This Day in History – 24 Teves/January 15

In Maseches Bava Basra 115b, the Gemara states that Rabi Yochanan Ben Zakkai defeated the Tzedokim and returned the determination of certain inheritance laws to the hands of the Chachamim. (See Tosafos Chadashim on Megillas Taanis, Perek 5, where it says that even though it seems that the above happened on 24 Av, it actually happened in Teves.)

In 5471/1711, a fire that started in the home of Harav Naftali Katz, the Semichas Chachamim, who was at the time Rav of Frankfurt am Main, nearly destroyed the entire Jewish ghetto. Interestingly, Rav Katz was niftar on this same date in 5479/1719.

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


 

Yahrtzeiten

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

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


 

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

Harav Schneur Zalman of Liadi — also known as the Alter Rebbe, the Baal HaTanya, and the Rav — was born in the White Russian town of Liozna on 18 Elul 5505/1745, which was the 47th birthday of the founder of Chassidus, Reb Yisrael Baal Shem Tov.

In 5524/1764 he traveled to Mezheritch to study under Harav Dov Ber, the Mezheritcher Maggid. Despite his youth, he was accepted into the inner circle of the great Rebbe’s talmidim. He also learned under Harav Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk and Harav Pinchas of Koritz.

When Reb Schneur Zalman was barely 25 years old, the Maggid chose him, the youngest of his disciples, to write an expanded Shulchan Aruch, which became known as the Shulchan Aruch Harav.

Soon the Baal HaTanya’s influence had spread throughout White Russia and Lithuania, where a significant part of the Jewish population regarded him as their Rebbe and leader.

In 5558/1798, Reb Schneur Zalman and some of his leading Chassidim were denounced to the Russian authorities in Petersburg as traitors to the Tsar. On the day after Simchas Torah 5559/1798, the Rebbe was arrested and imprisoned in the Peter-Paul Fortress in Petersburg. Although a special commission was set up by the Tsar to investigate the charges, Reb Schneur Zalman was able to convince his investigators that his movement was purely a religious one and had nothing to do with political matters.

Fifty-three days after his arrest, Reb Schneur Zalman was informed that he had been found innocent and that nothing illegal could be imputed to his movement. He was released on 19 Kislev.

However, false charges were again brought to the authorities in Petersburg, and once again the Rebbe was summoned to the capital to defend himself and his teachings. This time it took over nine months until he won a complete victory over his slanderers. In the meantime, Tsar Paul was murdered and his son, Tsar Alexander the First, ordered the case dismissed.

Reb Schneur Zalman took up residence in the town of Liadi. It was there that the Baal HaTanya spent the remainder of his life.

On the 24th of Teves, Motzoei Shabbos Parashas Shemos, he returned his soul to its Maker.

Zechuso yagen aleinu.


 

Jan. 15

In 1559, England’s Queen Elizabeth I was crowned in Westminster Abbey.

In 1865, during the closing months of the Civil War, the Second Battle of Fort Fisher, near Wilmington, North Carolina, ended as Union forces captured the “Gibraltar of the South,” depriving the Confederates of their last major seaport.

In 1943, work was completed on the Pentagon, headquarters of the U.S. Department of War (now Defense).

In 1989, NATO, the Warsaw Pact and 12 other European countries adopted a human rights and security agreement in Vienna, Austria.

In 2009, US Airways Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger ditched his Airbus 320 in the Hudson River after a flock of birds disabled both engines; all 155 people aboard survived.