This Day in History – 1 Teves/December 23


2124/1638 B.C.E., Avraham Avinu, according to some sources

5300/1539, HaravYosef HaMaaravi, zt”l, talmid of the Arizal

5535/1774, Harav Masoud Refael Alfasi of Tunisia, zt”l

5589/1828, Harav Avraham Moshe of Peshischa, zt”l


5462/1701, Harav Yair Chaim Bachrach, zt”l, the Chavos Yair

Harav Yair Chaim Bachrach was born in Mezritch in 5388/1628. His father was Harav Moshe Shimshon, mechaber of Shemen Hamaor and Rav in Worms.

Reb Yair Chaim quickly became fluent in all aspects of Torah.

At only 23, he received semichah and the title of “Moreinu,” something very rare at the time. About a year later he became Rav in Coblenz and afterwards in the famous kehillah of Mainz. In 5430/1670 he moved back to the city of his ancestors, Worms, where he stayed until the French decimated the kehillah in 5449/1689, when he moved to Frankfurt.

Yidden from all over the European continent sent him their she’eilos,  and he soon became recognized as one of the leading halachic authorities of the time.

His best-known sefer, Chavos Yair, is named after his grandmother Rebbetzin Chavah, a granddaughter of the Maharal of Prague, who was renowned for her unusual scholarship and piety. Her husband, Harav Shmuel (Reb Yair Chaim’s paternal grandfather), mechaber of Chut Hashani, was the Rav of Worms. After he was murdered in a pogrom in 5375/1615, she didn’t remarry but lived on in Worms until her grandson Yair Chaim was bar mitzvah, after which she determined to move to Eretz Yisrael. Sadly, she was niftar on the way. Reb Yair Chaim held her in such high esteem that he named his sefer after her.

Among his works is Mekor Chaim, a major commentary on Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim, which was ready for publication at the same time that the commentaries of the Taz and the Magen Avraham were printed. Reb Yair Chaim withdrew his own commentary from the printer, intending to rework it in accordance with the Taz and Magen Avraham, but, sadly, he never finished it.

In addition to his halachic expertise, he had complete mastery of all the sciences, and also wrote poetry. He even compiled a 46-volume encyclopedia on many topics.

Gradually, Worms was rebuilt, and in 5459/1699, after serving as Rav in Cracow, he was asked to reclaim his ancestor’s position and once again become Rav in Worms.

After only three years in that prestigious kehillah, he was niftar on 1 Teves 5462/1701.

Zechuso yagen aleinu.


Dec. 23

In 1788, Maryland passed an act to cede an area “not exceeding ten miles square” for the seat of the national government; about 2/3 of the area became the District of Columbia.

In 1913, the Federal Reserve System was created as President Woodrow Wilson signed the Federal Reserve Act.

In 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt restored the civil rights of about 1,500 people who’d been jailed for opposing the (First) World War.

In 1941, during World War II, American forces on Wake Island surrendered to the Japanese.

In 1948, former Japanese premier Hideki Tojo and six other Japanese war leaders were executed in Tokyo.

In 1953, the Soviet Union announced the execution of Lavrentiy Beria, former head of the secret police, for treason.

In 1954, the first successful human kidney transplant took place at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston as a surgical team led by Dr. Joseph Murray removed a kidney from 23-year-old Ronald Herrick and implanted it in Herrick’s twin brother, Richard, who was dying of chronic nephritis. (Because the donor and recipient were identical twins, tissue rejection was not an issue. Richard Herrick lived until 1962; Ronald Herrick died in 2010.)

In 1968, 82 crew members of the U.S. intelligence ship Pueblo were released by North Korea, 11 months after they had been captured.

In 1986, the experimental airplane Voyager, piloted by Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager, completed the first non-stop, non-refueled round-the-world flight as it returned safely to Edwards Air Force Base in California.