This Day in History – 12 Shevat/January 13

12 Shevat

In 5701/1941, Nazis provoked the first anti-Jewish riots in Amsterdam, but the Jews successfully fought off their attackers.

In 5703/1943, Jews in the Warsaw ghetto put up their first resistance to the Nazi effort to liquidate them. The Nazis retreated, only to return three months later when the Warsaw ghetto uprising started.


5395/1635, Harav Tzvi Hersh Shor, zt”l, mechaber of Toras Chaim

5499/1739, Harav Baruch Kapilish of Lublin, zt”l

5686/1926, Harav Meir Atlas, zt”l, Rav of Shavel, Lithuania

5702/1942, Harav Zev Dov Zamoshitz, zt”l, mechaber of Minchas Zikaron



Harav Chaim Kapusi, zt”l

Harav Chaim Kapusi was born c. 5300/1540, in Algiers. His father was Harav Yitzchak, zt”l. In his early years, the family moved to Egypt, where he learned in the yeshivah of Harav Yosef Beirav.

Harav Chaim came to be known as one of the noted talmidei chachamim of Egypt, and his rulings in halachah were accepted all over. Many Rabbanim sent him she’eilos, to which he would reply.

Harav Chaim was well versed in both the revealed and the secret Torah. He was especially close to Harav Yosef Bagiliar, who studied with the Arizal in Tzfas. This close friendship with Rav Yosef brought him into contact with the Gurei Ari, the close talmidim of the Ari, so that he is numbered among them.

Harav Chaim Kapusi was renowned as a miracle worker, most notably because of a certain incident. He served as a Dayan in Egypt, and his decision in a particular case caused certain people in the community to question his ruling. They were convinced that he was in error and began talking against him behind his back. “Surely Rav Chaim must have accepted bribery,” they said. Shortly afterwards, Rav Chaim became blind. This was a sure proof of his guilt, they claimed, since the Torah itself says, “bribery blinds the eyes of the wise.” He was thus being punished justly.

These implications reached the ears of Rav Chaim. He davened to Hashem with all his heart, begging Him to remove the shameful stigma. One day he declared in public, before the entire community, that people’s suspicions were false and unfounded. “If it is true that I accepted bribery,” he exclaimed, “then let me continue to be blind until the day I die. But if the allegations are false, let Hashem restore my eyesight!”

To the amazement of the entire kehillah, Rav Chaim’s sight was suddenly and miraculously restored, then and there. He even addressed all those surrounding him by name, to show that his eyesight had indeed returned.

The people who had implicated him hung their heads in shame at having suspected their worthy Dayan. From then on, they accepted his every word and followed his rulings. Many flocked to him for brachos. From then on, Rav Chaim used to sign his name “Hashem Nissi, Chaim Kapusi,” to commemorate the great miracle that occurred to him.

Harav Chaim wanted dearly to settle in Eretz Yisrael, but this plan never materialized. He was niftar in Egypt at the age of 91 and was buried in the Jewish cemetery of Cairo. His kever, considered by many a place of tefillah, is still visited today. On his yahrtzeit, many gather at his kever to daven, and some even have the custom to pour oil on his kever. The Chidah wrote over 100 years after his petirah that “to this day, whoever swears falsely upon his grave is punished.”

Harav Chaim wrote numerous sefarim. Sifsei Chaim, a commentary on the Sifri and the Mechilta, remains unpublished thus far. His sefer on Torah, B’ohr HaChaim, was published nearly 300 years after his petirah.

Zechuso yagen aleinu.


January 13

In 1559, Elizabeth I of England was crowned.

In 1794, U.S. President George Washington approved a measure adding two stars and two stripes to the American flag, following the admission of Vermont and Kentucky to the union.

In 1813, the British fleet blockaded Chesapeake and Delaware bays in the U.S. during the War of 1812.

In 1898, Emile Zola published the manifesto “J’accuse,” an attack on the anti-Semitism in France that sent Jewish officer Alfred Dreyfus to prison.

In 1915, an earthquake in central Italy killed 30,000 people.

In 1935, Saar voted to return to Germany after being administered by France under League of Nations supervision.

In 1945, Soviet forces began an offensive in Silesia, Germany, now mostly part of Poland, in World War II.

In 1959, Belgium granted reforms in Belgian Congo following disturbances.

In 1972, a group of junior officers overthrew the civilian government of Ghana in West Africa.

In 1990, Douglas Wilder of Virginia became the nation’s first elected black governor as he took the oath of office in Richmond, Virginia.

In 1994, Italian Premier Carlo Ciampi resigned, opening the way for parliamentary elections that ousted the scandal-scarred parties that dominated Italy for five decades.

In 1997, two letter bombs sent to the U.N. bureau of an Arab-language newspaper forced the evacuation of part of U.N. headquarters, hours after a third letter bomb exploded at the newspaper’s London offices.

In 1999, the chief of Brazil’s Central Bank, Gustavo Franco, unexpectedly resigned and his successor devalued the currency by 8 percent, roiling world financial markets.

In 2001, in a rare disclosure, China said it had punished 242 organizers of the Falun Gong spiritual movement and sent an undisclosed number of followers to labor camps during an 18-month-old crackdown.