This Day in History

In 5678/1917, British forces captured Yerushalayim from the Turks.

In 3409/353 B.C.E., the cornerstone for the second Beis Hamikdash was laid.


 

Yahrtzeiten

5059/1298, Harav Avraham Abulafia, zt”l

5555/1794, Harav Zecharyah Nachman of Podheitz, zt”l

5626/1865, Harav Mordechai Zalman of Zhitomir, zt”l

5663/1902, Harav Moshe of Dezh, zt”l

5675/1914, Harav Yosef Nosson of Velbrom, zt”l


 

5665/1904, Harav Chaim Chizkiyahu Medini, zt”l, the Sdei Chemed

Harav Chaim Chizkiyahu was born in 5595/1835 in Yerushalayim. His father was Harav Rafael Eliyahu Medini. He had already earned a reputation as a talmid chacham when still a boy. His main rebbi was his father, but he learned from the many great chachmei Yerushalayim as well.

His father supported him, and he was able to study Torah in peace. But his father passed away when Reb Chaim Chizkiyahu was only 18 years old, leaving him with no means of support. Upon the advice of his rebbeim, he immigrated to Constantinople, Turkey, where his relatives supported him graciously. After about 14 years he acceded to the pleas of the people of Karasubazar, in Crimea, a Russian province, and became their Rav. Even though he received only a meager stipend, he declined offers of more prestigious positions since he saw it as his mission to help this small community grow in ruchniyus.

Harav Chaim Chizkiyahu was known for his geonus from a very young age, and is the mechaber of the multi-volume Sdei Chemed, from which we can get a glimpse of his wide-ranging bekius in all aspects of the Torah.

He was extremely humble and tried not to cause people any trouble. It is told that he walked into a shul at times when people were standing anyway, at Baruch She’amar or Vayevarech Dovid, so people would not have to get up especially for him.

In 5659/1899 he returned to Eretz Yisrael to be able to finish his chibbur in peace. Initially he rejected all offers to serve as a Rav; but when the Rav of Chevron was niftar he accepted the post. It was there that he spent the last few years of his life. He initiated many tzedakos and inyanei chessed while serving as Rav.

Before his petirah, he asked that whoever knew of any sin he committed should tell him before he ascended to the Olam Ha’emes, because he must repent for each and every “sin.”

He was niftar at a ripe old age on 24 Kislev 5665/1905.

Aside from Sdei Chemed, Reb Chaim Chizkiyahu authored a number of other sefarim, among them Ohr Li, Pekuos HaSadeh and Michtav LeChizkiyahu.

It was told that about a year after his burial, vandals tried to open his kever and remove his body. They were so shocked to find his holy body as fresh as the day he was buried that they fled.

Zechuso yagen aleinu.


 

Dec. 16

In 1653, Oliver Cromwell became Lord Protector of England, Scotland and Ireland.

In 1773, the Boston Tea Party took place as American colonists boarded a British ship and dumped more than 300 chests of tea into Boston Harbor to protest tea taxes.

In 1809, the French Senate granted a divorce decree to Emperor Napoleon I and Empress Josephine. (The dissolution was made final the following month.)

In 1811, the first of the powerful New Madrid earthquakes struck the central Mississippi Valley with an estimated magnitude of 7.7.

In 1907, 16 U.S. Navy battleships, which came to be known as the Great White Fleet, set sail on a 14-month round-the-world voyage to demonstrate American sea power.

In 1944, the World War II Battle of the Bulge began as German forces launched a surprise attack against Allied forces through the Ardennes Forest in Belgium and Luxembourg. (The Allies were eventually able to turn the Germans back.)

In 1950, President Harry S. Truman proclaimed a national state of emergency in order to fight “world conquest by Communist imperialism.”

In 1976, the government halted its swine flu vaccination program following reports of paralysis apparently linked to the vaccine.

In 1991, the U.N. General Assembly rescinded its 1975 resolution equating Zionism with racism by a vote of 111–25.