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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.

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January 2011