This Day in History – 20 Tammuz/July 23

20 Tammuz

In 5654/1894, many Jews of Vilna were killed during the Polish uprising. Jews of Vilna held a fast day to commemorate this event.

In 5701/1941, the Jews of Telz (Telsia, Lithuania), including the Roshei Yeshivah, were killed by the Nazis, Hashem yinkom damam.

In 5704/1944, the Nazis destroyed the Kovno ghetto.


5443/1683, Harav Nassan Nota Hanover, Hy”d, mechaber of Yaven Hametzulah.

5583/1823, Harav Yisrael of Rikel, Hy”d.

5697/1937, Harav Moshe Yehudah Twersky, zt”l, Rebbe of Trisk-Chelm, mechaber of Imrei Mi.

5714/1954, Harav Avraham Chaim Na’eh, zt”l, mechaber of Ketzos Hashulchan

5739/1979, Harav Hillel Lichtenstein, zt”l, the Krasne Rav

5761/2001, Harav Chaim Shaul Karelitz, zt”l, Mashgiach of Yeshivas Beis Meir and Gaavad of Badatz She’eiris Yisrael


Harav Betzalel Rakow, Zt”l, Rav of Gateshead

Harav Betzalel Rakow was born in 5687/1927 in Frankfurt to Harav Yom Tov Lipman, who stemmed from the Tosfos Yom Tov.

Even as a child he was graced with noble character and outstanding middos.

His father, Harav Yom Tov, was Rosh Yeshivah in Frankfurt. After Kristallnacht he managed to flee Germany with the family. Arriving in London threadbare and penniless, Rav Yom Tov went to the beis medrash before he had even arranged a place to sleep.

Years later, Rav Betzalel would recall that during the war he was too frightened to be able to fall asleep at night, but as he tossed and turned in bed he would review his learning from that day.

In London he attended the yeshivah of Harav Moshe Schneider, zt”l, totally immersed in Torah study and accumulating a wealth of knowledge. By the age of 18 he knew seder Nashim and seder Nezikim by heart.

At that point he went on to the Gateshead Kollel, where he learned under Harav Eliyahu Dessler, zt’l, becoming his talmid muvhak.

Rav Betzalel married the daughter of the Rav of Gateshead, Harav Naftali Shakovitzky, zt”l. After his marriage he continued his studies, focusing mainly on seder Kodoshim.

Later Rav Betzalel was asked to serve as Rosh Yeshivah of Etz Chaim in Montreux, Switzerland, where he had a great influence on the talmidim.

With the petirah of his father-in-law, Harav Rakow was asked to take over as Rav of Gateshead, a post he held for the next four decades. As head of one of the Diaspora’s most illustrious Torah kehillos, his influence spread through Europe and halachic questions reached him from around the world.

His door was always open, and many approached with their she’eilos and for advice.

Rav Betzalel agreed to be head of European Agudas Yisroel in order to increase achdus among England’s chareidi communities. Every year he would attend the Agudah convention in Bournemouth, delivering shiurei Torah and mussar talks to the delegates and transmitting his great ahavas Hashem and ahavas Yisrael.

Rav Betzalel was niftar on 20 Tammuz 5763/2003. He was 76.

After huge levayos in both Gateshead and London, his mittah was flown to Eretz Yisrael, where he was buried on Har Hamenuchos near Harav Chaim Kreiswirth, zt”l, the late Rav of Antwerp.

Zecher tzaddik livrachah.

July 23

In 1829, William Austin Burt received a patent for his “typographer,” a forerunner of the typewriter.

In 1914, Austria-Hungary presented a list of demands to Serbia following the killing of Archduke Franz Ferdinand by a Serb assassin; Serbia’s refusal to agree to the entire ultimatum led to the outbreak of World War I.

In 1983, an Air Canada Boeing 767 ran out of fuel while flying from Montreal to Edmonton; the pilots were able to glide the jetliner to a safe emergency landing in Gimli, Manitoba. The near-disaster occurred because the fuel had been erroneously measured in pounds instead of kilograms at a time when Canada was converting to the metric system.

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