and is buried in the Cairo Jewish cemetery. He authored Sifsei Chaim (unpublished) on the Sifri and the Mechilta, and Be’or Hachaim on Chumash, which was published about 300 years after his passing.

Rav Papa’s guest asked him, “An egg which was laid on Shabbat, can it be used on Yom Tov (festivals)?”

He said to him, “Leave today and come back tomorrow.”  The next day he answered him.

Why did Rav Papa not answer on the first day?  Since it was the afternoon of the Sabbath, he did not want to set a precedent of answering legal questions, since one may be intoxicated in the afternoon of the Sabbath.

Beitza Chapter 1


16 January in History

In 1120, the Council of Nablus is held, establishing the earliest surviving written laws of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem. This is the same Nablus that will be a Fatah stronghold at the end of the 20th Century and the same Jerusalem that is the capital of modern day Israel.

11 Shevat in History

In 1510, three years after the request by the Council of Colmar, Emperor Maximilian I granted permission to expel the Jews of Colmar, Germany. The community exerted every effort to secure the repeal of the decree of banishment. With the help of Rabbi Joselman of Rosheim, the leader of the Alsatian Jews, the enforcement of the decree was postponed until S. George’s Day of 1512.

Listen Kings, lend ear princes!
I am to God, I will sing.
I will make music to God, the Lord of Israel.

Judges 5:3


14 January in History

In 1987, Israeli warplanes attacked Palestinian targets near the Syrian border today in the fourth raid on Lebanon in 10 days. The raid came hours after an attack by Lebanese guerrillas on a position manned by the Israeli-backed South Lebanon Army militia east of Sidon in which three people were reported killed and 10 wounded.
”Air force planes attacked buildings used as command posts for a Palestinian terrorist group and tents,” a spokesman for the Tel Aviv command said. ”All planes returned safely to base.” The raid today was only the second in eastern Lebanon since October 1985.
A month after that attack Israeli planes shot down two Syrian warplanes and Syria retaliated by deploying surface-to-air missiles along its border with Lebanon.

9 Shevat in History

Today marks the passing of Rabbeinu Nissim ben Reuven, the Ran (1308-1376), author of a commentary to the Talmud and a halachic commentary to the work of Rabbeinu Yitzchak Alfasi (the Rif). His extant commentaries on the Rif cover tractates Shabbat, Pesachim, Ta’anit, Rosh HaShanah, Beytza, Sukkah, Megillah, Ketubot, Gittin, Kiddushin, Shevu’ot, and Avodah Zarah.

He wrote in reply about 1,000 responsa, of which only seventy-seven have been preserved.

15 January in History

Today is the birthdate of Josef Breuer, Austrian physician and early founder of psychoanalysis.

10 Shevat in History

Today marks the passing of Rabbi Shalom Sharabi (1777), known by his name’s acronym, the RaShaSH, was born in Yemen, and as a young man immigrated to Israel. He was quickly recognized for his piety and scholarship, especially in the area of Jewish mysticism, and was appointed to be dean of the famed Kabbalistic learning center in the Old City of Jerusalem, the Yeshivat ha-Mekubbalim.

He authored many works, mostly based on the teachings of the great kabbalist, Rabbi Isaac Luria, the Ari. Rabbi Sharabi’s most famous work is a commentary on the prayerbook, replete with kabbalistic meditations.

His mystical works are studied by kabbalists to this very day. He is also considered to be a foremost authority on Yemenite Jewish traditions and customs.

According to those who say that only Miriam, Bilgah’s daughter, became apostate, is it right that the Bilgah family should be punished for his daughter?

Abayi said, “Yes.  As people say, ‘what a child speaks in the street, it has heard either from its father or from its mother.'”

But must the whole household be punished for the sin of her father and mother?

Abayi said, “Woe be to the wicked, and woe be to his neighbor; well be to the righteous, and well be to his neighbor, as it is written [Is. iii. 10]: “Say  to the righteous, that he has done well; for the fruit of their doings they will eat.”

Sukkah Chapter 5


13 January in History

In 1778, today was the birthdate of Sir Isaac Goldsmid. A Sephardic Jew, Goldsmid was a prominent London banker who was a founder of the University of London. He passed away in 1859.

8 Shevat in History

The last of the Elders (z’keinim) who were contemporaries of Joshua and outlived him, passed away in the year 2533 after creation. They were part of the chain of Torah transmission as listed at the beginning of Ethics of the Fathers: “Moses received the Torah from Sinai and gave it over to Joshua. Joshua gave it over to the Elders, the Elders to the Prophets…”

In ancient times, this day was marked as a fast day.

There is an external element of faith that can present itself in a foolish form.  However, the light of God dwells in that form (as well).

There are elements that appear to people as foolish in all matters of nature and reality.  However, the folly only appears due to limited vision which does not grasp the exalted nature in every matter, small and great, simultaneously.

Rav Avraham Yitschak HaKohen Kook


7 Shevat in History

Chassidic master Rabbi Dovid Biederman of Lelov (1746-1814) was a disciple of the “Seer of Lublin.” Rabbi Dovid was known for his extraordinary ahavat yisrael; it was said of him that he was literally incapable of seeing faults in a fellow Jew. Two printed collections of stories about him are Migdal David and Kodesh Hillulim.

Rabbi Dovid’s main disciple was Rabbi Yitzchak of Vorki, whose son, Yaakov David, founded the Amshinover dynasty of chassidic rebbes.
12 January in History

In 1903, Harry Houdini performed at the Rembrandt Theater in Amsterdam.

According to others, the order of Bilgah (who were priests in the Temple and who had a daughter who became an apostate) was always late to come to the service (and that is why their chamber was disgraced as mentioned in yesterday’s post).

Sukkah Chapter 5


11 January in History

In 1928, birthdate of David Wolper  who was an award-winning movie and television producer best known for the groundbreaking mini-series Roots.

6 Tevet in History

The governor of Majorca issued an edict for the protection of the Jewish inhabitants, providing that any citizen who injures a Jew will be hanged.

The advantageous position of the islands, as well as their newly found protection, attracted many Jews from Provence, Sicily, Tunis, and Algiers, amongst other African cities. The Jews even had their own organizations and representatives by sanction of the King.

It happened to Miriam the daughter of Bilgah that she became an apostate, and was married to an officer of the Greek kingdom.

When the Greeks entered the Temple (durning the Chanukah  time period), she took her sandal and knocked on the altar, and said: Lucus, Lucus, how long will you destroy the money of Israel, if you cannot help them in their trouble?

When the sages heard this, they fastened down their ring and blocked up the window (decreasing the honor they had in their chamber in the Temple).

Sukkah Chapter 5



10 January in History

In 1276, Pope Gregory X passed away. During his papacy Gregory acquiesced to a request by the Jews and issued a bill “which ordained that they were not to be made by brute force to undergo baptism, and that no injury was to be inflicted upon their person or their property.”

10 January in History

Today marks the passing of Rabbi Yehudah Leib Alter (1847-1905), the second Rebbe in the Chassidic dynasty of Ger — known for his famed Chassidic work “Sefat Emmet” — passed away on the 5th of Shevat of the year 5665 from creation (1905). He was succeeded by his son, Rabbi Abraham Mordechai.

(At the water libation ceremony on Sukkot)

Levi tried in the presence of Rabi to throw and catch eight knives. Samuel tried to do so in the presence of Sha’bur the king with eight goblets full of wine; and Abayi in the presence of Rabha with eight eggs, according to others with four eggs.

Sukkot Chapter 5


9 January in History

In 1873, today was the birthdate of Chaim Nachman Bialik. Born in a Ukrainian village, fatherless at the age of seven, raised by a strict Orthodox grandfather, Bialik became the father of Modern Hebrew poetry. While Herzl, Ben-Gurion and others were busy creating Zionism in the political sphere, Bialik was one of those giving birth to the Zionist dream in the field of culture.

When he began writing his poetry in Hebrew, it was still a language of the Bible – the holy tongue not to be used in modern parlance. Bialik used Hebrew to express modern feelings and emotions, yet always tied back to his Jewish roots. He is variously described as the “poet laureate of the Jewish national movement” and “Israel’s National Poet.”

He gained early fame for his two poems written after the Kishinev Pogrom in 1903 – The City of Slaughter and On the Slaughter. In his poems he attacked the mobs who had slaughtered the Jews. But he also called upon the Jews to resist future attackers. So powerful were his words, that they helped the modern Zionist movement develop its ethic of self-defense. According to some critics, two of his greatest poems are “Metei Midbar” (Dead of the Desert) and “Megillat Ha’esh” (Scroll of Fire).

He passed away in 1934 and his home in Tel Aviv was converted into a museum named in his honor.
He said:

“Reading a poem in translation is like kissing a woman through a veil.”

4 Shevat in History

Today marks the passing of Asher the son Yaakov Avinu (1562-1439 B.C.E.)

You, don’t be afraid my servant Jacob, do not fear Israel,
I will save you from a distance, and your children from a the land of their captivity.
Jacob will return, be quite, tranquil, with no one causing trouble.

Jeremiah 46:27


7 January in Histoy

In 1924, George Gershwin completes “Rhapsody in Blue.”

2 Shevat in History

Hashmonean King Alexander-Yannai (Jannaeus), an avowed enemy of the Jewish sages, died on this date. So great was his cruelty and the ruthlessness with which he persecuted the Sages and those loyal to them (some 50,000 were killed in the years 82-76 BCE), that the day of his death was declared a holiday.

8 January in History

In 1598, Expulsion of the Jews from Genoa, Italy.

3 Shevat in History

Shevat 3 is the yahrtzeit (anniversary of the passing) of Rabbi Yosef ben Rabbi Menachem Kalisch zt”l, the Amshinover Rebbe, in 1935.

Rabbi Judah the Prince used also to say, “To the places which I am fond of, my feet bring me; if you will visit my house, I will visit your house; but if you will not visit my house, I will never visit yours. As it is written [Ex. xx. 21]: “In every place where I will permit my name to be mentioned, I will come to you, and I bless you.”

Sukkah Chapter 5


6 January in History

In 548, this was the last year the Church in Jerusalem observed the birth of Jesus on this date. (Celebrating Christmas on December 25th began in the late 300s in the Western Church.)

1 Shevat in History

On the first of Shevat of the year 2488 from creation Moses convened the Jewish people and began the 37-day “review of the Torah” contained in the Book of Deuteronomy, which he concluded on the day of his passing on Adar 7 of that year.

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Faith is pure when it has no internal compulsion, without any foreign elements.

And even if faith is not fully encompassed in one’s intellect, faith is not restricted.

Never the less, for a person who is graced with intellect, they will not be satisfied without intellectual inquiry, and for such a person the true simplicity of faith will only be established when joined with the light of the intellect.  If such a person finds this intellectual pursuit repugnant, their faith will be filled with dross and bitterness.

Rav Avraham Yitschak HaKohen Kook


5 January in History

Today in 1826, Maryland put into effect the “Jew Bill” which allowed Jews to hold public office if they believed in Reward and Punishment in the Hereafter. Maryland was founded by Catholics and the Act of Toleration was one of its landmark pieces of colonial legislation.

29 Tevet in History

According to Rabbi Judah (cited in the Talmud, Bava Metzia 106b), Tevet 29 marks the end of winter. (As per Genesis 8:22, the year consists of six 2-month “seasons”: seedtime, harvest, cold, heat, summer and winter.)



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It was said of Hillel the Elder the Prince: When he rejoiced at the drawing of the water, he used to say, “If I am here, all are here; but if I am not here, who is here?”

Sukkah Chapter 5


28 Tevet in History

According to sources cited in Seder Hadorot, Tevet 28 is both the birthday and the day of passing of Shimon the son of Jacob; other sources place the date as Tevet 21 (1564-1447 BCE).

4 January in History

In 1943, armed with only one gun and knife members of the Jewish Fighting Organization at Czestochowa resisted a ‘selection.’ As a reprisal, the Germans shot 25 men. Czestochowa is a town in Poland famous for the “Black Madonna” and is scene of annual religious pilgrimages. Sometimes, the Jewish view is a little different than the non-Jewish view of places and events.

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R. Johanan said: If it were not for the following three passages, the enemies of Israel (meaning Israel) could not withstand (in other words, without thes following verses, Israel would have no defence when being accused for their sins, since these verses indicate that God place the evil inclination in us):

First [Micah, iv. 6]: “And her to whom I have done evil” (God did evil by giving us an evil inclincation.

The second [Jeremiah, xviii. 6]: “As the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel”.

The third is [Ezek. xxxvi. 26]: “I will remove the heart of stone out of your body, and I will give you a heart of flesh.” (Since God has not yet done so, our responsibility for sining with our heart of stone is somewhat mitigated.)

R. Papa says: Also from the following verse [ibid., ibid. 27]: “And my spirit I will put within you.” (Since God has not yet done so, our responsibility for sining with our heart of stone is somewhat mitigated.)

Sukkah Chapter 5


27 Tevet in History

Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888), Talmudist, scholar, philosopher, prolific author and Rabbi of Frankfurt am Main, passed away on this date. He was instrumental in revitalizing German Jewry, bringing thousands back to the teachings of the Torah at a time when assimilationist trends threatened to extinguish Jewish life in Western Europe.

3 January in History

In 1915,  today was the birthdate of Jack Levine the Boston born American Social Realist painter and printmaker best known for his satires on modern life, political corruption, and biblical narratives.

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Rabha said: In the beginning the evil inclination is called “traveller,” and then “guest,” and then “man,” as it is written in connection to King David’s sin with Bat Sheva [II Sam. xii. 4]: “There came a traveller to the rich man; and he felt compunction to take from his own flocks and from his own herds to dress for the guest that was come to him; but he took the ewe of the poor man, and dressed it for the man that was come to him”

Sukkah Chapter 5


2 January in History

In 1887, The Jewish Theological Seminary Association, the educational and spiritual center of Conservative Judaism, opened under the leadership of Saba Morais. Morais, a Rabbi of Congregation Mikve Israel in Philadelphia, sought to train Rabbis who would help preserve Jewish traditions which he felt were being eroded by the “reformers” and their Pittsburgh platform. In 1902 Solomon Schechter reorganized the Seminary and changed the name to JTS or the Jewish Theological Seminary. it was at this point that it became the central foundation for the Conservative Movement.

26 Tevet in History

On December 25, 1369 (5129), King Frederick III of Sicily ordered all Jews to wear a badge indicating their heritage. The badge consisted of a piece of red material, not smaller than the largest royal seal; men were required to wear it under the chin, and women on the chest.


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January 2011