This Day in History – 19 Iyar/May 24

19 Iyar

In 5705/1945, Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi minister of propaganda, committed suicide. Goebbels was known for his zealous and energetic oratory, virulent anti-Semitism, and perfection of the “Big Lie” technique of mass propaganda.

Yahrtzeiten

5575/1815, Harav Menachem Mendel, Rebbe of Rimanov, zt”l

5703/1943, Harav Pinchas Twersky, Rebbe of Pshemishel, Hy”d

5730/1970, Harav Ezra Attia, zt”l, Rosh Yeshivah, Yeshivas Porat Yosef, Yerushalayim

5755/1995, Harav Yaakov Moshe Mordechai Halevi Soloveitchik, zt”l, Rosh Yeshivah of Lucerne.


5053/1293

Harav Meir, Zt”l, the Maharam of Rothenburg

Harav Meir ben Harav Baruch, the Maharam, was born in 4975/1215 in Worms, Germany.

He lived in Worms until the age of 12. Then he went to learn in both Germany and France for 27 years. Some of his more famous teachers were the Ohr Zarua, Harav Yehudah Cohen and Harav Yechiel of Paris, zecher tzaddikim livrachah.

Rav Meir was one of the last of the Baalei Tosafos in Germany. He wrote the Tosafos on Maseches Yoma. His hagahos were printed in the margins in Masechtos Nega’im and Ohalos in Mishnayos, and in other masechtos in Seder Taharos.

Rav Meir served as Rav in many kehillos in Germany: Kunstadt, Oigsberg, Wurzburg, Nuremberg, Mainz, Rothenburg and finally Worms. He was appointed Chief Rabbi of all of Germany, approved by the Emperor Rudolf.

The Maharam was a leading Torah authority, and he taught many hundreds of talmidim. He founded several yeshivos, most notably Yeshivas Worms.

In 5002/1242, the Maharam moved back to Germany after witnessing the public burning of the Talmud in Paris, and finally settled in Rothenburg, where he remained until 5046/1286. Most of his life he served as Rav of Rothenburg.

The Maharam set out on his journey to Eretz Yisrael in 5046/1286 with his wife, daughters and sons-in-law, and all his possessions. Once they arrived in a secluded mountain town as Shabbos began, so they were forced to stay. Suddenly the evil Cardinal of Bazilo rode into town while traveling from Rome with a Jewish apostate named Kneppe.

They informed on the Maharam to the lord of the city, who arrested the Maharam and delivered him to the Emperor Rudolph. The Maharam was imprisoned in Ensisheim and then transferred to Wasserburg.

There are many opinions as to the reason for the Maharam’s lifelong imprisonment. Many say that he refused to allow the astronomical ransom (20,000 or 30,000 marks) to be raised for his release, lest other Rabbanim be imprisoned and held for ransom. The Maharam was niftar in prison on 19 Iyar 5053/1293. He was 78.

Even after his petirah, his body wasn’t released for burial until 14 years later, when a Jew, Reb Alexander Susskind Wimpfen of Frankfurt, paid the ransom in return for the privilege of being interred next to the Maharam.

The Maharam wrote many piyutim, the most famous of which is Shaali Serufah Ba’eish, written after the public burning of Talmudic manuscripts in Paris, included in the Kinos of Tishah B’Av.

His sefarim include Hilchos Brachos, Hilchos Aveilus, Halachos Pesukos, Piskei Eruvin and Hilchos Shechitah.

Zecher tzaddik livrachah.


May 24

In 1830, the first passenger railroad service in the U.S. began service.

In 1844, Samuel F.B. Morse transmitted the message “What hath G-d wrought” from Washington to Baltimore as he formally opened America’s first telegraph line.

In 1937, in a set of rulings, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Social Security Act of 1935.

In 1962, astronaut Scott Carpenter became the second American to orbit the Earth as he flew aboard Aurora 7.

In 1976, Britain and France opened trans-Atlantic Concorde supersonic transport service to Washington.

In 1994, four Islamic fundamentalists convicted of bombing New York’s World Trade Center in 1993 were each sentenced to 240 years in prison.