This Day In History 14 Kislev/December 14

In 5605/1844, the Czar of Russia provided for the establishment of Jewish schools and seminaries. He sought to aid the Haskalah in its nefarious efforts to undermine Torah-true Yiddishkeit. Therefore the educational agenda of the schools, which included both Jewish and secular studies, was crafted with that objective in mind.


Yahrtzeiten

5567/1806, Harav Shmuel of Posen, zt”l, mechaber of Beis Shmuel

5678/1917, Harav Elazar Lev, zt”l, mechaber of Pekudas Elazar

5680/1919, Harav David Abuchatzeira, zt”l

5690/1929, Harav Betzalel Zev Shafran of Baku, zt”l


5417/1656, Harav Menashe ben Yisrael of Amsterdam, zt”l, mechaber of Nishmas Chaim

Harav Menashe ben Yisrael was born in 5364/1604 to a family of conversos (originally from Lisbon), a year after his parents left Portugal due to the Inquisition. The family soon moved to the Netherlands, in 1610, where young Menashe learned under Harav Yitzchak Uziel Hakohen of Spain, one of the Dayanim and leading Rabbanim in Amsterdam.

Menashe was a gifted child, and his linguistic abilities were amazing; he became proficient in more languages than most people ever know even superficially. This allowed him to read a great variety of works from many countries, and his broad knowledge, together with an amazing ability to recall much of what he read, eventually earned him a reputation as one of Europe’s leading talmidei chachamim. It was with the idea of getting his writings into print that he set up a small printing press, the first Hebrew press in Holland, at the young age of 22, in 1626. The Amsterdam press was named Emes Me’eretz Titzmach.

Rav Menashe was convinced that the Geulah still needed as its certain precursor the settling of Jews in all parts of the world. With this in mind, he turned his attention to England, from where Edward I, in 1290, had expelled the Jews in the first of the great general expulsions of the Middle Ages. He printed a sefer called Mikveh Yisrael, both in Spanish and in Latin, in which he calls on the English parliament to let the Jews back into England.

Rav Menashe wrote a letter to Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland, requesting that Jews be allowed to reside in England again. There was no official presence of Jews in England, Scotland, Ireland or Wales. It was thanks to Rav Menashe’s efforts that the ban on Jewish residence in Great Britain finally loosened. The Jews who began arriving in England as a result of Rav Menashe’s intercession were of Spanish and Portuguese origin, descendants of Jews expelled from Spain in 1492 and Portugal in 1496. In an ironic twist of history, England, the first country to expel its Jewish population, became a refuge for those Jews who were the victims of the last and most devastating expulsions of Jews from European lands.

He was niftar in 5417/1656, in Amsterdam.

Many of his sefarim have been printed. Notable among them are Nishmas Chaim, about gilgulim; Teshuas Yisrael, in which he refutes libels against the Jews; and the aforementioned Mikveh Yisrael.

Zechuso yagen aleinu.


Dec. 14

In 1819, Alabama joined the Union as the 22nd state.

In 1911, Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen and his team became the first men to reach the South Pole, beating out a British expedition led by Robert F. Scott.

In 1946, the United Nations General Assembly voted to establish the U.N.’s headquarters in New York.

In 1972, Apollo 17 astronauts Harrison Schmitt and Eugene Cernan concluded their third and final moonwalk and blasted off for their rendezvous with the command module.

In 1996, a freighter lost power on the Mississippi River and barreled into the Riverwalk complex in New Orleans; miraculously, no one was killed.