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Rabbi Yonatan son of Joseph said, “How do we know that the Sabbath should be violate to save a person’s life? The Torah states, (Ex. xxxi. 14) “For it is holy to you.” To you: The Sabbath is for you, but not you for the Sabbath.”

Rabbi Simeon son of Menasseh says, “It is written (ibid. 16): ‘And the children of Israel should keep the Sabbath.’ The Torah states: Violate one Sabbath, that you may keep many Sabbaths.”

Rabbi Jehudah said, “Samuel has said, “If I had been there, I would have said a thing better than this; namely, it is written (Lev. xviii. 5): “You should keep my statutes . . . which, if a man do, he should live by them.” He shall live by them, but not die because of them.”

Yoma Chapter 8

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26 August in History

In 1920, the 19th amendment to United States Constitution takes effect, giving women the right to vote. Numerous Jewish women were active in the “suffragette movement” including Rose Schenidermann who was the leader of New York City’s Women’s Suffragette Party and the untold numbers of “Jewish women garment works who represented the very core of the National American Woman Suffrage Association.

16 Elul in History

Today marks the passing of Rav Avraham Landau, the Strikover Rebbe of Bnei Brak (1917-2001). Born in Kinov, in the Ostrovtze region of Poland. His father, Rav Yaakov Yitzchak Dan, served as rabbi of the city.

Avraham was raised by his grandfather, Rav Elimelech Menachem Mendel. At the age of 13, Avraham began to study in the Chachmei Lublin yeshiva. When the 2nd World War broke out, he was at his parents’ home and he fled with his father to Lodz, from which the family fled to Warsaw, and from there, at the directive of his father, Avraham fled to Baranowitz.

A week after his arrival in Baranowitz he fled to Vilna, during Chanukah 1939. There, he began to study under the Griz (Rav Velvel Soloveitchik) of Brisk.

In 1946, he married a great-granddaughter of the Chiddushei Harim of Gur. After their marriage he learned that his father and eight of his siblings had perished in the Holocaust, and that only he and his sister remained alive from the entire Strikover dynasty.

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The rabbis taught, “The Sabbath is superseded when life is threatened; and with more alacrity this is done, the greater the person is to be praised. Permission from Beth Din (the Rabbinical court) need not be taken to try to save a life.

How so? If a child is seen to have fallen into the sea, it should be fished out for immediately; and the sooner one does this, the more praiseworthy he is; and no permission from Beth Din is to be taken for it, even if in the process he will take up in the net some fish (fishing is not allowed on the Sabbath).

Yoma Chapter 8

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24 August in History

In 1936, three United States Senators, Royal S. Copeland of New York, Warren Austin of Vermont and Daniel Hastings of Delaware, marked the second day of their tour of Palestine which had begun in Jerusalem.

14 Elul in History

Today, the oldest existing ketuba (marital contract) was written in the Western Hemisphere, 1643 (Yitzchak and Yehudit).

The danger to life supersedes Sabbath, not only if the danger is this Sabbath, but will be the next Sabbath as well. Violated the Sabbath must not be done through Gentiles or Samaritans, but the greatest Israelites.

Yoma Chapter 8

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23 August in History

In 1567, the Polish king, Sigismund II Augustus, issued an edict, granting the Jews permission to open a yeshiva at Lublin. “As a result of the efforts of our advisors and in keeping with the request of the Jews of Lublin we do hereby grant permission to erect a yeshiva and to outfit said yeshiva with all that is required to advance learning. All the learned men and rabbis of Lublin shall come together for among their number they shall choose one to serve as the head of the yeshiva. Let their choice be a man who will magnify Torah and bring it glory.”(Edict dated August 21, 1567)

13 Elul in History

Today marks the passing of, Rav Yosef Chaim of Baghdad, author of Ben Ish Chai, Od Yosef Chai, Rav Pe’alim, Ben Yehoyada, Aderet Eliyahu, and Imrei Bina, and many other works (1832-1904). Both his grandfather, Rav Moshe Chaim, and his father, Rav Eliyahu, served as Rav of Baghdad.

Rav Eliyahu and his wife were childless for many years. Finally, 10 years after their marriage, his wife made the long journey from Baghdad to Morocco to request a blessing from the renowned Rav Yaakov Buchatzeira, the Abir Yaakov. The tzaddik blessed her that she would give birth to a child who would one day illuminate the eyes of Jews everywhere. Less than a year later, she gave birth to a boy, who was named Yosef Chaim.

As a child, he spent most of his time studying in his father’s large library. At the age of 10, he left the Sephardic cheder in which he learned and began to study with his uncle, the tzaddik Rav Dovid Chai Nissim. Rav Dovid later founded the famed Shoshanim LeDovid Yeshiva located in the Beis Yisrael section of Yerushalayim. When his father passed away, Rav Yosef Chaim was only 25 years old. Nevertheless, the Jews of Baghdad accepted him to fill his fathers position as Rav of Baghdad.

His opinion on halachic issues was sought throughout the Sephardi world and is still followed by thousands of people from these communities, and even outside these communities. Rav Yosef Chaim’s son, Rav Yaakov, succeeded him as rav and maggid of Baghdad. His main disciple was the kabbalist and tzaddik Rav Yehuda Moshe Petaya.

If a building collapses, and it is doubtful whether anyone is buried beneath the ruins or not; if it is doubtful whether he be dead or alive, it is permitted to remove the ruins from above him on the Sabbath.

If he is found alive, the ruins are to be entirely removed. If he is dead, he is to be left there.

Yoma Chapter 8

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19 August in History

In 1622, French philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal passed away. Unlike some other French philosophers Pascal thought highly of the Jewish people as the following quote proves, “It is certain that in certain parts of the world we can see a peculiar people, separated from the other peoples of the world and this is called the Jewish people…. This people is not only of remarkable antiquity but has also lasted for a singularly long time… For where as the people of Greece and Italy, of Sparta, Athens and Rome and others who came so much later have perished so long ago, these still exist, despite the efforts of so many powerful kings who have tried a hundred times to wipe them out, as their historians testify, and as can easily be judged by the natural order of things over such a long spell of years. They have always been preserved, however, and their preservation was foretold… My encounter with this people amazes me….”

9 Elul in History

Nachmanides (Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman, 1194-1270) arrived in Jerusalem, after being forced to flee his native Spain and renewed its Jewish community there in 1267. The synagogue he established is functional today, having been restored following the liberation of the Old City during the Six-Day War in 1967.

Rabbi Mathia son of Harash said, “If a person has a sore throat, it is permitted to put drugs into his throat on Sabbath (usually, taking medicine on Shabbat is prohibited), because the disease may endanger his life, and what ever threatens a person’s life supersedes Sabbath.”

Yoma Chapter 8

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17 August in History

In 1790, President George Washington visits Newport, Rhode Island, where he is given “the address of the ‘Hebrew Congregation of Newport’” that expressed their appreciation for the rights and liberties that the Jews enjoyed in the United States. It was in response to this document, that Washington wrote his famous reply guaranteeing the Jews religious liberty. He wrote:

May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants—while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.

May the father of all mercies scatter light, and not darkness, upon our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in His own due time and way everlastingly happy.

G. Washington

7 Elul in History

Amram and Yocheved, Moses’s parents, had separated because of Pharaoh’s decree that all male Jewish babies be killed. Prompted by their six-year-old daughter Miriam’s rebuke, “Pharaoh decreed againsat the males; you decreed against the males and the females”, they remarried on the 7th of Elul of the year 2367 from creation (1394 BCE).

Moses was born six months and one day later on Adar 7, 2368 (Talmud, Sotah 12b).

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