This Day in History – 21 Adar 1/February 21

21 Adar 1

In 4996/1236, the Jews of Narbonne, France, were saved from a mob. After a Jew and a wealthy gentile fish merchant quarreled, the fish merchant suddenly died. Angry mobs attacked the Jewish community and confiscated the sefarim of the Rav, Harav Meir ben Harav Yitzchak, claiming that he was at fault in the merchant’s death. The Jews were saved when the ruler, Don Emirich, intervened and restored order. This is the oldest known single-community Purim celebration.


5547/1787, Harav Elimelech of Lizhensk, zt”l

5637/1877, Harav Aryeh Leib Halberstam of Dukla, zt”l (Adar I)

5656/1896, Harav Yitzchak Elchanan Spector, zt”l, Rav of Kovno

5678/1918, Harav Yitzchak of Ponovezh, zt”l, mechaber of Zecher Yitzchak

5696/1936, Harav Binyamin Fuchs of Grossvardein, zt”l

5749/1989, Harav Shalom Schnitzler, zt”l, the Tchaba Rav of London (Adar I)



Harav Avraham ben Musa, zt”l, mechaber of Minchas Sotah

Harav Avraham ben Musa, the son of Harav Shlomo, was born in Tutiuan, Morocco, about 5420/1660. He was named for his paternal grandfather.

Rav Avraham learned under Harav Yaakov Margi, a known mekubal who wrote a commentary on the Zohar and on the Idra Rabba and Idra Zuta. Rav Avraham, although still young at the time, excelled at Toras Hanistar, and was considered the leading talmid of Rav Yaakov. (It was due to the encouragement of his talmidim that Rav Yaakov wrote his commentary on the Zohar.)

Before the year 5466/1706, Rav Avraham moved to Saly, Morocco. At that time there were many mekubalim in the city, most famous among them Harav Chaim ibn Atar, the Ohr Hachaim.

It is presumed that Rav Avraham served as Rav of the city. There is a letter with his signature preceding those of six Chachamim of the city, an honor presumably reserved for the Rav.

The Chidah writes that Harav Avraham ben Musa met the mekubal Harav Avraham Azoulai of Marrakesh, and together they learned the kabbalistic sefer Otzros Chosam. They also learned nigleh; in his Minchas Sotah on maseches Sotah, Rav Avraham quotes an explanation “heard from the Rav of Marrakesh,” who was Harav Avraham Azoulai.

Later, Rav Avraham moved from Saly to Fez. There were other Rabbanim who moved there at the same time. Harav Pinchas Germon of Tunisia writes that Rav Avraham was forced to leave after putting a kabbalistic “curse” on the wife of the king, who caused much trouble for the local Jews. There are other reasons given for Rav Avraham fleeing Saly, but all run along the same lines.

Rav Avraham authored many works on all facets of the Torah, both nigleh and nistar. He wrote on masechtos Yoma, Chagigah and Sotah. His all-encompassing work on maseches Sotah is Minchas Sotah. Rav Yaakov Pitusi of Tunisia, in Yagel Yaakov on maseches Nazir, published the notes of Rav Avraham on the masechta.

Despite Rav Avraham’s greatness in Kabbalah, the only kabbalistic works that remain are his notes on the Kisvei HaAri. He also wrote notes on Etz Chaim.

Rav Avraham wrote down many of his drashos, but like many of his sefarim, they are lost. Some of his works, though, are still in manuscript form in various libraries.

About 5480/1720, Rav Avraham settled in Tunisia. He was appointed Dayan and Rosh Yeshivah. He also headed a group of mekubalim, who learned together on a regular basis.

Rav Avraham was niftar on 21 Adar 5493/1733, in Tunisia. He was buried there.

In 5566/1806, the Muslims destroyed much of the Jewish cemetery in Tunisia, but they were not able to destroy the kevarim of Rav Avraham and the other tzaddikim buried there.

Zecher tzaddik livrachah.


February 21

In 1613, Mikhail Romanov, 16, was unanimously chosen by Russia’s national assembly to be czar, beginning a dynasty that would last three centuries.

In 1862, Nathaniel Gordon became the first and only American slave-trader to be executed under the U.S. Piracy Law of 1820 as he was hanged in New York.

In 1885, the Washington Monument was dedicated.

In 1916, the World War I Battle of Verdun began in France as German forces attacked; the French were able to prevail after 10 months of fighting.

In 1945, during the World War II Battle of Iwo Jima, the escort carrier USS Bismarck Sea was sunk by kamikazes with the loss of 318 men.

In 1947, Edwin H. Land publicly demonstrated his Polaroid Land camera, which could produce a black-and-white photograph in 60 seconds.

In 1964, the first shipment of U.S. wheat purchased by the Soviet Union arrived in the port of Odessa.

In 1965, black Muslim leader and civil rights activist Malcolm X, 39, was shot to death inside the Audubon Ballroom in New York by assassins identified as members of the Nation of Islam.

In 1972, President Richard M. Nixon began his historic visit to China as he and his wife, Pat, arrived in Beijing.

In 1989, the future president of Czechoslovakia, playwright Vaclav Havel, was convicted for his role in a banned rally and sentenced to nine months in jail. (He was released in May 1989.)

In 1994, Aldrich Ames, a former head of Soviet counterintelligence for the CIA, and his wife, Maria del Rosario Casas Ames, were arrested on charges of spying for the former Soviet Union and later Russia. (Ames is serving a life prison term; his wife was released after serving four years of a five-year conspiracy sentence.)