This Day in History – 13 Shevat/February 2

In 5550/1790, the French National Assembly granted full and equal citizenship to the Portuguese and Avignonese Jews.


5568/1808, Harav Yaakov Shimon of Zaslov, zt”l

5680/1920, Harav Binyamin Eisenstadt, zt”l, Rav of Utyein, mechaber of Mas’as Binyamin

5697/1937, Harav Avigdor Pollack of Spinke-Sighet, zt”l

5739/1979, Harav Raphael Baruch Sorotzkin, zt”l, Rosh Yeshivas Telshe


5570/1810, Harav Mordechai Perlow of Lechovitz, zt”l

Reb Mordechai of Lechovitz was born in 5502/1742. He was named after his grandfather, Harav Mordechai Yaffeh, the Baal Halevushim. When Reb Mordechai was a small child, Reb Aharon of Karlin passed through his town and Reb Mordechai’s father took him to see the Gadol to receive a brachah for hasmadah. Reb Aharon held the boy close for a moment and promised that he would indeed grow up to be a diligent scholar. Reb Mordechai later said that he had learned how to motivate people to teshuvah in those few moments.

Reb Mordechai showed signs of kedushah and prishus from a young age. After his father’s petirah, the townspeople hired a tutor to teach the young orphan, but Reb Mordechai preferred to spend hours at a time in the forest communing with the Borei Olam, and he became a great scholar on his own. Before his bar mitzvah, he already gave a drashah in the Great Shul of Vilna that astounded everyone there with its brilliance and mastery of the subject. Years later, though, he davened that the world should forget his childhood precociousness; and indeed, he was actually often held to be an ignoramus, though his talmidim were treated to the full breadth of his erudition.

Reb Mordechai received his education in avodah and yirah mainly from Harav Shlomo of Karlin, who shared his vast knowledge with his talmid. After the petirah of his Rebbe in 5552/1792, Reb Mordechai began to lead Chassidim, spreading Chassidus in Lithuania.

Other Gedolim were lavish in their admiration of Reb Mordechai. Reb Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev said that a third of the world existed in his merit, and Reb Yisrael of Ruzhin called him kodesh kodashim and the Manhig Hador.

In 5570/1810, at the time of the wedding of his grandson Reb Shlomo Chaim (son of Reb Aharon, who had died young), Reb Mordechai fell ill. He tried to avoid traveling to the chasunah, which was held in Stolin, but the family and Chassidim pressed him to go, and he relented.

On the day of the wedding, Friday, 13 Shevat, the Rebbe felt that his end was near. He took his tzitzis in one hand and held his beard in the other and began to hum: “Keil chai, Chelkeinu Tzureinu, tzaveh l’hatzil yedidus she’ereinu mishachas, l’maan briso asher sam bivsareinu — Living G-d, Who is our Portion and our Rock, command that our beloved remnant be saved from perdition for the sake of Your covenant that You placed in our flesh.” He repeated this numerous times, until his pure soul returned to its Maker.

The levayah took place the same day as the chasunah.

Reb Shalom of Brahin related, “I heard from my brother, Reb Aharon of Koidenov, that our grandfather, the Rebbe of Lechovitz, said that he hoped not to be taken to Gan Eden via Gehinnom, but that if he did pass through, he wouldn’t leave a single soul there — for what kind of Gan Eden would he have if he knew that there were Jewish souls in Gehinnom?”

Reb Mordechai led his flock for 18 years, from 5552/1792 until 5570/1810, and was succeeded by his son Reb Noach. The Chassidus later branched out, and included the courts of Kobrin, Koidenov, Novominsk and Slonim.

Zechuso yagen aleinu.


Feb. 2

In 1653, New Amsterdam — now New York City — was incorporated.

In 1848, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, ending the Mexican-American War, was signed.

In 1925, the legendary Alaska Serum Run ended as the last of a series of dog mushers brought a life-saving treatment to Nome, the scene of a diphtheria epidemic, six days after the drug left Nenana.

In 1943, the remainder of Nazi forces from the Battle of Stalingrad surrendered in a major victory for the Soviets in World War II.

In 1964, Ranger 6, a lunar probe launched by NASA, crashed onto the surface of the moon as planned, but failed to send back any images.

In 1971, Idi Amin, having seized power in Uganda, proclaimed himself president.

In 1990, in a dramatic concession to South Africa’s black majority, President F.W. de Klerk lifted a ban on the African National Congress and promised to free Nelson Mandela.