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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


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.

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


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).

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November 2020