This Day In History 24 Teves/January 11

In 5597/1837, a devastating earthquake shook Eretz Yisrael, killing at least 2,000 people in Tzfas and over 700 in Teveria. Many of the survivors migrated to Chevron.


5572/1812, Harav Yosef of Yampola, zt”l, son of the Zlotchover Maggid

5573/1812, Harav Schneur Zalman of Liadi, zt”l, the Baal HaTanya, founder of Lubavitch Chassidus

5612/1852, Harav Meir Eisenstadt, zt”l, mechaber of Maharam Ash

5686/1926, Harav Shmuel of Sochatchov, zt”l, the Shem Mishmuel

5708/1948, Harav Avraham Shmuel Binyamin Sofer, zt”l, the Divrei Sofer

5747/1987, Harav Moshe Mordechai Biderman, zt”l, the Lelover Rebbe

5479/1719, Harav Naftali Katz, Zt”l, the Semichas Chachamim

Harav Naftali Katz was born in Ostroha in 5420/1660. His father was Harav Yitzchak Katz, zt”l, who was a grandson of Harav Yitzchak Katz, the son-in-law of the Maharal of Prague, and a direct descendant of Aharon Hakohen.

In his youth, he learned together with Harav Eliezer Charif, zt”l, who later became Rav in Mezritch.

His name as a budding talmid chacham, along with his renowned hasmadah, grew with him and he was taken as a chassan by Harav Shmuel Shmelka Zack, zt”l, the Rav of the city, for his daughter, Rebbetzin Esther Sheindel. His father-in-law appointed him as Rosh Yeshivah, and after his petirah, in 5447/1687, he was named Rav of the city, in his father-in-law’s stead.

Before he reached the age of 30, Reb Naftali was appointed Rav of Posen, in 5449/1689. During his tenure in Posen, he initiated a beis vaad, making this building the only place where one could judge a din Torah. The future Dayanim in Posen, as well, heeded his ruling and only paskened in that building.

Later, in 5464/1704, he was called by the kehillah of Frankfurt an Main to serve as Rav of their community, a post he held for the next seven years. This all came to a tragic end on 24 Teves 5471/1711 when a huge fire broke out in his house, quickly spreading to the whole Jewish quarter, including the beis medrash, leaving some 8,000 residents homeless. As a result of a libel that Reb Naftali was involved in the fire, he was put in jail. Even after his innocence was proven, he still had to leave the city, eventually settling in Prague.

But in Prague, too, there were troubles. He was deceived by a follower of Shabtai Tzvi, Sr”y, into giving a haskamah to his sefer. Later, when the truth came out, Rav Naftali released a public declaration calling on all to burn the sefer. Eventually this group of meshumadim met their end.

He soon returned to his native Ostroha, where his son Harav Betzalel was Rav. When Harav Betzalel, zt”l, was niftar in his lifetime, on 21 Sivan 5477/1717, Reb Naftali decided to move to Eretz Yisrael.

In 5478/1718, on his journey to Eretz Yisrael, during a stop in Constantinople (Istanbul), Turkey, he took ill. During his short illness he revealed many sublime things, among them that his neshamah was a gilgul of Chizkiyahu Hamelech. He was niftar in Istanbul on 24 Teves 5479/1719 and buried there.

Reb Naftali wrote numerous sefarim, the most famous of which is Semichas Chachamim. He also wrote Pi Yesharim, an expounding on the first word of the Torah, Bereishis, according to Kabbalistic sources, Kedusha u’Vracha on Maseches Brachos, and Shaar Hahachana on Viduim and tefillos for the sick.

Zechuso yagen aleinu.

Jan. 11

In 1861, Alabama became the fourth state to withdraw from the Union.

In 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed the Grand Canyon National Monument. It became a national park in 1919.

In 1913, the first enclosed sedan-type automobile, a Hudson, went on display at the 13th National Automobile Show in New York.

In 1989, nine days before leaving the White House, President Ronald Reagan bade the nation farewell in a prime-time address, saying of his eight years in office: “We meant to change a nation and instead we changed a world.”