This Day in History – 15 Shevat/January 21

15 Shevat

Today is Chamishah Asar BiShvat (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 reva’i, and according to some opinions, 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 in Łódź, Poland.

Yahrtzeiten

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

5638/1878, Harav Gedalya Aharon, Rebbe of Linitz, zy”a, and mechaber of Chen Aharon

5663/1903, Harav Shlomo Dovid Yehoshua Guterman, Rebbe of Radzimin, zy”a


5685/1925

Harav Refael Shlomo Laniado, Zt”l, Rosh Yeshivah of Porat Yosef

Harav Refael Shlomo Laniado was born in 5636/1876, in Aleppo (Aram Tzovah/Chalab), Syria. His father was Rav Meir, zt”l. The family was the fourth generation of the Rabbinic Laniado family in Aram Tzovah, beginning with Harav Shmuel Laniado, zt”l.

While still young, Refael Shlomo displayed outstanding diligence in Torah. He learned b’iyun under Harav Yosef Yedid Halevi, zt”l, later Raavad in Yerushalayim, and Harav Ezra Chamui, zt”l, Rav in Aleppo.

With his phenomenal memory, he could recall large portions of Shas. He was proficient in Shas, Poskim and the works of the darshanim. He also excelled in Toras hanistar.

Rav Refael Shlomo was active in chessed work, founding the Chevras Tzedakah uMarpei in Aleppo that cared for the poor and the ill. All his life he tended to other Jews’ needs.

In 5660/1900, Rav Refael Shlomo moved to Eretz Yisrael, settling in Yerushalayim.

A few years later, he was appointed Rosh Yeshivah of Yeshivat Ohel Moed. Among the first talmidim in the yeshivah were Harav Ezra Attiyah, zt”l, and Harav Yaakov Adess, zt”l. Many of Rav Refael Shlomo’s talmidim went on to become Rabbanim and Gedolim.

In the early 1900s, Yeshivat Porat Yosef was founded. The yeshivah was the first in the Sephardic community in Eretz Yisrael to accept all applicants. The staff of Yeshivat Ohel Moed was transferred there and Rav Refael Shlomo became its Rosh Yeshivah.

Rav Refael Shlomo also served on the beis din for the Syrian community in Yerushalayim, together with Harav Yosef Yedid Halevi and Harav Avraham Adess.

Rav Refael Shlomo took ill suddenly, though few knew about it. On Shabbos, 14 Shevat, 5685/1925, Rav Avraham Adess had a dream during which he said “Rav Shlomo Laniado is sick.” When he woke up, he said he hoped that the dream was only devarim beteilim. On Motzoei Shabbos the sad news became public.

On Sunday, 15 Shevat, while Rav Avraham Adess was learning, his candle flickered and then went out. He understood this to mean that Rav Refael Shlomo was niftar. An hour later, the message came from the Old City that at that exact time, Rav Refael Shlomo had passed on.

Zecher tzaddik livrachah.


Jan. 21

In 1793, during the French Revolution, King Louis XVI, condemned for treason, was executed on the guillotine.

In 1861, Jefferson Davis of Mississippi and four other Southerners whose states had seceded from the Union resigned from the U.S. Senate.

In 1950, former State Department official Alger Hiss, accused of being part of a Communist spy ring, was found guilty in New York of lying to a grand jury. (Hiss, who proclaimed his innocence, served less than four years in prison.)

In 1977, on his first full day in office, President Jimmy Carter pardoned almost all Vietnam War draft evaders.

In 2003, The Census Bureau announced that Hispanics had surpassed blacks as America’s largest minority group.

In 2009, President Barack Obama began his first day in office. The Senate confirmed Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state.