Rav Avraham Ibn Ezra (1089-1164). He was born in Tudela during the height of Spain’s Golden Age. There, he established a close friendship with Rav Yehuda Halevi. Three of his uncles were ministers in
the royal palace. He moved to Toledo during the benevolent rule of King Alfonso VI. After the king died, however, the anti-semitic masses began to harass the Jews, so he headed south to Muslim Spain – to Granada, Cordova, and Lucena. In 1148, the barbaric Almohades overran Morocco and continued into Spain. He was forced to flee to Rome, Provence, and Rhodes (where he befriended Rabbeinu Tam and other grandsons of Rashi, as well as the Rosh). He traveled to Egypt and learned with the Rambam. He wrote a commentary on the Torah and Navi, based in large part on Hebrew grammar. He also wrote dozens of books on astronomy, astrology, and mathematics.
Rav Shabsai HaKohen Katz, (Shach) author of Sifsei Kohen, recognized as one of the most basic and authoritative commentaries on the Shulchan Aruch (1622-1663). Born in Vilna. He learned in Tyktizin, Cracow and Lublin. He married a great grand-daughter of the Rema. In 1648 the communities of Russian Poland were devastated by Chmielnicki, and Rav Shabsai haKohen was among the sufferers. He authored selichos in tragic memory of the events. He was nifter at the age of 41 in Holleschau, Germany, having completed his commentary to 2 of the 4 sections of the Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah (at age 24) and Choshen Mishpat. Among his other works are Sefer Ha’Aruch on the Tur, Poel Tzedek on the 613 mitzvos, and Gevuros Anashim, on cases in which a wife can legally compel her husband to give her a get.
Rav Azariya Figu (Figo) of Venice(1579-1647). Author of Binah La’itim and Gidulei Terumah.
Rav Emanuel Chai Riki (1688-1743). Kabbalist; author of Mishnas Chassidim. He received semicha from Rav Chaim Abulafia in Tzefas. He is buried in Zento, Italy. He also wrote a commentary on Tehillim entitled Chozeh Tzion, and Yosher Leivav.
Rav Yitzchak Eizik Safrin of Komarna (1800). He was the author of Heichal HaBrachah and Zohar Chai. One of his sons was Rav Tzvi Hirsch Aichenshtein of Zhidachov, the Ateres Tzvi. Another son was Rav Yissochor Berish Aichenshtein of Zhidachov. A third son was Rav Moshe Aichenshtein of Sambor, a fourth was Rav Alexander Yom Tov Lipa Aichenshtein, a fifth was Rav Menachem Mendel Aichenshtein, and a sixth was Rav Eli Aichenshtein.
Rav Menachem Mendel of Shklov (1827). He was the leader of the aliya of the followers of the Vilna Gaon to Eretz Yisrael. This is significant because of the many Minhagei Yerushalayim that were established by that Ashkenazi community. His leading student, Yitzchak Eizak Chaver Wildmann (1789-1853), perceived that the obscurity of the kabbalistic system was a major factor in the flight of students and thinkers from Torah to science, secular philosophy and atheism. In Pischey She’arim, R. Yitzchak Eizak Haver vindicates the kabbalah against its detractors, showing that behind its metaphors lies the only system with the power to provide satisfying answers to man’s deepest questions about the meaning and purpose of the universe.
Rav Yitzchak Meir of Zinkov, son of the Apta Rav (1855)
Rav Baruch Halberstam of Gorlitz (1830-1906). Born in Rudnick, Poland, to the second of the four wives of Rav Chaim of Sanz. At age 14, he married Pessel, the daughter of Rav Yekusiel Yehuda Teitelbaum, the “Yitav Lev” of Sighet. In his early 30s, he was appointed rav of Rudnick, and later rav of Gorlitz. In 1886, after his wife’s passing, he married Leah, a granddaughter of the Bnei Yissoscher.
Rav Uri Yalas of Sambur (1910)
Rav Yosef Tzvi Kalisch of Skrenevitz (1957)
Rav Baruch (ben Gershon Chanoch) Rosenberg, Rosh Yeshiva of Keneses Yisrael, Slabodka in Bnai Brak (1924-2004). Born in Moholiev, Russia, his grandfather was Rav Michel Yechiel Rosenberg, one of Rav Chaim Brisker’s chavrusos. In his teens, Rav Baruch attended Mir, where became close to Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz and Rav Yechezkel Levenstein. During World War II, Rav Baruch went to Vilna, and then to Shanghai with the yeshiva. In 1950, he continued his studies in Mir Yerushalayim. The year after his chasuna, he accepted an invitation to be magid shir at the Slabodka Yeshiva in Bnai Brak, where he stayed for 50 years.
Rav Yitzchak Isaac (ben Meir) Eichenstein, the Kiviashder Rav of Forest Hills, Queens (1913-2004). Born in Kashau, Czechoslovakia to the Zhidichov Rav of Kashau. As a youth, he learned under the Kashauer Rav, Rav Shaul Brach. Upon his marriage, he replaced his father-in-law (who had moved away) as Rav of Kishiavd and established a yeshiva. He staued for six years, until the Nazis arrived in 1944. The Rav was sent to Auschvitz and Bergen-Belsen, where he lost his parents, his wife, and his three young children. Despite his nisyonos, he spent his time, infusing others with chizuk. Following the War, he married his father-in-law’s younger dauther, established a beis din to be matir hundreds of agunos, and arranged for the education of many orphans. He moved to America and settled in Queens in 1950. In 1953, under the auspices of the Satmar Rav, he established the Central Rabbinical Council of the United States and Canada.
Rav Simcha Bunim (ben Eliezer Yehuda) Waldenberg, only son of the Tzitz Eliezer. He was Rav of the Ezras Torah neighborhood of Yerushalayim and of the Beis Yisrael Beis Midrash for over 30 years (1937-2005)
Today in History – 1 Adar
· Jews miraculously escaped violent earthquake in Italy, 1570.
· A priest vanquished in Syria, and the Jewish community was balmed, prompting imprisonment of Rav Yaakov Entebi, , the seven community elders, and a number of children. Ultimately, Sir Moses Montefiore interceded on their behalf and they were freed, 1840.
· Adolph Hitler was appointed chancellor of Germany, 1930.
· An earthquake in Agadir, Morocco killed 5000 people, including hundreds of Jews, 1960.
· Edwin H. Land first publically demonstrated his Polaroid Land camera, which could produce black and white photos in 60 seconds, 1947.