This Day in History – 18 Adar II/March 20

18 Adar

Today is “Purim Sana’a.” Purim Sana’a (Yemen) was celebrated in commemoration of a great nes that occurred there. The king of Yemen had a son who was very dear to him. The king was also very close to a certain Jew and appointed him his chief adviser, naturally prompting all his other servants to despise the Jews. They schemed to bring the prince to the shul on Purim and killed him there; then they blamed the murder on the Jews.

The Jews were in dire trouble, and they fasted for three days. After the third day a young and holy child went to the prince’s body and spoke to it. Miraculously, the dead prince sat up and pointed out his killers. The day was later celebrated as the Purim of Sana’a.

In 5507/1747, the pope reaffirmed a Church rule forcing Christianity upon a Jewish child who was baptized against the will of his parents and in violation of canonical law.

In 5561/1801, David Emmanuel, the first Jewish governor in the United States, was sworn in as governor of Georgia.

In 5568/1808, Napoleon I issued a decree suspending for a decade the emancipation of
Jews in the French-occupied European countries.

In 5651/1891, a Russian imperial decree ordered the expulsion of all Jewish artisans, brewers, and distillers from Moscow.

In 5661/1901, the Jews of Smyrna, Turkey, were attacked by Greeks, who charged them with ritual murder.


5554/1794, Harav Alexander Ziskind of Horodna, zt”l, the Yesod V’shoresh Ha’avodah (Adar II)

5630/1870, Harav Chanoch Henoch of Alexander, zt”l (Adar II)

5655/1895, Harav Avraham Yehudah Leib Kozak, Rav of Bruk, zt”l

5706/1946, Harav Nachum Mordechai of Tchortkov, zt”l (Adar II)

5734/1974, Harav Yechezkel Levenstein, zt”l, the Mashgiach of Yeshivas Ponevezh



Harav Avraham Yehudah Leib Kozak, Rav of Brok, zy”a

The Broker Rav, as he was commonly known, was born in 5574/1814 in the city of Kutna. His parents were upright and pious Jews, and the young Avraham Leib was a source of pride to them. His dedication to limud haTorah surpassed the norm. While his parents suffered from poverty and could not even afford extra candles, the young Avraham Leib remained determined; he would stand for many nights under the light of the moon peering into his Gemara.

During that time, the well-known Harav Moshe Aharon, a talmid of the Yehudi Hakadosh of Peshischa, resided in Kutna. It was known that only the best scholars were accepted to learn under his guidance. As soon as he came to realize the giant character of the young Avraham Leib, he accepted him into his yeshivah, where he found his place among the older, established talmidim.

Avraham Leib was orphaned at a relatively young age, and Harav Moshe Aharon took him under his patronage. He developed into an iluy and a great masmid, learning up to 18 hours at a stretch, standing most of that time.

The reputation of the iluy of Kutna reached countless ears and many desired him as their son-in-law. Reb Yosef, the nagid of Vishigrad, had a sister who was an orphan, for whom he promised support for many years to come. After his marriage to the sister of Reb Yosef, Reb Avraham Leib moved to Vishigrad, where his brother-in-law took care of all his needs.

Eventually, Reb Avraham Leib became a devout Chassid of the Kotzker Rebbe, Harav Menachem Mendel, frequently visiting Tomashov, where the Rebbe resided at that time. During the years of support by his brother-in-law he devoted himself entirely to avodas Hashem, learning and self-purification.

He was exceptionally close with Harav Mordechai Yosef, the leading disciple of the Kotzker Rebbe, but when Harav Mordechai Yosef founded a Chassidus in Ishbitz, he did not join his group but remained devoted to the Kotzker Rebbe.

His superior character was well-recognized by the sharp Kotzker Chassidim, but in his great humility he had absolutely no sense of the honor bestowed upon him. When people would ask him to daven for them he would reply, “What do you want from me? I am as worthy as a simple water carrier.” But the Chassidim knew better; the Kotzker Rebbe appointed him the personal melamed of his sons.

After the untimely passing of  his brother-in-law, Reb Avraham Leib was forced to seek a source of income. Following his Rebbe’s advice, he accepted the rabbanus of the town of Brok and, since it was a small town, he was able to devote prodigious amounts of time to Torah study and avodas Hashem. He remained in Brok for the rest of his life, even though they only paid him a meager stipend. He was offered positions in many other prestigious locations, but he refused to abandon his serene environment.

In Brok he opened a yeshivah, to which many outstanding talmidim flocked. In addition, his reputation as a po’el yeshuos began spreading. But Reb Avraham Leib refused to accept kvitlach, and would always consider himself a talmid. He exemplified the words he wrote in his peirush on Avos, “Talmidim should learn from their Rebbe to remain a talmid, just as their Rebbe remained a talmid.”

After the petirah of the Kotzker Rebbe, he traveled to his successor, the Chiddushei Harim, and to this Rebbe, too, he demonstrated deep humility and devotion. The same held true after the petirah of the Chiddushei Harim, when Harav Chanoch Henoch of Alexander succeeded as Rebbe.

Four years later, after the petirah of Harav Chanoch Henoch, Reb Avraham Leib became a devoted and fiery chassid of Harav Yehudah Aryeh, the Sfas Emes, even though he was many years older than the Rebbe. The Sfas Emes once said about him, “The Rav of Brok learns Torah lishma, therefore whatever he says is accepted in Shamayim.” The Rebbe designated a special room for Reb Avraham Leib in which he stayed whenever he visited Ger.

Once a chassid came with a bakashah for the Sfas Emes that involved pikuach nefesh. The Rebbe, however, was no longer seeing people that day, and the chassid did not know what to do. He ran to Harav Avraham Mordechai, the Rebbe’s son (later the Imrei Emes), and begged that he daven for him. The future Imrei Emes replied, “Go to the Rav of Brok who is in Ger now, and since he will refuse to take a kvittel from you, tell him I sent you.” Upon hearing that the Rebbe’s son had sent the supplicant, Harav Avraham Leib donned his coat and walked to the outskirts of the town, refusing to accept the kvittel in the same location as his revered Rebbe.

Many chassidim would come to him for brachos and yeshuos. Many wanted him to lead a flock of his own, but he continuously refused. Once he complained about this to the Sfas Emes, saying that he did not know why people bothered him. The Rebbe told him, “If one can do good for a Yid one must do it.” From then on he accepted kvitlach, at the behest of his Rebbe.

In 5545/1885, his first sefarim, Melias Even on Even Haezer and Kuntres Yad Yosef, were printed without his name. A childless Jew sponsored the cost of the printing, and was subsequently blessed with children. After his passing, the sefer Eil Miluim and the Kuntres Talmid L’Mishnah were printed. His descendants recently reprinted these sefarim.

He wished to ascend to Eretz Yisrael, but the Sfas Emes would not agree, so he stayed in Poland.

The Broker Rav was niftar at a ripe old age after serving as Rav in Brok for over 40 years. He is buried in Brok.

Yehi zichro baruch.


March 20

In 1727, physicist, mathematician and astronomer Sir Isaac Newton died in London.

In 1815, Napoleon Bonaparte returned to Paris after escaping his exile on Elba, beginning his “Hundred Days” rule.

In 1922, the decommissioned USS Jupiter, converted into the first U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, was recommissioned as the USS Langley.

In 1933, the state of Florida electrocuted Giuseppe Zangara for shooting to death Chicago Mayor Anton J. Cermak at a Miami event attended by President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt, the presumed target, the previous February.

In 1952, the U.S. Senate ratified, 66–10, the Treaty of Peace with Japan.

In 1994, El Salvador held its first presidential election following the country’s 12-year-old civil war. (Armando Calderon Sol of the ARENA party led the vote, but needed to win a run-off to achieve the presidency.)

In 1999, Bertrand Piccard of Switzerland and Brian Jones of Britain became the first aviators to fly a hot-air balloon around the world nonstop as they floated over Mauritania past longitude 9 degrees west. (They landed safely in Egypt the next day.)