This Day in History – 1 Iyar/May 9

Shaar blatt of Pri Haaretz.
Shaar blatt of Pri Haaretz.

1 Iyar, Rosh Chodesh

In 2450/1311 B.C.E., Hashem ordered Moshe Rabbeinu to count Bnei Yisrael.

In 2929/832 B.C.E., Shlomo Hamelech began building the first Beis Hamikdash. Construction of the second Beis Hamikdash began on this date as well.


5306/1546, Rabbeinu Yaakov Beirav, zt”l

5460/1700, Harav Yosef Yoska, zt”l, Rav of Minsk and mechaber of Yesod Yosef and Ne’imah Kedoshah

5478/1718, Harav Tzvi Hersh Ashkenazi, zt”l, the Chacham Tzvi

5538/1778, Harav Shmuel Shmelke Horowitz of Nikolsburg, zt”l

5693/1933, Harav Avraham Weinberg (the second), the Beis Avraham of Slonim, zt”l

5548/1788, Harav Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk, zt”l

Harav Menachem Mendel (ben Harav Moshe) was born in 5490/1730 in Tartzin. When he was nine years old he was taken to the Baal Shem Tov. An exceptionally gifted child, he learned under the Maggid of Mezritch, who was a melamed in Tartzin, and became one of his closest talmidim.

After his marriage, Reb Mendel resided in Vitebsk. The Mezritcher Maggid appointed him as leader of the local Chassidim, instructing him to spread chassidic philosophy among the Yidden of White Russia. Thus he became the father of Russia’s chassidic Jewry.

Two years after the Maggid’s petirah, in 5535/1775, Reb Mendel wanted to ascend to Eretz Yisrael, but he stayed on and settled in Horodok. Among the many who thronged to him were numerous prominent former talmidim of the Maggid.

In 5537/1777 Reb Mendel gathered 300 of his Chassidim and set out for Eretz Yisrael. After overcoming enormous hardships and perils, the group arrived in Eretz Yisrael and settled in Tzfas. However, the Turks and Arabs persecuted them and they were forced to leave the city and move to Teveria.

Parnassah was a major problem, as were epidemics which took the lives of some of his followers.

Yet despite all this, Reb Mendel remained adamant about staying in Eretz Yisrael. He maintained contact with his Chassidim in Russia through a steady flow of letters. His letters and divrei Torah were published in Pri Ha’aretz.

The tremendous difficulties of settling in Eretz Yisrael while caring for the material and spiritual welfare of his followers sapped the Rebbe’s strength. Disease weakened him greatly, but his mind remained clear until his final hour.

When asked next to whom he wished to be buried, Reb Mendel was surprised by the question. He answered, “I would be quite happy to be buried next to any Jew — and I only hope that no Jew would be ashamed of me, just as I am not ashamed of any other Jew.”

On 1 Iyar, 5548/1788, at the age of 57, Reb Menachem Mendel was niftar. He was buried in Teveria, in the cemetery known until today as the cemetery of the talmidei haBaal Shem Tov.

Zechuso yagen aleinu.

May 9

In 1754, a political cartoon in Benjamin Franklin’s Pennsylvania Gazette depicted a snake cut into eight pieces, each section representing a part of the American colonies. The caption read: “JOIN, or DIE.”

In 1945, with World War II in Europe at an end, Soviet forces liberated Czechoslovakia from Nazi occupation.

In 1951, the U.S. conducted its first thermonuclear experiment as part of Operation Greenhouse by detonating a 225-kiloton device on Enewetak Atoll in the Pacific, nicknamed “George.”

In 1994, South Africa’s newly elected parliament chose Nelson Mandela to be the country’s first black president.