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Rise, be radiant, your light has come.
God’s honor will shine on you.
Darkness will cover the land,
Thick clouds will cover people;
God will shine on you,
His honor will be seen on you.

Nations will walk by your light;
Kings, by your shining radiance.

~~~

Your people, all of them are righteous;
They will inherit the land, forever.
[They are] the sprout I have planted;
My handiwork, which will glorify Me.

The smallest will be a thousand,
The young, a mighty nation.

I am God.
In its time, I will hasten it.

Isaiah 60:1-3; 21-22

~~~

27 August in History

In 1929, while Moslem leaders in Jerusalem have issued an appeal to Arab raiders to return to work and cease their attacks, widespread disorders occurred in Palestine. Marauding band of Arabs have left hundreds of victims, dead and wounded, from Dan to Beersheba while British troops have been unable to stop the violence.

17 Elul in History

In 2105 BCE, following the failed attempt to dispatch a raven from the ark, Noah sent a dove from the window of the ark to see if the great Flood that covered the earth had abated. “But the dove found no resting place for the sole of its foot” and returned to the ark; Noah waited seven days before making another attempt.

28 August in History

In 430 CE, St. Augustine of Hippo passed away. Augustine believed that Jews should be allowed to survive in a Christian world to provide credence to roots of Christianity. But Jews should live at best as “second class” citizens in that Christian world to serve as a reminder of their fall from God’s favor for rejecting Jesus as the Son of God and as proof that God had made the Christians the new Chosen People.

18 Elul in History

Today is the sixth of the the seven weeks of consolation that bridge the Shabbat after the Ninth of Av with the Shabbat preceding Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year. A passage of consolation from the book of Isaiah is read as the Haftara.

Today marks the passing of Rav Yehuda Loew, the Maharal (1525-1609). Born in Posen, Poland, on the night of the Pesach Seder, to a distinguished family of rabbis that traced its ancestry to King Dovid.

He was the youngest of four brothers. The Maharal married at the age of 32 to Pearl. He had six girls and one boy who was named after the Maharal’s father, Betzalel. In 1553 he was elected rabbi of Nikolsburg and the Province of Moravia, where he remained for the following 20 years.

In 1573 he moved to Prague, where he opened a yeshiva. In 1592 the Maharal accepted the position of rabbi in Posen, returning to Prague in 1598 to serve as its chief rabbi.

The Maharal castigated the educational methods of his day where boys were taught at a very young age and insisted that children must be taught in accordance with their intellectual maturity. One of his leading disciples was R. Yom Tov Heller, author of the classic mishnaic commentary, Tosafos Yom Tov, who, in his introduction informs us that the Maharal greatly encouraged group study of the Mishna.

At the same time, he was fully conversant with the scientific knowledge of his time as well as friendly with some of the contemporary eminent scientists. His disciple, Dovid Ganz, worked in the observatory of Tycho Brahe, the distinguished astronomer.

He was a prolific writer, and his works include: Tiferet Yisrael on the greatness of Torah and mitzvot (good deeds); Netivot Olam, on ethics; Be’er Hagolah, a commentary on rabbinic sayings; Netzach Yisrael, on exile and redemption; Or Chadash, on the book of Esther; Ner Mitzvah, on Chanukah; Gevurot Hashem, on the Exodus; and many others.

Rav Kook stated that the “Maharal was the father of the approach of the Gaon of Vilna on the one hand, and of the father of Chasidut, on the other hand.” He has been described as a Kabbalist who wrote in philosophic language.

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Shout out barren one,
You without child;
Shout, sing, chant,
One who has not labored,
For your children born of your desolation,
Are greater than the children of your marriage,
Says God.

~

For a tiny moment I left you,
With enormous compassion I will draw you in.

~

As the waters of Noah,
Which I have promised will not again pass over the land,
So I have sworn,
To never be furious with you; to never rebuke you.

The mountains may disappear,
The hills may move,
My kindness to you will never disappear,
My covenant of peace will never move,
Says God, who loves you.

Isaiah 54:1, 7, 9-10

~~~

20 August in History

In 1856, in the “English Celebrities” a column published today, the author provides a description of Benjamin Disraeli which includes the following, “Nor is his faithfulness to his friendships less remarkable than his devoted attention to his old and silly wife…as Disraeli says ‘I owe her everything. But some men forget these things. Not so Disraeli…at no party is he to be found without fat, middle-age, gray-haired lady, hanging on his arm. But this domestic love is an essentially Jewish trait.”

In 1893, Sh’chita (ritual slaughter) was banned in Switzerland. (The ban is still in place and the Jewish community gets its meat from several different countries.)

10 Elul in History

On the 10th of Elul of the year 1656 from creation (2105 BCE), as the Great Flood neared its end, Noah opened the window of the Ark and dispatched a raven to determine if the flood waters had begun to recede (Genesis 8:1; Rashi)

21 August in History

In 1906, today was the birthdate of Fritz Frelang. Born in Kansas City, Frelang was one of the great cartoon animators. He worked for Warner Brothers for over thirty years. His work includes the Merry Melody series, The Pink Panther, Tweety Bird and Yosemite Sam. He passed away in 1996.

In 1923, today is the birthdate of Shimon Peres, Israeli political leader.

11 Elul in History

Today is the fifth of the the seven weeks of consolation that bridge the Shabbat after the Ninth of Av with the Shabbat preceding Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year. A passage of consolation from the book of Isaiah is read as the Haftara.

n 1522, Rabbi Yosef Caro started writing the Beit Yosef, his famous commentary on the Arba Turim, Yaakov Ben Asher’s comprehensive Halachic code. He started writing this commentary in Adrianople, Turkey, and continued for the next twenty years, during which time he relocated to Safed, Israel. He completed the monumental work on the 11th of Elul. It took another ten years for the writings to be published.

How pleasant are the footsteps on the mountain
The footsteps of the messenger,
Calling out peace,
Announcing goodness,
Calling out salvation,
Saying to Zion:
“Your God is King!”

The voice of your watchmen
Shout out together, for joy,
Each eye will see
God’s return to Zion.

Break out, shout together,
Ruins of Jerusalem.
God will comfort His nation:
He will redeem Jerusalem.

Isiah 52:7-9

~~~

13 August in History

In 1872, birthdate of German born chemist, Richard Willstätter. Willstatter won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1915 for his study of the structure of chlorophyll and other plant pigments. He resigned his position on the faculty at a university in Munich over the issue of anti-Semitism. After Hitler’s rise to power, he fled to Switzerland where he died in 1942.

3 Elul in History

Today marks the passing of Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook, Chief Rabbi of Israel for 19 years of his life (1865-1935). The first chief rabbi of what was then Palestine, Rav Kook was perhaps the most misunderstood figure of his time. Born in Latvia of staunch Chassidic and Misnagid stock, he retained throughout his life a unique blend of the mystical and the rational. He was a thorough master of the entire Halachic, Midrashic, philosophic, ethical, and Kabbalistic literature.

He saw the return to Eretz Yisrael as not merely a political phenomenon to save Jews from persecution, but an event of extraordinary historical and theological significance. Rabbi Hutner once said that Rav Kook peered down on our world from great heights and hence his perspective was unique. Above all, Rav Kook pulsated with a sense of the Divine.

Though keenly aware of the huge numbers of non-observant Jews, he had a vision of the repentance of the nation. His concept of repentance envisioned in addition to the repentance of the individual, a repentance of the nation as a whole; a repentance which would be joyous and healing. He refused to reject Jews as long as they identified themselves as Jews. He called for and envisioned a spiritual renaissance where “the ancient would be renewed and the new would be sanctified.”

14 August in History

In 1447, following a fire in Posen (Poland) where the original charter granting the Jews “privileges” was written, (by Casimir the Great), Casimir IV renewed all of their rights, making his charter one of the most liberal in Europe. This charter lasted less than a decade before it was revoked.

4 Elul in History

Today is the fourth of the the seven weeks of consolation that bridge the Shabbat after the Ninth of Av with the Shabbat preceding Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year. A passage of consolation from the book of Isaiah is read as the Haftara.

Today is the Yahrzeit of Rav Meir Simcha Hakohen of Dvinsk, the Ohr Someach and Meshech Chochma (1843-1926). In a famous near prophetic passage written before 1926, he presents a brilliant theory of Jewish history in exile and refers to those who forget their origins and think “Berlin is Jerusalem”, and are doomed to destruction (B’chukosai). R’ Meir Simcha served as Rabbi of Dvinsk for nearly 40 years. R’ Meir Simcha was a strong supporter of the settlement of Eretz Yisrael and greeted the Balfour Declaration with enthusiasm. In 1906 he was offered the position of rabbi of Jerusalem but bowed to the entreaties of his congregants to remain in Dvinsk.

Impoverished, storm tossed, and uncomforted:
I will lay red garnets as your building stones,
Make your foundations of sapphire.

I will make your walls rubies,
Your gates will be of precious stones.
Your boundaries will be of precious gems.

All of you children will be students of God;
Your children will have great peace.

~~~

No weapon formed against you will succeed,
Every tongue that rises against you in judgement,
You will defeat.
This is the inheritance of God;
Their vindication is from Me,
Declares the Lord.

Isaiah 54:11-13; 17

~~~

6 August in History

In 1926, Harry Houdini performs his greatest feat, spending 91 minutes underwater in a sealed tank before escaping.

7 August in History

In 1933, the Nazis murdered Felix Fechnebach, a Jewish Editor in Dachau.

26 Av in History

Today marks the passing of Rav Meir Ashkenazi, Rav of Shanghai (1891-1954). Born in Tcherikov, in Russia’s Pale of Settlement., to Lubavitcher Chassidim. At the outbreak of the First World War, his family — together with many others — fled Russia to Manchuria. It was there, in the city of Harbin, that Rav Meir and Toiba Liba were married. Rav Ashkenazi and his family moved to the port-city of Vladivostok on the eastern coast of Russia.

Not long afterwards, in 1918, the community there appointed Rav Ashkenazi as their rabbi. After seven years, he moved to assist the small Jewish community in Shanghai, China. Deteriorating conditions in Europe in the 1930’s led to a slow stream of German, Austrian, and Russian Jews into the Far East, which increased considerably at the outbreak of the Second World War. By the end of 1941, there were 18,000 Jewish refugees in Shanghai, ten times the number of Jews in Shanghai just ten years earlier.

27 Av in History

Today is the third of the the seven weeks of consolation that bridge the Shabbat after the Ninth of Av with the Shabbat preceding Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year. A passage of consolation from the book of Isaiah is read as the Haftara.

Today is the yahrzeit of Rav Yehoshua Charif of Cracow (1648), author of Maginei Shlomo, an attempt to resolve the questions of the Baalei Tosefos against Rashi. He was the great-grandfather of the Pnei Yehoshua.

Born in Vilna at end of 16th century, he arrived in Cracow in 1640 as Rosh Yeshiva, replacing Rav Yoel Sirkis (the Bach) as Rav a few months later. He held the position until Rav Yom Tov Lipman Heller (Tosefos Yom Tov) became Rav in 1643. Among his talmidim was Rav Shabsai Cohen (the Shach).

Zion says,
“God has forsaken me,
My Master has forgotten me.”

[God says] Can a woman forget her child?
[Though] she might be consoled [over the lost] son of her womb,
She may forget;
I could never forget you.

~~~

The children of your bereavement [lost to exile],
Will soon say in your ears,
“This place is too crowded for me;
Make room so I can settle!”

And you will say to yourself,
“Who bore these for me,
When I was bereaved and lonely,
Exiled and bitter
But these, who raised them?
I was left alone;
Where have these been?”

Isaiah 49:14-15; 20-21

~~~
30 July in History

In 1792, Baltimore, Maryland is founded. Jews were already living in the colony of Maryland when Baltimore was founded. The Jewish community in Baltimore is one of the oldest in the country. However, the first building that was built as a synagogue, the Lloyd Street Synagogue, was not constructed until 1845.

31 July in History

In 1992, Rishon Lezion or First For Zion was founded by a group of 10 families in Eretz Israel. The settlement marked the beginning of the first Aliyah (going up) to Eretz- Israel, and the beginning of Rothschild’s deep involvement with settlement activities. Later that year, Baron Edmund De Rothschild in response to the Russian pogroms and a plea by Rabbi Samuel Mohilever agreed to help the new Moshava (settlement).

19 Av in History

Rav Shimon Shalom Kalish, the Amshinover Rebbe (1863-1954). Born to Rav Menachem of Amshinov, a grandson of Rav Yitzchak of Vorka, founder of the Vorka-Amshinov dynasty. During his teens, Reb Shimon was sent to learn with his uncle, Rav Yeshaya of Peshischa.

In 1918, Rav Menachem of Amshinov passed away, and his older son, Rav Yosef took his place as Rebbe. Rav Shimon was sent to Otvotzk, a suburb of Warsaw. He also became a member of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah. In 1933, he spent a full year in Eretz Yisrael with his son, Rav Yerachmiel Yehuda Meir. Although he wished to stay, his obligations forced him to move back to Europe.

The Rebbe escaped to Kobe, Japan, along with a group pf talmidim, students, of Yeshivas Chachmei Lublin, and the entire Mir Yeshiva. After the war, he spent 8 years in America. He passed away while planning his emigration to Eretz Yisrael, a goal he never accomplished. He did author the sefer, Mashmia Shalom. His son, Rav Meir, became the Amshinover Rebbe in Bayit Vegan and was niftar in 1976.

20 Av in History

This Shabbat is the second of the seven weeks of consolation that bridge the Shabbat after the Ninth of Av with the Shabbat preceding Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year. A passage of consolation from the book of Isaiah is read as the Haftara.

In 1558 was the first printing of the Zohar, the fundamental work of the Kabbalah (Jewish esoteric and mystical teachings), authored by the Talmudic sage, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai.

Comfort, comfort My people,
Says God.

Speak to the heart of Jerusalem,
Call out to her!
Her service is full,
Her sin is forgiven:
She has taken from God’s hand,
A double portion for all her sins.

A voice is calling in the desert:
Clear out the way for God!
Level the wilderness!
A highway for our God.

Every valley will be raised,
Every mountain and hill be made low,
That which is bent, be made straight,
The ridges be a plain.

The honor of God will be revealed,
Together, all flesh will see it.

The mouth of God has spoken.

Isaiah 40:1-4

~~~

23 July in History

Today in 1501 a violent earth quake hit the land of Israel. The town of Akko was totally destroyed.

24 July in History

In 1918, on Mt. Scopus in Jerusalem, Dr. Chaim Weizmann laid the cornerstone for Hebrew University. It would be several more years before construction began and the university would actually become a reality.

12 Av in History

By order of King James I of Aragon (Spain), Nachmanides (Rabbi Moses ben Nachman, 1194-1270) was compelled to participate in a public debate, held in the king’s presence, against the Jewish convert to Christianity, Pablo Christiani. His brilliant defense of Judaism and refutations of Christianity’s claims served as the basis of many such future disputations through the generations.

Because his victory was an insult to the king’s religion, Nachmanides was forced to flee Spain. He came to Jerusalem, where he found just a handful of Jewish families living in abject poverty, and revived the Jewish community there. The synagogue he built in the Old City is in use today, and is perhaps the oldest standing synagogue in the world.

Now called the Hurva Synagogue, it was recently rebuild after the Arabs destroyed it when the Jews were forced out of the Old City in 1948. Click here to see a picture.

13 Av in History

Av 13 is the day of the passing, at age 101, of the famed philanthropist and Jewish advocate, Sir Moses Montefiore (1784-1885).

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