This Day in History – 23 Adar/February 28

Shaar blatt of sefer Chaim Vachessed.

23 Adar I

In 2449, Bnei Yisrael began building the Mishkan. The construction of the Mishkan was completed on 25 Kislev; but Hashem’s command to erect the edifice came only three months later, on 23 Adar, when Moshe was instructed to begin a 7-day training period.

Yahrtzeiten

5626/1866, Harav Yitzchak Meir Alter, zt”l, the Chiddushei Harim of Ger

5665/1905, Harav Yitzchak Yaakov, Rebbe of Biala, zt”l

5733/1973, Harav Yehudah Moshe, Rebbe of Alexander, zt”l


5547/1787

Harav Chaim Chaikel of Amdur, Zt”l

Harav Chaim Chaika (Chaikel) Levin was the son of Harav Shmuel. The family descended from many leading Rabbanim.

In his youth, Rav Chaikel was known as a genius in learning and an outstanding masmid. He was a talmid of the Vilna Gaon, zt”l.

Drawn to the ways of Chassidus, he became a Chassid of the Mezeritcher Maggid, zy”a. The Maggid spoke of Rav Chaikel even before he came to Mezeritch, telling his Chassidim that there was a menorah in Amdura that was lacking only the match to light it.

How did it happen that he became a Chassid? The Mezeritcher Maggid once told his close Chassid, Reb Aharon of Karlin, zy”a, when he took his leave, to return with “good merchandise.”

When Rav Aharon chanced upon Rav Chaikel, he understood that this was what the Rebbe was referring to. Rav Aharon met Rav Chaikel, and asked him why he didn’t learn Torah lishmah. Rav Chaikel answered him in surprise, “But how am I learning — not lishmah?” Rav Aharon answered him, “If so, you are making the Tanna Rabi Meir a liar.” (This was a reference to the Mishnah that he who learns Torah lishmah receives many good things; since Rav Chaikel didn’t have all the things mentioned by Rabi Meir in the Mishnah, he was effectively refuting Rabi Meir.)

Rav Aharon walked away, but Rav Chaikel ran after him and asked him how one reached the level of learning Torah lishmah. Rav Aharon answered that he himself didn’t know the answer; he added that if Rav Chaikel would like to find out, he should travel to his Rebbe, in Mezeritch, and ask him.

Together they returned to Mezeritch, where Rav Chaikel became a devoted Chassid of the Maggid.

After the petirah of the Maggid, the Chassidim wanted Rav Chaikel to be their Rebbe, but he refused.

On Tuesday, 23 Adar 5547/1787, two days after the petirah of his close colleague the Rebbe Rav Elimelech of Lizhensk, Rav Chaikel was niftar. He was buried in Amdur.

For many years, Rav Chaikel’s divrei Torah remained in manuscript form; they were not published until 5651/1891, more than 100 years after his petirah. When his sefer was finally published with the title Chaim Vachessed, it received many warm haskamos from the leading Gedolim of that era.

Zechuso yagen aleinu.


Feb. 28

In 1849, the California gold rush began in earnest as regular steamship service started bringing gold-seekers to San Francisco.

In 1854, the Republican Party was organized in Ripon, Wisconsin. About 50 slavery opponents began the new political group. In 1861, the U.S. territory of Colorado was organized.

In 1953, scientists James D. Watson and Francis H.C. Crick announced they had discovered the double-helix structure of DNA.