This Day in History – 23 Teves/December 31

The signature of Harav Aryeh Leib of Ozorov, zy”a.

23 Teves

In 5256/1496, just four years after the expulsion of the Jews from Spain, on this date a decree was issued in Portugal giving the Jews one year to either convert to Christianity or leave the country. Over the next 350 years, the infamous Inquisition persecuted, tortured and burned at the stake thousands of Marranos throughout Spain, Portugal and their colonies for continuing to secretly practice the Jewish faith.

In 5465/1705, “Purim Sharif” was established in Tripoli, Libya, to commemorate deliverance from Ibraham A-Sharif, a cruel dictator who had laid siege to the town, and, miraculously, suddenly died. With his death the siege ended and the town’s citizens were saved. It was also commonly known as “Purim kedivna,” the False Purim, to distinguish it from the regular Purim.


Yahrtzeiten

5500/1740, Harav Yaakov Hakohen Paperash, zt”l, mechaber of Shov Yakov

5525/1765, Harav Yitzchak Zerachya, zt”l, father of the Chida

5761/2001, Harav Mordechai Gifter, Rosh Yeshivah, Yeshivas Telshe, Cleveland


5597/1836

Harav Aryeh Leib Epstein of Ozorov, Zy”a

Harav Aryeh Leib Epstein of Ozorov was the son of Harav Yechiel Mechel and was the son-in-law of a prominent Jew from Ostrovtza, and he remarried the daughter of Harav Reuvan Halevi of Zhanrnovtza, zt”l, the Dudaim Be’sodeh.

His primary Rebbe was the holy Chozeh, Harav Yakov Yitzchok Horowitz of Lublin, zy”a, but he also considered himself a talmid of the Yehudi Hakadosh, Harav Yaakov Yitzchok Rabinowitz of Parshischa, zy”a. After the Chozeh was niftar, Rav Arye Leib traveled to Harav Avrohom Yehoshua Heschel, the Ohev Yisroel of Apt, zy”a, and to Harav Meir of Apt, the Ohr Lashamayim, zy”a.

The talmidim of the Chozeh admired him greatly. Harav Yeshaya of Pshedburzh, zt”l, attested that his neshamah was that of the Ran, while the Yehudi Hakadosh said that both of their neshamos were from Baalei Tosafos.

In 5572/1812 he was asked to serve as Rav in Ozorov, Poland, and after Harav Meir of Apt was niftar in 5587/1827 he undertook the role of becoming a Rebbe and many former Chassidim of Harav Meir became Chassidim of Rav Aryeh Leib. Subsequently he moved to the town of Ophla, and led the Rabbanus and Chassidim from there.

His son Harav Yechiel Chaim succeeded him in leading the Chassidim. Collections of his Torah thoughts were published in the sefer Birkas Tov.


Dec. 31

In 1879, Thomas Edison first publicly demonstrated his electric incandescent light by illuminating some 40 bulbs at his laboratory in Menlo Park, New Jersey.

In 1946, President Harry S. Truman officially proclaimed the end of hostilities in World War II.

In 1951, the Marshall Plan expired after distributing more than $12 billion in foreign aid.

In 2001, New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani spent his final day in office praising police, firefighters, and other city employees in the wake of 9/11.