This Day in History – 16 Shevat/January 22

16 Shevat

In 5701/1941, a torpedo, apparently fired accidentally by a Soviet submarine, sank the Struma, a cattle boat in which 769 Romanian Jews were attempting to flee to Eretz Yisrael during WWII. The ship was badly overcrowded and lacked basic necessities; even its engine barely worked. The trip’s organizers misled the passengers, and upon reaching Istanbul, they discovered they did not have the visas they had been promised that would permit them to enter Eretz Yisrael. The Turkish government first quarantined the ship and its passengers, and later forced it into open water, which led to its sinking. Only one person survived. Hashem yinkom damam.


5492/1732, Harav Dovid of Kolomai, zt”l, a talmid of the Baal Shem Tov

5577/1817, Harav Asher Tzvi of Ostraha, zt”l, mechaber of Maayan Hachachmah

5641/1881, Harav Yaakov of Zabeltov, zt”l

5671/1911, Harav Shalom Mordechai Shwadron, zt”l, the Maharsham of Brezhan

5760/2000, Harav Avraham Biderman, zt”l, the Lelover Rebbe of Yerushalayim


Harav Yonah Navon, Zt”l, Rav of Yerushalayim and mechaber of Nechpah Bakessef

Shaar blatt of the first chelek of Nechpah Bakessef.

Harav Yonah Navon was born in 5473/1713 in Yerushalayim. His father, Harav Chanoun, zt”l, was one of the Gedolei Yerushalayim and a Dayan in the city.

Rav Yonah toiled in Torah all his life, despite the dire poverty in which he and his family lived.

As a bachur, he learned in Beis Medrash Beit Yaakov under Harav Yisrael Meir Mizrachi, zt”l, the author of Pri Ha’aretz, who wrote of him, “A talmid who enlightens his Rebbi.”

At the age of nineteen, he was appointed Rosh Yeshivah of Yeshivat Gedulat Mordechai, founded and supported by the nagid Rav Mordechai Taaluk. He also taught in Yeshivat Yefaer Anavim.

However, Rav Yonah still didn’t make ends meet, so he was forced to leave Eretz Yisrael for Italy. There he found members of his father’s family who gladly supported him. Thus, Rav Yonah was enabled to publish his sefer Nechpah Bakessef, his halachic responsa.

Rav Yonah also authored Get Mekushar and Pri Mipri.

Rav Yonah had many talmidim over the years, including Harav Chaim Yosef David Azoulai, the Chida; Harav Pinchas Yosef Mizrachi, the son of the Pri Ha’aretz; and Harav Refael Chaim Sorangah, zecher tzaddikim livrachah.

In his Shem Hagedolim, the Chida writes of Rav Yonah, “My teacher Rav Yonah … there was nearly no posek like him in our region … a chassid and a mekubal. Due to the sins of the generation, he was plucked from our midst at the age of forty-seven.”

Rav Yonah made numerous trips on behalf of Yerushalayim’s inhabitants. In 5497/1737, he traveled to North Africa. In 5501/1741, he set out to Italy, but when he got to Sidon he returned. And finally, in 5506/1746, he went to Turkey and Greece.

Rav Yonah was niftar on 16 Shevat, 5520/1760. He was survived by three sons: Harav Efraim, Harav Binyamin and Harav Mordechai, zecher tzaddikim livrachah, all talmidei chachamim.

Zecher tzaddik livrachah.

Jan. 22

In 1771, the Falkland Islands were ceded to Britain by Spain.

In 1917, President Woodrow Wilson, in an address to Congress, pleaded for an end to the war in Europe, calling for “peace without victory.” (By April, however, America also was at war.)

In 1973, former president Lyndon B. Johnson died at his Texas ranch at age 64.

In 1997, the Senate confirmed Madeleine Albright as the nation’s first female secretary of state.

In 1998, Theodore Kaczynski pleaded guilty in Sacramento, California, to being the Unabomber, responsible for three deaths and 29 injuries, in return for a sentence of life in prison without parole.

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