This Day in History – 21 Elul/September 16

In 5699/1939, German forces occupied the town of Piotrkow [Kujawski], 16 miles south of Lodz,  where the Jewish population

was estimated at  18,000. The first ghetto in Poland was later established there.



5524/1764, Harav Yehonasan Eibeshitz, zt”l


5187/1427, Rabbeinu Yaakov Segal Molen, the Maharil, zt”l

The Maharil was born in Magentza (Mainz), Germany, to Harav Moshe, who bore the family name of Molen. Harav Moshe was Rav in the city, and his son’s first rebbi. The Maharil also learned under his older brother, Harav Yechezkel. Eventually, wanting to leave home to learn Torah, the Maharil journeyed far and wide and became acquainted many Rabbanim and Geonim.

One of his rebbeim was Harav Shalom of Vienna (Austria), under whom many other luminaries of the time also studied. [The Jews of Austria were expelled in 5180-81/1420-21; many were killed or forcibly baptized. The Maharil would refer to Austria as “the land of blood.”]

He married the daughter of Harav Moshe Neimark of Wermana, and learned with his father-in-law as well.

After his father’s petirah the Maharil returned to Magentza, where he took his father’s position as Rav. There he taught many talmidim and served his community well.

The Maharil is known as the father of Ashkenazic minhagim and nusach hatefillah. His teachings serve as a primary source of minhagim cited by the Beis Yosef and the Rema, ultimately becoming the halachah followed by Ashkenazic kehillos.

The Maharil was very particular about not varying from the accepted minhagim. He writes in Hilchos Yom Kippur that adding pieces to tefillos, and making changes, can cause dire consequences l’maalah.

As Rav, the Maharil received a stipend from the city, which he chose to donate to his talmidim. He supported his family by shadchanus.

One summer day about 30 years before his petirah, the Maharil was found in his study totally paralyzed. The many doctors called to the scene could find no cure. The entire population was aghast; they could not accept their Rav’s immense suffering! So that their Rav would merit a refuah sheleimah, the kehillah accepted upon itself to fast every Monday and Thursday through the summer, until the Yamim Nora’im.

Their heartfelt tefillos and fasting were accepted sooner than expected, and, in Tammuz and Av, the Rav recovered and was back in the beis medrash. Overcome with gratitude to Hashem, the community completed their pledged fast. The Maharil was deeply grateful for their efforts.

The Maharil was extremely humble. When he walked into the beis medrash he would carry a Chumash, so that when people stood up they would be honoring the Torah that he was holding rather than himself.

Like his rebbi, Harav Shaul of Vienna before him, he was crowned with the title Moreinu. Blessed with a good voice, he served as a baal tefillah, and some of our traditional niggunim are attributed to him.


Sept. 16

In 1498, Tomas de Torquemada, notorious for his role in the Spanish Inquisition, died in Avila, Spain.

In 1810, Mexicans were inspired to begin their successful revolt against Spanish rule by Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla.

In 1893, more than 100,000 American settlers swarmed onto a section of land in Oklahoma known as the “Cherokee Strip.”

In 1908, General Motors was founded in Flint, Michigan, by William C. Durant.

In 1919, the American Legion received a national charter from Congress.

In 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Selective Training and Service Act. Samuel T. Rayburn of Texas was elected Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

In 1994, a federal jury in Anchorage, Alaska, ordered Exxon Corp. to pay $5 billion in punitive damages for the 1989 Exxon Valdez (val-DEEZ’) oil spill. The U.S. Supreme Court later reduced that amount to $507.5 million. Two astronauts from the space shuttle Discovery went on the first untethered spacewalk in 10 years.