This Day in History – 20 Kislev/December 12

In 3414/348 B.C.E, Ezra Hasofer addressed a three-day assemblage in Yerushalayim, urging his listeners to adhere to the teachings of the Torah and dissolve their marriages to non-Jews. He established many batei din for this purpose. (Ezra 10:9-13)

In 5557/1796, the first edition of the Tanya was printed.



5598/1837, Harav Dov Beirish of Ushpitzin, zt”l, mechaber of Divrei Tzaddikim

5653/1892, Harav Baruch Hager, zt”l, the Imrei Baruch of Vizhnitz

5694/1933, Harav Chaim Moshe Tzvi Twersky of Rachmastrivka, zt”l

5781/1980,Harav Yitzchak Hutner, Rosh Yeshivah, Yeshivas Rabbeinu Chaim Berlin

5742/1982, Harav Yochanan Twersky of Rachmastrivka, zt”l


5653/1892, Harav Baruch Hager, zt”l, the Imrei Baruch of Vizhnitz

Harav Baruch of Vizhnitz was born in 5605/1845. His parents were Reb Menachem Mendel of Vizhnitz, the Tzemach Tzaddik, and his Rebbetzin, the daughter of Harav Yisrael of Ruzhin.

Reb Baruch succeeded his father as Rebbe early in 5645/1884, acceding to many requests that he do so. Despite his greatness in Torah, Reb Baruch limited his speaking and would not say Torah at his tischen.

On one occasion, the Imrei Baruch visited Strozinitz, where Rav Simchah Ginzburg was Rav. As the crowd joyfully greeted the Rebbe with a great display of honor he turned to Rav Simchah, who had joined him in his carriage at his invitation, and  said, “I’ll describe for you how I feel right now  with a story.

“There is a widow in Vizhnitz with a sick daughter whom my father, zt”l, used to support. I undertook to continue supporting them.

“One day, I heard a carriage clattering into my courtyard. “I sent my gabbai to see who it was, and he came back saying that it was the widow, coming to get her stipend. I was astonished that a poor widow would permit herself the luxury of a carriage, but my gabbai explained that she was very ill and could not walk. That was why she had hired a carriage.

“Imagine how that widow felt riding in that carriage. Did she feel proud in any way? So it is with me. I spend Shabbos in various towns because I have a large family, ken ayin hara, and many expenses. My riding in a carriage is just like that widow’s — out of necessity, and not for honor or pleasure.”

One year, when Rosh Hashanah began on a Thursday, the Rebbe entered Shabbos thoroughly exhausted. Those close to him suggested that he not hold a tisch on Shabbos evening but make Kiddush privately instead.

The Rebbe replied, “Any Rebbe for whom it makes a difference whether he makes Kiddush for three people or for three thousand people is not worth traveling to.”

The Imrei Baruch passed away on Leil Shabbos, 20 Kislev 5653/1892, at the age of 48. That evening, he led the davening from his sickbed. When he reached the words “Tzaddik katamar yifrach,” he drew them out longer and longer until his neshamah left him.

The Ahavas Yisrael, his son and successor as Vizhnitzer Rebbe, made it a strict habit to visit his father’s grave every year on the yahrtzeit or during the Yamim Nora’im. Even when traveling was extremely dangerous, he would not forgo the trip. “The world doesn’t appreciate my father, zt”l, properly,” he would explain, “because he didn’t live very long. That is why I must visit his kever, even with mesirus nefesh, so that my father’s holy memory will be preserved and engraved forever in the hearts of the Chassidim.”

Zechuso yagen aleinu.


Dec. 12

In 1787, Pennsylvania became the second state to ratify the U.S. Constitution.

In 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt nominated Oscar Straus to be Secretary of Commerce and Labor; Straus became the first Jewish Cabinet member.

In 1937, Japanese aircraft sank the U.S. gunboat Panay on China’s Yangtze River. (Japan apologized, and paid $2.2 million in reparations.)

In 1946, a United Nations committee voted to accept a six-block tract of Manhattan real estate offered as a gift by John D. Rockefeller Jr. to be the site of the U.N.’s headquarters.

In 2004, terrorists blew up an Israeli base at the Gaza-Egypt crossing, killing five soldiers.

In 2013, the House voted to ease across-the-board federal spending cuts and head off future government shutdowns, acting after Speaker John Boehner unleashed a stinging attack on tea party-aligned conservative groups campaigning for the measure’s defeat.