You are currently browsing the monthly archive for April 2011.

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Thank you to everyone who made this past year an enjoyable exploration for me.

Chag Sameach.


The offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to God, as in ancient days, and the early years.

Malachi 3:4


15 April in History

In 1250, Pope Innocent III refused the Jews of Cordova permission to build a synagogue.

11 Nisan in History

The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of blessed memory, was born on this date in 1902.

16 April in History

In 73 CE, according to some calculations this is the day that Masada fell to the Romans after several months of siege, ending this Jewish Revolt against Rome.

12 Nisan in History

On the Shabbat before the Exodus–Nissan 10th on that year–the first-born of Egypt, who occupied the senior positions in the priesthood and government, fought a bloody battle with Pharaoh’s troops, in an effort to secure the release of the Israelites and prevent the Plague of the Firstborn. This “great miracle” is commemorated each year on the Shabbat before Passover, which is therefore called Shabbat HaGadol, “The Great Shabbat.” (This is one of the rare instances in which a commemorative date in the Jewish calendar is set by the day of the week rather than the day of the month.)

One witness is usually not sufficient to give testimony in court. Two witnesses are usually required.

However, when Ula came (to Babylon, from Israel), he said: “They have already consecrated the new moon in Israel”.

R. Kahana said, (In such a case) not only Ula, who is a great man, is to be believed, but even an ordinary man.

Why so? Because men will not lie about a matter that will become known to every one.

Rosh Hashana Chapter 2


14 April in History

Today in 1598, Henry IV of France issues the Edict of Nantes allowing freedom of religion to the Huguenots in Catholic France. The edict did not cover Moslems or Jews living in France, including “New Christians” who had fled to France because of the Inquisition.

10 Nisan in History

Miriam, the sister of Moses, passed away at the age of 126 on the 10th of Nissan of the year 2487 from creation (1274 BCE) — 39 years after the Exodus and exactly one year before the Children of Israel entered the Holy Land. It is in deference to her passing that the “Great Shabbat” is commemorated on the Shabbat before Passover rather than the calendar date of the miracle’s occurence, Nissan 10.

Through faith, even lowly faith has a purpose. However, to guide your life, only exalted faith can rule.

Rav Avraham Yitschak HaKohen Kook


13 April in History

In 1852, today is the birthdate of Rabbi Haim (Henry) Pereira Méndez. Mendez was part of a family famous for its rabbis. Mendez began his career in England before moving to the United States where he served as rabbi for Shearith Israel (The Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue) in New York. He was also one of the founders of the Jewish Theological Seminary.

9 Nisan in History

Following his 180 day feast for all his international subjects, which ended a day earlier, King Achashverosh began a seven-day feast for his subjects living in Shushan, his capital. This feast ended with the death of his queen, Vashti.

One who has seen the new moon, but is unable to go (to give evidence), must be brought (if unable to walk) mounted on an donkey, or even in a bed.

Persons afraid of an attack by robbers may take sticks with them (even on the Sabbath); and if they have a long way to go, it will be lawful for them to provide themselves with and carry their food.

Whenever (witnesses) must be on the road a day and a night, it will be lawful to violate the Sabbath to travel thereon, to give their evidence as to the appearance of the moon. Since the verse states, [Lev. xxiii. 4]: “These are the feasts of God, the holy convocations, which you will proclaim in their appointed seasons.”

Rosh Hashanah Chapter 1


12 April in History

In the year 70, according to some, the date on the civil calendar when Pesach is observed for the last time before the destruction of the Second Temple.

8 Nisan in History

The grand 180-day feast hosted by King Achashverosh came to an end on this day.

Achasverosh miscalculated the start date of Jeremiah’s prophecy which promised the rebuilding of the Holy Temple after 70 years of Babylonian exile. When, according to his calculations, the seventy years had passed and the Jews were not redeemed, he orchestrated this grand party to celebrate the “demise” of the Chosen Nation. During the course of the party he brazenly displayed many of the vessels looted from the Holy Temple by the Babylonian armies.

The following are considered incompetent to be witnesses: gamblers with dice, usurers, pigeon breeders, those who deal with the produce of the sabbatic year, and slaves.

Rosh Hashanah Chapter 1


11 April in History

In 1302, a decree was issued ordering the Jews of Barcelona to kneel when meeting a priest with the sacraments.

7 Nisan in History

The Jewish nation mourned for thirty days following the passing of Moses.

On the 7th of Nissan, the first day after the mourning period came to an end, Joshua instructed the Jews to stock up on provisions and prepare themselves to cross the Jordan river and begin the conquest of the Promised Land. This was the first time Joshua addressed the nation, and they unconditionally accepted him as their new leader.

The actual crossing occurred on the 10th of Nissan.

“R. Simeon says: Father and son, and relatives in any degree may be accepted as competent witnesses to give evidence as to the appearance of the new moon. ”

R. Levi said, “What is the reason for R. Simeon’s decree? It is written [Ex. xii. 1]: “And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron saying, This month will be to you,” which means, this evidence shall be acceptable from you (although you are brothers).”

Rosh Hashanah Chapter 1


10 April in History

In 1914, today is the birthdate of Raphael Silverman, the native of Ithaca, NY who gained fame as Raphael Hillyer, the founding violist of the Juilliard String Quartet and a soloist and teacher known for the warmth and expressivity of his tone.

6 Nisan in History

The town of Afula in Northern Israel was founded in this date in 1925. It is located on the presumed site of the tower (“Ophel”) mentioned in the Biblical account of an Aramean general’s visit to the Prophet Elisha (II Kings 5:24).

Afula’s central location in the Jezreel Valley makes it the market center of the region; it is often referred to as “the Capital of the Valley.”

Because of the town’s proximity to Judea and Samaria, it has repeatedly been a target of terrorist attacks following the Oslo “peace process” and during the second Intifada.

There were four lepers who were sitting at the gate of the city (during a famine) and they said to themselves, “Why should we stay here and die?”… So they went to the camp of Aram… God had caused had caused a sound of horses and chariots to go through the camp of Aram. They (the Armenians) thought “The King of Israel has hired the Hittite Kings and the Kings of Egypt to attack us.”

Kings II 7:3-6


8 April in History

In 1873, Sir Julius Vogel begins serving his first term as Prime Minister of New Zealand. Vogel was the first practicing Jew to hold this position.

4 Nisan in History

On the morning of the 4th of Nissan, a civilian convoy of doctors and nurses traveling to the Hadassah Hospital on Mount Scopus was attacked by Arab forces. Of the ten vehicles in the caravan, five escaped. The other five vehicles, however, which included two buses and an ambulance, were riddled with machine gun fire and later set ablaze. Altogether 77 Jewish civilians were massacred on that day.

Shortly afterwards, the hospital was closed down and moved to the western part of Jerusalem.

The Mt. Scopus hospital only reopened after the eastern part of Jerusalem was liberated by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War. Primarily staffed by Israeli doctors, it is the largest and best equipped hospital in the eastern section of Jerusalem.

9 April in History

In 1872, today is the birthdate of Léon Blum the first Jew to serve as French Premier. Imprisoned by the French and the Germans during World War II, he returned to politics briefly after the war before passing away in 1950.

5 Nisan in History

Two days before the conclusion of the thirty-day mourning period following the passing of Moses on Adar 7, Joshua dispatched two scouts–Caleb and Pinchas–across the Jordan River to Jericho, to gather intelligence in preparation of the Israelites’ battle with the first city in their conquest of the Holy Land. In Jericho, they were assisted and hidden by Rahab, a woman who lived inside the city walls. (Rahab later married Joshua).

When a father and son have seen the new moon, they must both go to the Beth Din, not that they may act together as witnesses, but in order that, should the evidence of either of them be invalidated, the other may join to give evidence with another witness.

Rosh Hashanah Chapter 1


7 April in History

In 1486, the first prayer book (Siddur) was printed in Italy by Soncino. This was the only time that the Siddur was published during the 15th century. For the most part hand copied manuscripts (of which there were plenty) continued to be used.

3 Nisan in History

Following the procedure God prescribed (Numbers 8:5-22), Moses inducted the Levites into Tabernacle service on this day in 1312 BCE. The induction ceremony included sprinkling them with the ashes of the Red Heifer which was prepared the day beforehand.

Faith, from its exalted perspective, is able to raise a person to a level of courage that they could not achieve without faith.

Faith, from its lower perspective, weakens a person, until a person’s heart is no longer strong.

Weakening the heart is one of the elements of life that people seek to flee from.

The removal of weakening is achieved when one fulfills faith in its completeness, not when seeking to run away from faith.

Rav Avraham Yitschak HaKohen Kook


6 April in History

Today in 1119, King Richard I of England dies from an infection following the removal of an arrow from his shoulder. Richard spent most of his reign fighting to protect his lands in France or on the Third Crusade. While he was in England, he did protect his Jewish subjects. Jews did suffer during his Kingship. Among other things, they were forced to contribute a disproportionate amount towards the ransom collected to free Richard from the clutches of an Austrian duke. Richard’s death put King John on the throne. John openly exploited Jewish subjects. His tyranny brought on the Magna Charta which included a special section on treatment of the Jews.

2 Nisan in History

On the 2nd of Nissan, one day after the inauguration of the Tabernacle, Moses prepared the very first Red Heifer, in order to ritually purify the Jewish nation in preparation for the bringing of the Paschal Lamb in the newly erected Sanctuary.

From where do we know that for declaring the new moon in its proper time we may break the Sabbath? From [Lev. xxiii. 4], which reads: “These are the feasts of the God, which you should proclaim in their seasons.”

Rosh Hashana Chapter 1


5 April in History

In 1533, in an effort to stop the Inquisition, Pope Clement VII issued the Bulla de Perdao which was essentially a pardon for all past offenses. This was supposed to help the News Christians living in Portugal. Unfortunately the pope died a few years later and the Inquisition was officially established.

1 Nisan in History

On the eighth day following a 7-day training and initiation period, the portable Mishkan (“Tabernacle” or “Sanctuary”) built by the Children of Israel in the Sinai desert was erected, Aaron and his sons began serving as priests, and the Divine Presence came to dwell in the Mishkan; special offerings were brought, including a series of gifts by Nachshon ben Aminadav, the Prince of the Tribe of Judah (similar offerings were brought over the next 11 days by the other tribes of Israel).

R. Meir used to say, of two who fall sick with the same sickness, and of two who enter a for judgment on similar charges, one may recover and one not, one may be acquitted and one condemned.

Why should one recover and one not? Or one be acquitted and one condemned? Because the one prayed and was answered, and one prayed and was not answered.

Why should one be answered and the other not? One prayed devoutly and was answered, the other did not pray devoutly and therefore was not answered.

R. Elazar said it was not because of prayer, but because the one prayed before, and the other after the decree was pronounced.

Rosh Hashanah Chapter 1


4 April in History

In 1609, English navigator Henry Hudson set sail from Amsterdam harbor under direction from his “employer,” the Duct East India Company to sail east in the quest for a shorter water passage to the Indies. Fortunately for the Jewish people, Hudson ignored these instructions and sailed west seeking the fabled Northwest Passage to the Orient. As part of this quest, Hudson sailed past what is now New York on his way up what we know as the Hudson River claiming all of the surrounding for the Dutch. This meant that the 23 Jews who arrived in New Amsterdam landed in a territory controlled by the religiously tolerant Dutch as opposed to a colony controlled Catholic Spain or Catholic France neither of whom would have allowed the Jews to settle.

29 Adar in History

Shortly before sundown on the 29th of Adar, God commanded Moses regarding the mitzvah of sanctifying the crescent new moon and establishing a lunar calendar. This is the first mitzvah the Jews were given as a nation.

According to tradition, Moses had difficulty envisaging the moon’s appearance at the exact moment of its monthly rebirth. After the sun set, God showed Moses the crescent new moon of the new month of Nissan, showing him the precise dimensions of the moon at the moment the new month is to be consecrated.

For the generations that followed, each new month was ushered in when two witnesses testified before the Sanhedrin (rabbinic supreme court) that they had seen the molad, the new moon. In the 4th century CE, Hillel II foresaw that the Jews would no longer be able to follow a Sanhedrin-based calendar. So Hillel and his rabbinical court established the perpetual calendar which is followed today.

The convert Beluria (a woman) asked R. Gamaliel, “In one place in the Torah it says that God does not forgive [Deut. 17]: “God who does not raise up a persons countenance” yet in another, it states that he does [Numb. vi. 26]: “May God lift up his countenance.”

R. Jose, the Kohen, replied, “I will tell you a parable. To what may this be compared? To one who lent money to his neighbor, and set a time for its repayment before the king, and (the borrower) swore by the king’s life (to repay it on time). The time arrived, and he did not pay, and he came to appease the king. The king said to him, ‘I can forgive you only your offence against me, but I cannot forgive you your offence against your neighbor; go and ask him to forgive you.'”

So also here; in the one place it means sins committed by a man against Himself (God), but in the other it means sins committed by one man against another.

Rosh Hashanah Chapter 1


3 April in History

Today in 1933, Joseph Stalin became the first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Stalin’s anti-Semitism would prove to be stronger than his sense of brotherhood for his fellow Socialist brethren. From his attacks on Trotsky to the Doctors’ Plot that came at the end of his life, Stalin displayed an attitude towards the Jewish people that would have made the Czars proud.

28 Adar in History

In Talmudic times, Adar 28 used to be celebrated to commemorate the rescinding of a Roman decree against ritual circumcision, Torah study and keeping the Shabbat. The decree was revoked through the efforts of Rabbi Yehudah ben Shamua and his fellow rabbis. (Megillat Taanit, Rosh Hashanah 19a)

The nation will come and worship by the entrance of the gate (used by the prince) on Sabbaths and Holidays, before God.

Ezekiel 46:3

1 April in History

In 1920, today marks the emergence of the Nazi Party.

26 Adar in History

Today marks the passing of Sarah Schenirer, mother of the Bais Yaakov movement (1935).

2 April in History

In 2009, A terrorist infiltrated Bat Ayin in the Gush Etzion region of the West Bank and killed Shlomo Nativ, a 13-year-old Israeli boy, by striking him in the head with an axe. The terrorist also attacked a 7-year-old boy with the axe, hitting and wounding him in the head. He was taken to Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem and is in moderate condition. Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad and an organization calling itself the Imad Mughniyeh Group claimed responsibility for the attack, although this has not been confirmed.

27 Adar in History

Zedekiah was the last king of the royal house of David to reign in the Holy Land. He ascended the throne in 434 BCE, after King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia (to whom the kingdom of Judah was then subject) exiled King Jeconiah (Zedekiah’s nephew) to Babylonia . In 425 BCE Zedekiah rebelled against Babylonian rule, and Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem (in Tevet 10 of that year); in the summer of 423 BCE the walls of Jerusalem were penetrated, the city conquered, the (first) Holy Temple destroyed, and the people of Judah exiled to Babylonia.

Zedekiah tried escaping through a tunnel leading out of the city, but was captured; his sons were killed before his eyes, and then he was blinded. Zedekiah languished in the royal dungeon in Babylonia until Nebuchadnezzar’s death in 397 BCE; Evil Meroduch — Nebuchadnezzar’s son and successor — freed him (and his nephew Jeconiah) on the 27th of Adar, but Zedikiah died that same day.

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April 2011