This Day in History – 20 Shevat/February 9


2073/1688 B.C.E., Asher, the son of Yaakov Avinu. He was also born on this date in 2196/1565 B.C.E.

5572/1812, Harav Yosef of Yompoli, zt”l

5729/1969, Harav Ovadiah Hadaya, zt”l, Rosh Yeshivah of Yeshivas Beis Kel, Yerushalayim, mechaber of Yaskil Avdi


5618/1858, Harav Chaim Dovid “Doctor” Berenhard, zt”l, the “holy doctor” of Pietrokov

Harav Chaim Dovid Berenhard was born in Zolashim, near Pietrokov. His father, Reb Yissachar Ber, was zocheh to have his only son, Chaim Dovid, in his old age; this was attributed to a brachah he received from the Rebbe Reb Elimelech of Lizhensk after he distributed a fortune for the mitzvah of pidyon shevuyim.

In his youth he was persuaded by a local maskil to leave the yeshivah and go out into the world. He left his native Poland and traveled to study in Breslau, an unheard-of thing in those years. He was approved to serve as a doctor in Erfurt, and eventually served as a physician in the royal Prussian court.

In 5567/1807, during the Napoleonic wars, he returned to Poland as a doctor to the Polish Legions. He was also one of the founders and supporters of a Jewish school for Polish speakers led by the maskilim.

Reb Chaim Dovid was brought back to authentic Yiddishkeit through Reb Dovid Lelover, zy”a. After he heard that Reb Dovid Lelover healed a deathly ill patient, Dr. Chaim Dovid decided he had to seek him out. He reached Lelov on Yom Kippur, while the local Yidden were davening and this awoke in him memories of his past.

He was later taken by Reb Dovid Lelover into his private room. They spoke for a long time, and when Reb Dovid returned to the anxious Chassidim in the beis medrash he told them it was worth the delay, as he was now able to return a neshamah to its right path. After Yom Kippur, Reb Dovid bade farewell to Reb Chaim Dovid, and the doctor returned home. His wife, too, was inspired by Yidden davening on that Yom Kippur, and she, as well, wanted to return to her roots.

Thus, in their thirties (the exact year is unknown), both Reb Chaim Dovid and his wife became sincere baalei teshuvah. His parents were overjoyed; now the brachah of the Rebbe Reb Elimelech was fulfilled and they had a son, a tzaddik. From then on, he was no longer called Professor, but rather Reb Chaim Dovid Doctor. He is considered the most famous baal teshuvah in chassidic history.

At the wedding of Reb Dovid Lelover’s son he made an agreement with the Chozeh of Lublin that the Chozeh would heal his neshamah, while he would heal the Chozeh’s body.

Reb Chaim Dovid spent many hours of the day learning and davening, and became known for his strong dveikus. Following the advice of the Chozeh, he continued as a doctor. Whenever he went out to a patient, he would say Tehillim beforehand on his behalf. Sometimes he didn’t even give a prescription to a patient, giving shirayim from Shabbos instead. From those who couldn’t pay, he didn’t request payment.

Reb Chaim Dovid was niftar on 20 Shevat 5618/1858, and was buried in Pietrokov. There is an ohel on his kever, and it is still visited today.

Zechuso yagen aleinu.


Feb. 9

In 1825, the House of Representatives elected John Quincy Adams president after no candidate received a majority of electoral votes.

In 1861, Jefferson Davis was elected provisional president of the Confederate States of America at a congress held in Montgomery, Alabama.

In 1870, the U.S. Weather Bureau was established.

In 1942, the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff held its first formal meeting to coordinate military strategy during World War II.

In 1942, daylight-saving “War Time” went into effect in the United States, with clocks turned one hour forward.

In 1943, the World War II battle of Guadalcanal in the southwest Pacific ended with an Allied victory over Japanese forces.

In 1971, the crew of Apollo 14 returned to Earth after man’s third landing on the moon.

In 1984, Soviet leader Yuri V. Andropov, 69, died 15 months after succeeding Leonid Brezhnev; he was followed by Konstantin U. Chernenko.

In 2002, Britain’s Princess Margaret, sister of Queen Elizabeth II, died in London at age 71.