This Day in History – 24 Kislev/November 27

24 Kislev

In 5678/1917, British forces captured Yerushalayim from the Turks.

In 3409/353 B.C.E., the cornerstone for the second Beis Hamikdash was laid.

Yahrtzeiten

5555/1794, Harav Zecharyah Nachman of Podheitz, zt”l

5626/1865, Harav Mordechai Zalman of Zhitomir, zt”l

5663/1902, Harav Moshe of Dezh, zt”l

5665/1904, Harav Chaim Chizkiyahu Medini, zt”l, the Sdei Chemed

5675/1914, Harav Yosef Nosson of Velbrom, zt”l


 

5059/1298

Harav Avraham Abulafia, zt”l

Harav Avraham Abulafia was born in Saragossa, Spain, in 5000/1240.

The family moved to Tudela in Navarre, Spain, where his father, Harav Shmuel, was his teacher.

When Reb Avraham was 18 years old his father was niftar, and two years later he began a life of ceaseless wandering.

His first journey was to Eretz Yisrael, where he intended to search for the legendary river Sambatyon and the 10 lost Shevatim. He got no further than Acco, however, because of the desolation, chaos and lawlessness in Eretz Yisrael following the last of the Crusades and the Battle of Ain Jalut between the Egyptian Mamelukes and the Mongols.

On his way home he stopped in Greece, where he got married. Later he spent time in Capua, Italy, studying philosophy, particularly the Rambam’s Moreh Nevuchim, under the well-known philosopher and physician Harav Hillel of Verona. Dissatisfied with this branch of learning, he turned instead to Kabbalah.

Returning to Spain in 5031/1271, he settled in Barcelona and applied himself to Sefer Yetzirah and its commentaries, especially that of Harav Elazar of Worms, whose kabbalistic doctrine he accepted.

The alef-beis, numerals and vowel-points became symbols of existence to him. Their combinations and permutations elevated his degree of perception and his ability to explore the riddles of the mind and the problems and purpose of human life. His most important talmid, the one who carried on his style, was the mekubal Harav Yosef Gikatilla.

Harav Avraham soon left Spain again, and in 5039/1279 he wrote the first of his sefarim, Sefer HaYashar, in Patras, Greece.

In 5040/1280, he went to Rome to meet Pope Nicholas III. The pope, then in Suriano, issued orders to burn the fanatic as soon as he reached town.

The very night Harav Avraham arrived in Suriano, Erev Rosh Hashanah 5041, the pope suddenly died. Returning to Rome, Harav Avraham was thrown into prison by the Minorites, but was released after four weeks.

He was next heard from in Sicily, where he appeared as a navi. The local Jewish kehillah in Palermo queried Rashba (Rabbeinu Shlomo ben Aderes), who subsequently wrote a letter against Harav Avraham. He had to pick up his wanderer’s staff again, and compiled Sefer HaOs on the little island of Comino, near Malta, in 5045–48/1285–88, under distressing conditions.

Rashba’s condemnation compelled Harav Avraham to seek a new base. He went to Greece, where he wrote V’Zos L’Yehudah and Sheva Netivos HaTorah, defending himself against the Rashba’s attacks; he claimed that Rashba did not know him personally, but judged him from hearsay. Indeed, in a later generation, Harav Chaim Vital cites him extensively in his Shaarei Kedushah.

Harav Avraham authored a total of 26 sefarim, plus 22 works containing descriptions of his visions. His sefarim include Sefer HaYashar, Sefer HaOs, Chayei Olam HaBa, Ohr HaSechel, Gematria HaSheimos, Gan Na’ul, a commentary on Sefer Yetzirah, Otzar Eden Ganuz, another commentary on Sefer Yetzirah, and Sefer HaCheshek.

His last known work, Imrei Shefer, a commentary on Bereishis, was written in 5051/1291.

Harav Avraham was niftar on 24 Kislev, 5059/1298, in Comino, a Maltese archipelago, at the age of 58.

Zechuso yagen aleinu.


 

November 27

In 1701, astronomer Anders Celsius, inventor of the Celsius temperature scale, was born in Uppsala, Sweden.

In 1901, the U.S. Army War College was established in Washington, D.C.

In 1910, the Pennsylvania Railroad began regularly serving New York’s Pennsylvania Station.

In 1942, during World War II, the French navy at Toulon scuttled its ships and submarines to keep them out of the hands of German troops.

In 1962, the first Boeing 727 was rolled out at the company’s Renton Plant.

In 1973, the Senate voted 92–3 to confirm Gerald R. Ford as vice president, succeeding Spiro T. Agnew, who’d resigned.

In 1999, Northern Ireland’s biggest party, the Ulster Unionists, cleared the way for the speedy formation of an unprecedented Protestant-Catholic administration.