You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Torah’ tag.

On the days of Shavuot (when the Torah was given) R. Joseph used to say to his servants, “Prepare for me a calf which is the third-born (of the third birth and which was the finest meat available).”

He would explain, “Were it not for this day, how many Josephs are there abroad!” (Were it not for the Torah, R. Joseph would not be distinguished among all the other people name Joseph).

Beitzah Chapter 2

~~~

18 January in History

On January 18, 1943, the Germans began their second deportation of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto, which led to the first instance of armed resistance. The deportation was halted within a few days; only 5,000 Jews were removed instead of 8,000 as planned. The Nazis retreated, only to return three months later, at which time the Warsaw uprising started in earnest.

13 Shevat in History

Wife of the fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Sholom DovBer Schneerson, and mother of the sixth Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak, Rebbetzin Shterna Sarah (1860-1942) lived through the upheavals of the first half of the 20th century. She fled the advancing front of World War I from Lubavitch to Rostov, where her husband passed away in 1920 at age 59.

In 1927, she witnessed the arrest of her son by Stalin’s henchmen the night he was taken away and sentenced to death, G-d forbid, for his efforts to keep Judaism alive throughout the Soviet empire.

After Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak’s release, the family resettled in Latvia and later, Poland; in 1940, they survived the bombing of Warsaw, were rescued from Nazi-occupied city, and emigrated to the United States.

Rebbetzin Shterna Sarah passed away in New York on the 13th of Shevat of 1942.

Advertisements

The vessels of the Holy One, blessed be He, are not as the vessels of human beings: A human being can put only something into an empty vessel, but if the vessel is full, he can put in nothing; but the Holy One, blessed be He, can add to a full vessel, but can put nothing into an empty one, as it is written [Deut. xxviii. 1]: “If you will surely listen”;  i.e., if you have heard diligently, you can receive more knowledge, but if not diligently, you can hear nothing.

Another interpretation for this verse is this: If you have given your attention to what you have learned before, you can learn from it new things; but if you have turned away your heart from the old teaching, you cannot learn anything new.

Sukkah Chapter 4

~~~

18 November in History

In 1906, today was the birthdate of biologist George Wald, American biochemist who received (with Haldan K. Hartline of the U.S. and Ragnar Granit of Sweden) the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1967 for his work on the chemistry of vision. While researching the biochemistry of vision at Harvard University, he disclosed the presence of Vitamin A in the retina of the eye. In later work, he identified visual pigments and their precursors. As a byproduct he described the absorption spectra of the different types of cones serving color vision. His important discovery of the primary molecular reaction to light in the eye represented a dramatic advance in vision since it plays the role of a trigger in the photoreceptors of all living animals.

11 Kislev in History

Today marks the passing of Rav Yitzchak Friedman (1924). Born in Sadigura, both of his parents were grandchildren of the Ruzhiner Rebbe. In 1903, he married, and with the passing of his father, he set up his court in Rimanov. He died during a fund-raising expedition in the United States. A close friend and relative collected hespedim for the Rebbe in a sefer called Akeidas Yitzchak.

R. Samuel b. Na’hmain in the name of R. Jonathan finds a contradiction of the following two verses: ‘The precepts of the God are upright, rejoicing the heart,'(Ps. xix. 9) and ‘The word of God refines (ibid. xviii. 31).’ In one place the word of God makes a person rejoice, in the other the word of God refines a person.

This can be answered as follows: If he has merited, it makes him rejoice; otherwise, it refines him.

Yoma Chapter 7

~~~

26 July in History

In 1605, a Jesuit Missionary traveling though China wrote a letter describing his meetings with Ai T’ien, a Chinese Jewish teacher. Most of what we know regarding the Kaifeng Jewish community is from this correspondence. The community was known by their Han Chinese neighbors as adherents of Tiaojinjiao (挑筋教), meaning, loosely, the religion which removes the sinew, a reference to the dietary restriction which prohibits eating the sciatic nerve.

15 Av in History

In wake of the incident of the “Spies,” in which the generation that came out of Egypt under Moses’ leadership demonstrated their unpreparedness for the task of conquering and settling the Holy Land, God decreed that entire generation would die out in the desert. After 38 years of wandering through the wilderness the dying finally ended, and a new generation of Jews stood ready to enter the Holy Land. It was the 15th of Av of the year 2487 from creation (1274 BCE).

Today is famous for many other events, such as in ancient Israel, it was the custom that on the 15th of Av “the daughters of Jerusalem would go out in borrowed linen garments (so as not to embarrass those without beautiful clothes of their own)… and dance in the vineyards” and “whoever did not have a wife would go there” to find himself a bride (Talmud, Taanit 31a).

R. Joshua b. Levi said, it is written [Deut. iv. 44]: “This is the law which Moses set (in Hebrew, sam, which literally means medicine).” If he has merited, it becomes to him a medicine of life; if not, it becomes to him a poison.

Yoma Chapter 7

~~~

25 July in History

Three tankers carrying more than 1600 Jews from the Italian-held island of Rhodes stop at the island of Kos, where 94 additional Jews are forced aboard.

14 Av in History

Rav Yitzchak Friedman, the Bohusher Rebbe (1903-1992). Born in Spikov, Russia to his father Rav Shalom Yosef.

Rava would say to his students, “I beg of you, do not inherit two portions of Gehinom (hell).”

Rashi: Two portions of Gehinom: to be involved in studying Torah in this world and not fulfilling it will cause you to inherit Gehinom at death; and in your life you did not get pleasure from your toil.

Yoma Chapter 7
~~~
22 July in History

Birthdate of the poet Emma Lazarus 1849. She became famous as the author of “The New Colossus” written in 1883, four years before her death. This poem appears at the base of the Statue of Liberty and is a celebration of America as the land of the immigrant. The poem read:

The New Colossus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles.
From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Emma Lazarus, 1883

To give one a sense of the times in which she lived the New York Times described her not as a Jew, but as who belonged “to one of the best known and oldest Hebrew families of the city…”

10 Av in History

Rav Don Yitzchak Abarbanel (1437-1508). Abrabanel was born in Lisbon, Portugal, to an illustrious Sephardic family which traced its lineage back to David Hamelech. His grandfather, Rav Shmuel, escaped from Seville, Spain, when the Catolics destroyed the Jewish quarter, mudering many Jews.

When Rav Yitzchak was only 20, he completed his first book, Ateres Zekeinim, and began to work on his famous commentary on the Torah. In the Summer of 1471, following the victory of King Alfonso V over Morocco, an emissary of the Moroccan Jewish community, Emmanuel ben Yitzchak, approached Don Yitzchak Abrabanel with a plea to assist in the ransom of 250 Jewish would-be slaves. The Abarbavnel was not only successful, he added his own funds to supply food and medicine.

Abarbanel served as treasurer to King Alfonso until he was forced to move to Castile (Spain) and eventually entered the service of Ferdinand and Isabella in 1484. In March 1492, an edict was issued expelling the Jews from Spain, after the conquest of Granade. Despite his political influence he was unable to prevent the expulsion in 1492 and refused the king’s offer to remain at his post, choosing instead to throw in his lot with his people. On Tisha B’Av, he led 300,000 Jews out of the country. Only 10% reached safe shores.

Rav Yitzchak found asylum in Naples, where he remained for seven years, until the French invaded. He then fled to Corfu and finally – in 1503 – to Venice, where he died. Most of his writings were composed in his later years when he was free of governmental responsibilities.

Rav Yannai would remark, “What a waste to one who builds a gate to a court yard but has no court yard!”

Rashi: The Torah is like a gate that one needs to enter into having awe of heaven. A person must have some measure of awe of heaven prior to studying Torah.

Yoma Chapter 7

~~~

19 July in History

The Roman Emperor Julian, known to Christians as Julian the Apostate, left Constantinople and arrived in Antioch to prepare for the invasion of Persia. While preparing for the invasion he met Jewish leaders to whom he promised he would re-build the Temple. Julian’s short reign would come to an end in the following year and nothing came of his plans for the Third Temple.

8 Av in History

In 1312 BCE, the Spies dispatched 40 days earlier by Moses to tour the Promised Land return to Israel’s encampment in the desert, bearing a huge cluster of grapes and other lush fruits. But even as they praise the land’s fertility, they terrify the people with tales of mighty giant warriors dwelling there and assert that the land is unconquerable.

In 67 CE, fighting breaks out inside the besieged city of Jerusalem between Jewish factions divided on the question of whether or not to fight the Roman armies encircling the city from without. One group sets fire to the city’s considerable food stores, consigning its population to starvation until the fall of Jerusalem three years later.

Today marks the passing of Rav Shimon Agasi who was born in Baghdad (1852-1914). His family originated in Persia. In Persian, his name Agasi, means “commissioner,” a position some of his forebears, who were very wealthy and influential, had occupied in their native land.

Rav Shimon’s father, Rav Aharon, had been a very successful businessman who imported paint from India. At the age of eleven, Shimon began to study in Baghdad’s Medrash Talmud Torah, founded by Rav Abdallah Somech.

It developed rapidly to become the top Torah institution in the city, where over three thousand students studied free-of-charge. Among those who learned there were Rav Eliyahu Mani (the chief rav of Chevron), the Ben Ish Chai and Rav Salman Mutzafi.

In 1865, a man, named Yitzchak Luria, came to Baghdad and attempted to open an Alliance school, which offered secular studies and tried to modernize the lifestyles of its students. However, Baghdad’s sages placed a cheirem (banishment) on the school and thwarted his efforts.

From Medrash Talmud Torah, Rav Shimon proceeded to its adult division, Beit Zilcha, where he became one of its finest students. His main mentors in Beit Zilcha were Rav Abdallah Somech’s two best students, Rav Shmuel Majled and Rav Nissim HaLevi. At the age of 17, Rav Shimon began to study Kabbalah from Rav Chaim Vital’s Eitz Chaim. A number of years later, he joined the Chacham Yitzchak yeshivah, founded by Rav Yitzchak Berabi Mordechai Sasson, another of Baghdad’s great sages.

Among its illustrious students were Rav Yehuda Petaya, Rav David Sofer, Rav Rafael Shlomo Laniado, Rav Nissim Kadouri and Rav Yitzchak Nissim. In 1898, his oldest son, Aharon, passed away on Purim of that year.

Rav Agasi was the author of Shem MiShimon.

Aggadah

R. Johanan said, “There were three crowns present on the vessels in the Temple: the altar, the ark, and the table. The altar’s crown was called “the Crown of Priesthood;” Aaron received. The table’s crown was known as “the Crown of Royalty,” David received. The crown of the ark was called “the Crown of Learning.” It is yet to be bestowed.

Should one think that it is not valuable? Therefore it is written [Prov. viii. 15]; “Through me (this crown, represented by Torah) do kings reign.”

Yoma Chapter 7

~~~

13 July in History

In 1815, Future President John Q. Adams wrote in a letter, ‘The Hebrews have done more to civilize men than any other nation. If I were an atheist, I should still believe fate had ordained the Jews to be the most essential instrument for civilizing the nations.’

2 Av in History

Today is the Yahrzeit of Rav Aharon Tumim (1630-1690). A rav in Prague from 1659 to 1672, Rav Aharon became Rosh Yeshiva in Worms in 1672. He wrote Mateh Aharon on the Hagadah. In 1687, he accepted a psotion of Rav of Krakow, but because of political circumstances, he delayed his departure until 1690. Shortly after he left Worms, the city was destroyed by the troops of King Louis XIV. He served in Krakow four months before a Polish nobleman had him arrested; he died as a result of torture.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 77 other followers

Jewish Almanac iPhone App

History of the Jewish Almanac

August 2019
S M T W T F S
« May    
 123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
25262728293031
Advertisements