This Day In History 20 Iyar/May 16

The ohel of Reb Mordechai of Chernobyl in Anatevka.

20 Iyar

In 2450/1311 B.C.E., Bnei Yisrael left the area of Har Sinai, after having spent almost a year there.

In 5048/1288, Jews of Troyes, France, were condemned to the stake by the Inquisition.


5642/1882, Harav Asher Anshel Neiman, zt”l, Rav of Veitzan

5674/1914, Harav Yitzchak Eizik Rabinowitz, zt”l, author of Doros Harishonim

5743/1983, the tzaddik nistar, Harav Yosef Valtuch, a descendant of the Zlotchover Maggid


Harav Mordechai, the Maggid of Chernobyl, Zy”a

Harav Mordechai was born in Chernobyl in 5530/1770; his father was Harav Nachum of Chernobyl, author of Meor Einayim.

He married Chayah Sarah, the daughter of Harav Aharon Hagadol of Karlin, c. 5532–33/1772–73. After her petirah, he married Feiga, the daughter of Rav Dovid Leikess, a talmid of the Baal Shem Tov.

Reb Mordechai began leading a group of Chassidim after the petirah of his father in 5558/1798. With time, Chassidim from far and wide regularly flocked to the Rebbe in Chernobyl. Reb Mordechai also drew many people from all over the Ukrainian countryside. One of the Rebbe’s innovations was the establishment of maamados — a sum of money that Chassidim brought to their Rebbe on a regular basis.

The Rebbe was known for his kindheartedness and his willingness to help Jews in every situation. The Rebbe distributed an enormous amount of money to the needy, especially before Shabbos and Yom Tov.

Harav Yisrael of Ruzhin named his youngest son Mordechai Shraga, with Mordechai being after Reb Mordechai of Chernobyl, while Reb Mordechai was still alive. Asked about it, the Ruzhiner Rebbe replied that the Chernobyler Maggid “is already not in this world for 15 years.” Interestingly, Reb Mordechai of Chernobyl was niftar two years later, on the birthday of this child, who later became the first Rebbe of Husyatin.

Reb Mordechai asked to be buried in the small town of Anatevka, near Kiev. A few months prior to his passing he felt ill, and was niftar in Anatevka on the way to a physician. His divrei Torah were later published in Likutei Torah.

May 16

In 1866, Congress authorized minting of the first five-cent piece, also known as the “Shield nickel.”

In 1888, the first demonstration of recording on a flat disc was demonstrated by Emile Berliner.

In 1939, the federal government began its first food stamp program in Rochester, New York.

In 1966, China launched the Cultural Revolution, a radical as well as deadly reform movement aimed at purging the country of “counter-revolutionaries.”

In 1971, U.S. postage for a one-ounce first class stamp was increased from six to eight cents.