This Day In History – 26 Iyar/May 11

Portrait of a man, said to be Christopher Columbus.

26 Iyar

In 5705/1945, the Nazis finally surrendered to the Allies, and the war that left millions dead — including six million Jews, Hy”d — was over.

In 5726/1967, the Six-Day war broke out. The nations of Egypt, Jordan, Iraq and Syria attacked Eretz Yisrael.

Yahrtzeiten

4702/942 C.E., Rabbeinu Saadia Gaon, zt”l

5507/1747, Harav Moshe Chaim Luzzato, zt”l, mechaber of Mesillas Yesharim, Derech Hashem and more.

5648/1888, Harav Shmuel Eliyahu of Zvahlin, zt”l

5705/1945, Harav Shlomo Goldman of Zhvill, zt”l


5609/1849

Harav Yitzchak of Volozhin, zt”l

Rav Yitzchak was born in 5540/1880. He was the son and successor of Rav Chaim of Volozhin, the founder and first Rosh Yeshivah of the famed Volozhiner Yeshivah. In his youth he learned there.

After the petirah of his illustrious father on 14 Sivan 5581/1821, Rav Yitzchak was appointed Rosh Yeshivah in his place.

Rav Yitzchak was a wealthy man, and he helped fund the yeshivah in its early years until it became self-supporting.

Rav Yitzchak also held the position of Rav of Volozhin. He was known for his erudition in all facets of the Torah. He published his father’s famous mussar work, Nefesh Hachaim.

In addition to his duties as Rav and Rosh Yeshivah, Rav Yitzchak was also a leading spokesman for Jewish causes. It is said that he won the respect of the Russian Tsar through the following discussion.

“I know that the Jews pray for my welfare every Shabbos [as was customary in those years],” said the Tsar, “and I even asked a Jew to translate the prayer for me. However, now I have learned that the Jews in every country recite the identical prayer for their own ruler. If the Jews in my kingdom pray for my success and the Jews in my rival’s kingdom pray for his success, what will be the outcome?”

Rav Yitzchak replied with a smile, “Since Your Majesty has had the prayer for the welfare of the leaders translated, he must certainly have noticed that we quote a verse that refers to Hashem as Hanosen bayam derech ubemayim azim nesivah — ‘the One Who makes a path in the sea and a lane in the fierce waters’ (Yeshayah 43:16). Why this specific verse?

“The answer is as follows: A ship that wishes to travel westward needs an east wind to blow. On the other hand, a ship which must travel eastward needs a west wind. How can both ships be satisfied?

Hashem’s greatness is that He can satisfy both! So, too, we pray for your success while our brethren in other lands pray for the success of their king, and Hashem’s greatness is such that He can answer all of our prayers … ”

Rav Yitzchak’s works include Mili D’Avos on Pirkei Avos and a Torah commentary entitled Peh Kadosh. Many halachic she’eilos were addressed to him, from across Russia.

Rav Yitzchak was niftar on 26 Iyar 5609/1849. (Some give the year of his petirah as 5611/1851.)

His sons-in-law were Harav Eliezer Yitzchak and Harav Naftali Zvi Yehudah Berlin, the Netziv.

Zecher tzaddik livrachah.


May 11

In 1502, Christopher Columbus left Cadiz, Spain, on his fourth and final trip to the Western Hemisphere.

In 1858, Minnesota became the 32nd state of the Union.

In 1935, the Rural Electrification Administration was created as one of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal programs.

In 1960, Israeli agents captured Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann in Buenos Aires, Argentina.