This Day In History 15 Teves/January 13

The matzeivah of Harav Refael of Bershad, zt”l.

In 5248/1487, the first printed edition of Sefer Mitzvos Gadol was printed in Soncino, Italy.


5495/1734, Harav Mordechai, zt”l, Rosh Mesivta of Lvov

5683/1923, Harav Shemayah Noach of Bobroisk, zt”l

5738/1977, Harav Chaim Mordechai of Nadvorna, zt”l

5587/1827, Harav Refael of Bershad, zt”l

Harav Refael ben Harav Yaakov Yukel was born c. 1751/5511. Although his father had no connection to Chassidus, Rav Refael was attracted to its ways.

Rav Refael traveled to Harav Pinchas of Koritz, zy”a, and burst out, “I wish to serve Hashem with emes, but I am not saying this truthfully, and that last statement too is not said truthfully!” After his emotional outburst, he fell to the ground in a faint.

Rav Pinchas told him to remain in Koritz, which he did, staying for three years and benefiting immensely from Rav Pinchas’s teachings.

Rav Refael eventually established his own Chassidic court in Bershad, Ukraine.

Three middos that Rav Refael learned from Reb Pinchas Koritzer and taught to his Chassidim were emes, anavah and complete ahavas Yisrael.

Rav Refael was renowned for his absolute love of every Jew, to the extent that Rav Pinchas declared of him, “My Refael can love even the lowest, most wicked resha’im.”

Rav Refael demanded the same from his Chassidim, instructing them not to see evil in anyone but themselves. He insisted that the spark of righteousness could be rekindled in even the biggest resha’im.

Rav Refael was very particular that every word that passed his lips be true. The night before he was supposed to take an oath to help a Yid who had smuggled avoid harsh judgment, Reb Refael broke out in tears. Lifting his hands to the heavens, he cried out, “Ribbono shel Olam! Never has a word of sheker passed my lips. Now in my old age, should I lie? I therefore beseech of You to take me from this world, so I shouldn’t have to lie. Once I am gone, the judge will rely on Rav Moshe Savraner’s words.” (Rav Moshe Savraner was the second Rav asked to swear on the Yid’s behalf.)

That night, as he lay down to sleep, Reb Refael’s neshamah returned to its Maker in kedushah and taharah.

At the end, even Reb Moshe Savraner was not forced to swear, and the Yid was let off without any testimony.

Rav Refael was niftar on 15 Teves 5587/1827 and was buried in Sarashah.

Zechuso yagen aleinu.

Jan. 13

In 1733, James Oglethorpe and some 120 English colonists arrived in Charleston, South Carolina, while en route to settle in present-day Georgia.

In 1794, President George Washington approved a measure adding two stars and two stripes to the American flag, following the admission of Vermont and Kentucky to the Union. (The number of stripes was later reduced to the original 13.)

In 1854, Anthony Faas of Philadelphia, PA, was granted the first U.S. patent for the accordion. He made improvements to the keyboard and enhanced the sound.

In 1898, Emile Zola’s famous defense of Capt. Alfred Dreyfus, “J’accuse,” was published in Paris.