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Thank you for following the Jewish Almanac. Hard to believe it was already six years ago since my last post.

I’m starting a new YouTube channel, Seers & Sages.

Thank you,

Jeff Alhadeff

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In this blog I usually post snippets of information about events that happened in Jewish history. For this week, I’d like to share my personal thoughts about the passing of Mr. Joseph Hasson who passed away on this past Saturday, Yom Kippur 5772.

When I heard of Mr. Hasson’s passing, I was sadder than usual than when a elder member of the community dies. My emotional reaction didn’t surprise me, much. After all, Mr. Hasson was born on the Island of Rhodes, the same island in the Mediterranean that my great-grandparents whom I never met came from, and survived the Holocaust. Six months in Auschwitz. My first thought was that he was an icon. But after the funeral, when I lay in bed, unable to help around the house, and just let silent tears drip from my eyes, I was perplexed through my sadness. What caused me to ache so miserably for a man who died in his old age, having merited seeing many grandchildren and great-grandchildren? Why am I choking back tears now, for a man with whom my relationship consisted little more than saying, “Shabbat Shalom Mr. Hasson”?
As a Jew, you know you are a minority. Your customs are yours, and no one else will keep them for you. When you are Sefardic, you are a minority within a minority. Being from the Island of Rhodes is a tiny minority within Sefardic Jewry. It is inevitable; to feel a strong sense of need to uphold traditions. Perhaps an inordinate amount of time is dedicated to questions of, “How did we perform this act?”, “How is the nuance of Biblical Hebrew pronounced?’ and other such questions that arise when a faith is mixed with a culture.
These sorts of questions consume and continue to consume a fair amount of conversation when I am at Khal (Synagogue). When one watched or listened to Mr. Hasson, you felt that the past and ambiguities that come from time had never existed for him.
Even though we attended the same synagogue, I really never appreciated Mr. Hasson until I had his grand-daughter in my class. It was through her that I first learned that her grandfather was born on the Island of Rhodes, and was taken by the Nazis when he was in his early twenties. It struck me that it would be an amazing opportunity to have him come and speak to my middle school students. Later, when his youngest grand-daughter was in my class, I asked him if he would visit. He agreed. I was not prepared to hear his unvarnished account of his idyllic life on the Island of Rhodes, or the miserable conditions and experiences he endured on the way to and while in Auschwitz. His recounting had no hint of anger or judgment. He played soccer in Rhodes (one of the best teams on the Island) and again in the displaced person camps. From as best as I can tell, he picked up he pieces of his life, and went on.
At this point, I started to appreciate his regular attendance early on Saturday morning services. As the men and young boys took turns leading the Zimirot, Psalms, that are read, Mr. Hasson would always read two: Psalm 136 “Give thanks to God for He is Good, for His mercy endures forever” and Psalm 145 “I will exalt my God the King”. This came from the man who weighed 85 lbs. at the end of the war, who lived with the number B7452 on his left arm. From that time on, I decided to stand for Mr. Hasson, an honor usually reserved for the Rabbi or one’s immediate family. As a survivor who lived with his faith, he deserved all the respect we could offer him.
The elder generation was, on the whole, well known for being people of few words. Simple pleasures and simple desires were good enough. In fact, what else was there? It came as no surprise, when Mr. Hasson, at an synagogue dinner, shared the importance of Ezra Bessaroth (Seattle based Rhodesli Synagogue) with the audience by saying, “I recall when I was a young boy in Rhodes I sat next to my father and he was happy. Now, my son sits next to me and I am happy.” The metaphysical musings of a person’s role in this world are not what was important. The simple pleasures of family and faith combined were cherished.
I heard so much of the Island of Rhodes, foods and customs and expressions, that I was somewhat surprised when I first looked at the island on Google Earth. I had begun to think that the place must be some magical fantasy. That it perhaps was frozen in time when my family arrived in Seattle in the 1910s. To see that it was real was almost shocking.
The Jewish life of the Island of Rhodes no longer really exists on Rhodes. It has been scattered into communities throughout the world. In the most positive assessment, it is a community that possesses a large number of culturally committed people with only few religiously observant. It is a community that is in most locations is in decline. But while Mr. Hasson was still alive, there was one person that we could look to and with confidence say that the story of the Jewish people on the Island of Rhodes was true. B7452 attested to the people that were murdered from these Islands. Mr. Hasson showed that our history has people of great faith, who could endure untold suffering, then pick up the pieces and go on again with faith. He was not an icon. He was a living embodiment of the values, hopes, and history of the Jewish people who came from the Island of Rhodes. We could listen to him lead the Zemirot and know that the way we are reading now was indeed the way people on the Island of Rhodes once read. I savored the end of services, since my seat is closer to the door, I’d wait for him to walk by and wish him Shabbat Shalom. On more than one occasion he showed the numbers on his arm to my children.
With his passing, my link, my community’s link to the evidence of our past is gone. I would point out Mr. Hasson to guests who would visit our Khal. He was our roots. Our community remains blessed with many devout people who are making great strides in preserving our unique traditions. But a man from Rhodes, who read Psalms like I was taught, is gone. A man who lived a quite faith, who exemplified what we as a people can be, is gone. Our sense of reality and grounding is lost. My spiritual grandfather is no longer with me, leaving me alone with my memories to form my self-identity. My sadness is not just at the loss of a precious soul. It is a at the shattering of my self-image. I am broken, and will need to re-mend with the memories of Mr. Hasson as a part of me.
I know I will always be wishing that I could say, “Shabbat Shalom Mr. Hasson” just one more time.

Sunday 4 Tishrei

Today is a fast day mourning the assassination of the Jewish royal Gedaliah ben Achikam, governor of the Land of Israel for a short period following the destruction of the First Temple. Gedaliah’s killing spelled the end of the small remnant of a Jewish community that remained in the Holy Land after the destruction, which fled to Egypt. (According to many opinions, the assassination of Gedaliah actually occurred on Rosh Hashanah, but the commemoration of the event is postponed to the day after the festival; when the day after Rosh Hashanah is a Shabbat — as it is this year — the fast is postponed to Tishrei 4.)

Monday 5 Tishrei

The great Talmudic sage, Rabbi Akiva, was taken captive by the Romans on Tishrei 5 of the year 3894 from creation (134 CE). His subsequent torture and execution is recalled in the stirring Eleh Ezkarah poem of the Yom Kippur service.

Naftali, the son of Jacob and Bilhah, sixth of the Twelve Tribes, was born on the 5th of Tishrei. He lived to be 133 years old.

Tuesday 6 Tishrei

Tishrei 6 is the yahrtzeit of Rebbetzin Chana Schneerson (1879-1964), mother of the Lubavitcher Rebbe z’l.

Thursday 8 Tishrei

The 14-day dedication festivities, celebrating the completion of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem built by King Solomon, commenced on the 8th of Tishrei of the year 2935 from creation (826 BCE). The First Temple served as the epicenter of Jewish national and spiritual life for 410 year, until its destruction by the Babylonians in 423 BCE.

Shabbat 10 Tishrei

Birth of Rebecca (1677-1556 BCE), wife of Isaac, mother of Jacob and Esau, and one of the Four Matriarchs of Israel.

On the 10th of Tishrei of the year 2449 from creation, 82 days after the people of Israel betrayed their newly entered covenant with G-d by worshipping a Golden Calf and after Moses twice spent 40 days atop Mount Sinai pleading on their behalf, “G-d restored His goodwill with the Jewish people gladly and wholeheartedly, saying to Moses ‘I have forgiven, as you ask’, and gave him the Second Tablets” — thereby establishing the day as a time for atonement, forgiveness and teshuvah for all generations.

From the Haftara for Yom Kippur

In my trouble I called to God;
He answered me.

From the belly of the depths I cried out:
You heard my voice.

Monday 27 Elul

Elul 27 is the yahrtzeit of Rabbi Shalom Rokeach (1779-1855), founder of the Belz Chassidic dynasty.

Thursday 1 Tishrei

Today is Rosh Hashana, marking the creation of Adam and Eve (3760 BCE) and the binding of Isaac and the passing of Sara in 1677 BCE.  It is also the day when Noach sent the Dove for its third and final mission.  When the Dove did not return, Noach knew that the land had dried and that the flood has ceased.

Shabbat 3 Tishrei

Rebbetzin Devorah Leah, daughter of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi and mother ofRabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch (the “Tzemach Tzedek”), passed away on this date just three days after her young son’s third birthday.

Monday, 13 Elul

Elul 13 is the yahrtzeit of Rabbi Yosef Chaim of Baghdad (1835-1909), the renowned Sephardic Halachic authority and Kabbalist, known as “Ben Ish Chai” after his work by that name.

Friday, 17 Elul

Following the failed attempt to dispatch a raven from the ark (see “Today in Jewish History” for Elul 10), Noah sent a dove from the window of the ark to see if the great Flood that covered the earth had abated. “But the dove found no resting place for the sole of its foot” and returned to the ark; Noah waited seven days before making another attempt.

Saturday 18 Elul

Elul 18 is the birthday of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Chassidism

Rabbi Israel was born in a small town in Ukraine in 1698. His father, Rabbi Eliezer, who was a member of the secret society of “hidden tzaddikim,” passed away when young Israel was only five years old; his last words to his son were, “Fear nothing but G-d alone. Love every Jew with all your heart and all your soul.”

The young orphan would spend much of his time wandering and meditating in the forests that surrounded his hometown; there, he one day met with one of his father’s compatriots, and eventually joined their society. For many years, he lived disguised as a simple innkeeper and clay-digger, his greatness known only to a very small circle of fellow mystics and disciples. But on his 36th birthday, he was instructed by his master to “reveal” himself and publicly disseminate his teachings.

Drawing from the mystical “soul of Torah,” the Baal Shem Tov (“Master of the Good Name,” as he came to be known) taught about the spark of G-dliness that is to be found in every creation, and about the great love that G-d has for each and every one of His children, scholars and simple folk alike. He emphasized the importance of joy and simple faith in serving G-d, rather than ascetism. Initially, his teachings encountered fierce opposition from the scholarly elite and established leadership of the Jewish community; but many of those very scholars and communal leaders ended up becoming his devoted disciples. When Rabbi Israel passed at age 62 on Shavuot of 1760, the movement he founded was well on the way of becoming one of the most vital forces in Jewish life.

Torah Portion: Ki Tavo
Summary:
At the end of this weeks Torah portion, the Torah recounts how Moses called to the entire Jewish people and told them:

God has not given you a heart to understand, eyes to see, and ears to hear, until this day.
Deut 28:3

Question:
What day was this?

Answer:

Rashi comments:

I heard that on this day Moses gave a Torah scroll to the children of Levi (his tribe and the tribe responsible for teaching)…. and all of Israel came and said to him, ‘Moses our teacher, we also stood near the Mountain of Sinai, received the Torah, and it was given to us.  Why then do the child of your tribe have possession of it?… It wasn’t (just) given to you (Tribe of Levi) it was given to us!’  Moses was very happy with their words and said, ‘…Today I understand that you are clinging and desire the Omnipresent.

Question:

What is the connection between desiring the Torah and God granting the heart to understand, eyes to see….

A thought:

Additional perception can be a dangerous gift.  This idea is expressed in the statement “Ignorance is bliss”.  So advanced perception with out a desire to cling to God could lead a person astray.   God therefore waited till the people had demonstrated a profound love of God before gifting them with “A heart to understand, eyes to see, and ears to hear.”

Traveling.  So a shorter (and later) post than usual.

 

Torah Portion:Shoftim

Summary

The Torah relates that if there is a debate on a matter of law, that the parties should go to Jerusalem and have the issue decided.  If the scholar whose opinion was not accepted returns to his city and instructs others to follow his ruling, then he should be put to death (Deut 17:12)

The Seforno quotes the Talmud that makes a distinction between on “teaching in order to do” and simply “teaching”.  In other words, the scholar is allowed to continue to teach his opinion, however from that point on he is not allowed to instruct others to follow this opinion.

Questions

What does this law tell us about the ability for a sage to retain his personal understanding of the law?

Is there a purpose to retaining his own opinion, beyond simply keeping track of rejected opinions?

Why is there a distinction between what is practiced and what one is allowed to think?

Answers

I am open to any ideas.  I think that God wants us to have our own personal outlooks, but in terms of practice we need to be unified.  This passage, and its implications, would seem to define the boundaries of Jewish thought.  Enjoy thinking about it!

 

Selected Events

Sunday 21 Av

Passing of Rabbi Chaim Soloveichik of Brisk (1853-1918), outstanding Talmudic scholar and Jewish leader.

Friday 24 Av

In 1843, the Interior Ministry of the Czarist government convened a rabbinical conference in the Russian capital of Petersburg, to the end of imposing changes in Jewish communal life and religious practice. Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch (1789-1866, known as the “Tzemach Tzeddek” after his Halachic works by that name) was invited; as a primary figure in the leadership of Russian Jewry, his compliance was required to lend legitimacy to the government’s proposed “reforms”. In the course of the conference, the Tzemach Tzeddek was placed under arrest no less than 22 (!) times for his refusal to cooperate. When he finally departed Petersburg on the 26th of Av, he had successfully prevented the government’s disruption of traditional Jewish life.

Re’eh: Supporting the Poor

Summary

This weeks Torah portion address the Mitsvah, positive command, of charity.  In it, the verse states:

There will be no poor among you when God will bless you in the land that He will give to you as an inheritance; only when you listen to the voice of God and guard to do all that He has commanded you today (Deut. 15:4-5).

The poor will never cease from among the face of the land therefor I have commanded you: open your hand to your brother, to the poor and destitiue in your land (Deut 15:12).

Questions

This section require clarification.  Why in one section are we promised that there will be no poor, and only a few verses later are we told that the poor will never disappear?

Answers

Eben Ezra- There will be poor since God knows the future and can tell that there will never be a time when the Jewish People will be completely blameless.

Ramban- Surely this section is not a prophetic decree stating that there surely will be a time when they Jewish people will sin.  God is aware that the Jewish people will always have poor since there will always be those that do not follow the Torah.

 

Lesson / Observation.

Is the above announcement a prophetic vision or a warning?

What does this passage teach us and not judging other’s actions?

 

If you’ve already downloaded the tour, please do so again. I’ve added the markers to this tour, so now you’ll be able to see the locations. I admit the first one was a bit of mistake…

To view the Tour on your iPhone:

click and hold down and  copy this text (this will copy the link to your iPhone clipboard)

Go to your browser (Safari) and in the URL space click and hold down, then let go.  You’ll see an option to ‘Paste’.  Click ‘Paste’ then click ‘Go’.  You’ll be taken to YouTube to watch the recording.

To view the Tour on your Computer:

Click Here

Follow these instructions to Download the tour to Google Earth:

1.  Download Google Earth, if you do not have it on your computer.

2. Click here to download the map.

3. Open the file tour.kmz with Google Earth

4.  Inside the file there is a tour.  Click to watch the tour.

click to start the tour

Right now this is only available on a computer.  I have not yet figured out how to provide access to it on an iPhone.

As a disclaimer: this is not an accurate map for a number of reasons.  It is based on the Book Eleh Masei by Dan Schwartz.  However, if it were to be accurate, I would have based it on longitude and latitude.  I did not have that information available.  Additionally, Rabbi Schwartz states that many of the places are estimates since we do not know where these places were.  So, think of this as a first attempt that can provide an order of magnitude for what the tour would have been.  Hopefully someone will come along who has better information and improve on this.

Nevertheless, there are two main lessons that I have always known but this exercise made the lesson so much clearer to me:

1.  God miraculously supported the Children of Israel.

You can see this from the places that the Jews stayed: there was almost never any water, habitation of  traders the Jews could have purchased from, or other basics needed for an individual, let alone a whole nation.

2.  The punishment of traveling through the desert was miserable.

I never really appreciated it before, but the Jewish people crisscrossed the desert so many times.  I know from my own experience how frustrating it is to feel like you are lost and just retracing your own steps.  Watching this tour really brought that home for me.  I’ve tried to give that sense by showing a specific stopping point, and also showing the other areas that the Jews had camped.  For example, when the Jews were in Kadesh, they were almost inside of Israel, just south of the Dead Sea.  Next, they are in Hor Hahar, traveling back into the desert.

Of course, these two contradictory experiences were part of the same process of the Jewish people growing in faith and making the land of Israel dear to them.

“Your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23).

God’s punishment reminds us that He is present, and corrects us because he has a mission for the Jewish people.

Tonight is the first of Av, 5771.  Now is the time that we remember and prepare for the coming fast on the 9th of Av.  I hope this tour can remind us, a little, of the gravity of speaking ill of the land of Israel.  Our tradition teaches that the Jewish people spoke evil of the land of Israel on the 9th of Av.  God decreed that all future punishments would take place on this day.  Indeed, the destruction of the First and Second Temple, the expulsion from Spain and the outbreak of WWI all happened on the 9th of Av.

Hopefully we can remember God’s love, His rod and staff, and find comfort knowing that He guides the world; with that, we will repent, and find ourselves redeemed, once again, in the land of Israel.

Hi,

I wanted to let you know that I am posting later than usual since I am working on making a tour in Google Earth of the Children of Israel’s travels through the desert.  This will be, at best, only rough estimate.  I thought this would be a nice way to relate to the opening section of this week’s Torah portion, Maaseh

The project is turning into more effort than I originally thought, but the end product will be pretty nice (I hope).

I am not sure yet if you’ll be able to access this virtual tour through your iPhone via the JewishAlmanac app, or if you’ll need to be on a computer, but I’ll try to get it to work on the iPhone for those of you who are iPhone only folks.

Thanks for your patience,
Jeff

Index

  • Selected events
  • A thought from Rav Kook
  • On this week’s Torah portion: Matot: Being full after God

Selected events

Monday 16 Tammuz

In the year 2448 from Creation (1313 BCE), Tammuz 16 was the 40th day following the Giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, and the people of Israel wrongly expected Moses’ return from the mountain (he would actually return on the following day). When their leader failed to return, they demanded from Aaron: “Make us a god that shall go before us”. Hur (Moses’ nephew, the son of Miriam and Caleb) tried to stop them and was killed by the mob. Aaron fashioned a calf of molten gold.

Tuesday 17 Tammuz

The fast of the 17 of Tammuz commemorates 5 national tragedies: 

  1. 1313 BCE: Moses broke the first set of Tablets when seeing the Golden Calf
  2. 423 BCE: The daily offering was no longer brought during the First Temple
  3. 69 CE: The Second Temple walls were breached
  4. 69 CE: The Roman general Apostomus burned the Torah
  5. 69 CE: The same Roman general placed an idol in the Temple
A thought from Rav Kook

So long as haughtiness is in a person’s heart, it is impossible to repent and it is impossible to comprehend any pure idea.

El HaMidot: Gava

Matot: Being full after God

Summary

This weeks Torah portion recounts how the children of Israel were not allowed to enter the land of Israel since they had accepted the negative report of the land of Israel.  Moses refers to this as “Not being full after God.”  However, Caleb and Yehoshua were full after God. (Num. 32:12)

Question:

What does it mean to be ‘full after God’?

 

Answers: 

The Eben Ezra offers:

To be full, similar to ‘and my soul seeks’ (Psalms 54:5)

 

 

 

 

Follow up question:

What is the connection between being ‘full’ and seeking God?  ‘Full after God’ sounds like a state one has already arrived at.  ‘My soul seeks’ sounds like a state of yearning one is in the middle of.  How are these two concepts to be reconciled? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Index

  • Selected events
  • A thought from Rav Kook
  • On this week’s Torah portion: Pinchas Foreign Policy Considerations

Selected events

Sunday 10 Tammuz

1567: Having become a virtual vassal of Spain, the Republic of Genoa expelled the Jews at the behest of their Spanish overlords.

Saturday 14 Tammuz

Rabbi Yosef Trani, known as the Maharit (1568-1639), was born in Safed and married a descendant of Rabbi Yosef Cairo. When a plague broke out in Safed, he abandoned the city, but returned in 1594 to head a yeshivah. In 1604, he was appointed rabbi of Constantinople and, a few years later, leader of Turkish Jewry. He is renowned for his responsa published under the title Teshuvot Maharit.

A thought from Rav Kook

Anyone who desires to bring the light of God to his soul will find haughtiness disgusting; so much so that he will find it viscerally rancid.

El HaMidot: Gava

Pinchas: Foreign Policy Considerations

Summary

In this weeks Torah portion, we read of the conclusion of an episode where the nation of Midian sent their daughters in to the Jewish camp to seduces the men and get them to worship idols.

After the incident, God tells Moses:

Trouble the Midianite nation and strike them.  They troubled you with their craftiness…
Numbers 26:16-17

Question:

Why the need to retaliate?  Couldn’t God have taken some sort of miraculous action?  Why did the Jewish people need to act?

Answers:

Rashi writes:

Since they offered their daughter’s up to promiscuity (they are worthy to be killed).  However, the nation of Moav (also involved in the incident) were not to be killed, since Ruth was destined to descend from the nation of Moav.

According to Rashi, the nation deserved to be killed.  Rashi also explains why the nation of Moav was not killed: there remained some benefit to sparing them due to what they would offer the Jewish people at a later date.

Hizkuni writes:

From here the sages say, ‘If a person comes to kill you, you should strike him.’

This seems to indicate that the reason that the Jewish people needed to take action at this time was to establish the following: people who are a threat to your life should be killed rather than let them kill you.

Lessons / Observations

Two lessons emerge:

1.  Only attack when your life is at risk, when you have been attacked first.

2.  Don’t attack if there is some future value to the nation, even if according to the normal rules of behavior they deserve to be attacked.


Hi All,

Just letting you know that I am going to be posting tomorrow (Monday) instead of my normal (Sunday).

Long story….

Thanks for your patience.

Take care,

Jeff

 

 

 

Index

  • Selected events
  • A thought from Rav Kook
  • On this week’s Torah portion: Balak: Common Wisdom Lessons from The Talking Donkey

Selected events

Tuesday 3 Tammuz

1994: Today marks the passing of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson of blessed memory.  He was the seventh leader in the Chabad-Lubavitch dynasty and is considered to have been one of the most phenomenal Jewish personality of modern times.

Wednesday 4 Tammuz

1286: Rabbi Meir ben Baruch (“Maharam”) of Rothenburg (1215?-1293), the great Talmudic commentator and leading Halachic authority for German Jewry, was imprisoned in the fortress at Ensisheim. A huge ransom was imposed for his release. The money was raised, but Rabbi Meir refused to allow it to be paid lest this encourage the further hostage taking of Jewish leaders. He died in captivity after seven years of imprisonment.

Friday 8 Tammuz

1976:Jewish hostages held by Arab terrorists at Entebbe Airport, Uganda, were rescued by Israeli commando units.

A thought from Rav Kook

A person is compelled to love true perfection and to remove from his heart every speak of haughtiness, which removes all glory of the spirit.  When haughtiness is removed… a person will remain pure and have the imprint of true joy which is bound with true modesty of spirit.
El Hamidot: Gava

Balak: Common Wisdom Lessons from The Talking Donkey

Summary

In this weeks Torah portion we encounter the famous story of Bilam who has hired by Balak to curse the Jewish people.  Balak saw the Jews military victories and decided that the metaphysical route was the best way to try to ensure their defeat.  However, Bilam is only able to speak the words that God “places in his mouth” and he blesses the Jewish people rather than curse them.

Bilam travels to Balak, and his donkey stops mid road when the donkey sees an angle standing in middle of the road.  After several stops, Bilam hits his donkey with a stick.  God “opens the mouth” of the donkey, and the donkey asks what he has done wrong.  Bilam complains to the donkey “if I had a sword in my hands I’d kill you!”  To which:

The donkey said to Bilam, “Am I not your donkey which you have ridden on from as long ago until today?  Have I normally done this to you?”  He (Bilam) said, “No.”
Numbers 22:29

Question:

1) What lesson was the donkey trying to teach Bilam?

Answers:

Ramban:

The purpose of this miracle was to teach Bilam the ‘one who give speech to a person or causes deafness’ (Exodus 4:11) to make known that God can give speech to the mute, all the more so he can make mute those who have speech, or place in their mouth which ever words He wants.  Everything is in His hand.  It was also to warn him to not use sorcery or witchcraft and curse (the Jewish people) with them, since he knew witchcraft and sorcery.

According to the Ramban, the lesson was to show God control over the power of speech and to motivate him to not use the power of speech against the Jewish people.

Seforno:

The purpose of all of this was to awaken in Bilam the desire to repent, when he remembers that speech comes from God… all of this was to not destroy a person like him.

For the Seforno, this was an opportunity to allow a person to repent and not be punished for committing a sin.

Lessons / Observations

a) Interesting how for the Ramban the motivation for this miracle was to prevent Bilam from going after the Jewish people with his witchcraft, whereas for the Seforno the motivation was to give Bilam a chance to repent.

b) The donkey’s message is probably one of the most basic lessons of life: look at the big picture.  Interpret moments of frustration in light how events normally occur.  Whether this comes down to judging your spouse favorably (that explains showing up late) or keeping in mind that your 2 year old is just remarkably confident and likes to explore (thats why the milk is all over the floor, he just wanted to paint with it).  Miracles sometimes teach us the basic lessons of life.

For conversations:

What are other miracles that teach basic lessons of life?

Index

  • Selected events
  • On this weeks Torah portion: Chukat: Singing or Sadness?
Selected events
Monday, 25 Sivan
Among the millions of Jews cruelly killed by the Romans were the “Ten Martyrs”–all great sages and leaders of Israel–memorialized in a special prayer recited on Yom Kippur. Three of them–Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel, Rabbi Yishmael ben Elisha and Rabbi Chanina S’gan Hakohanim–were killed on Sivan 25 in the 2nd century.
Thursday, 28 Sivan
After escaping Nazi-occupied Paris, and many perilous months in Vichy France, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, and his wife, Rebbetzin Chaya Mushkah, boarded the SS Serpa Pinto in Lisbon, Portugal. On Monday, June 23–Sivan 28 on the Jewish calendar–at 10:30 A.M., they arrived in New York.

Shortly after his arrival, the Rebbe’s father-in-law, the then Lubavitcher Rebbe Rabbi Yoseph Yitzchak Schneersohn (who had been rescued from Nazi-occupied Warsaw in 1940), appointed him to head the social and educational outreach programs of Chabad-Lubavitch. Thus the Rebbe began his decades-long revolutionary work to revitalize Jewish life in the Western Hemisphere, which spread, by means of the emissaries (“shluchim”) he dispatched from his New York headquarters, to every part of the world.

On this weeks Torah portion: Chukat: Singing or Sadness?
“Then Israel sang this song, ‘Come up well, we will answer you.  The well which the princes dug, the leaders of the nation hewed it, they carved it with their staffs”
Numbers 21:18
This verse is mentioned when recounting the events of the desert.  It was, as Rashi fills in, a song that was sung about Moses and Aharon for the water which came from the well.  The same well, however, was the incident when they did not follow God’s command exactly, and for that minor disobediance, they were told they would die in the desert.
Questions
1) Was it appropriate for the Jewish people to sing about the miracle of water coming out of the well?
2) Why is this song not recorded with the original incident, when Moses and Aharon actually hit the rock?
3) Why were Moses and Aharon not mentioned as leading the Jewish people at that time?
Please share your answers in the comments.  See below.
Observation/Lesson
To take a tangent, if a person’s father dies, the person recites the blessing reserved for sad occasions: ‘Blessed is the true judge’.  If a person receives a large inheritance that benefits him and other people, the person reciets the blessing reserved happy occasions that benefit many people, ‘Blessed are you…who is good and does good.’  If a person’s father dies and receives a large inheritance, the person recites both the blessing for ‘the true judge’ and ‘who is god and does good.’
This same idea is at play here.  Even when something bad happens, we need to notice and celebrate the good.

Index

  • Selected Events
  • A Thought from Rav Kook
  • On this week’s Torah portion: Korach.  Prophesy, Prayer, and Embarrassment?

Selected Events

Sunday, 17 Sivan
The Hasmonean fighters recaptured Migdal Tzur from the Greek enemy and proclaimed this day a holiday in 140 BCE (Talmud, Megilat Taanit).

Friday, 22 Sivan
In 1312, BCE, Miriam, the elder sister of Moses and Aaron, was afflicted with tzaraat (leprosy) after speaking negatively of Moses, and was quarantined outside of the camp for seven days–as related in Numbers 12

Saturday, 23 Sivan
Even after Haman was hanged on the 17th of Nissan of 357 BCE, his evil decree “to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews, from young to old, infants and women, in one day, the 13th day of the 12th month (Adar)” remained in force. Queen Esther pleaded with King Achashverosh to annul the decree, but Achashverosh insisted that “a writ that has been written in the king’s name, and sealed with the king’s seal, cannot be returned.” Instead, he suggested to Esther and Mordechai to “inscribe, regarding the Jews, as you please, and seal it with the king’s seal.” On the 23rd of Sivan, Mordechai drafted a royal decree giving the Jews the license to defend themselves and kill all who rise up against them to kill them, and dispatched it to all 127 provinces of Achashverosh’s empire. (Book of Esther, chapter 8)

A Thought from Rav Kook

The inner essence of faith is so greatly beyond the intellect, that one who is not truly intellectually free will find faith in opposition with their intelligence.

Prophesy, Prayer, and Embarrassment?

Background

In this weeks Torah portion, Korach and a 250 men gather to Moshe and Aharon and say:

It is enough for you!  The entire assembly is holy, and God is within them.  Why then do you place yourself as rulers over the community of God?!
Numbers 16:3

When Moses hears this, the Torah reports that he “fell on his face” and then answered this rebellion with a challenge: tomorrow, present the incense offering to God, and He will make known who is His choice for a leader.  The following day, Korach and his group are swallowed into the earth, and perish in a fire that came down from heaven (Num. 16:18).

As mentioned by a number of the classic commentators, it was clear to Moses based on Korach’s timing of his complaint (right after the decree issued in response to the spies that the Jewish people would now wonder in the desert for 40 years) that Korach really wanted the priesthood for himself, and did think it was appropriate that the priesthood was given to Aharon, Moses’s brother.

Question

Why did Moses “fall on his face”? (Num. 16:4)

Answers

1.  Moses was overwhelmed with prophetic inspiration at the moment, and fell on his face.  (ibn Ezra)

2. Moses assumed the position of prayer. (Rashbam)

3. Moses was embarrassed for being accused of giving leadership to his brother.  (Hizkuni)

Follow up questions

1.  Moses was able to speak to God ‘Face to Face’ so why was he overwhelmed with prophecy and needed to fall to the ground?

2.  Why did Moses assume the position of prayer?

3.  Why was Moses embarrassed?  He knew who the leader should be.

I’ll leave the questions out there for you to think about, and to comment on.

Observations/Lessons

This was certainly a moment that Moses faced a serious attack on his leadership.  We’ve all faced times when people doubted us.  At times we may have responded with embarrassment.  Perhaps sometimes we felt the need to pray.  And maybe, sometimes, we’ve felt that the attack gave us insight into ourselves and our future.  Moses shows us that all three reactions are possible.

Hi,

Thanks to everyone for your nice wishes.  The time off gave me a chance to rethink how I am going to proceed for the next year.

Here’s my plan:

I’ll do 1 post for the week.  The post will include

  • Highlights of historical events
  • A passage of Agadah
  • A passage from Rav Kook
  • A question (probably from that weeks Torah portion) along with some answers
Hopefully, you’ll find the posts a little more interactive.  You’ll still be able to open up the app and get a quick idea, but I also wanted to provide some opportunity to click around and see some questions and answers.  After all, most of you are viewing this post on your iPhone, so it makes sense to take advantage of your touch screen to do more than just scroll down the page.
Look for the first post at the start of next week.
All the best,
Jeff

The Jewish Almanac is taking a break until after the Shavuot Holiday (June 10).

I’d like to take some time off to rethink how I’d like to continue The Jewish Almanac for year 2.

I am open to any and all ideas.

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

Chag Sameach.

Jeff

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
El-HaMidot
Emunah

~~~

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
El-HaMidot
Emunah

~~~

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.

God, the God (Ex 34:6).

These words mean, that I am God before a person sins, and after a person sins.

Rosh Hashana Chapter 1

~~~

31 March in History

In 1851, today is the birthdate of Sir Francis Henry Dillon Bell, the first native of New Zealand and the first Jew to serve as Prime Minister of New Zealand.

25 Adar in History

Death of King Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian emperor who conquered Jerusalem and destroyed the first Holy Temple 26 years earlier, died on the 25th of Adar of the year 3364 from creation. (Jeremiah 52:31).

That which causes faith to be seen in a deficient light, small and dark, causes heresy to cover faith’s head.

This is the trend of Divine Providence, in building the world with the existence of heresy and all of its theories, in order to awaken the power of life with faith with a complete heart, in order to raise faith to it’s highest levels, until it encompasses with it also the good elements that are in the theories of heresy, so that faith will be complete in its fullness.

Then, all the damage, that heresy brings on the world, will be changed for good; even the destructive force of heresy will return to the palace, full of splendor. ‘I will make the desert like Eden; and the desolate places like the garden of God.’ (Isaiah 51:3)

Rav Avraham Yitschak HaKohen Kook
El-HaMidot
Emunah

~~~

30 March in History

In 1882, birthdate of Austrian-born English psychoanalyst and child psychologist Melanie Klein. Klein developed methods of play technique and play therapy in analyzing and treating child patients. She passed away in 1960.

24 Adar in History

On Adar 24, Czar Alexander I of Russia declared the Blood Libel — the infamous accusation that Jews murdered Christian children to use their blood in the baking of matzah for Passover, for which thousands of Jews were massacred through the centuries — to be false. Nevertheless, nearly a hundred years later the accusation was officially leveled against Mendel Beilis in Kiev.

“God passed by before him and proclaimed.”

R. Johanan said: Had this Passage not been written, it would have been impossible to have said it, for it teaches us that the Holy One, blessed be He, wrapped Himself, as does a sage who recites the prayers for a congregation, and pointing out to Moses the regular order of prayer, said to him: Whenever Israel sins, let him pray to Me, after this manner, and I will pardon him.

Rosh Hashana Chapter 1

~~~

29 March in History

In 1814, the King of Denmark officially allowed Jews to find employment in all professions and makes racial and religious discrimination punishable by law.

23 Adar in History

The Children of Israel began building the “Mishkan” (also called the “Tabernacle”–a portable sanctuary to house the Divine presence in their midst as they journeyed through the desert) on the 11th of Tishrei of the year 2449 from creation (1312 BCE) — six months after their Exodus from Egypt, three months after the revelation at Sinai, and 80 days after their worship of the Golden Calf. The construction of the Mishkan, which followed a detailed set of instructions issued to Moses on Mount Sinai, lasted 74 days, and was completed on the 25th of Kislev; but the Divine command to erect the edifice came only three months later, on the 23rd of Adar, when Moses was instructed to begin a 7-day “training period.”

During the week of Adar 23-29, the Mishkan was erected each morning and dismantled each evening; Moses served as the High Priest and initiated Aaron and his four sons into the priesthood. Then, on the “eighth day” — the 1st of Nissan — the Mishkan was “permanently” assembled (that is, put up to stand until the Divine command would come to journey on), Aaron and his sons assumed the priesthood, and the divine presence came to dwell in the Mishkan.

In memory of Raphael Dovid Hayman

~~~

R. Huna ben R. Jehoshua fell sick, and R. Papa went to visit him.

The latter saw that the end was near, and said to those present: “Make ready his provisions (shrouds).” Finally he recovered, and R. Papa was amazed to see him.

“Why did you think him so sick?” they asked. “He was indeed sick,” he replied, “but the Holy One, blessed be He, said that since he was always patient (with every one), he would be forgiven,” as it is written: “He pardons iniquity and forgives transgression.”

From whom does He remove iniquity? From one who forgives transgressions.

Rosh Hashana Chapter 1

~~~

28 March in History

In 1938, Bronislaw Huberman leaves The Hague as he prepares to move to Tel Aviv where he will conduct the newly formed Palestine Philharmonic Orchestra.

22 Adar in History

The church and the government of Rome set Wednesday, March 6, 1430, as the day when all the Jews of Rome must convert or face death. On that day a great earthquake shook Rome and many of the archbishops and priests who conceived the decree were killed. Following the earthquake, Pope Martin V annulled the decree.

Early there was a statement that said, “Jews who sin with their body are destined to gehinam.”

What is meant by sinning with ones body? For a Jew, it is not placing Tefilin. For non-Jews, it is by committing the sin of adultery.

Rosh Hashana Chapter 1

~~~

27 March in History

In 1847, today is the birthdate of German born chemist Otto Wallach. In 1910, he won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry.

21 Adar in History

In the course of a fight with a Christian fisherman, a Jew dealt him a blow which led to his death. The infuriated Christians of Narbonne, France, started rioting and attacking the Jewish community.

The governor of Narbonne, Don Aymeric, quickly intervened, and dispatched a contingent of soldiers to protected the Jewish community. The riot was immediately halted and all the spoils stolen during the riots were returned to the Jews. The 21st of Adar was recorded as “Purim Narbonne,” a day when the community annually celebrated this historic event.

Say to them,
“So says God, the Master:
‘Behold, I will take the Children of Israel from among the nations,
Where they have gone to,
I will gather them from around
I will bring them to their land.

‘I will make them one nation in the land,
In the mountains of Israel.
One King will be for all of them a ruler:
They will no longer be two nations,
They will no longer be divided into two kingships.'”

Ezekiel 37:21-22

~~~

25 March in History

In 1880, in an article explaining the origins of Easter Eggs, the New York Times reports that “the old Jews introduced eggs at the feast of Passover…”

19 Adar in History

Following the War of Independance, Israel needed to secure its borders against the hostile Arab nations which surrounded it. Ein Gedi, on the western shore of the Dead Sea, was secured on Sunday, March 20, 1949.

26 March in History

In 1931, today was the birthdate of Leonard Nimoy, Mr. Spock of Star Trek fame. The hand gesture that went with the Vulcan credo – Live long and prosper is the same gesture as that made by the Priests (Kohanim) when giving his benediction during services.

20 Adar in History

It was on this day that Choni the Circle Maker prayed for rain. The Talmud relates the following story:

“One year, most of Adar went by and it didn’t rain. They sent for Choni the Circle Maker. He prayed and the rains didn’t come. He drew a circle, stood in it and said: ‘Master of The World! Your children have turned to me; I swear in Your great name that I won’t move from here until You have pity on Your children.’ The rains came down.” (Talmud, Taanit 23a)

People who “sin with their bodies” are destined to be punished.

R. Itz’hak b. Abhin said, “Those who are now the handsomest of the people of Me’huzza (a city) will yet be called the children of Gehenna.”

Rosh Hashana Chapter 1

~~~

24 March in History

In 1564, the Pope authorized the printing of the Talmud in Mantua on condition that the word Talmud would be omitted from the text. From the opening years of the sixteenth century, Mantua was a leading center of Jewish printing. A husband and wife duo, Abraham and Estellina Conat shared equally in printing and promoting Jewish texts. By the seventeenth century, the situation of the Jews of Mantua had worsened as they, like Italian Jews in many other cities, were forced to live behind Ghetto Walls.

18 Adar in History

When Governor of Georgia James Jackson resigned his post to serve as a US senator, the president of the Georgia Senate, David Emanuel, was sworn in as governor. March 3, 1801, was the first time that a Jewish person served as governor of a US state.

Emanuel served the remaining eight months of Jackson’s term, but did not seek re-election, opting instead to retire from politics. In 1812, Georgia named a new county in his honor: “Emanuel County.”

That which is written in books and appears in speeches about faith are ways of explaining that will bring a person to the internal kernel which is beyond contemplation and speech.

There are people who have no connection to that which is said in these books on faith. In their inner hearts they have the kernel, yet they act like fools when performing good deeds with their faith. These people are bad on the outside yet good on the internally, as is fitting for the era that proceeds the “heels of the messiah” which is a time of “externally bad, internally positive”; correlated to an donkey, which is an impure animal, yet has holiness buried inside it: it can take the place of a first born, and is raised above the limitations of that which is mundane yet pure.

Rav Avraham Yitschak HaKohen Kook
El-HaMidot
Emunah

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23 March in History

In 1907, in New York this evening, enough poor Jews presented their tickets which could be exchanged for 10 pounds of Matzoth and 5 pounds of floor to the store on Attorney Street, that 20,000 pounds of matzoth and 10,000 pounds of Matzah floor were needed to meet the demand.

17 Adar in History

In the year 91 BCE, Alexander Yannai of the Hasmonean family succeeded his brother Yehuda Aristoblus to the throne of Judea. Alexander Yannai was a Sadducee who virulently persecuted the Pharisees. At one point during his bloody reign, following a victory he scored on a battlefield, he invited all the Torah scholars for a celebratory feast. During this feast he was slighted by one of the guests, which led him to execute all the Torah scholars in attendance.

A few of the sages managed to escape to the town of Sulukus in Syria. There, too, they encountered anti-Semitic enemies who murdered many of the exiled sages. The handful of surviving Torah scholars went in to hiding, finding refuge in the home of an individual named Zevadai. On the night of the 17th of Adar they escaped the hostile city of Sulukus.

Eventually these surviving scholars revived Torah Judaism. The date they escaped the clutches of death was established as a day of celebration.

The school of Hillel says: The Merciful One inclines (the scale of justice) to the side of mercy, and of this third class of men (who were destined to for purgatory) David says [Psalms, cxvi. 1]: “It is lovely to me that the Lord hears my voice”; in fact, David applies to them the Psalm mentioned down to the words, “You have delivered my soul from death” [ibid. 8].

Rosh Hashana Chapter 1

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22 March in History
In 1929, a month long celebration of the 20th anniversary of the founding of Tel Aviv beings with a Purim Carnival.

16 Adar in History

Agrippa I, appointed by the Roman Emperor to rule over Judea, was pious and kind to his subjects. During his reign, the Jews began to prosper and live comfortably. The Sages of the time accorded him great respect.

Agrippa I started construction to repair, broaden and heighten the walls around Jerusalem. The Romans, wary of the Jews’ rising prosperity, placed many obstacles in his way. Nonetheless, the wall was completed, though the finished product was not as magnificent as originally planned.

The 16th of Adar, the day when the construction commenced, was instituted to be a joyous day.

The school of Shammai said: There are three divisions of mankind at the Resurrection: the wholly righteous, the utterly wicked, and the average class.

The wholly righteous are at once inscribed, and life is decreed for them; the utterly wicked are at once inscribed, and destined for Gehenna, as we read [Dan. xii. 2]: “And many of them that sleep in the dust will awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.”

The third class, the men between the former two, descend to Gehenna, but they weep and come up again, as it says [Zech. xiii. 9]: “And I will bring the third part through the fire, and I will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried; and he will call on My name, and I will answer him.”

Concerning this last class of men Hannah says [I Sam. ii. 6]: “God causes to die and maketh alive, He bringeth down to the grave and bringeth up again.”

Rosh Hashana Chapter 1

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21 March in History

In 1861, a Jew by the name of Guranda who is the Editor of the Ost Deutsche Post was among those whom the city of Vienna has chosen to serve in the Provincial Diet.

15 Adar in History

The battles fought between the Jews and their enemies, which took place on Adar 13 throughout the Persian empire, continued for two days — Adar 13 and 14 — in the capital city of Shushan, where there were a greater number of Jew haters. Thus the victory celebrations in Shushan were held on the 15th of Adar, and the observance of the festival of Purim was instituted for that day in Shushan and all walled cities.

Rabbi Yehoshua B. Levi said, “Women are obligated in hearing of the Megilah (The Book of Ester), since even they were involved in the miracle.”

Tractate Megilah Chapter 1

Even they: It seems difficult to understand, since the women were the main players in brining about the miracle: in the times of Purim it was Ester, in the times of Chanukah it was Yehudit, and in the times of (the enslavement in) Egypt, it was the righteous women (who did no give up hope, as described elsewhere) in who’s merit we were redeemed from Egypt. So it the expression of “even they” seems to be misplaced.

Rather, “event they” were decreed to be put to death (as opposed as taken as part of the spoils of war).

Tosafot ibid.

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20 March in History

It was on this day in 1897 that Yeshiva Rabbi Isaac Elhanan opened in New York as an Orthodox rabbinical seminary. It later expanded into Yeshiva University, with both Jewish and secular studies, a medical (Einstein) and a graduate school (Ferkauf).

14 Adar in History

Moses was born on the 7th of Adar of the year 2368 from creation (1393 BCE); accordingly, Adar 14 was the 8th day of his life and the day on which he was circumcised in accordance with the Divine command to Abraham.

The festival of Purim celebrates the salvation of the Jewish people from Haman’s plot “to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews, young and old, infants and women, in a single day.”

The events of Purim extended over a period of several years, culminating in the victory celebrations of Adar 14-15 of 356 BCE

Shmuel said, “Does God desire sacrifices and offerings as much as listening to the voice of God? Listening is better then a fine offering. Attending is better than the fats of rams.”

Samuel I 15:22

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18 March in History

In 1906, today was the birth of Adolf Eichmann, the Gestapo officer who contributed so much to the Final Solution. Eichmann is the only person to ever be executed by the state of Israel.

12 Adar in History

After 334 years, the 2nd Holy Temple in Jerusalem was in disrepair. In the year 19 BCE, King Herod I floated the idea of rebuilding and renovating the Temple. Though many Jews were wary of Herod’s motives, the renovation was completed eight years later. The new structure was magnificent, causing the Talmud to state: “He who has not seen Herod’s edifice has not seen a magnificent edifice!”

19 March in History

In 1940, Vladimir Jabotinsky addressed a crowd of more than 5,000 supporters in New York demanding the “restoration of a Jewish state” in the area under British Mandate.

13 Adar in History

On the 13th of Adar of the year 3405 from creation (356 BCE), battles were fought throughout the Persian Empire between the Jews and those seeking to kill them in accordance with the decree issued by King Achashveirosh 11 months earlier.

(Achashveirosh never rescinded that decree; but after the hanging of Haman on Nissan 16 of the previous year, and Queen Esther’s pleading on behalf of her people, he agreed to issue a second decree authorizing the Jews to defend themselves against those seeking to kill them.)

75,000 enemies were killed on that day, and 500 in the capital, Shushan, including Haman’s ten sons (Parshandata, Dalfon, Aspata, Porata, Adalia, Aridata, Parmashta, Arisai, Aridai and Vaizata), whose bodies were subsequently hanged. The Jews did not take any of the possessions of the slain as booty, though authorized to do so by the king’s decree. (The Book of Esther, chapter 9).

Three books are opened on New Year’s Day: one for the utterly wicked, one for the wholly good, and one for the average class of people.

The wholly righteous are at once inscribed, and life is decreed for them; the entirely wicked are at once inscribed, and destruction destined for them; the average class are held in the balance from New Year’s Day till the Day of Atonement; if they prove themselves worthy they are inscribed for life, if not they are inscribed for destruction.

Rosh Hashana Chapter 1

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17 March 2011

In 1616, in Holland, under the rule of Prince Maurice of Orange, it is decided that each city could decide for itself whether or not to admit Jews. In those towns where they were admitted they would not be required to wear a badge of any sort identifying them as Jews.

11 Adar 2011

Rashi, the most basic commentary on the Torah, was printed for the first time, in Reggio di Calabria, Italy. In this print, the commentary on the Five Books of Moses, authored in the 11th century by Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, was not on the same page as the text of the Scriptures, as it is normally printed today.

This was the first time that the rounded Hebrew font was used, the font which has since become known as “Rashi Letters.”

This year, the Fast of Ester is observed today.

The controls that faith places on a person, in terms of belief, is also a kindness in its justice, in relation to its external appearance, to order the events of your life.

Rav Avraham Yitschak HaKohen Kook
El-HaMidot
Emunah

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16 March in History

Today in 1900, Herzl, in his never ending quest to have the rich and powerful support the creation of a Jewish homeland in Eretz Israel, had a luncheon with Eulenburg-Hertefeld, the German ambassador in Vienna.

19 Adar in History

Rabbi Judah ben Bezalel Lowe, known as the Maharal of Prague was famous among Jews and non-Jews alike. He was a mystic who was revered for his holiness and Torah scholarship, as well as his proficiency in mathematics, astronomy, and other sciences. Eventually, word of his greatness reached the ears of Emperor Rudolph II.

The Emperor invited the Maharal to his castle on February 23, 1592. There they conversed for one and a half hours, and developed a mutual respect for each other.

Rabbi Judah Lowe made use of his excellent connections with the Emperor, often intervening on behalf of his community when it was threatened by anti-Semitic attacks or oppression.

Some also include change of location as way that an evil decree is improved, as it is written [Gen. xii. 1 and 2]: “God said to Abraham, go for yourself from your land” (and afterwards), “I will make you into a great nation.”

Rosh Hashana Chapter 1

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15 March in History

In 44 BCE, Julius Caesar was assassinated in the Roman Senate. The Jews supported Caesar in his fight for power against Crassus and Pompey. Pompey had seized Jerusalem, violated the Holy of Holies and shipped thousands of Judeans off to the slave markets. Eight years later, Crassus came to Jerusalem and stole the Temple Treasury. As a reward for Jewish support, Caesar returned the port of Jaffa to Judean control. He instituted a more humane tax rate that took into account the Sabbatical Year. He allowed the walls of Jerusalem to be rebuilt and he allowed Jewish communities in the Italian peninsula, including Rome itself, to “organize and thrive.”

9 Adar in History

The schools of Shammai and Hillel for the very first time disagreed regarding a case of Jewish law. This occurred around the turn of the 1st century. In the ensuing generations, the schools argued regarding many different laws, until the law was established according to the teachings of the “House of Hillel” — with the exception of a few instances. According to tradition, following the arrival of the the Messiah the law will follow the rulings of the House of Shammai.

All throughout, the members of the two schools maintained friendly relations with each other.

“Repentance removes the evil decree,” we learn from Jonah, iii. 10: “And God saw their works that they had turned from their evil ways,” and immediately adds: “And God thought of the evil He had said He would do to them, and He did not do it.”

Rosh Hashana Chapter 1

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14 March in History

It was in this day in 1492 that Queen Isabella of Castile orders her 150,000 Jewish subjects to convert to Christianity or face expulsion.

8 Adar in History

In 1715, the Crown Colony of Maryland enacted a law requiring any citizen who wished to hold public office to take an oath of abjuration, which contained the words, “upon the true faith of a Christian.” In 1776, the new constitution of the State of Maryland reaffirmed this law, requiring any oath of office to contain a declaration of belief in the Christian religion.

In the decades that followed, the struggle to repeal this law attracted national attention.

On February 26, 1825 an act “for the relief of the Jews in Maryland,” was passed by Maryland’s House of Delegates. The bill allowed every Jewish citizen to take an oath which professes his belief in a “future State of Rewards and Punishments, in the stead of the declaration now required by the Constitution and form of Government of this State.”

“Change of name removes the evil decree,” as it is written [Gen. xvii. 15]: “As for Sarai, your wife, you will no longer call her name Sarai, but Sarah will be her name,” and the text continues by saying [ibid. 16]: “Then will I bless her, and give you a son from her.”

Rosh Hashana Chapter 1

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13 March in History

From The Writers Almanac:
On this day in 1943, disillusioned German officers planned to assassinate Hitler. Hitler was to stop at Smolensk on his way to his headquarters and an officer who was not involved in the plot had been commissioned to deliver a package to Hitler’s plane— a package, he was told, contained two bottles of liquor for a friend in Rastenburg. A bomb in the package was timed to go off over Minsk, but the plane reached Rastenburg without the device detonating.

The package was later recovered, and it was found that the detonator was defective.

7 Adar in History

Moses was born in Egypt on the 7th of Adar of the year 2368 from creation (1393 BCE) and passed away on his 120th birthday — Adar 7, 2488 (1273 BCE).

 

It is I, I who erase your sins for My sake;
I will not remember your transgressions.

Isaiah 43:25

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11 March in History

In 1853, today the the Jewish Disabilities Bill came up in the House of Commons for a second reading. Mr. Ernal Osborne argued “that religious liberty was violated in the exclusion of Jews from Parliament and thought the question not one of Jewish disabilities, but of the right of Christians to be represented by whom they pleased.” Several Members of Parliament “totally opposed the bill on Christian grounds.”

5 Adar in History

Moses passed away on the 7th of Adar 1273 BCE. Following God’s instruction that Joshua should succeed him and lead the Jewish nation into the Land of Israel, Moses transferred leadership duties to Joshua on the day before he passed away. The fifth day of Adar was the last day of Moses’ leadership.

12 March in History

In 1496, the Jews were expelled from Syria.

6 Adar in History

Moses completed the book of Deuteronomy, concluding his review of the Torah which he began several weeks earlier, on the 1st of Shevat. He then wrote down the completed Five Books of Moses, word for word, as dictated to him by God.

This scroll of the Torah was put into the Holy Ark, next to the Tablets of Testimony.

Prayer averts the evil decree, as is said, [Psalms, cvii. 19]: “They cry to the God when they are in distress, and He saves them out of their afflictions.”

Rosh Hashana Chapter 1

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10 March in History

In 1861, today is the birthdate of Meier Dizengoff. A native of Bessarabia, he would make Aliyah in 1905, help found Tel Aviv in 1909 and then became its first mayor.

4 Adar in History

The tragic saga of the imprisonment of Rabbi Meir ben Baruch (“Maharam”) of Rothenburg came to a close when his body was ransomed, 14 years after his death, by Alexander ben Shlomo (Susskind) Wimpen.

“Maharam” (1215?-1293) was the leading Torah authority in Germany, and authored thousands of Halachic responsa as well as the Tosaphot commentary of the Talmudic tractate Yoma. In 1283 he was imprisoned in the Ensisheim fortress and held for a huge ransom, but he forbade the Jewish community to pay it (based on the Talmudic ruling that exorbitant sums should not be paid to free captives, as this would encourage the taking of hostages for ransom). For many years Maharam’s disciple, R. Shimon ben Tzadok, was allowed to visit him in his cell and recorded his teachings in a work called Tashbetz.

Even after the Maharam’s passing in 1293, his body was not released for burial until it was ransomed by R. Alexander, who was subsequently laid to rest at his side.

There are two elements that need to be clear to stand on the correct outlook of faith: 1) The truth of God, 2) The great need for the community and individual to know this truth.

Rav Avraham Yitschak HaKohen Kook
El-HaMidot
Emunah

~~~

9 March in History

In 1943, the Nazis continued the transport of Greek Jews from Salonika to Auschwitz. Salonika was an ancient Jewish community. It became a haven for Sephardic Jews when they fled Spain at the end of the fifteenth century. It was renowned center for kabalistic studies.

3 Adar in History

The joyous dedication of the second Holy Temple (Beit HaMikdash) on the site of the 1st Temple in Jerusalem, was celebrated on the 3rd of Adar of the year 3412 from creation (349 BCE), after four years of work.

The First Temple, built by King Solomon in 833 BCE, was destroyed by the Babylonians in 423 BCE. At that time, the prophet Jeremiah prophesied: “So says God: After seventy years for Babylon will I visit you… and return you to this place.”

In 371 the Persian emperor Cyrus permitted the Jews to return to Judah and rebuild the Temple, but the construction was halted the next year when the Samarians persuaded Cyrus to withdraw permission. Achashverosh II (of Purim fame) upheld the moratorium. Only in 353 — exactly 70 years after the destruction — did the building of the Temple resume under Darius II.

Charity saves from the evil decree, as it is written [Prov. x. 2]: “Charity delivers from death.”

Rosh Hashana Chapter 1

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8 March in History

In 1688, on this night a large group of secret Jews planned to escape from the island of Majorca by booking passage on an English ship. They were looking for religious freedom. A storm delayed their departure, and their plan was betrayed. All those planning to leave were put in prison. In the spring of 1691 these prisoners were sentenced at an auto-de-fe, where 37 were burned at the stake.

2 Adar in History

Hundreds of Jews, including some students of the local Chabad Yeshivah, were among the thousands of victims to perish in a devastating earthquake that struck Agadir, Morocco on the 2nd of Adar in 1960.

R. Itz’hak taught, “Four things avert the evil decree passed (by God) on man: charity, prayer, change of name, and improvement.

Rosh Hashana Chapter 1

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7 March in History

In 1923,Birthdate of businessman Laurence Tisch, CEO of CBS from 1986 through 1995. Tisch passed away in 2003.

1 Adar in History

The 9th plague to strike the Egyptians for their refusal to release the Children of Israel from slavery — a thick darkness that blanketed the land so that “no man saw his fellow, and no man could move from his place” (Exodus 10:23) — commenced on the 1st of Adar, six weeks before the Exodus in 1313 BCE.

Three circumstances cause a man to remember his sins, for fear that his misdeeds might cause a tragedy: when he passes by an insecure wall, when he thinks deeply of how his prayer has been answered, and when he invokes divine judgment on his neighbor.

As R. Abhin says: Whoso calls down divine judgment on his neighbor is punished first. We find in the case of Sarah, who said [Gen. xvi. 5] to Abraham: “I suffer wrong through you, may the Lord judge between me and you.” And shortly after we read (that she died): “And Abraham came to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her” [Gen. xxiii. 2]

Rosh Hashana Chapter 1

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6 March in History

In 1836, the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas, fell to Mexican forces after a 13-day siege. Antony Wolfe, a young Englishman, was reportedly the only Jew who fought and died at the Alamo.

30 Adar in History

Today is the first of the two Rosh Chodesh (“Head of the Month”) days for the month of “Adar II” (when a month has 30 days, both the last day of the month and the first day of the following month serve as the following month’s Rosh Chodesh).

Today marks the passing of Rav Yitzchak Isaac of Zhidachov (1804-1872), a descendent of the Tosfos Yomtov and the nephew and successor of Rav Zvi Hirsch of Zhidachov. One of his four sons became the first Rebbe of Komarna dynasty.

The men did not keep an accounting of the money that was collected to give to the construction groups (who were repairing the Temple), since they were acting with faith.

Kings II 12:16

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4 March in History

Today in 1849, Austrian Jews were granted equal civil and political rights under the new constitution. The imperial government would renege on its promise and full rights would not be finally granted until 1867.

28 Adar in History

Today marks the passing of Rav Shmuel Halevi Klein (Kellin) of Boskowitz, author of Machtzis Hashekel, a super-commentary on the Magen Avraham on the Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim (1738-1827).

5 March in History

In 1929, John D. Rockefeller Jr. spent the day viewing ancient and historic sites in Jerusalem, including the Mosque of Omar and the Holy Sepulcher.

29 Adar in History

When the Holy Temple stood in Jerusalem, each Jew contributed an annual half-shekel to the Temple. The 1st of Adar marked the beginning of the collection of the shekalim. In commemoration, the Torah reading of the Shabbat that falls on or before Adar 1 is supplemented with the verses (Exodus 30:11-16) that relate G-d’s commandment to Moses regarding the first giving of the half-shekel.

“Parshat Shekalim” is the first of four special readings added during or immediately before the month of Adar (the other three being “Zachor”, “Parah” and “Hachodesh”)

A man is judged only according to his deeds at the time of sentence, as it is written [Gen. xxi. 17]: “God heard the voice of the lad, as he was then.”

Rosh Hashana Chapter 1

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3 March in History

In 1332, Levi ben Gershon, better known by his Latinised name as Gersonides or the abbreviation of first letters as RaLBaG Levi observed a solar eclipse today.

27 Adar in History

Tzedkiah, last king of Yehuda, died in captivity, in Bavel (561 BCE).

Without recognition of faith, there is no room to place any of the possessions of life and human society. With a greater recognition of the need for these acquisitions for all paths of life, faith is supported.

Rav Avraham Yitschak HaKohen Kook
El-HaMidot
Emunah

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2 March in History

In 1382, the Mailotin Riots began in Paris. These riots were similar to the tax riots held two years previously. Both times the Jews were considered accomplices in over-oppressive taxes. Sixteen Jews fell victim to this outbreak violence.

26 Adar in History

In 1658, fifteen South American Jewish families of Sephardic lineage arrived in the United States and settled in Newport, Rhode Island. The families established a Jewish congregation, and for many years prayed weekly in private homes. When the need arose for a Jewish cemetery, the community purchased a parcel of land on Wednesday, February 28, 1677.

This was the very first piece of land in the colonies which was owned by a Jewish congregation. In this cemetery are buried many of the early members of this congregation, and it is still maintained by the Jewish community today.

R. Abbahu said, “Why is the shofar made a ram’s horn?”

The Holy One, blessed be He, said, “Sound before Me on a cornet made of a ram’s horn, that I may remember, for your sake, the offering of Isaac, the son of Abraham [Gen. xxii. 13], and I will consider even you as worthy, as if you had shown an equal readiness to sacrifice yourselves to Me.”

Rosh Hashana Chapter 1

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1 March in History

In 1655, the Magistrate of New Amsterdam wrote a ruling making an attempt to expel the Jews. It read, in part, “Resolved that the Jews, who came last year from the West Indies and now from the Fatherland, must prepare to depart forthwith.”

25 Adar in History

Rav Gershon Kitover, brother-in-law of the Baal Shem Tov (1696-1761). His father, Efrayim, was a Rav and Av Beis Din in one of the four batei din in Brody, Poland. In 1747, he moved to Eretz Yisrael (becoming the first of the talmidim of the Besht to do so), living first in Chevron and then in Yerushalayaim.

Whether the patriarchs were born in Nissan or Tishri, the day of their death occurred in the same month as that in which they were born; as it is written [Deut. xxxi. 2]: Moses said, ‘I am one hundred and twenty years old to-day.’ The word “to-day” implies “just this day my days and years are complete,” for the Holy One, blessed be He, grants the righteous the fulfilment of the years of their life to the very month and day, as it is said: “The number of thy days will I make full” [Ex. xxiii. 26].

Rosh Hashana Chapter 1

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28 February in History

Today in 1854, the Republican Party of the United States is organized in Ripon, Wisconsin. The party was formed in the wake of the Kansas-Nebraska act and was designed to stop the Democrats’ pro-slavery agenda. Some of the Jews who were active in the early days of the party were Sabato Morais, rabbi of the Mikveh Israel Congregation, Moritz Pinner who edited a German language abolitionist paper in Kansas , Kentuckian Lewis Naphtali Dembitz, uncle of the Louis Brandeis and New Yorker Sigsmund Kaufman who was an a member of the electoral college that chose Abraham Lincoln to serve as President in 1860.

24 Adar in History

Today marks the passing of Rav Chaim Algazi of Kushta, author of Netivot Hamishpat. Student of Rav Shlomo Algazi Rabbi of Rhodes.

“For it is a statute unto Israel, a judgment (day) for the God of Jacob.” Psalms 4:5

The rabbis taught: “It is a statute unto Israel,” from here we infer that the Heavenly Court of judgment does not enter into judgment until the Beth Din on earth proclaims the new moon.

Rosh Hashana Chapter 1

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27 February in History

In 1925, today is the birthdate of Sam Dash. The Georgetown Law Professor would gain fame as the Chief Counsel for the House Judiciary Committee during the Watergate Scandal.

23 Adar in History

Rav Chaim Cheikel (Chaikel) of Amdur (Indura) (1787). Born to Rav Shmuel in Karlin, he was a disciple of the Vilna Gaon, and later became a student of Rav Dov Ber, the Maggid of Mazerich.

Rav Chaim became one of the first Chassidic Admorim in 1772-73. He authotred Chaim Vochesed. Amdur is about 25 miles south of Grodno (Hrodno). Amdur and Grodno are located in the northwest corner of what is now the independent country of Belarus, close to the Lithuanian and Polish borders.

During the Cossack revolt of 1648 against Polish landowners and gentry, over 100,000 Jews, mostly in Ukraine and southern Belarus, were murdered. However, the marauders did not advance north to the Grodno region. Jews comprised 80% of the population in Grodno at that time.

Rav Chaim’s daughter married Moshe, the brother of Aharon, founder of Karlin Hassidism. Rav Chaim was succeeded by his son, Rav Shmuel of Amdur.

King Solomon sent for Hiram from Tzur. He was the son of a widow, from the tribe of Naftali. His father was a smith of bronze. God had filled him with wisdom, knowledge, and perception to work with metals. He came to King Solomon, and built all of the craft (for the temple).

Kings I 7 13:14

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25 February in History

Today in 1862, Judah P. Benjamin began serving as Attorney General in the cabinet of Jefferson Davis.

21 Adar in History

Today marks the passing of Rav Shlomo Yosef Zevin, editor of the Talmudical Encyclopedia (1976).

26 February in History

Today in 11 BCE, according to some sources, the day on which Herod dedicates the renovated Holy Temple in Jerusalem. According to Heinrich Graetz, the building project began in 20 BCE, the 18th year of Herod’s reign. A year and half later, (18 BCE) the inner part of the Temple was finished. It took another eight years to build the outer walls, courts and galleries. The dedicatory celebration took place on “the very anniversary of the day when twenty years previously, Herod, with blood stained hands, had made himself master of Jerusalem.” Herod reportedly built this modernized version of the Second Temple because he loved to build things and because he was trying to show his Roman masters that he was the beloved ruler of his people.

22 Adar in History

Today marks the passing of Rav Yechiel Michel Epstein (1829-1908). Born in Bobroysk, author of the Aruch Hashulchan, Rav of Novardok for 34 years, father of Rav Baruch HaLevy Epstein (author of Torah Temima) and grandfather of Rav Meir Bar-Ilan, with whom he learned in Novardok.

It is written, Psalms, lxv. 14, “The meadows are clothed with flocks; the valleys also are covered with corn; men shout for joy, they also sing.”

R. Meir thinks (this is the interpretation) of these words: When are the meadows clothed with flocks? At the season when the valleys are covered with corn.
When are the valleys covered with corn? About (the time of) Adar. The flocks conceive in Adar and produce their young in Av; consequently the beginning of the year (for the cattle-tithe) is Elul.

R. Eliezer and R. Simeon, however, say: When are the meadows clothed with flocks? At the season when they shout and sing. When do the ears of corn (seem to) send up a hymn of praise? In Nissan.

Rosh Hashana Chapter 1

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24 February in History

In 1835, today is the birthdate of Sir Julius Vogel, the eighth Premier of New Zealand and the first Jew to hold this position.

20 Adar in History

Today marks the passing of Rav Elimelech of Lizhensk, author of Noam Elimelech, (1717-1787). Learned under the Maggid of Mezritch. Among his students were Rav Avraham Yehoshua Heshel of Apta, The Chozeh of Lublin, the Maggid of Kozhnitz, and Rav Menachem Mendel of Rimanov.

All of the most exalted moments, be they of thought or of feeling, or action, need to be tied tightly to simple faith, which appears first in its simplicity in the heart of the youngest children; at its inner essence, that (child like) faith is more lofty than what one will ever learn or contemplate.

Rav Avraham Yitschak HaKohen Kook
El-HaMidot
Emunah

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23 February in History

In 1912, a New York Ladino language newspaper called La Aguila hit the presses, but failed due to lack of support and finished running on March 22 of the same year.

19 Adar in History

Today marks the passing of Rav Chaim Cheikel (Chaikel) of Amdur (Indura) (1787). Born to Rav Shmuel in Karlin, he was a disciple of the Vilna Gaon, and later became a student of Rav Dov Ber, the Maggid of Mazerich. Rav Chaim became one of the first Chassidic Admorim in 1772-73. He authotred Chaim Vochesed. Amdur is about 25 miles south of Grodno (Hrodno). Amdur and Grodno are located in the northwest corner of what is now the independent country of Belarus, close to the Lithuanian and Polish borders. During the Cossack revolt of 1648 against Polish landowners and gentry, over 100,000 Jews, mostly in Ukraine and southern Belarus, were murdered. However, the marauders did not advance north to the Grodno region. Jews comprised 80% of the population in Grodno at that time. Rav Chaim’s daughter married Moshe, the brother of Aharon, founder of Karlin Hassidism. Rav Chaim was succeeded by his son, Rav Shmuel of Amdur.

One is held obligated for a sin if he does not give immediately that which he has vowed for charity.

Why is this? Because there are always poor people.

Rosh Hashana Chapter 1

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22 February in History

In 1732, today is the brthdate of George Washington. Several Jew’s served with Washington during the Revolutionary War. When Washington was elected President he sent amicable letters to different Jewish communities assuring them that Jews were welcome in the United States.

18 Adar in History

Today marks the passing of Rav Chanoch Henoch HaKohen (1798-1870), Alexander Rebbe. He was a disciple of Rav Simcha Bunam of Pshis’cha, Rav Menachem Mendel of Kotzk and the Chidushei Harim.

“The year of the kings begins with Nissan”–refers to the kings of Israel only, but for the kings of other nations it commences from Tishri.

Rosh Hashana Chapter 1

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21 February in History

In 1919, as the right wing reasserts its authority in Germany, a German aristocrat named Count Anton Arco-Valley shot Jewish born Bavarian political leader Kurt Eisner in the back and killed him as he on his way to the Munich Parliament.

17 Adar in History

Today marks the passing of Rav Shimon Sofer, Rav and Av Beis Din of Cracow (1821-1883). Born in Pressburg, the second son of the Chasam Sofer.

When Aharon (Moses’s brother and high priest) died, Sichon thought he would be able to attack Israel. Why did Sichon think he would be able to attack Israel? Because when Aharon died, the clouds of glory departed from Israel.

Rosh Hashana Chapter 1

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20 February in History

In 1442, Pope Martin V (1417-31) issued a Bull (a formal proclamation issued by the pope) reminding Christians that Christianity was derived from Judaism and warned the Friars not to incite against the Jews. The Bull was withdrawn the following year alleging that the Jews of Rome attained the Bull by fraud.

16 Adar in History

Today marks the passing of Rav Yitzchak Friedman of Boyan, founder of the Boyaner Chasidim, author of Pachad Yitzchak (1849-1917). He was the third son of Rav Avraham Yaakov of Sadigora, the son of Rav Yisrael of Rizhin.

Eliyahu came close to the people and said,
“For how long will you be standing on two sides of the fence? If God is the Almighty, follow after Him. And if its Baal, go after him.”

The nation did not answer him.

Kings I 18:21

~~~

18 February in History

In 1955, David Ben Gurion agrees to come out of retirement and serve as Defense Minister. Four months later he will also agree to serve as Prime Minister.

14 Adar in History

According to the opinions that Moses was born on the 7th of Adar I, today was the 8th day of his life and the day on which he was circumcised in accordance with the Divine command to Abraham.

19 February in History

In 2004, Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal was awarded an honorary knighthood in recognition of a “lifetime of service to humanity.”

15 Adar in History

In regular years, the 15th of Adar is Shushan Purim, the festival that celebrates — in Jerusalem and other ancient walled cities — the salvation of the Jewish people from Haman’s evil decree in the year 3405 from creation (356 BCE). In a leap year — which has two Adars — Shushan Purim is observed in Adar II, and the 15th of Adar I is designated as Shushan Purim Kattan, the “Minor Shushan Purim.”

There are no special observances associated with Shushan Purim Kattan, other than the omission of Tachnun (“supplications”) from the daily prayers and a prohibition against fasting or holding eulogies on this day. The Code of Jewish Law cites an opinion that one should increase in festivity and joy, but rules that there is no obligation to do so; “Nevertheless,a person should increase somewhat in festivity… for ‘One who is of good heart is festive always’ “

“One may place vessels to receive rain.”

A Boraitha taught: When the vessel was full, he might empty it, and put it in its former place again; and so repeatedly. The handmill of Abayi was exposed to the rain (and he had not enough vessels to protect it).

He came to Rabba his Master, and asked; and he answered: Go and place your bed in that room (where the handmill was), and then the handmill will be considered as a night chamber, which may be removed from a bedroom (and then he can remove the bed again).

Abayi himself considered the law and said to himself: May one turn a clean thing into an objectionable thing intentionally?

While he sat and thought thus, the handmill cracked. Said he: I deserve this punishment because I was disobeying my Master.

Beitzah Chapter 4

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17 February in History

In 1929, today was the birthday of the author Chaim Potok. A graduate of Yeshiva University, Potok was ordained as a Conservative Rabbi after studying at The Jewish Theological Society. He earned a PhD at the University of Pennsylvania. He decided to become a writer after reading Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited in 1945. He was fourteen years old, and all he had read were magazines and pulp fiction. He wanted to read a serious adult book, and he chose Brideshead Revisited at random from the public library.

He later said about reading it, “I found myself inside a world the merest existence of which I had known nothing about. I lived more deeply inside the world in that book than I lived inside my own world.”

13 Adar in History

Today marks the passing of Rav Moshe Feinstein (1895-1986). Born in Uzda (near Minsk), Belorussia, he was the son of R’ Dovid Feinstein, who was a grandchild of the Be’er Hagolah. His mother was Feige Gittel, daughter of R’ Yechiel, rov of Kopolia. He joined the yeshiva of R’ Isser Zalman Meltzer in Slutzk at the age of twelve.

At the age of sixteen, R’ Moshe completed Shas and Shulchan Oruch. He was rabbi of Lyuban from 1921 to 1936. He escaped the Stalinist regime in 1936 and settled in New York as rosh yeshiva of Tiferes Yerushalayim. He authored Igros Moshe, Darash Moshe, and Dibros Moshe.

All commandments and their branches, for those who perform them, create in the life of the soul, and in the world, a form that correlates to how that command is connected to the depth of the reality of faith in God.

Rav Avraham Yitschak HaKohen Kook
El-HaMidot
Emunah

~~~

16 February in History

In 2009, France’s top judicial body formally recognized the nation’s role in deporting Jews to Nazi death camps during the Holocaust – but effectively ruled out any more reparations for the deportees or their families. Jewish groups welcomed the ruling by the Council of State, the clearest legal acknowledgment to date of France’s role in the Holocaust. Nearly 70 years ago, the Vichy government helped deport some 76,000 people – including 11,000 children – from Nazi-occupied France to concentration camps during the war. Fewer than 3,000 returned alive.

12 Adar in History

Today marks the passing of Rav Chaim David Halevy (1924-1998). Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv for the last 25 years of his life, he was known to many as the author of the multi volume responsa Aseh Lecha Rav, on many contemporary halachic and hashkafic issues, and a six-volume halachic work entitled Mekor Chaim.

One who is dependent on the table of his neighbor (for food), the whole world is dark for him. As it is written [Job xv. 23]: “He wanderes abroad for bread, (saying), Where is it? he knows that there is ready at his hand the day of darkness.”

R. Hisda said: His life is no life at all.

Beitzah Chapter 4

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15 February in History

In 1655, the twenty-three Sephardic Jews who arrived in the fall seeking sanctuary from the Inquisition are officially admitted into New Amsterdam over Governor Peter Stuyvesant’s objections.

11 Adar in History

Rav Chaim Yosef Dovid Azulai, (the Chida), (1724-1806). Arguably the Sephardic equivalent to the Vilna Gaon, the Chida, was born in Jerusalem. At the age of 18, he learned under Rav Chaim ben Atar (the Ohr Hachaim). His works include a collection of responsa known as Yoseif Ometz, the Shem HaGedolim (a biographical work on 1300 authors and 1200 writings, dating back to the Gaonim), and many others. He passed away in Livorno, Italy.

A sage asked, the Mishna teaches: It is prohibited to clap hands, keep beat on your hips, and to dance on a festival. Yet in our time we see people do so, and we do not say to them anything. Why do we remain silent?

He answered: And according to your theory, come and see the women who take their cans and go and stand at the gates of the entry, which is also prohibited, and we say nothing to them (Would you also blame us for this?).

This is not so (because it is a rule). Let Israel do things unintentionally rather than intentionally (i.e., they were sure that if it was told to them, they would not listen, and to preserve them from conscious transgression, they keep silence).

There is no difference in such a case between a biblical and a rabbinical prohibition. Because the adding from the eve of the Day of Atonement to the Day of Atonement (about half an hour) is biblical, nevertheless we see women eating and drinking till dark, and we say nothing.

Beitzah Chapter 4

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14 February in History

Today in 1961, Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, accused the government of Morocco of bias against Jews and appealed to the Human Rights Commission of the United States to urge the Moroccan Government to stop what it termed “repressive action” including police brutality.

10 Adar in History

Today marks the passing of Rav Alexander Moshe Lapidus (1819-1906). A talmid of Rav Yisrael Salanter, he authored Divrei Emes.

R. Ashi said, “My wife is the daughter of Rami bar Hama, who was very particular in his deeds, and if she had not seen it done in the house of her father, she would not do it.”

Beitzah Chapter 3

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13 February in History

In 1349, during the Black Plague, the newly chosen Town Council of Strasbourg, gave orders to arrest all the Jews in the city so that they could be put to death.

9 Adar in History

Today marks the passing of Rav Mordechai Meisel, the parnes of Prague, a great Jewish philanthropist who saved many Jewish lives in pogroms (1601).

Now, son of man, make it known to the children of Israel and make them ashamed of their sins: measure the the form of the temple.

Ezekiel 43:10
~~~

11 February in History

In 1898, today was the birthdate of Physicist Leo Szilard. Born in Hungary, Szilard was a refugee from Hitler’s Europe who first sounded the alarm about the need to build an Atomic Bomb. He worked with Einstein on the letter that Einstein would take to FDR in 1939.

This effort led to the Manhattan Project.

7 Adar in History

Moses was born in Egypt on the 7th of Adar of the year 2368 from creation (1393 BCE). According to one opinion, the year of Moses’ birth was a “leap year”, and he was born in the first Adar.

Moses passed away on his 120th birthday — Adar 7, 2488 (1273 BCE)

12 February in History

In 1884, today was the birthdate of Max Beckmann, German-born post-modernist painter

8 Adar in History

In the 1660’s the Jewish community of Barbados became established and of considerable importance. The Jewish community, however, had a decided disadvantage in that their testimony was not admissible in court cases due to their refusal to take an oath on a Christian Bible. In October 1669 the Jewish community presented the king a petition requesting permission to take be able to take oaths on the Five Books of Moses, the Jewish Bible.

Several years later, on Wednesday, February 14, 1674, Barbados passed a law granting the Jewish community the permission they requested.

If one has left over goods that the customer left behind, and you do not know who it belongs to, use the value of those goods to benefit the community. As is stated, “If you stole, but did not know who you stole from, use the money to fulfill the needs of the community.”

What are the “needs of the community”?

Rav Hisda said, “Pits for storage, wells and caverns for water.”

Beitzah Chapter 3

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10 February in History

In 1914, today was the birthdate of one of the world’s greatest harmonica players, Baltimore born Lawrence “Larry” Cecil Adler.

6 Adar in History

Rabbi Shmaryahu Gurary (“Rashag”) was born in 1898; his father, a wealthy businessman and erudite scholar, was a leading chassid of the fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Sholom DovBer Schneersohn (1860-1920). In 1921, Rabbi Shmaryahu wed Chanah Schneersohn (1899-1991) the oldest daughter of the 6th Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn (1880-1950).

When Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak passed away in 1950, there were those who saw Rabbi Shmaryahu — an accomplished Chassidic scholar and elder of the Rebbe’s two surviving sons-in-law — as the natural candidate to head of the movement; but when the younger son-in-law, Rabbi Menachem Mendel, was chosen as rebbe, Rabbi Shmaryahu became his devoted chassid.

Rabbi Shmaryahu served as the excutive director of Tomchei Temimim, the world-wide Lubavitch yeshiva system — a task entrusted to him by his father-in-law — until his passing on the 6th of Adar I in 1989.

Each and every commandment is a form of faith, they come from the depth of faith; they are what the Godly faith, in its awesome wonder, obligates those who walk through life.

Rav Avraham Yitschak HaKohen Kook
El-HaMidot
Emunah

~~~

9 February in History

In 1807, Napoleon convened the French Sanhedrin. The first meeting in Paris of the Napoleonic Sanhedrin was under the leadership of The Assembly of Jewish Notables. It opened amid great pomp and celebration under the direction of Abraham Furtado. The Sanhedrin was modeled on the ancient Tribunal in Jerusalem and consisted of 71 members – 46 Rabbis and 25 laymen. Rabbi David Sinzheim of Strasburg was its President. They were presented with 12 questions regarding the positions of Jewry regarding polygamy, divorce, usury, other faiths, and most important whether they considered France to be their Fatherland. Needless to say, they received “guidance” from the emperor as to the general formulation of the answers.

5 Adar in History

Today marks the passing of Rav Ze’ev Wolf (Velvele) of Ostracha (also known as Tcharni-Ostraa) (1823). He was a close student of Rav Dov Ber (the Maggid) of Mezritch and Rav Pinchas of Koritz.

Thereafter, he became a follower of Rav Meshulam Feivish of Zhebariza, the Yosher Divrei Emes. He married the daughter of Reb Zushe of Hanipoli. Three years after the petira of the Yosher Divrei Emes, he made aliya (in 1798) and settled in Teveriya.

Why was a “Law of fire” (Deut. 33:2) given to Israel?

Since the law of this people is like fire, because if such a law had not been given to them, no nation and tongue could stand before them.

This is as R. Simeon b. Lakish said, “The boldest nation of all nations is Israel.”

Beitzah Chapter 3

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8 February in History

In 1931, in Cairo, King Faud opened the Museum of Modern Art which was located in a mansion that had been purchased by Elie Mosseri and donated to the government. Mosseri was a leading member of the Egyptian-Jewish community.

4 Adar in History

The body of R. Meir (MaHaRaM) of Rotenburg’s was released for burial in 1307, fourteen years after his death in the fortress of Ensisheim. He was buried in the old Jewish cemetery of Worms. Next to him was buried R. Alexander Susskind Wimpfen, who gave away his entire fortune to ransom the body. Both graves miraculously escaped Nazi ravaging of the cemetery (born 1215).

Why was the Law given to Israel? Because they are bold (difficult to be vanquished).

The disciples of R. Ishmael taught, “It is written [Deut. xxxiii. 2]: “From his right hand he gave a fiery law to them.” The Holy One, blessed be He, as it were, said, ‘The Israelites are so bold that a fiery law must be given to them.'”

Beitzah Chapter 3

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7 February in History

In 1914, Charlie Chaplin’s signature character, “The Tramp,” debuted in a film called “Kid Auto Races at Venice”

3 Adar in History

Rav Eliyahu Dovid Rabinowitz-Teumim, the Aderes (1843-1905). The last part of his name, Te’omim denotes the fact that he was a “te’om,” or twin. His mother, Chana, was a descendant of the Baal Halevushim and the Chacham Tzvi.

After his marriage, Rav Eliyahu Dovid moved to his wife’s birthplace, Ponovezh. He served as Rav of Ponovezh from 1872 to 1890 and of Mir from 1890 to 1898. He was then asked to assume the position of chief rabbi of Yerushalayim, at the recommendation of Rav Chaim Ozer Grodzinsky. There, he assisted the 80 year old Rav Shmuel Salant.

Rav Eliyahu Dovid served as the rav of Yerushalayim for four years.

Rab said, “A man should never absent himself from the house of learning, even for one hour, because I and Levi both were in the college when Rabbi declared a Halakha. In the evening he said, ‘They are permitted to be eaten’; but in the morning he said, ‘They are permitted to be received.’ I, who was in the college in the morning and heard his second decision, gave up the first; but Levi, who was not, did not.”

Beitzah Chapter 3

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6 February in History

In 2001, Ariel Sharon was elected Israeli prime minister in a landslide over Ehud Barak.

2 Adar in History

Today marks the passing of Rav Meir Paprish, the Ohr Tzadikim (1624-1662). At the young age of 13, Reb Meir began learning Kabbalah as a student of Rav Yaakov Tzemach who studied under Rav Shmuel Vital, the son of Rav Chaim Vital.

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

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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.

When a person considers the lowly state one exists in without faith, a person who has purified their soul will be drawn to the substance of the ideal that in truth is the only path for an upright person to be drawn to.

At that time, he will find a strong desire for faith, and the exalted enjoyment, the light of God, will enliven him.

He will want to color his life with the acts and the external practices, which are fitting for the internal and ideal desire. On his own, he will make vows and accept commitments, and all the more so will be pleased with the all of the general vows, which are the inheritance of our fathers.

Rav Avraham Yitschak HaKohen Kook
El-HaMidot
Emunah

~~~

2 February in History

In 1790, the United States Supreme Court meets for the first time. It would be one hundred and twenty six years before a Jewish jurist would be named to the High Court. By the second decade of the 21st century, 3 of the 9 justices were Jewish.

28 Shevat in History

On Shevat 28 (134 BCE?), Antiochus V abandoned his siege of Jerusalem and his plans for the city’s destruction. This day was observed as a holiday in Hashmonean times.

It once happened to Simeon of Teman that he did not visit the house of learning on a festival day. On the next day, Jehudah b. Baba asked him: “Why were you not in the house of learning yesterday?

He answered, ” The military come yesterday into the city, and wanted to rob the whole city; and we slaughtered for them calves, and made them eat, and they went away in peace.

R. Jehudah b. Baba replied, I wonder whether your loss was not greater than your benefit, for the Torah teaches “unto you,” you may cook, but not for non-Jews.

Beitzah Chapter 2

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1 February in History

In 1799, the French army under Napoleon left for Palestine to forestall a Turco-British invasion through the Palestinian land-bridge.

27 Shevat in History

Rabbi Alexander Sender Schorr was a direct descendents of Rabbi Yosef Bechor Schorr of Orleans, one of the most famous of the French Tosafists. At a young age he was already appointed Chief Justice of the Rabbinic Court in the town of Hovniv which is directly outside of Lvov, Poland.

He authored the classic work on the laws of ritual slaughter called Simlah Chadashah, as well as a deeper commentary on those laws called Tevu’ot Shor.

The Simlah Chadashah has been reprinted more than one hundred times, and is the most widely used book to learn the laws of shechitah (ritual slaughter). Rabbi Alexander Sender Schorr passed away in the town of Zelkava on the 27th of Shevat in the year 5497 (1737).

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

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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

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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

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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
El-HaMidot
Emunah

~~~

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
El-HaMidot
Emunah

~~~

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
El-HaMidot
Emunah

~~~

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.

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