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.

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