This Day in History – 17 Shevat/January 23

In 5180/1420, Purim of Saragossa was established because of a miracle in the Jewish community of Saragossa, Spain.

Saragossa had twelve kehillos. Their minhag was to go out to greet the king with sifrei Torah from each kehillah whenever he passed by. At one point, the Rabbanim decided that this was not kvod haTorah, so they ordered the shamashim to remove the holy scrolls from their cases. They would greet the king with the cases while preserving the honor of the Torah scrolls.

A Jewish apostate wanted to stir up the king’s wrath against the Jews. He told the king that the cases of the sifrei Torah were empty. That night, Eliyahu Hanavi appeared to the shamash of each of the kehillos and instructed them to return the scrolls to their case. The next day, when the king checked and found that the information was false, he killed the apostate and the Jews were saved.


5498/1738, Harav Moshe of Kitov, zt”l, a talmid of the Baal Shem Tov

5628/1868, Harav Chaim Palagi, zt”l

5616/1856, Harav Yechezkel, Rebbe of Kuzmir, Zy”a.

Harav Yechezkel of Kuzmir was born in about 5530/1770 to Harav Tzvi Hirsch, zt”l, author of the Shabbos zemer “Chavatzeles Hasharon,” and the son of Harav Shlomo Zalman, zt”l, one of the disciples of the Baal Shem Tov. In his youth, Reb Yechezkel learned from his father, who was a gadol b’Torah v’yir’ah.

He married the daughter of Harav Moshe of Dvuhrt.

At a young age, Rav Yechezkel became a talmid of the Chozeh of Lublin, to whom he traveled often. He also followed Harav Yisrael, the Maggid of Kozhnitz, zy”a, and the Yehudi Hakadosh of P’shischa, zy”a. Subsequently, he became a talmid of Harav Shmuel of Karov, zy”a, and, after Harav Shmuel was niftar, of his successor, Harav Yitzchok of Wengrov, zy”a.

In 5487/1727, upon the petirah of Harav Yitzchok of Wengrov, Rav Yechezkel was crowned Rebbe. He later moved to Kuzmir, a town in Poland.

His talmidim included Harav Shlomo Hakohen, the Tiferes Shlomo, zy”a, and Harav Yosef Boruch, zy”a, the Gutta Yid from Neustadt.

Rav Yechezkel emphasized the power of niggunim for spiritual elevation. This unique aspect of Chassidus was inherited by the Modzitzer dynasty, which was a successor of Kuzmir.

Rav Yechezkel was very stringent with mitzvos. For example, he was extremely makpid on the wheat that was used to bake matzos, and would himself supervise every single detail of the procedure.

His Torah thoughts were printed by his son-in-law in Nechmad Mizahav. A collection of his thoughts were compiled in Toras Yechezkel (currently unavailable).

Reb Yechezkel was survived by his sons Harav Dovid Tzvi of Neustadt; Harav Shmuel Eliyahu of Zvallin, the founder of the Modzitzer dynasty; Harav Chaim of Kuzmir; and Harav Ephraim of Shenana-Kuzmir, zechusam yagein aleinu. His sons-in-law were Harav Moshe Dovid Hakohen, zt”l, Rav of Kalshin, and Harav Avraham, zt”l, the Maggid of Dvuhrt. He was niftar at about the age of eighty-five, and is buried in Kuzmir.

Jan. 23

In 1368, China’s Ming dynasty, which lasted nearly three centuries, began as Zhu Yuanzhang was formally acclaimed emperor following the collapse of the Yuan dynasty.

In 1845, Congress decided all national elections would be held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.

In 1933, the 20th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the so-called “Lame Duck Amendment,” was ratified as Missouri approved it.

In 1950, the Israeli Knesset approved a resolution affirming Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

In 1964, the 24th Amendment to the United States Constitution, eliminating the poll tax in federal elections, was ratified as South Dakota became the 38th state to endorse it.

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