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R. Johanan said: If it were not for the following three passages, the enemies of Israel (meaning Israel) could not withstand (in other words, without thes following verses, Israel would have no defence when being accused for their sins, since these verses indicate that God place the evil inclination in us):

First [Micah, iv. 6]: “And her to whom I have done evil” (God did evil by giving us an evil inclincation.

The second [Jeremiah, xviii. 6]: “As the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel”.

The third is [Ezek. xxxvi. 26]: “I will remove the heart of stone out of your body, and I will give you a heart of flesh.” (Since God has not yet done so, our responsibility for sining with our heart of stone is somewhat mitigated.)

R. Papa says: Also from the following verse [ibid., ibid. 27]: “And my spirit I will put within you.” (Since God has not yet done so, our responsibility for sining with our heart of stone is somewhat mitigated.)

Sukkah Chapter 5


27 Tevet in History

Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888), Talmudist, scholar, philosopher, prolific author and Rabbi of Frankfurt am Main, passed away on this date. He was instrumental in revitalizing German Jewry, bringing thousands back to the teachings of the Torah at a time when assimilationist trends threatened to extinguish Jewish life in Western Europe.

3 January in History

In 1915,  today was the birthdate of Jack Levine the Boston born American Social Realist painter and printmaker best known for his satires on modern life, political corruption, and biblical narratives.

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Rabha said: In the beginning the evil inclination is called “traveller,” and then “guest,” and then “man,” as it is written in connection to King David’s sin with Bat Sheva [II Sam. xii. 4]: “There came a traveller to the rich man; and he felt compunction to take from his own flocks and from his own herds to dress for the guest that was come to him; but he took the ewe of the poor man, and dressed it for the man that was come to him”

Sukkah Chapter 5


2 January in History

In 1887, The Jewish Theological Seminary Association, the educational and spiritual center of Conservative Judaism, opened under the leadership of Saba Morais. Morais, a Rabbi of Congregation Mikve Israel in Philadelphia, sought to train Rabbis who would help preserve Jewish traditions which he felt were being eroded by the “reformers” and their Pittsburgh platform. In 1902 Solomon Schechter reorganized the Seminary and changed the name to JTS or the Jewish Theological Seminary. it was at this point that it became the central foundation for the Conservative Movement.

26 Tevet in History

On December 25, 1369 (5129), King Frederick III of Sicily ordered all Jews to wear a badge indicating their heritage. The badge consisted of a piece of red material, not smaller than the largest royal seal; men were required to wear it under the chin, and women on the chest.


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Rabh Huna pointed out a contradiction: It is written [Hosea, iv. 12]: “For the spirit of lewdness has caused them to err,” and later says [ibid. v. 4]: “The spirit of lewdness is in their insides.” The contradiction can be explained as follows: at first it causes people to err, and afterwards it remains in the body.

Sukkah Chapter 5


30 December in History

In 38 CE, today was the birthdate of Roman Emperor Titus the man who destroyed the Second Temple. The Arch of Titus commemorates the exile of the Israelites.

23 Tevet in History

Following the death of King Joao of Portugal in 1494, his son King Manuel I ascended the throne. When his legitimacy as heir to the throne was challenged, Manuel wished to marry Princess Isabel of Spain, daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella, in order to solidify his position. As a precondition to the marriage, the Spanish monarch demanded that Portugal expel its Jews—many of whom were refugees from the 1492 Spanish Expulsion who found refuge in the neighboring country of Portugal. Manuel agreed, and five days after the marriage agreement was signed, on Tevet 23 (5257), he issued a decree giving Portugal’s Jews eleven months to leave the country.

Appreciating the Jews’ economic value, Manuel was unhappy with the potential loss of this economic asset, and devised a way to have the Jews stay in Portugal—but as Christians. Initially, he instructed the Jews to leave from one of three ports, but soon he restricted them to leaving from Lisbon only. When October of 1497 arrived, thousands of Jews assembled there and were forcibly baptized. Many Jews decided to stay and keep their Jewish faith secret; they were called Marranos or Crypto-Jews.

Over the next 350 years, the infamous Inquisition persecuted, tortured and burned at the stake thousands of “marranos” throughout Spain, Portugal and their colonies for continuing to secretly practice the Jewish faith.

The disciples of R. Ishmael taught, “If this hideousness (your evil inclination) has attacked you, take it to the house of learning.

If it is a stone it will be ground to powder, and if it is iron it will be split to pieces.

“If a stone, it will be ground to powder.” as it is written [Is. lv. 1]: “Every one of you that is thirsty, come to water” (since Torah is compared to Torah); and it is written [Job, xiv. 19]: “Water wears out stones.”

“And of iron, it will be split into pieces,” as it is written [Jeremiah, xxiii. 29] “Is not my word like the fire? says God, and like a hammer that splits the rock?”

Sukkah Chapter 5


28 December in History

In 2008, the Israeli Air Force today blew up 40 tunnels that have been used to smuggle arms and terrorists into Gaza. In addition, these tunnels have been important for shoring up Hamas economically. In return for being allowed to open and operate tunnels, Palestinians were forced to pay exorbitant sums to Hamas, which aided the terrorist organization’s military capabilities.

21 Tevet in History

Shimon, the second son of Jacob and Leah and the progenitor of the Israelite tribe of Shimon, was born on Tevet 21 (according to another opinion, on Tevet 28), of the year 2194 from creation (1567 BCE), nine years after Jacob’s arrival in Charan.

R. Yitschak said, “The evil passions of man try to get the better of him all the day long, as it is written [Gen. vi. 5]: “A person’s thoughts were only evil all day long.”

R. Simeon b. Lakish said, “They try to get the better of him, and to slay him, as it is written [Ps. xxxvii. 32]: “The wicked looks out for the righteous, and tries to slay him”.  Were not the Holy One, blessed be He, to aid him, man could not resist, as it is written further, “God will not leave him in his hand, and will not condemn him when he is judged.”

Sukkah Chapter 5


27 December in History

In 1351, Birthdate of King Juan I of Aragon. In 1392, Juan granted amnesty to those who had attacked the Jews of Majorca and the Christians who sheltered them in 1391. At least 300 Jews were murdered. Juan granted the amnesty “because they had done it for the welfare of king and state; and he further declared all debts of the Christians to the Jews to be null and void.”

20 Tevet in History

Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, Talmudist, Halachist, physician, philosopher and communal leader, known in the Jewish world by the acronym “Rambam” and to the world at large as “Maimonides”, passed away in Egypt on the 20th of Tevet in 1204.

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Abayi said, “The evil inclination tempts scholars more than any one else.”

It once happened, Abayi heard a man say to a woman, “Let us rise early, and we will go on the road”; and Abayi thought, “I will follow them, and prevent them from a sin.” He went after them about three miles through reeds, and he heard them saying, “Our conversation has been very pleasant, and now we must take separate roads.”

Abayi said, “My enemy (evil inclination) would not have contained himself.” He leaned against the bolt of the door, and was very sorry that he would have been worse than a common man. And an old man came to him and taught him, “The greater a man is, the more is he tempted by the evil angel.”

Sukkah Chapter 5


26 December in History

In 1634, religious freedom was granted to Jews and Catholics in Brazil. This was the period of time when Brazil was under the control of the Dutch. Things would change in 1654 when Portugal took Recife, Brazil and the Jews were forced to flee.

19 Tevet in History

In a New Orleans fund-raising drive for Christians suffering persecution in Jerusalem, he gave ten times more than any other donor.  One profile of Touro particularly praised his willingness to give both to Jewish and non-Jewish religious causes: “An admirable trait evinced, was the unsectarian distribution of charity, while the donor ever continued a strict adherent to the principles of his faith.” His $20,000 donation to The Jews’ Hospital in New York City (now Mountain Sinai Hospital) led to its opening in 1855.

The 19th of Tevet the yahrtzeit (anniversary of the passing) of American Jewish philanthropist Judah Touro (1775-1854).

Isaiah calls the evil inclination a “stumbling-block,” as it is written [Is. lvii. 14]: “And he will say, Cast up, cast up, clear out of the way, lift up every stumbling-block out of the way of my people.”

Ezekiel names the evil inclination “stone,” as it is written [Ezek. xxxvi. 26]: “I will remove the heart of stone out of your body.”

Sukkah Chapter 5


23 December in History

In 1420, the Pope banned conversion of Jewish children done without consent of their parents.

16 Tevet in History

Today marks the passing of Rav Chaim Kreiswirth, Rav and Av Beis Din of Antwerp and son-in-law of Rav Avraham Grodzinski. Rav Chaim was well-known to have memorized Talmud Bavli and Yerushalmi, as well as Rishonim and Acharonim (1920-2001).

David calls the evil inclination “unclean,” as it is written [Ps. li. 12]: “Create for me a clean heart”; and when he says “a clean heart,” it must be an unclean one.

Solomon calls him “enemy,” as it is written [Prov. xxv. 21]: “If your enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink; for though you gather coals of fire upon his head, yet will the Lord repay it to you.” Do not read שלם (repay it), but שלים (he will make him peaceful toward thee).

Sukkot Chapter 5


21 December in History

In 2008, Hamas officially declared this evening that it would not extend the six-month-old truce between Gaza factions and Israel. The announcement appeared to be anti-climatic since 11 Kassam rockets and five mortar shells had already pounded southern Israel by mid-afternoon.

14 Tevet in History

Today marks the passing of Reuven the son Yaakov Avinu (Jacob our Patriarch).

The Holy One, blessed be He, names the evil inclination “evil,”– “The imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Gen. Viii. 21).

Sukkah Chapter 5


20 December in History

In 1924, Adolf Hitler freed from jail before completing his full sentence. This attests to his growing political power and popularity. Hitler had spent 8 months in Landsberg Prison for his role in the famed, failed 1923 Beer Hall Putsch in Munich. The term was a slap on the wrist and presaged the anarchy that would envelop the Weimar Republic. While in prison, Hitler wrote Mein Kampf, his “literary masterpiece” that was a blueprint for the havoc he would unleash on the world.

13 Tevet in History

Today marks the passing of Rav Moshe ben Dovid Biderman, the Lelover Rebbe (1776-1850 or 1851). Born in abject poverty, he married Rachel Rivka, a daughter of the Yid Hakadosh of P’shischa. After the latter’s death in 1813, he became a chasid of Rav Simcha Bunim of P’shischa, along with his friend, Rav Yitzchak of Vorki.

In 1843, he finally agreed to a leadership position, agreeing to be rav of the community of Przedborz, Poland. In the last years of his life, he decided to move to Eretz Yisrael. He and many of his Chasidim arrived at Akko on Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan. He traveled to Yerushalyim, but immediately took ill. Tragically, between the illness and the Arabs, he was never able to daven at the kosel, his life-long dream. He was succeeded by his son, Rav Elazar Mendel, and a vibrant community of Lelover Chasidim still exist in Eretz Yisrael today.

Sadly, the community in Przedborz – about 4500 Jews – was demolished at Treblinka.

Joel calls the evil inclination the “host of the north,” as it is written [Joel, ii. 20]: “And the host of the north will I remove.” (The expression in Hebrew is Tzephoni, which also signifies the “hidden one,” and they interpret it as the evil spirit which is hidden in the heart of man.)

Sukkah Chapter 5


19 December in History

In 1882, birthdate of Bronislaw Huberman, the Polish born violinist who founded the Palestine Philharmonic Orchestra in 1936. After the creation of the state of Israel, a year after Huberman’s death, the orchestra would change its name to the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.

12 Tevet in History

Today marks the passing of Rav Moshe Margulies, author of Pnei Moshe on the Yerushalmi in 1781.

At first, the evil inclination appears as insignificant and thin as a cobweb, and finally he becomes as thick as a wagon-rope: “Woe unto those that draw iniquity with the cords of falsehood, and as with a wagon-rope, sinfulness” (Isaiah 5:18).

Sukkah Chapter 5


14 December in History

In 1799, President George Washington passed away. Washington’s letters of acceptance to Jewish communities in the early days of the United States set the tone for acceptance that has made it possible for the Jewish community to flourish.

7 Tevet in History

Today marks the passing of Rav Moshe David Walli (Vally; Vali) (1697-1777). The foremost talmid (student) of Ramchal in Padua, Italy, he practiced as a physician in Padova. When the Ramchal was forced to leave Italy, Rav Moshe Dovid was appointed head of the his academy in Padova. Also known as the Rama”d Vali, he wrote a commentary on commentary on Chumash.


In the future the Holy One, blessed be He, will bring the evil inclination and slaughter him in the presence of both the righteous and the wicked.

To the righteous he will look like a high mountain, and to the latter he will look like a thin hair. Both, however, will cry.

The upright will cry, saying, “How could we overpower such a high mountain?” and the wicked will cry, saying, “How could we not overcome such a thin hair?”

Sukkah Chapter 5


13 December in History

In 1250, Frederick II passed away. During his reign as Holy Roman Emperor Frederick created a secular government in Palermo, feat without parallel in the middle ages, with a written constitution that guaranteed the rights of his subjects, be they Christian, Arab, or Jew, and the religious freedom that went along with it.”

When he founded the University of Naples in 1224, “he took care that its faculty included Christians, Muslims and Jews, and that all of these languages were taught, together with the laws and literature of these cultures. Equally remarkable considering the times was Frederick’s edict ordering religious toleration for Christians, Muslims and Jews throughout his realm.”

During the Sixth Crusade, he dealt with the issues through negotiations and not military action. His rule of Jerusalem was marked by a period of “religious toleration for Muslims, Christians and Jews.”

6 Tevet in History

Today marks the passing of Rebbetzin Beila Morgenstern (1908-2006). First-born daughter of the Admor (Chassidic Leader) of Ozerov-Chenchin, Rav Moshe Yechiel Epstein, author of Aish Das and Be’er Moshe.

She married Rav Tzvi Hershel Morgenstern, a descendent of the Kotzker Rebbe. Her husband served as a principal of the Bronx Bais Yaakov. She always recited the entire sefer tehillim (book of Psalms) on the yahrtzeit (date of passing) of every one of her noble forefathers and asked Hasehm that their merit should protect all of the Jewish people. Among her grandchildren are Rav Dovid Altusky and Rav Yechiel Altusky.

“To the snake He said, ‘Dust will be your food.'” (Gen. 3).

Rav Ami and Rav Assi both commented on this. One said the explanation of this curse is that even if the snake were to eat any of the delicacies of the world, those foods would taste like dust.

The other explains the punishment was even if the snake were to eat any of the delicacies of the world, the snake would only be satiated when he ate dirt.

Yoma Chapter 8


2 August in History

The United States conducts its first census in 1790. Out of a population of four million people, there are approximately 2,000 Jews. Today the Jewish population is estimated at 5,128,000, or about 1.7% of the total population as of 2007.

Today is the birthdate of movie mogul Jack Warner (1892). Born in Canada, Warner and his four brothers founded Warner Brothers, which became a giant in the film industry. Among other claims to fame Warner Brothers produced “The Jazz Singer,” the first “talking” motion picture. Some of his stars included Bette Davis, James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart. Warner was known fir his frugality and was not necessarily that well liked. At one point his son and namesake said of his dad, “At times he gloried in being a no-good sonofabitch. If his brothers hadn’t hired him, he’d have been out of work.

In 1903, the first branch of Bank Leumi’s opened in Turkish Jaffa.

22 Av In History

Today marks the passing of Rav Mordechai ben Hillel, the “Mordechai” (~1230-1298). A descendent of the Ravyah, he was a principle disciple of the Maharam miRottenberg, and a close friend of the Rosh, who is considered one of the main pillars of Halacha, legal decision, to this day. The Mordechai cites views of French and German authorities and brings the piskei halacha (legal decisions) of the Tosefot (main European commentators on the Talmud) without the discussion, making their conclusions more easily understood.

He, his wife, and their five children were all burned at the stake during the Rindfleisch pogroms, when over 100,000 Jews in Bavaria and Austria were murdered, and well over 100 communities disappeared.

They (the Sages of of the post first Temple exile time period) said, “Since it is a time of favor(from Heaven), they would pray that the inclination for sexual desire be handed over to them too. They prayed, and he was delivered to them.

It was said to them, “Take heed. If you kill this spirit, the world will perish.” They kept him imprisoned three days. They sought in all Palestine an egg laid on that day. They could not find. They said among themselves, What should we do? If we will kill him, the world will perish. Should we pray for the half (that desire should exist only in legal cases)? We have a tradition that a half is not given from Heaven; so they put out his eyes, and left him.

Since then the inclination for sexual does not excite desire toward relatives.

Yoma Chapter 7


6 July in History

On 6 July 2008 Dr. Efraim Zuroff, the Wiesenthal Center’s chief Nazi-hunter, headed to South America as part of a public campaign to capture the most wanted Nazi in the world, Aribert Heim, also known as “Dr. Death” and bring him to justice, claiming that Heim was alive and hiding in Patagonia, either in Chile or Argentina. Dr. Zuroff elaborated on July 15, 2008 that he was sure Heim was alive and the groundwork had been laid to capture him within weeks.

Heim is alleged to have lived for many years in Cairo, Egypt under the alias of Tarek Farid Hussein and reportedly died there on August 10, 1992. His grave and body have not been found. At the end of a BBC documentary, broadcast 12 September 2009, it was stated that German Police visited Cairo in 2009 but found no evidence of Heim’s death.

24 Tammuz in History

In 1099 CE, when the crusaders captured Jerusalem during the First Crusade, the Jews of Jerusalem fled into a synagogue. The crusaders then set flame to the synagogue, burning alive all the Jewish men, women, and children who had taken refuge there. All Jews were barred from living in the city of Jerusalem for the following 88 years.


“They (the Sages of the post first Temple exile time period) cried with a loud voice to God.” What did they say? They cried, “Woe! Woe! The evil inclination for idolatry has destroyed the Temple, has killed all the just men, and exiled Israel from their land, and we see him yet among us. Why did You (God) created this inclination? To reward us more for overcoming him. We wish neither him nor the rewards.” Then fell down a piece of paper from Heaven, which was written on it: “Emeth” (Truth). [Says R. Hanina: Infer from this that the seal of the Holy One, blessed be He, is “Truth.”]

They fasted three days and three nights. Then he (the evil inclination) was delivered into their hands. They saw a lion-cub of fire went out from the Holy of Holies. Then the prophet said to them, “Here is the evil spirit of idolatry.” As it is written [Zechariah v. 8], “This is the wickedness.” They caught him.

When a hair was torn out from his mane, he issued a cry which was heard at the distance of four hundred parsas. They said, “If he cries so loud, what can we do to him? He may be pitied in Heaven; what should we do so his voice be not heard? They were then advised to throw him into a leaden pot, as lead muffles the voice. They put him into a leaden pot, and covered it with a leaden lid, as it is written [ibid.], “And he said, this is the wickedness. And he cast it into the middle of the ephah, and he cast the weighty lead cover upon the mouth thereof.”

Since then idolatry ceased among Israel.

Yoma Chapter 7


5 July in History

In 1936, a Czechoslovak press photographer, Stephan Lux, shot himself in Geneva, during the League of Nations Assembly meeting, in protest against the treatment of Jews in Germany. He died in hospital the following night.

23 Tammuz in History

Rav Moshe Cordovero (Remak) (1522-1570). The Remak was the son of Rav Yaakov, one of the exiles from Cardova, Spain. He studied under the great kabbalists Rav Shlomo HaLevi Alkabetz (who would become his brother-in-law) and Rav Yosef Karo. Rav Chaim Vital was among his greatest talmidim. He was the author of Tomer Devora and Pardes Rimonim. In the latter book, he systematized all kabbalistic knowledge that had been revealed until then. In his sefer, Ohr Ne’erav, he explains the necessity of studying Kabbalah but also criticizes those who study this subject without prior Torah knowledge, pointing out that one must first study Torah, Mishnah, and Gemara before studying Kabbalah. He also wrote a comprehensive commentary on the Zohar entitled Ohr Yakar, but it was not published for 400 years. Publication of this multi-volume work was finally begun in 1962 and completed in 1989. Although he served as Rosh Yeshiva and as a Dayan, his fame rests on his contribution to Kabbalistic literature and thought.

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