This Day in History – 19 Iyar/May 27

The kever of the Maharam MiRothenburg.
The kever of the Maharam MiRothenburg.

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


Yahrtzeiten

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

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

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

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


5053/1293, Harav Meir, zt”l, the Maharam of Rothenburg

Harav Meir (ben Harav Baruch), the Maharam of Rothenburg, was born in 4975/1215 in Worms, Germany, where he lived until age 12. Then he went to learn in Germany and France for 27 years. Some of his more famous teachers were the Ohr Zarua, Harav Yehudah Cohen and Harav Yechiel of Paris.

Rav Meir was one of the last of the Baalei haTosafos 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, Augsburg, Wurzburg, Nuremberg, Mainz, Rothenburg and finally Worms. He became Chief Rabbi of all of Germany, with Emperor Rudolf’s approval.

The Maharam taught hundreds of talmidim and 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. He served as Rav of Rothenburg for most of his life.

He set out for 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 Bazilio 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 Emperor Rudolf. 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, lest other Rabbanim be imprisoned and held for ransom. The Maharam was niftar in the prison at Wasserburg on 19 Iyar 5053/1293, at age 78.

His body was not released for burial until 14 years after his petirah, when Harav Alexander Susskind Wimpfen of Frankfurt paid the ransom. In return, he requested to be buried next to the Maharam, which he was.

The Maharam wrote many piyutim; the most famous is Shaali Serufah Baesh, written after he witnessed the public burning of Talmudic manuscripts. It is included in the kinos of Tishah B’Av.

The Maharam was honored with the title Me’or Hagolah (Light of the Exile), an appellation only given to two other people — Rabbeinu Gershom and Rashi.

He authored several sefarim on halachah.

Zecher tzaddik livrachah


May 27

In 1933, the Chicago World’s Fair, celebrating “A Century of Progress,” officially opened.

In 1937, the newly completed Golden Gate Bridge connecting San Francisco and Marin County, California, was opened to pedestrian traffic (vehicles began crossing the next day).

In 1942, Navy Cook 3rd Class Doris “Dorie” Miller became the first African-American to receive the Navy Cross for his “extraordinary courage and disregard for his own personal safety” during Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor.

In 1962, a dump fire in Centralia, Pennsylvania, ignited a blaze in underground coal deposits that continues to burn to this day.