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Rabbi Akiva said, “Happy are you, Israel. Before whom do you cleanse yourselves? Who cleanses you? Your Father who in Heaven. It is written, (Ezek. xxxvi. 25), “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and you will be clean”; and it is also written, “The Mikveh (hope, or legal bath) of Israel is the Lord.” As the immersion bath purifies the unclean, so does the Holy One, blessed be He, cleanse Israel.

Yoma Chapter 8


2 September in History

In 1926, today is the birthdate of department store mogul, political activist and philanthropist Betsy Bloomingdale.

23 Elul in History

On the 301st day of the great Flood, Noah sent a dove for the 2nd time from the ark. This time, the dove stayed away all day; “the dove came in to him in the evening, and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf plucked off; and Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth” (Genesis 8:11).

The Day of Atonement atones for a sin against God; but does not atone for a sin against another person until that person has been appeased.

Rabbi Eliezer son of Azariah explained, “It is written (Lev. 16:30), “From all your sins before God will you be cleansed [on the Day of Atonement].’ Meaning, the sin towards God, the Day of Atonement atones for; but sins toward man, the Day of Atonement cannot atone for till the neighbor has been appeased.

Yoma Chapter 8


31 August in History

In 1909, Nobel laureate Paul Ehrlich began the first chemotherapy when with his assistant Sahachiro Hato, a rabbit infected with syphilis was injected with “Preparation 606.” This number marked the 606th chemical devised and tested by Ehrlich’s team at his Frankfort laboratory. The compound was so successful that the sores on the rabbit promptly healed. The term “chemotherapy” meaning therapy with chemicals, was coined by Erhlich.

21 Elul in History

Today (or tomorrow according to some) marks the passing of Rav Yaakov HaLevi ben Moshe Moellin (the Maharil). Born in Mainz, Germany, he was the primary disciple of Rav Shalom of Neustadt. The Maharil authored Minhagei Maharil, the primary source of Minhagei Ashkenaz, cited frequently by the Rema in Shulchan Aruch. The Maharil lived through the mass slaughter of Jews in Austria in 1420 and the Hussite wars in 1421, which brought suffering to the Jews of Bavaria and the Rhine.

For a person who thinks, “I will sin and the Day of Atonement will atone for my sins,” the Day of Atonement does not atone.

Yoma Chapter 8


30 August in History

In 1835, today marks the founding of Melbourne, Australia. The first synagogue opened in Melbourne in 1847. Melbourne provided the first native born Australian to serve as Governor-General – a lawyer named Isaac Isaacs. King George V was reportedly reluctant to appoint Isaacs to the post because he was Jewish. Prime Minister James Scullin assured the reluctant monarch that Australians took a more liberal view than most Englishmen did in such matters. They were not bothered by the matter of religion and therefore, the appointment was made without further complications

20 Elul in History

Today is the passing of Rav Eliyahu Lopian (1872-1970), author of Lev Eliyahu. He was the mashgiach (spiritual advisor) of Kelm; Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Etz Chaim in London, and mashgiach at Kfar Chassidim. R’ Shalom Schwadron (1911-1997) was one of his students.

After having dedicated 25 years of his life to Yeshivat Eitz Chaim, Reb Elyahu passed the leadership of the yeshivah over to Rav Greenspan.

Reb Elyahu moved to Israel in 1950, when he was 76 years old.

For a person who says, “I will sin, then repent, I will sin again, then repent again,” it is not within such a person’s reach to repent.

Yoma Chapter 8


29 August in History

Birthdate of English philosopher John Locke, 1632. Locke influenced the Founding Fathers of the United States. In 1689 he wrote his “Letter Concerning Toleration” in which he stated “Neither Pagan, nor Jew, ought to be excluded from the civil rights of the commonwealth because of his religion.” Locke was asked to right a constitution for the new colony of South Carolina. At the time, Christian merchants were complaining about the active involvement of Jews in the trade between South Carolina and the English Colony of Barbados. Locke saw the problem as bigotry, not “swarming Jewish merchants.” He inserted a line in the colonial charter that called for the protection of “Jews, heathens and other dissenters.”

19 Elul in History

Today marks the passing of Rav Moshe Zvi Aryeh Bick (1911-1990). Born in Medzbosz (Mezhbizh), Ukraine, but grew up in New York, he is recognized as one of the first great sages to be raised on American soil.

He studied under R’ Moshe Soloveitchik at the Yeshiva Rabbeinu Yitzchak Elchanan Spektor and attended New York City public schools at night. At age 21, R’ Bick was hired by a shul in the Bronx. While there, he founded schools for both boys and girls. Later, he moved to Boro Park.

He was recognized as a master posek by both chassidic and non-chassidic communities, but never published his responsa.

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November 2020