This Day in History – 12 Av/August 8

Space shuttle Endeavour rests on the launch pad ready for launch. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Space shuttle Endeavour rests on the launch pad ready for launch. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

In 5023/1263, by order of King James I of Aragon (Spain,) the Ramban was forced to participate in a public debate, held in the presence of the king, against the Jewish apostate Pablo Christiani. The Ramban brilliantly defended Judaism and refuted the apostate’s claims.

Because his victory was an insult to the king’s religion, the Ramban was forced to flee Spain. When he arrived in Yerushalayim he found just a handful of Jewish families, all living in abject poverty, and he did everything in his power to revive the floundering Jewish community. The shul he built in the Old City is one of the oldest shuls in the world still in use today.

In 5270/1510, 36 Jews were burned at the stake in Berlin, Hy”d.

In 5704/1944, the Russian army liberated the city of Kovno, Lithuania.


5589/1829, Harav Binyamin Wolf Lev, zt”l, mechaber of Shaarei Torah

5597/1837, Harav Aryeh Leib Katzenelenbogen, zt”l, Rav of Brisk


Harav Yeshayah Weltfried of Kalisch, zt”l

Harav Yeshayah was a son of Harav Avraham Moshe of Rosphsha, a descendant of Harav Yeshayah of Pshedborzh. On his mother’s side he was a descendant of Harav Yaakov Yitzchak, the Chozeh of Lublin.

Their forebear Reb Yeshayah of Pshedborzh became a chassid under the influence of Reb Dovid of Lelov, who traveled with him to the Chozeh. The Chozeh would refer to Reb Yeshayah as “my sefarim shank,” and Rebbe and talmid maintained a strong bond. Harav Yeshayah became Rav in Pshedborzh, one of the ancient kehillos in Poland. After the petirah of the Chozeh, Reb Yeshayah became a Rebbe, as well, as chassidim began flocking to him.

He was succeeded by his son, Harav Emanuel, who in turn was succeeded by Harav Avraham Moshe of Rosphsha, the father of Harav Yeshayah of Kalisch.

Reb Yeshayah, carrying the illustrious name of his great-grandfather and emulating the holy ways of his forebears, was from his youth a kadosh v’tahor and a fervent oved Hashem.

He married the daughter of Harav Yechiel Danziger, the first Alexander Rebbe, and resided in Dzunska-Walya, where he was commonly referred to as Reb Yeshayah of Walya.

Eventually he moved to Kalisch, a less primitive city, where he was the first chassidic Rebbe there ever. The Rebbe was well-loved by his followers, stirring their souls and bringing them ever closer to Hashem with his moving tefillos. In addition to his own chassidim, he was revered as well by many Alexander Chassidim, since he was the son-in-law of Reb Yechiel of Alexander.

The Rebbe would say that when a Yid came to his court thinking that he could be helped by the Rebbe, and even
spent money for that purpose, then the Rebbe had to do all in his power to help him.

He was niftar about a month before the outbreak of WWII. A large number of his descendants were murdered al kiddush Hashem although one son, Reb Yechiel, had moved to Eretz Yisrael before the war, while another, Reb Chaim, survived the Holocaust, and was niftar in 5757/1997 in Eretz Yisrael.

Zechuso yagen aleinu.

Aug. 8

In 1814, during the War of 1812, peace talks between the United States and Britain began in Ghent, Belgium.

In 1911, President William Howard Taft signed a measure raising the number of U.S. representatives from 391 to 433, effective with the next Congress, with a proviso to add two more when New Mexico and Arizona became states.

In 1937, during the Second Sino-Japanese War, Japan completed its occupation of Beijing.

In 1942, during World War II, six Nazi saboteurs who were captured after landing in the U.S. were executed in Washington, D.C.; two others who’d cooperated with authorities were spared.

In 1945, President Harry S. Truman signed the U.S. instrument of ratification for the United Nations Charter.

The Soviet Union declared war against Japan during World War II.

In 1953, the United States and South Korea initialed a mutual security pact.

In 1963, Britain’s “Great Train Robbery” took place as thieves made off with 2.6 million pounds in banknotes.

In 1968, the Republican National Convention in Miami Beach nominated Richard Nixon for president on the first ballot.

In 1973, Vice President Spiro T. Agnew branded as “lies” reports he had taken kickbacks from government contracts in Maryland, and vowed not to resign — which he ended up doing.

In 1978, the U.S. launched Pioneer Venus 2, which carried scientific probes to study the atmosphere of Venus.

In 1994, Israel and Jordan opened the first road link between the two countries.

In 2007, space shuttle Endeavour roared into orbit with teacher-astronaut Barbara Morgan on board.