This Day in History – 21 Teves/January 12


2075/1686 B.C.E., Shimon, son of Yaakov Avinu. He was also born on this date in 2195/1566 B.C.E. (according to some, the correct date is the 28th of the month).

5436/1675, Harav Shmuel Segal of Brodi, zt”l

5574/1814, Harav Yisrael Avraham of Tcharni-Ostraha, zt”l, son of the Rebbe Reb Zusha

5610/1850, Harav Yisrael Dov of Vilednik, zt”l, the She’eris Yisrael


5640/1880, Harav Yaakov Abuchatzeira, zt”l

Although there are many accounts of the origin of the name Abuchatzeira, the most commonly accepted one is that of the Baba Sali (Harav Yisrael Abuchatzeira).

According to the Baba Sali, his ancestor Rav Shmuel was given the name Abuchatzeira as a result of a miracle that occurred for him on his way to Morocco to collect funds for Yerushalayim’s needy. While at sea, his boat capsized. Seizing a straw mat, he managed to seat himself on it and float to his destination. When he reached the shore, those who saw him called out, “That’s the abu-haseira — ‘the man of the straw mat.’”

Before Rav Yaakov was born, Rav Shmuel came to his daughter-in-law in a dream and said that her child would eventually become a great Torah luminary. Her husband, Rav Mas’ud, had a similar dream.

When Rav Yaakov was still very young, he displayed signs of greatness and kedushah rarely seen in children his age. While his peers played games, he would retreat to a corner of the beis medrash and pore over the Torah.

Describing Rav Yaakov’s schedule, his grandson Rav Aharon writes, “Every night he would study 18 chapters of Mishnah and then trace their development in the Gemara. Shortly before chatzos he would nap for a while, and then he would arise and recite Tikkun Chatzos. After that he would study the Kabbalistic works Eitz Chaim and Mevo She’arim until dawn, when he would proceed to shul to be first for the vasikin minyan. When he ended davening, he would eat a light meal and then resume his studies.”

Due to his diligence and exertion in Torah, Rav Yaakov amassed a vast amount of Torah knowledge. His chiddushim testify to his brilliance and greatness in Torah.

His grandson, the Baba Sali, relates, “Once, my grandfather asked to see Rav Chaim Vital’s sefer, Arba Mei’os Shekel Kessef. When he received it, he noticed that 30 pages had been ripped out. Then and there he filled in those missing pages by heart and clipped them to the book.”

Any spare money he had would be given immediately among the poor and not set aside. He did this also with his personal belongings; whenever he felt a household item was extraneous, he would give it to the poor.

Rav Yaakov made three attempts to ascend to Eretz Yisrael. The first two times, Morocco’s Jews prevented him from leaving as they could not bear to part with him. He made his third attempt in 5638/1878, when he was 70 years old. It took him two years to reach Egypt; wherever he went people detained him, seeking advice and blessings.

In 5640/1880, he reached the Egyptian city of Damanhur. A few days after his arrival, he fell ill, and was niftar.

Among his many writings on all aspects of the Torah are Abir Yaakov; She’eilos U’teshuvos Yoru Mishpatecha; Pituchei Chotam and Machsof Halavan, both on the Torah; Bigdei Hasrad on the Haggadah; Levonah Zakah on Shas; and the mussar works Shaarei Teshuvah and Shaarei Aruchah.

Zechuso yagen aleinu.


Jan. 12

In 1773, the first public museum in America was organized in Charleston, South Carolina.

In 1828, the U.S. and Mexico signed a Treaty of Limits defining the boundary between them to be the same as the one established by an 1819 treaty between the U.S. and Spain.

In 1915, the U.S. House of Representatives rejected, 204–174, a proposed constitutional amendment to give women the right to vote.

In 1945, during World War II, Soviet forces began a major, successful offensive against the Germans in Eastern Europe.

In 1986, the shuttle Columbia blasted off with a crew that included the first Hispanic-American in space, Dr. Franklin R. Chang-Diaz.

In 2000, in a 5–4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Illinois v. Wardlow, gave police broad authority to stop and question people who run at the sight of an officer.