Rav Gershon (ben Yitzchak) Ashkenazi (1625-1693). Born in Holtz, Germany, he left home to learn in the yeshiva of Rav Yoel Sirkes, the Bach, in Krakow, Poland. He was also a close talmid of Rav Yehoshua, the Maginei Shlomo. Rav Gershon lost his first wife in 1649, and married the daughter of Rav Menachem Mendel Kruchmal, the Tzemach Tzedek. But she too was niftar young, in 1654. His third wife, Rebbetzin Raizel, was zocheh to arichas yamim, outliving her husband by 30 years. Rav Gershon served as dayan in Krakow, and in 1650 served the kehila of Prussnitz, Moravia. With the petira of his father-in-law, the Tzemach Tzedek in 1661, he became Rav in Nicholsburg and a year later of the entire province of Moravia. He served as chief Rabbi of Austria until the expulsion of 1670. At that point, he became Rav of Metz, Germany, where he remained until his petira. He is the author of Avodas HaGershuni, which deals with a wide range of Halachah. Much of what we know about the Chmielnicki massacres are based on this work. A prolific writer, he also composed Tiferes HaGershuni comprising his drashas on the Torah, and Chidushei HaGershuni on Halacha.
Rav Chaim Yosef Dovid Azulai, (the Chida), (1724-1806). Arguably the Sephardic equivalent to the Vilna Gaon, the Chida, was born in Jerusalem. At the age of 18, he learned under Rav Chaim ben Atar (the Ohr Hachaim). His works include a collection of responsa known as Yoseif Ometz, the Shem HaGedolim (a biographical work on 1300 authors and 1200 writings, dating back to the Gaonim), and many others. He passed away in Livorno, Italy.
Rav Eliezer Lipman, father of Reb Elimelech of Lizhensk and Reb Zusha of Annipoli.
Rav Mordechai Posner, Rav of Ursha and brother of the Rav Shneur Zalman of Liadi (1823)
Rav Shmuel Strashun, the Rashash of Vilna (1794-1872). He was a Rav and a very wealthy banker in Vilna; he also administrated a free loan fund. His commentary on virtually the entire Talmud is printed in most editions of the Talmud.
Rav Avraham (ben Ze’ev Nachum) Borenstein of Sochatchov (Sochaczew, near Warsaw)(1839-1910), author of Avnei Nezer (seven volumes of response)andEglei Tal (encyclopedia of the laws of Shabbos). He was born in Bendin to the author of the Agudas Eizov, a descendent of the Rema and the Shach. In 1853, he married Sarah Tzina, one of the two daughters of the Kotzker Rebbe, with whom he learned almost daily for almost 7 years. After the petira of his father-in-law in 1859, Rav Avraham accepted the Chidushei HaRim of Ger as his rebbe. After the petira of the Chidushei HaRim in 1866, he accepted Rav Chanoch Henich HaKohen of Alexander as his new rebbi. In 1883, he became Rav of Sochachov. His lectures in the yeshiva lasted six to eight hours, often starting at midnight and continuing until morning, except for a 15-minute break when he napped. Rav Bornstein is frequently quoted in his son’s classic work Shem Mishmuel.
Rav Yosef (ben Fishel) Rosen of Dvinsk, the Gaon of Rogatchov, author of Tzofnas Paneach (1858-1936). His father was a leader of the Jewish community of Rogatchov in general, and of the Lubavicher Chasidim in particular. When he was bar mitzvah, his father brought Reb Yosef to the Rav of Slutzk, Rav Yosef Dov Soloveichik, the Beis Halevi. Together with Rav Chaim (Rav Yosef Dov’s son), Rav Yosef learned with the Beis Halevi for an entire year. He then learned with Rav Yehushua Diskin in Shklov. When he was 18, he married the daughter of Rav Moshe Garfinkel, a Gerer chasid in Warsaw, who supported the couple for 8 years. In 1891, he took the position of Rav in Dvinsk, a position he kept until his death.
Rav Shmuel Brudny, Rosh Yeshivas Mir (1915-1981). Born in Smorgon, Lithuania, between Oshmina and Vilna. At 14 years of age, he entered the Rameilles Yeshiva in Vilna under Rav Shlomo Heiman. Three years later, he entered the Mirrer Yesihva under Rav Eliezer Yehuda Finkel. Whereas his parents and siblings were murdered by the Nazis, he escaped to Shanghai. After the yeshiva was relocated in New York, he was appointed Rosh Yesihva.
Rav Yehoshua Moshe (ben Mordechai Zev) Orenstein, author of Yam HaTalmud.
Today in History – 11 Adar
· Pope prohibits anti-Jewish sermons, 1434.
· First printing of Rashi on Torah, Italy 1475. (This first printing of Rashi was without the text of the Torah. All subsequent printings were done with Rashi’s commentary under the Torah’s text.)
· First printing of the whole Tanach, 1488.
· Haifawas captured by Napoleon, which marked the greatest extent of Napoleon’s conquest of Eretz Yisrael, 1799.
· Alexander II of Russia assassinated, 1881, ending a relatively peaceful period for the Jews. He was succeeded by Alexander III who returned to traditional Russian oppression of the Jews. Newspapers in Moscow, Kiev, and Odessa incited anti-Jewish pogroms throughout Russia beginning in 1881 and continuing until 1905, sparking mass emigration of Jews from Russia to the Western Hemisphere at more then 50,000 Jews a year until 1914. By the beginning of World War I, 2,500,000 Russian Jews had left.
· James D. Watson and Francis H.C. Crick announced they had discovered the double-helix structure of DNA, the molecule that contains the human genes.