-Rav Saadyah ben Yosef Gaon (882-942). Born in Fayum (the former name of Cairo), Egypt, he led an all-out war against the Karaites when he was just 23, criticizing their theories with articulately advanced
arguments. In 915, he moved from Egypt to Teveria to further his studies. However, the yeshiva of Sura in Babylonia invited him there. Six years later, in 928, he was appointed Gaon of the yeshiva. Two years later, a rift between him and the Reish Galusa – Dovid ben Zakai – over a beis din decision prompted Rav Saadyah’s move to Baghdad. He returned 7 years thereafter, having mended the relationship. His most famous written work is Ha’Emunos veHaDeyos, the first Jewish philosophy book, originally written in Arabic and translated into Hebrew by Rav Yehuda ibn Tibbon. His translation of the Chumash into Arabic is used by Yemenite Jews to this day.
-Rav Aharon Lapapa (1590-1667). Born in Magnesia (Manisa), Turkey, he was a disciple of Rav Avraham Motal and Rav Yosef Trani in the yeshivos of Salonika and Constantinople. Late in life, on Rosh Chodesh Iyar in 1665, he was appointed dayan of Smyrna (Izmir), effectively splitting rabbinical functions with Rav Rav Chaim Benveniste. On the 6th of Teves of that year, Shabsai Tzvi proclaimed Rav Benveniste “supreme rabbi” of Smyrna, no doubt having learned of Rav Aharon’s disbelief of Messianic claims. As such, he was forced to stay home-bound. Some of his response and chidushim to Tur Choshen Mishpat were published in Bnei Aharon.
-Rav Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, the Ramchal (1707-1747), author of Mesilas Yesharim, Derech Hashem, Pis’chey Chochmah (138 chapters on the entire scope of the Kabbalah in what many authorities consider the most systematic manner ever achieved), and Daas Tevunos. Born in Padua, Italy, the Ramchal was a student of Rabbi Yitzchak Lampronti, author of the Pachad Yitzchak, the first major Talmudic encyclopedia ever assembled. The novelty of his approach drew opposition from a number of his contemporaries. Partially as a result of this opposition, Luzzatto left his native Italy in 1735 and settled in Amsterdam. In 1743, he traveled to Eretz Israel and settled in Acco. He died in a plague only four years later, along with his wife and his son. The Vilna Gaon declared that the Ramchal had the most profound understanding of Yiddishkeit that any mortal human could attain. He furthermore stated that if Luzzatto were alive in his generation, he would go by foot from Vilna to Italy to sit at his feet and learn from him. According to a mesorah, the Gaon was going to Eretz Yisrael to be a talmid of the Ramchal but then found out that the Ramchal was niftar so he returned to Vilna. There is an interesting mesorah that the Ramchal was a gilgul of Rebbe Akiva. The two are buried right next to each other and the Ramchal was niftar when he was 40; it is said to make up for the first 40 years of Rebbe Akiva’s life, prior to his doing teshuva.
-Rav Yitzchak ben Chaim of Volozhin (1779-1849 or 1851), the son of, and successor to, Rav Chaim of Volozhin. Rav Yitzchak’s works include Mili D’Avos on Pirkei Avos and a Torah commentary entitled Peh Kadosh. Father-in-law of Rav Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin (the “Netziv”).
-Rav Shmuel Eliyahu of Zhvill (1888).
-Rav Shlomo (“Shlomke”) Goldman, the Zhviller Rebbe (1870-1945). The younger of the two sons of Rav Mordechai of Zhvil, and a descendant of Rav Yechiel Michel of Zlotchov. When a pogrom in Zvhil targeted the his brother’s compound and killed the Rebbetzin along with many of the Jews of the area, his brother, Rav Yaakov Yisrael, moved to Boston, and Rav Shlomo moved to Yerushalayim in 1926. He was succeeded by his son, Rav Gedaliah Moshe.
Today in History – 26 Iyar
· Crusaders massacred the Jews of Mayence (Mainz) , 1096.
· Hundreds of Jews were massacred in Brussels, Belgium, 1370.
· Jews of Frankfurt on Main, Germany, were permitted for the first time to appear in public at the coronation of Joseph II, 1764.
· War broke out between Israel and the Arab nations, 1967. The strategic Egyptian base at El-Arish, in the Sinai Peninsula, was captured by the Israeli army on the same day. Israeli air force preempts by carrying attacks on Egyptian, Jordanian, Syrian and Iraqi air force bases; Egyptian, Syrian and Jordanian air forces neutralized. IDF ground forces attack Egyptian forces in Sinai and the Gaza Strip. After Jordan launches attack on Israel, IDF forces commence operations against Jordanian military positions in Judea, Samaria, and Yerushalayim.
· The trial of suspected al-Qaida operative Jose Padilla opened in Miami. He was ultimately sentenced to 17 years in prison.