This Day in History – 15 Av/July 27

Shaar blatt of sefer Kesem Paz.

15 Av

The Mishnah in Maseches Taanis (Perek 4, Mishnah 8) enumerates a number of significant events that occurred on this day:

  • In 2488, the decree of death for the Dor Hamidbar came to an end; no more died after this day.
  • In the times of the Beis Hamikdash, the annual cutting of firewood for the mizbei’ach was concluded.
  • In 2504, the restrictions to ensure the orderly division of Eretz Yisrael were lifted.
  • In 2533, shevet Binyamin, which had been excommunicated in the incident of the Pilegesh b’Givah, was readmitted into Klal Yisrael (as related in Shoftim 19-21).
  • In 3187, Hoshea Hamelech removed the roadblocks installed by Yeravam Hamelech, which had prevented the Jews of Israel from making pilgrimages to Yerushalayim.
  • In 3908, the Romans finally permitted the Jews to bury Bar Kochba’s supporters who had fallen at Betar, after 15 years in which their remains were left scattered on the battlefield.

In 4972/1212, the power of the Almohads, a fanatical anti-Jewish Muslim sect in Spain, was broken in battle.

In 5446/1686, Jews of Cochin, India, received a large shipment of sifrei Torah and other tashmishei kedushah from Amsterdam. The day was celebrated as an annual Yom Tov.

In 5618/1858, Baron Lionel de Rothschild became the first Jew in the British Parliament, after a new version of the oath of office was agreed upon containing no reference to Christianity.

Yahrtzeiten

Nachum Ish Gamzu, buried in Tzfas.

5633/1873, Harav Osher of Karlin, zy”a, son of Reb Aharon of Karlin

5638/1878, Harav Yaakov Leiner, Rebbe of Ishbitza, zy”a, mechaber of Beis Yaakov and other works

5678/1918, Harav Tzvi Hirsch Halberstam, zt”l, Rav of Rudnik

5722/1962, Harav Ben Tzion Yadler, zt”l, the Maggid of Yerushalayim and mechaber of B’tuv Yerushalayim

5760/2000, Harav Chanoch Henich Padwa, zt”l, Rav of London


5348/1588

Harav Shimon ibn Lavi of Tripoli, Zt”l, Mechaber of Kesem Paz and Composer of the Piyut Bar Yochai

Harav Shimon ibn Lavi was born in Spain in 5252/1492, a few years before geirush Sepharad. As a result of the expulsion he and his family fled, resettling in Fez, Morocco.

In Fez he learned Torah under the local talmidei chachamim, both niglah and nistar.

In 5309/1549, at close to the age of 60, he realized his dream and set off for Eretz Yisrael.

En route to Eretz Yisrael, Rav Shimon stopped over in Tripoli, Libya. Noting the low levels of Torah and mitzvos among the local population — many weren’t even fluent in the minimal tefillos — Rav Shimon remained to be mechazek them.

Rav Shimon was accepted without question and his every word was revered.

He wrote Kesem Paz on the Zohar and composed the piyut Bar Yochai, with the first letter of each stanza spelling out his name, Shimon Lavi.

Rav Shimon was niftar on 15 Av 5348/1588. His kever in Tripoli was known as a place of tefillah.

Zecher tzaddik livrachah.


July 27

In 1789, President George Washington signed a measure establishing the Department of Foreign Affairs, forerunner of the Department of State.

In 1866, Cyrus W. Field finished laying out the first successful underwater telegraph cable between North America and Europe (a previous cable in 1858 burned out after only a few weeks’ use).

In 1921, Canadian researcher Frederick Banting and his assistant, Charles Best, succeeded in isolating the hormone insulin at the University of Toronto.

In 1942, during World War II, the First Battle of El Alamein in Egypt ended in a draw as Allied forces stalled the progress of Axis invaders. (The Allies went on to win a clear victory over the Axis in the Second Battle of El Alamein later that year.)