February 9, 2014

[1 Shevat]

  • The Biblical plague of ARBEH (locust).
  • Moshe Rabeinu begins his farewell address to the people and review of the Torah, final year of wandering.

[2 Shevat]

  • Death of Alexander Yannai, 76 b.c.e. Date was celebrated as a holiday, since his strong Sadducee policies and appointments posed a serious threat to Rabbinic Judaism.
  • Yahrzeit of the Tzemach Tzedek, 1661.

[3 Shevat]

  • Jewish mourners attacked in Fostat, Egypt, 1012.
  • Hitler was appointed chancellor of Germany, 1933.
  • The same day saw the founding of the Society of Youth Aliya, which brought the Israel over 115,000 children 12-16.

[4 Shevat]

  • Yahrzeit of Rabbi Moshe Leib of Sasov, 1808. [Eli Wiesel tells the story that Reb Moshe Leib was well-known for always initiated greetings to others. It was his way of showing his love of his fellow Jews. Once, a person decided to sneak up on Reb Moshe and say Shalom Aleichem to him first. Just as Reb Moshe Leib was about to be “pounced upon”, a women called out the name Moshe (intending to call her own son) and Reb Moshe Leib turned around. When he saw the man behind him, he immediately greeted him with a warm Shalom Aleichem, thereby preserving his “record”.]

[5 Shevat]

  • Jews of Sicily and Naples were invited to return (having been expelled previously) by Charles the Bourbon, 1740.
  • BILU (for Beit Yaakov L’chu V’neilacha) founded, 1882, early Russian Zionist movement.
  • Russian government closed the Volozhin Yeshiva, 1892.
  • Yahrzeit of the S’fat Emet, the 2nd Gerer Rebbe, 1905.
  • The 35 members of the Hagana (the LAMID-HEI) were ambushed and killed in the Gush Etzion area (Hebron hills), 1948.

[6 Shevat]

  • Jews of Majorca were guaranteed protection, 1393. This was “forgotten” about 20 years later, when persecution started up again. 20 years after that, the Jewish community was destroyed.

[7 Shevat]

  • Jews no longer required to attend conversionist services, 1430 (sounds good).
  • Fifth Aliya began, 1930.
  • KAF-CHET SAMEI’ACH., 1972.

[8 Shevat]

  • The period of the Elders (Z’keinim, the contemporaries of Yehoshua) came to an end; marked by an ancient fast day.
  • Jews of Colmar (Northern France, I think) arrested for well-poisoning, 1348. (They were burned at the stake several months later.)
  • Public execution of 9 Jews in Damascus, 1969.
  • ASC b. LIJ, 1980.

[9 Shevat]

  • If the following entry (or any others) sounds familiar, it’s because it appeared two issues ago under January 4th. When I go through the dates in the book, there are some items that I’ll list only under the Jewish date – such as Yahrzeits – and some only under the secular date. Some don’t get included at all, and some – the ones I choose to stress – are double-entered. That won’t happen in the same issue, of course, but if the Jewish and secular dates are not in the same THU-to-THU range AND if the item is particularly noteworthy, then it will appear twice.
  • In Toulouse, France, there was a Jew who converted to Christianity. He returned to Judaism, B”H. He was subsequently buried in a Jewish cemetery.
  • Rabbi Isaac Males, HY”D, was burned at the stake, 1278, by the Inquisition, for allowing the burial. The severity of his punishment was based on the Church’s need to deter those who might feel drawn to Judaism.
  • Yahrzeit of Rabbi Eliezer Silver, leader of American Orthodox Jewry, 1968.

[10 Shevat]

  • Seven German Jews were tortured and burned at the stake, 1235.
  • Yahrzeit of the “Previous” (Chabad) Rebbe, 1950. He was the father-in-law of the last Lubavitcher Rebbe.

[11 Shevat]

  • The Jews of Colmar (see 8 Shvat) were expelled, 1510.

[12 Shevat]

  • Nazis provoked the first anti-Jewish riots in Amsterdam, 1941. The Jews successfully fought off their attackers. Two years later, 1943, to the day (12 Shvat), Jews in the Warsaw ghetto put up their fist resistance to the Nazi effort at liquidation. We years later, to the day, the Russian army liberated 2819 survivors of Auschwitz.

[13 Shevat]

  • French National Assembly granted full and equal citizenship to the Portuguese and Avignonese Jews, 1790. France was the first European country to pass such liberal legislation.

[14 Shevat]

  • Yosef b. Issachar Suesskind Oppenheimer, financial expert, was executed in Vienna, 1738. (One example of many “court Jews” whose financial expertise was valued and used by nobility, who were able to use their high positions to improve conditions for their fellow Jews, and who, when they fell out of favor, were summarily disposed of.)
  • Yahrzeit of the P’nei Yehoshua, 1756.

[15 Shevat]

  • Rosh HaShana for trees.
  • First round of Daf Yomi celebrated a siyum, 1931.
  • Ghetto in Lodz was established by Nazi decree, 1941.
  • First session of the Knesset in Jerusalem, 1949.

[16 Shevat]

  • Aaron Bernstein and Perez Smolenskin died 1884 and 1885 respectively. The former advocated Reform Jewish life in Germany and the latter advocated secular nationalism in Eretz Yisrael. (I mention these two distinguished writers and communal workers to give pause to reflect on the elements that doomed their ideas to failure from the start. Religious life – of any sort – without Eretz Yisrael in the picture and life in Eretz Yisrael without Torah anathema to the goals that G-d gave us at the birth of Bnei Yisrael, the Jewish People – Eretz Yisrael, L’AM Yisrael, al pi Torat Yisrael, the Land of Israel to the People of Israel by the Torah of Israel. Rav Kook’s Yahrzeit is a positive inspiration. These Yahrzeits give us pause to reflect on the “spark of Judaism” that manifests itself even when the overall picture is negative.)

[17 Shevat]

  • Purim of Saragossa celebrated the escape from destruction of the Jews, 1428.

[18 Shevat]

  • King Alfonzo V ordered Sicily’s Jews to attend conversion sermons, 1428.

[19 Shevat]

  • Jews of Basle were burned alive, 1349, in wooden houses constructed for that purpose. (In relatively recent years, we tend to see Basle – and all of Switzerland – as quite civilized… and not un-nice to its Jews. In medieval times, it was a main “center of anti-Semitism”.)

[20 Shevat]

  • Birth of Asher b. Yaakov. First printed edition of Tzror HaMor, commentary on Chumash by Rabbi Avraham Sebag, 1523. (Very often, among the entries in Day by Day, Rabbi Bloch z”l includes dates of first publication of various texts. Usually, the entry “just” helps us get a picture of the proliferation of Jewish writing from the beginning of the era of the printed page. For this entry, however, Rabbi Bloch z”l attaches a historical vignette of Rabbi Sebag’s life. Expelled from Spain in 1492, he made the unfortunate choice of places to flee to – Portugal. Their he was persecuted, his two sons were forcibly baptized and taken from him. He buried his manuscripts to save them from confiscation and destruction. After release from prison, he made his way to Africa where he managed to rewrite his works. Try to imagine the sacrifices made in order to keep the Chain of Tradition alive and well. These are Giborei Yisrael, no less than Yehuda HaMacabi.)
  • Jewish doctors of Galicia were allowed to attend Christian patients, 1782.

[21 Shevat]

  • Oliver Cromwell granted the right of residence in England to a Jew (one Luis Carvajal), 1657. (Some historians say that this is the earliest official British act of tolerance in favor of the Jews. [One wonders if this is supposed to be a source of pride.] They continue to explain that the attitude of tolerance explains Jewish settlement in the British colonies of America and other places in the British Empire.)
  • Jewish homes on the outskirts of Warsaw, in a settlement known as “New Jerusalem”, were demolished and the Jews of Warsaw were expelled, 1775.

[22 Shevat]

  • Caius Caligua was assassinated, 41 c.e. The day was observed as a holiday, since his decree to put pagan images in the Beit HaMikdash was voided upon his death.
  • Yahrzeit of Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk, 1859.
  • [Of the many statements attributed to the Kotzker Rebbe, here’s a personal favorite. He was asked about the traditional yearly greeting of Shana Tova U’Metuka, have a good AND SWEET year – is not Good Year enough; what does SWEET add? The Kotzker explained that everything that G-d does is GOOD. Sometimes, from our perspective, we agree that what is happening is GOOD in our eyes too. But sometimes, from our finite, limited, human perspective, we cannot see the good in something that has happened. To us it seems bad. And we certainly don’t wish these kind of things upon others whom we like, or upon ourselves. What we bless each other with, is that the year should be good, and that we should see it that way too. That it should be sweet for us.]
  • Nazis raided the Jewish community of Amsterdam and seized 429 young Jews for deportation, 1941.

[23 Shevat]

  • The Israelites assembled to wage war against the Tribe of Binyamin (as noted in Sho’f’tim 20:1).
  • Jews of Silesia were ordered to wear a special cap in public, 1267.
  • Polish Jews were barred from using public transportation by the Nazis, 1941.
  • First transport of Jews to concentration camps, 1941.

[24 Shevat]

  • The prophet Zechariya predicted the restoration of Zion and encouraged the resumption of the building of the Beit haMikdash.
  • Decree by the Duke that no Jews should be deprived of the right of residence in Stuttgart, Germany, 1779.

[25 Shevat]

  • The French gov’t gave financial support to Jewish institutions on a par with Christian institutions, 1831.
  • Yahrzeit of Rabbi Yisrael Salanter, 1883, dynamic leader of the Mussar Movement, which came about to fight against the inroads of assimilation in Europe.
  • First ship with “illegal” immigrants broke through the British blockade, 1934.

[26 Shevat]

  • Yahrzeit of the TAZ, author of the popular commentary on Shulchan Aruch, 1667.

[27 Shevat]

  • Joseph Sanalbo, a convert to Judaism, was burned at the stake in Rome, 1583.

[28 Shevat]

  • Antiochus V lifted the siege of Jerusalem, 163 bce (observed as a holiday).
  • Massacre of Jews of Norwich, England, 1190.

[29 Shevat]

  • First large Ghetto in Poland established by the Nazis in Lodz (Jewish population 200,000), 1940.

[30 Shevat]

  • Jews of Rome had been subjected to a humiliating medieval practice of running a race in the Roman carnivals, scantily clad, amid insults and blows. This practice of “Black Monday” (the day of the weekly carnival) ended in 1667.