This Day in History – 10 Adar/February 15

10 Adar

In 5109/1349, mobs rioted during the Black Death epidemic and massacred Jews in the town of Freiburg, Germany.

In 5609/1849, Jews of the Austrian Empire were granted equal civil and political rights.

Yahrtzeiten

5423/1663, Harav Pinchas of Voldova, zt”l, mechaber of Bris Shalom

5627/1867, Harav Yosef Baruch Epstein, zt”l, Der Gutter Yid of Neustadt, son of the Maor v’Shemesh

5666/1906, Harav Alexander Moshe Lapidus, zt”l, talmid of Harav Yisrael Salanter


5453/1693

Harav Gershon Ashkenazi, Zt”l, the Avodas Hagershuni

Harav Gershon ben Harav Yitzchak was born c. 5378/1618 in the town of Holtz (Ulf), Germany.

Since Poland was the largest Torah center of those days, Rav Gershon naturally made his way to Cracow, Poland, to learn in the prestigious yeshivah of Harav Yoel Sirkes, zt”l, the Bach. In addition, he was a talmid of Harav Yehoshua, zt”l, the Maginei Shlomo, who led a prominent yeshivah in Cracow.

After the Bach’s petirah, Rav Gershon’s attachment to the Maginei Shlomo grew stronger, and for many years he would consult him in matters of halachah.

Rav Gershon married the daughter of Reb Yehudah Leib Foss, a wealthy member of the Cracow community. Reb Leib supported Reb Gershon graciously while he immersed himself in learning. Sadly, his Rebbetzin passed away at a young age, on 18 Shevat 5409/1649, leaving behind several orphans.

Rav Gershon then married the daughter of Harav Menachem Mendel Krochmal, zt”l, the Tzemach Tzedek, who was Rav in Nikolsburg. Unfortunately, Rav Gershon’s new Rebbetzin passed away five years later.

Rav Gershon married again, and his Rebbetzin, Rebbetzin Raizel, merited long life, outliving her husband by 30 years.

Several kehillos were privileged to have Rav Gershon as their Rav. At a relatively young age, he served as a Dayan in Cracow. Several years later, c. 5410/1650, he led the kehillah of Prossnitz, Moravia. Afterwards, he became Rav in Hanau, Germany.

With the petirah of the Tzemach Tzedek in 5421/1661, he was called upon to serve as Rav in Nikolsburg, Moravia; after a year he also served as Rav of the entire country of Moravia (Mehrin). Eventually he became Rav of Vienna, where he served as the principal Rav of Austria.

When the Jews of Vienna were expelled in 5430/1670 by Emperor Leopold, Rav Gershon fled with his flock. Then he was asked to accept the recently vacated Rabbanus position in Metz, then part of France, where he remained until his petirah.

Rav Gershon taught Torah with utmost devotion for over 40 years. He had thousands of talmidim, many of whom went on to become great leaders and Rabbanim of Klal Yisrael.

Rav Gershon’s gadlus and kedushah were awe-inspiring. In his later years he hired a talmid chacham to be with him constantly to ensure he would not even inadvertently violate the minutest dikduk in halachah.

After his petirah, the Jews of Metz observed a year of mourning in which they banned music even at chasunos.

His sefarim are She’eilos u’Teshuvos Avodas Hagershuni, Tiferes Hegershuni al HaTorah and Drashos.

Yehi zichro baruch.


Feb. 15

In 1758, mustard was advertised for the first time in America.

In 1764, the city of St. Louis was established.

In 1842, adhesive postage stamps were used for the first time by the City Dispatch Post (Office) in New York City.

In 1898, the U.S. battleship Maine mysteriously blew up in Havana Harbor, killing more than 260 crew members and bringing the United States closer to war with Spain.

In 1933, President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt escaped an assassination attempt in Miami; gunman Giuseppe Zangara was executed more than four weeks later.

In 1965, Canada’s new maple-leaf flag was unfurled in ceremonies in Ottawa.