This Day In History 19 Av/August 11

In 4969/1209, 200 Jews were killed in the massacre of Béziers, a city in southern France that was an ancient Gallic fortress. Hy”d.

In 5674/1914, Russian authorities in Mitchenick, Poland, expelled the Jews in the first of a long series of expulsions that uprooted many Polish and Lithuanian Jewish communities.


5611/1851, Harav Aryeh Leib Balchover of Zaslov, zt”l, mechaber of Shem Aryeh

5696/1936, Harav Menachem Nachum Twersky, Boyan-Tchernowitzer Rebbe, zt”l

5714/1954, Harav Shimon Shalom Kalish, the Amshinover Rebbe, zt”l

5492/1732, Harav Yaakov Kuli, zt”l, mechaber of Yalkut Me’am Loez

Harav Yaakov Kuli was born in Eretz Yisrael in 5449/1689 or 5450/1690. His father, Rav Makir, was a scion of an honored family that had come from either France or Germany. Rav Makir was the son-in-law of Harav Moshe ibn Chaviv, the mechaber of Get Pashut.

Rav Yaakov edited various important sefarim. The first fruit of his literary activity was the publication of the writings of his grandfather. Rav Moshe ibn Chaviv (the Maharam Chaviv) was niftar in 5456/1696, when Rav Yaakov was still a young boy, but the influence he had on his young grandson was immense.

While working on his grandfather’s writings, Rav Yaakov formed a close relationship with the Rav of Constantinople, Harav Yehudah Rosanes, mechaber of Mishneh Lamelech on the Rambam. He appointed Rav Yaakov as Dayan.

In 5487/1727, Rav Yaakov published his grandfather’s work Shammus Ba’aretz, a three-volume work on a few masechtos: Yom Teruah on maseches Rosh Hashanah, Tosefes Yom Hakippurim on Yoma, and Kappos Temarim on Sukkah.

Harav Yehudah Rosanes was niftar that same year. Rav Yaakov was entrusted with the job of preparing his manuscripts for print. Even for a talmid chacham of his caliber, it meant a task of several years.

The next year, 5488/1728, Rav Yaakov edited the sefer Parashas Derachim. Three years later he finally published his grandfather’s Mishneh Lamelech, one of the most famous commentaries on the Rambam’s Mishneh Torah, enriched with numerous notations of his own. To both these works Rav Yaakov wrote a preface.

Rav Yaakov also edited his grandfather’s Ezras Nashim, at the beginning of which there are two responsa of his own.

The most important work of Rav Yaakov and the one for which he is best known is his commentary on the Torah and Nach entitled Me’am Loez. This work is a very elaborate, encyclopedic commentary in Ladino, dealing with all aspects of Jewish life, with material taken from the Gemara, the Midrash and early Rabbinic literature.

Rav Yaakov also wrote a halachic sefer called Simanim L’Oraisa, which remained in manuscript.

Rav Yaakov was niftar on 19 Av 5492/1732.

Zecher tzaddik livrachah.

August 11

In 1860, the nation’s first successful silver mill began operation near Virginia City, Nevada.

In 1909, the steamship SS Arapahoe became the first ship in North America to issue an S.O.S. distress signal, off North Carolina’s Cape Hatteras.

In 1975, the United States vetoed the proposed admission of North and South Vietnam to the United Nations, following the Security Council’s refusal to consider South Korea’s application.

In 1997, President Bill Clinton made the first use of the historic line-item veto, rejecting three items in spending and tax bills. (However, the U.S. Supreme Court later struck down the veto as unconstitutional.)