This Day in History – 19 Av/August 15

19 Av

In 4969/1209, 200 Jews were killed in the massacre of Beziers, 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 Zaslev, zt”l, mechaber of Shem Aryeh

5683/1923, Harav Aharon Menachem Mendel of Alesk, zt”l

5696/1936, Harav Menachem Nachum of Boyan-Tchernowitz, zt”l

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



Harav Yaakov Kuli, zt”l, mechaber of Yalkut Me’am Lo’ez

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.

At this time, the Turkish regime was very cruel to the Jewish yishuv in Yerushalayim, and Rav Yaakov and his family moved to Tzfas. In Tzfas their fate was not much better, and in 5474/1714, they relocated to Constantinople.

Rav Yaakov edited various important sefarim. The first fruits of his literary activity was the publication of the writings of his grandfather. Harav 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.

In that same year Harav Yehudah Rosanes was niftar. 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 Lo’ez. 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 15

In 1057, Macbeth, King of Scots, was killed in battle by Malcolm, the eldest son of King Duncan, whom Macbeth had slain.

In 1812, the Battle of Fort Dearborn took place as Potawatomi warriors attacked a U.S. military garrison of about 100 people. (Most of the garrison was killed, while the remainder were taken prisoner.)

In 1914, the Panama Canal officially opened as the SS Ancon crossed the just-completed waterway between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

In 1944, during World War II, Allied forces landed in southern France in Operation Dragoon.

In 1945, in a radio address, Japan’s Emperor Hirohito announced that his country had accepted terms of surrender for ending World War II.

In 1947, India became independent after some 200 years of British rule.

In 1974, a gunman attempted to shoot South Korean President Park Chung-hee during a speech; although Park was unhurt, his wife, Yuk Young-soo, was struck and killed, along with a teenage girl.

In 1989, F.W. de Klerk was sworn in as acting president of South Africa, one day after P.W. Botha resigned as the result of a power struggle within the National Party.