Yahrtzeits – 17 Adar
-Rav Chaim Davidson (1760-1854). Born in Pinchov, he lost his father at an early age. Soon after his bar mitzvah, the Warsaw gevir, Rav Naftali Tzvi Tzinimer, made the shidduch for Rav Chaim to marry his daughter Rochel. Rav Chaim moved to Warsaw, making it his home for the next 80 years. When Hoffmann, the chief Prussian administrator of Warsaw, insisted that every Jew adopt a surname for use on official documents 1795, Reb Chaim took the name Davidson, in honor of his father. In addition to studying at the yeshiva of the Nesivos in Lissa, Rav Chaim often visited and studied with Rabbi Akiva Eiger. In the early 1800s, the Jewish population of Warsaw was skyrocketing, largely because of refugees coming in from the Ukraine and other places. From 2,519 Jews in 1765, the Jewish presence shot up to 15,000 by 1816. In 1802, the maskilim were numerous enough to open their own shul, which they named the “German Synagogue.” After 1815 when Russia annexed Warsaw, a deadly partnership developed between the autonomous Polish government and Haskala Jews. An edict in 1821 decreed the abolition of the kehillos, and substituted them with “Congregational Boards” consisting of the rav, his assistant, and three trustees. In 1822, Rav Chaim was chosen as one of Warsaw’s three trustees and held this position for two years. After the passing of the Chemdas Shlomo in 1839, a council appointed Rav Chaim to be the new Rav of Warsaw. Thereafter, his wealthy son, Rav Naftali, supplied him with funds to continue the numerous chesed projects he had financed while he himself was a wealthy man.
-Rav Shimon Sofer, Rav and Av Beis Din of Cracow (1821-1883). Born in Pressburg, the second son of the Chasam Sofer
-Rav Yisrael Ze’ev Mintzberg, Av Beis Din of K’hal Chassidim (or K’hal Masmidim) in Yerushalayim (1962)
-Rav Avraham Menachem Danziger, the ninth Admor of Alexander (1921-2005). The earliest Chasidim of Alexander followed Rav Shraga Feivel of Gritza (d. 1848) who was a close talmid of Rav Simcha Bunim of Peshischa. After Rav Shraga Feivel’s petira, they followed Rav Menachem Mendel of Vorki. . After his petira in 1864, they followed Rav Yechiel (1828-1894), the son of Rav Shraga Feivel. He set up court in Alexander near Lodz, Poland. Rav Yechiel had 3 sons. One of them, Rav Yerachmiel Yisrael Yitzchak, led the Alexander Chassidim from 1894 to 1910 and was the mechaber of Yismach Yisrael. After his passing, his younger brother, Rav Shmuel Tzvi (the Tiferes Shmuel) led the court until 1924. The third brother, Rav Betzalel Yair, followed. Rav Shmuel Tzvi’s son, Rav Yitzchak, took over leadership until the Holocaust. The Alexander Chassidim, which outnumber all others in Europe except for Ger, all but perished. The broken pieces were put together by Rav Yehuda Moshe, son-in-law of Rav Betzalel Yair; he had departed Poland for Eretz Yisrael in 1934. Of his 9 sons, only one survived. Rav Avraham Menachem. He was survived by 3 sons, 4 daughters, and thousands of pages of chidushei Torah yet to be published.
Yahrtzeits – 18 Adar
-Rav Alexander Ziskind, born in Brzhen, but lived most of his life in Horodna (Grodno, Belarus), Lithuania, the product of the teaching of Rav Aryeh Leib Epstein, Rav of Nikolsberg. He authored the mussar work, Yesod V’shoresh Ha’avoda, which contains how one should behave every hour of the day and kavanos for tefillos and mitvos, as well as Karnei Ohr, a commentary on the Zohar. (1700-1794)
-Rav Chanoch Henoch HaKohen (1798-1870), Alexander Rebbe. He was a disciple of Rav Simcha Bunam of Pshis’cha, Rav Menachem Mendel of Kotzk and the Chidushei Harim.
-Rav Nachum Mordechai Friedman (1946), Tchortkover Rebbe
-Rav Yechezkel Levenstein, mashgiach of Ponevezh (1885-1974). Born in Warsaw in 1896 to Osminer Chassidim, he lost his mother at age 5. At 13, he joined the yeshiva at Lomza. Early in life, he moved to Radin to learn with the Chafetz Chaim. There, he met the mashgiach, Rav Yerucham Levovitz, who was talmid of the Alter of Kelm. He then learned in Kelm, where he was fortunate to enjoy the close attention of Rav Tzvi Hirsch Broide (son-in-law of the Alter), at whose table he ate his Shabbos meals. In 1919, while Reb Yeruchom was serving as mashgiach, the Mirrer Yeshiva was exiled from its hometown of Mir, Poland, into Russia and then to Vilna. Reb Chatzkel, who was then learning in Mir, was asked by the rosh yeshiva, Rav Eliezer Yehuda Finkel, to supervise the yeshiva’s spiritual welfare until Reb Yeruchom returned. Reb Chatzkel was approached by Rav Aharon Kotler, who headed Yeshivas Eitz Chaim in Kletsk, to come and serve as mashgiach ruchani in his yeshiva. Reb Chatzkel accepted. In 1935, he moved to Eretz Yisrael to serve as mashgiach of Yeshivas Lomza in Petach Tikvah, which was headed by Rav Reuven Katzl, but he moved back to serve as mashgiach in Mir after the petira of Reb Yerucham. After 2 years in America, he served as mashgiach at the Mir in Israel, then – upon the passing of Rav Dessler – at Ponevezh.
Today in History – 17 Adar
· Crusader massacre of the Jews of Wurtzburg, 1147.
· In Strasbourg, a riot ensued in the town after corn prices fell, 1349. Despite the protests of the city council, the Jews were accused of a conspiracy. The entire Jewish population of 2000 were dragged to the cemetery and burned to death. Only those who accepted Christianity were allowed to live.
· The Romanian government prohibited Jews from engaging in handicrafts or trade, 1902.
· Beginning of the Battle of Verdun in France, World War I, 1916. One of the most important battles in World War I on the Western Front, fought between the German and French armies, it resulted in more than a quarter million killed and half a million injured.
· The Bulgarian commissar for Jewish affairs, Alexander Belev, signed an agreement permitting Germany to deport 26,000 Jews to extermination camps, 1943.
· The Jewish quarter of Old Yerushalayim was besieged by Arabs, 1948. The Jews were cut off from the Jewish community in new Yerushalayim whenaccess to the gates in the walls of Yerushalayim was barred to them.
· A peace treaty was signed by Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat at the White House, 1979.
Today in History – 18 Adar
· After being assisted by the Jews to overcome the Persians in return for a promise of amnesty, Byzantine Emperor Heraclius entered Yerushalayim as conqueror, 629. The local priests convinced him that killing Jews was a positive commandment and that his promise was therefore invalid. Hundreds of Jews were massacred and thousands of others fled to Egypt, bringing the sizable Jewish life in the Galil and Judea to an end.
· Jews were expelled from Syria, 1496.
· The Pope reaffirmed a Church rule forcing Christianity upon a Jewish child who was baptized against the will of his parents and in violation of canonical law, 1747.
· David Emmanuel, the first Jewish governor in the United States, was sworn in as governor of Georgia, 1801.
· Napoleon I issued a decree suspending for a decade the emancipation of Jews in the French-occupied European countries, 1808.
· A Russian imperial decree ordered the expulsion of all Jewish artisans, brewers, and distillers from Moscow, 1891.
· Jews of Smyrna, Turkey were attacked by Greeks charging the Jews with ritual murder, 1901.