This Day in History – 13 Adar/February 18

The astronomer Clyde Tombaugh, discoverer of Pluto, here shown with his homemade 9-inch telescope.

13 Adar

In 3600, Nikanor was defeated; the day is designated as a Yom Tov in both Megillas Ta’anis and Masechta Ta’anis 18. Nikanor was one of the nobles of the Greek king; every day he would pass the gates of Yerushalayim on his way to his master. Each time, he would wave his hands and declare, “I can’t wait for the time when I will breach the walls of Yerushalayim, when I will destroy the Beis Hamikdash.”

When the Chashmona’im rose to power and the Greeks were defeated, they approached his compound and attacked it, ultimately killing the wicked Nikanor and all his men.


4977/1217

Rabbeinu Yehuda Hachassid, Zt”l

Rabbeinu Yehuda Hachassid was born in Speyer, Germany, in the year 4910/1150. His father was Rabbeinu Shmuel, zt”l, who headed a famous yeshivah in Speyer. Rav Shmuel was the son of Rabbeinu Kalonymus Hazaken of Magentza, zt”l.

When Rav Yehudah was 18 years of age, his father confirmed that he would be knowledgable in the happenings of the upper and lower worlds. Although he did not excel in his studies at a young age, his father foresaw his greatness. Indeed, Rav Yehuda became one of the uncontested leaders of Ashkenazi Jewry.

He practiced a very hallowed way of life, fasting most of his days and abstaining from any physical pleasures.

Rav Yehudah was considered one of the Baalei Tosafos from Ashkenaz and was one of the talmidim of the Ri (one of the prominent Baalei Tosafos). In addition, he authored many piyutim.

The sefer Chassidim Harishonim cites what contemporary Gedolim said about him: “If he would have lived in the era of the Amora’im, he would have definitely been an Amora … and in the time of the Neviim, he would have been a Navi.”

Rav Yehudah eventually relocated to Regensburg, Germany, where he taught many talmidim. Among his famous talmidim are the Ohr Zarua, the Smag and the Rokeach, among others. He authored many sefarim, most of which were lost over the years. His famous Sefer Chassidim covers all aspects of Jewish life: mussar, middos and halachah, occasionally according to Kabbalah.

He also authored his famous tzava’ah (will), from which certain customs are still followed by some to this day. Among the customs that are still observed from his tzava’ah are: One should not cut down a fruit-bearing tree; one should not cut nails or hair on Rosh Chodesh; one should not polish shoes on the day of a trip; a man should not marry a woman with the same name as his mother, and a woman should not marry a man with the same name as her father.

He was niftar on 13 Adar 4977/1217.

His sons were Harav Dovid, author of Livnas Hasapir, Ohr Zarua on tefillah, and other sefarim; and Harav Moshe.


Feb. 18

In 1930, photographic evidence of Pluto (now designated a “dwarf planet”) was discovered by Clyde W. Tombaugh at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona.

In 1972, the California Supreme Court struck down the state’s death penalty.

In 1977, the space shuttle prototype Enterprise, sitting atop a Boeing 747, went on its debut “flight” above Edwards Air Force Base in California.

In 1997, astronauts on the space shuttle Discovery completed their tune-up of the Hubble Space Telescope after 33 hours of spacewalking; the Hubble was then released using the shuttle’s crane.