This Day in History – 15 Shevat/January 16

15 Shevat

Today is the 15th of Shevat which marks the beginning of a New Year for Trees. This is the season in which the earliest-blooming trees emerge from their winter sleep and begin a new fruit-bearing cycle. Halachically, the New Year relates to the dinim of maasros, orlah, neta riva’ei and, according to some, Shemittah.

In 5691/1931, the first Siyum HaShas of the Daf Yomi cycle was celebrated.

In 5701/1941, the Nazis established the ghetto of Lodz.


5583/1823, Harav Chaim Mordechai Margulies, zt”l, mechaber of Shaarei Teshuvah

5663/1903, Harav Shlomo Dovid Yehoshua Guterman of Radzimin, zt”l

5685/1925, Harav Refael Shlomo Laniado, zt”l, Rosh Yeshivah of Porat Yosef


Harav Gedalyah Aharon Rabinowitz of Linitz, zt”l, Mechaber of Chen Aharon

Harav Gedalyah Aharon Rabinowitz was born in 5575/1815. He was the son of Harav Yitzchak Yoel of Linitz, of whom he was orphaned at a young age.

Reb Gedalyah Aharon learned under Harav Yisrael of Ruzhin, Harav Moshe Tzvi of Savran, and Harav Shmuel of Kaminka.

He married the daughter of Harav Shmuel Abba Shapira, the son of Harav Moshe of Slavita, a scion of the Koritzer dynasty. The couple lived in Reb Shmuel Abba’s home until 5599/1839, when they returned to Linitz. There Reb Gedalyah Aharon was appointed successor to his father, as Rebbe and Rav of the town.

In 5602/1842, for an unknown reason, Reb Gedalyah Aharon moved to Sokolovka, a small town near Linitz. He resided there until 5628/1868.

Although Reb Gedalyah Aharon was known for his greatness in Torah, he barely ever delivered public divrei Torah. He led the chassidim in the Koritzer style, as he had seen in the home of his father-in-law.

Reb Gedalyah Aharon was nearly taken away by the Russians to Yeruslav, but he was forewarned and managed to escape to Romania, where he spent the last 10 years of his life. He was niftar on 15 Shevat 5638/1878, at the age of 63.

One of his chassidim in Romania compiled many of his divrei Torah and published them under the name Chen Aharon.

Reb Gedalyah Aharon’s sons were Harav Yitzchak Yoel of Kantikozbah; Harav Pinchas of Sokolovka; Harav Yosef, Rav in Boheflah; and Harav Yaakov of Tcherkas.

His sons-in-law were Harav Yaakov Shimshon Chodarov; Harav Shaul, Rav in Chatin; and Harav Yaakov Leib of Lubashov.

Zechuso yagen aleinu.


January 16

In 1547, Ivan the Terrible was crowned Russia’s first czar.

In 1666, France, allied with Holland, declared war on England.

In 1761, British took Pondicherry after a siege, marking the end of French dominion in India.

In 1778, France recognized U.S. independence.

In 1816, Portugal’s South American colony, Brazil, became a kingdom.

In 1883, the U.S. Civil Service Commission was established.

In 1917, Germans proposed in a telegram that Mexico become Germany’s ally with a view to recovering Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. The telegram was intercepted, hastening the U.S. entry into World War I.

In 1920, Prohibition, the legal prevention of the manufacture, sale or transportation of alcoholic drinks, began as the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution took effect. It was later repealed.

In 1925, Leon Trotsky was dismissed from the chairmanship of Russia’s Revolutionary Council.

In 1966, Major General Aguiyi Ironsi took over power in Nigeria after announcing that an attempted coup had been smashed.

In 1969, Soviet cosmonauts achieved the first linkup of two manned spaceships while in orbit around Earth.

In 1971, Swiss ambassador to Brazil, Giovanni Enrico Bucher, was freed in Rio de Janeiro after being held by kidnappers for 40 days.

In 1973, the United States and South Vietnam declared a cease-fire in the Vietnam War in hopes of a full peace pact.

In 1979, in the face of growing unrest, Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi fled Iran, never to return.

In 1987, Hu Yaobang resigned as head of China’s Communist Party, accepting blame for policy mistakes stemming from student turmoil.

In 1990, the Bulgarian government granted the opposition the right to publish newspapers, but continued to deny their access to other media.

In 1991, U.S. and allied fighters and heavy bombers started pounding targets in Iraq and Kuwait after Iraq failed to meet a deadline on withdrawal from Kuwait.

In 1992, a special high court in Greece acquitted former Socialist Premier Andreas Papandreou of involvement in a $210-million bank embezzlement scheme.

Officials of the government of El Salvador and rebel leaders signed a pact in Mexico City ending 12 years of civil war that left at least 75,000 people dead.

In 1993, Somali civilians led U.S. troops to bunkers overflowing with more than 1,000 tons of arms and ammunition. A marine spokesman called the find “the mother lode of arms caches.”

In 1996, Sierra Leone’s military ruler, Capt. Valentine Strasser, was ousted in a coup.

In 1998, Turkey’s high court outlawed the Islamic-oriented Welfare Party.

In 2000, Ricardo Lagos was elected Chile’s first socialist president since Salvador Allende, whose government was toppled in a bloody 1973 military coup led by Gen. Augusto Pinochet.