Rabbeinu Nissim ben Reuven, the Ran (1308-1376), author of a commentary to the Talmud and a halachic commentary to the work of Rabbeinu Yitzchak Alfasi (the Rif ). His extant commentaries on the Rif cover mesechtos Shabbos, Pesachim, Ta’anis, Rosh HaShanah, Beytza, Sukkah, Megillah, Kesubos, Gittin, Kiddushin, Shevuos, and Avodah Zarah. He wrote in reply about 1,000 responsa, of which only seventy-seven have been preserved.
Rav Eliyahu Yisrael, Rav of Alexander and author of Ar’a DeYisrael (1784)
Rav Yisrael Yaakov of Vilkomir, son of Rav Menachem Mendel of Rimanov (1827)
Rav Yaakov Heilbrun, Rav of Zenta (1849)
Rav Yehosef Schwartz (1805-1865). Born in Bavaria ( Germany ), he studied in the yeshiva of Rav Nosson Adler. (This was not the same Rav Nosson Adler as the teacher of the Chasam Sofer, but perhaps his nephew, who later became Chief Rabbi of the British Empire ). Rav Schwartz also attended university (possibly the University of Wurzburg ) where he studied languages, geography and astronomy. In 1829, he published his first map of the Holy Land , and in 1833, he settled in Yerushalayim. His sefer, Divrei Yosef, contains two parts – Tevuos Hashemesh about the proper way to calculate sunrise and sunset, and Tevuos Ha’aretz about the borders of Eretz Yisrael, its cities, and its flora and fauna. He also wrote Pri Tevuah and Pardes.
Rav Avraham Aminov, Chief Bucharian Rabbi of Shchunas Habucharim in Yerushalayim (1939)
Rav Yeshayahu Zev Winograd (1883-1956), born in Stuchin , Lithuania . His father, Rav Pinchas Mordechai Winograd, was one of Poland ‘s gedolei Torah and the author of Toldos Aharon on Pirke Avos. When Yeshayahu Zev was 8 years old, his family moved to Yerushalayim. In 1912, he was sent to Europe by the City’s sages to raise funds for city’s needy. He made lengthy stops at Brisk, Biala, and Warsaw . In 1920, he returned to Yerushalayim and dedicated himself to expaning Yeshiva Etz Chaim, the oldest educational institution in the Ashkenazik community (founded 1855). His major work was a sefer called Shaarei Ziv, with chidushim on all of shas.
Rav Eliezer Silver (1882-1968). Born in Kovno , Lithuania to Rav Bunim Tzemach, Rav Silver studied in Dvinsk with Rav Yosef Rosen, the Rogotchover Gaon, and Rav Meir Simcha, the Ohr Sameach. At the age of 24, he received his Semicha from Rav Chaim Ozer Grodzinski. A year later he immigrated to the United States . Rav Silver held several Rabbinical positions in New York , Pennsylvania , and Massachusets. In 1931 he accepted an invitation to become Rav in Cincinnati , where he remained until his passing. He founded the American branch of Agudas Yisrael and established the Vaad Hatzalah to aid Jews in Europe during WW II.
Rav Nachum Abba Grossbard, mashgiach of Ponovezh (1993). He was one of the leading students of Rav Shimon Shkop of Grodno and Rav Boruch Ber Leibowitz of Kamenitz. He joined Yeshivas Mir in exile, and he formed a close bond with Rav Yechezkel Levenstein in Shanghai . Rav Grossbard is considered one of the leading rebuilders of the yeshiva world of America after the Holocaust. His son is Rav Shmuel Grossbard, rosh yeshiva of the Telstone Yeshiva Gedoloh in Israel .
Rav Dovid of Skver-Boro Park (2001). Succeeded his father, Rabbi Yitzchak Twersky, known as Reb Itzikl Skverer (Skvirer), when the latter died prematurely. Rav Dovid was succeeded by his son, Yechiel Michl Twersky, the Skwerer Rebbe of Boro Park .
Today in History – 9 Shevat
· Rav Isaac Males was burned at the stake by the Inquisition for allowing the burial of a ger tzedek in the Jewish cemetery, 1278. The severity of his punishment was to deter other converts who might feel drawn to Judaism.
· First transport of French Jews to Nazi Germany, 1942.
· Pravda article touched off a wave of virulent anti-Semitism throughout Russia , 1953.
Yahrtzeit – 10 Shevat
Rav Meir ben Yitzchak Katzenellenbogen, the Maharam Padua (1482-1565). Born in Ellenbogen , Germany , founder of the Katzenellenbogen family. After studying in Prague , he went to Padua , Italy , and studied under Rav Yehuda Minz, whose garnd-daughter he married. He succeeded his father-in-law, Rav Avraham Minz, as Rav of Padua. Among his contemporaries who sent him shaylos were Rav Ovadiah Sforno and Rav Moses Iserles, the Rema.
Rav Shalom Mizrachi Dida Sharabi, the Rashash (1720-1777) Born in Sharab , Yemen , he traveled to Yerushalayim, where he learned under Rav Gedalyah Chiyun of Yehivas Beis Kel. He married Rav Gedalyah’s daughter, Chana , and after his rebbi’s petira, led the yeshiva for 30 years. Among his greatest students are the Chida (Rav Chaim Yosef Dovid Azulai) and Rav Gershon Kitover (the Ba’al Shem Tov’s brother-in-law). His sidur was known as the “Sidur HaKavanot,” and is still used by the mekubalim today for prayer.
Rebbetzin Rivka Schneersohn (1833-1914) a granddaughter of Rav DovBer, the 2nd Rebbe of Lubavitch, at age 16 married her first cousin, Rav Shmuel, who later became the fourth Lubavitcher Rebbe. Surviving her husband by 33 years, for many years she was the esteemed matriarch of Lubavitch. She is the source of many of the stories recorded in the talks, letters and memoirs of her grandson, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak (the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe). The Beis Rivka network of girls’ schools are named after her.
Rav Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson, the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe (1880-1950). The son of Rav Shalom Dov Ber, he dedicated his efforts to the yeshiva founded by his father, Tomechai Hatemimim. He was jailed by the Russian government for teaching Torah, and on his release, he settled in Riga , Latvia . He escaped to America in 1940.
Rav Yitzchak Eizek Sher of Slabodka (1875-1952). Born in Halusk, he studied in Volozhin under the Netziv’s son-in-law, Rav Refoel Shapira, before moving to Slabokdka. There he studied b’chavrusa with Rav Avraham Grodzinski. In 1903, Rav Yitzchak Eizek married the Alter’s youngest daughter, Mariasha Guttel, and moved to Kelm where he continued to learn diligently. He also studied for a brief period in the Mir, where his brother-in-law, Rav Eliezer Yehuda Finkel, served as rosh yeshiva. In 1911, the Alter appointed Rav Yitzchak Eizek to the position of rebbi in the yeshiva. In 1928, Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel went to Eretz Yisrael, along with the majority of Slabodka’s students, and settled in Chevron. At that point, Rav Yitzchak Eizek was appointed rosh yeshiva of Slabodka’s European division, with its mashgiach, Rav Avraham Grodzinski. On Shabbos morning, the sixteenth of Av, 1929, the Arab massacred Chevron’s Jews. After the massacre, the survivors reestablished the Chevron Yeshiva in Yerushalayim. Rav Yitzchak Eizek, at the advice of the Chazon Ish, reestablished the European branch of the Slabodka Yeshiva in Bnei Brak.
Rav Rachamim Chai Chavita, Rav of Djerba , Tunisia , author of Minchas Cohen and Simchas Cohen (1959)
Today in History – 10 Shevat
· Seven German Jews were tortured and burned at the stake, 1235.
· Inquisition established in South America , 1569.
· The Church burned seforim and manuscripts in Rome , 1601.
· Death of Rav Shalom Shabazi, famous Yemenite community leader (1619-1720). Shabazi was born in Southern Yemen where he worked as a weaver. Approximately 550 of his poems and hymns are still in existence, written in Arabic, Hebrew and Aramaic.
· With the second partition of Poland in 1793, additional territory was added to the Pale Settlement where Jews were allowed to live, including parts of the Ukraine and the city of Kiev .
· In his annual speech, Hitler announced his intention to exterminate the Jewish people in the event of a war in Europe , 1939.
· Daniel Pearl, a reporter with the Wall Street Journal, was abducted in Karachi , Pakistan , by a group demanding the return of prisoners in Afghanistan . He was later slain.
Yahrtzeits – 11 Shvat
Rav Dovid Nosan Deutsch, son of R’ Yosef Yoel Deutsch, and the second Rav of Kretchenif (1879). He authored Nefesh Dovid on Chumash.
Today in History – 11 Shvat
· The town of Colmar in northern France expels its Jews, 1510.
· British troops occupied Baghdad and brought relief to the local Jews, 1917. Their freedom lasted until 1929 when the British granted independence to Iraq and the new rulers passed a series of decrees against them.
· Birth of Rav Yisrael Meir Kagan Hakohen of Radin, the Chafetz Chaim (1838-1933).
· On this night, a Yugoslavian DC-9 jet flying 33,330 feet high over Czechoslovakia suddenly exploded and plunged to the ground, 1972. All 28 passengers perished except one flight attendant (Vesna Vulovic), perished. Responsibility for this horrific crime was claimed by the Ustashe organization, the same group responsible for some of the worst atrocities of World War II. A few of its demented members still dream of an independent, ethnically pure Croatia free of Serbs, Jews and Gypsies.