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This house which you have build to me, if you walk in my laws and perform my judgements, and guard all my commands to walk in them, I will uphold my word with you, which I spoke to David your father.

I will dwell among my people Israel, and I will never abandon my people Israel.

Kings 1 6:12-13


4 February in History

In 1194, Richard The Lion Hearted bought his freedom by paying his ransom to Leopold, an Austrian Duke. In collecting the ransom, the Jews were forced to pay 5,000 marks. They were taxed at three times the rate as that paid by their Christian countrymen.

30 Shevat in History

The 30th of Shevat is celebrated by the descendents of Rabbi Yomtov Lipman Heller (1579-1654) as a day of thanksgiving, for his liberation and restoration after his imprisonment in Vienna in 1629.

Rabbi Yomtov Lipman was one of the important rabbinical figures of the early 17th century. Known as the “Tosfos Yomtov” after his commentary on the Mishnah by that name, he also authored important commentaries on the Rosh and other rabbinical works. A disciple of the famed Maharal of Prague, Rabbi Yomtov Lipman was appointed, at the tender age of 18, to serve as a dayan (rabbinical judge) in in that city. He subsequently filled a number of prestigious rabbinical positions, including rabbi of Nikolsburg and of Vienna. In 1627 he was recalled to Prague to serve as the city’s chief rabbi.

That position earned him powerful enemies when he refused to follow the dictates of Prague’s rich and influential citizens and strove to relieve the burden imposed on the poor by the suffocating “crown taxes” imposed on the Jews. His enemies informed on him to the government, falsely accusing him of treason. In 1629, Rabbi Yomtov Lipman was arrested, tried and sentenced to death. The Jewish communities of Bohemia succeeded in having the sentence commuted and reduced to a heavy fine, and raised the funds for the payment of the first installment that secured his release. However, his enemies obtained an imperial decision that he could not officiate as rabbi in any town of the empire, leaving him homeless and destitute. It took many years for him to pay off the balance of the fine and be restored to his former position. It was only in the winter of 1644, when he settled in Krakow after being appointed chief rabbi of the city, that he felt that that he could celebrate his release and restoration.

Shevat 30th (the 1st day of Rosh Chodesh Adar)–the day that Rabbi Yomtov Lipman assumed the rabbinate of Krakow–was celebrated by him and his family as a day of thanksgiving to God. Rabbi Yomtov Lipman asked that future generations continue to mark the date, and the custom is upheld by his descendants to this day.

5 February in History

In 1915, birthdate of Robert Hofstadter, American atomic physicist and winner of the Nobel Prize in 1961.

1 Adar I in History

Today marks the passing of Rav Avraham Ibn Ezra (1089-1164). He was born in Tudela during the height of Spain’s Golden Age. There, he established a close friendship with Rav Yehuda Halevi. Three of his uncles were ministers in the royal palace. He moved to Toledo, during the benevolent rule of King Alfonso VI. After the Kinf died, however, the anti-semitic masses began to harass the Jews, so he headed south to Muslim Spain – to Granada, Cordova, and Lucena. In 1148, the barbaric Almohades overran Morocco and continued into Spain. He was forced to flee to Rome, Provence, and Rhodes (where he befriended Rabbeinu Tam and other grandsons of Rashi, as well as the Rosh).

He traveled to Egypt and learned with the Rambam. He wrote a commentary on the Torah and Navi, based in large part on Hebrew grammar. He also wrote dozens of books on astronomy, astrology, and mathematics.

“Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah permitted three things which the other sages prohibit: His cow would go out on a Sabbath with a strap attached to her horns” (which was not allowed because the animal was carrying on Shabbat)…

Did R. Elazar ben Azariah possess but one cow? Did not Rabh, or according to others R. Jehudah in the name of Rabh, say that thirteen thousand calves used R. Elazar ben Azariah to give as tithes from his cattle yearly?

The cow mentioned Mishna was not his, but his neighbor’s, and because he did not protest, it was considered as if it was his own.

Beitzah Chapter 2


3 February in History

In 1468, Johannes Gutenberg, father of modern printing, passed away. Gutenberg was not Jewish. But the invention of the printing press was a boon to Jewish study and culture. The people of the book had much easier access to the World of Books.

29 Shevat in History

The Columbia Space Shuttle, returning from its STS-107 mission, was destroyed upon re-entry, 16 minutes before its scheduled landing. All its crew members perished, including Ilan Ramon, a combat pilot in the Israeli Air Force, who was the first Israeli astronaut. Prior to his departing to space on Space Shuttle Columbia, where his mission included the manning of a multispectral camera for recording desert aeroso, he arranged to take Kosher food and he took along a Kiddush cup and a copy of the Torah.

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February 2011