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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.

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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.

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