This Day in History – 26 Kislev/December 18

In 4856/1095, the First Crusade was proclaimed. As they trekked toward Eretz Yisrael, the Crusaders killed tens of thousands of Jews all across Europe. Hy”d.


4959/1198, Harav Avraham ben David, zt”l, the Raavad

5654/1893, Harav Shlomo Zalman Spitzer of Vienna, zt”l

5674/1913, Harav Yosef of Koidinov, zt”l

5731/1970, Harav Yehoshua Zelig Diskin, zt”l, Rav of Pardes Chana


5624/1863, Harav Elazar Hopstein Of Kozhnitz, zt”l

Harav Elazar of Kozhnitz was the son of Harav Moshe Elyakim Beriya and his second Rebbetzin, Sheina Perel. His paternal grandfather was the Maggid Harav Yisrael of Kozhnitz (the Avodas Yisrael), and his maternal grandfather was Harav Elazar, the son of Harav Elimelech of Lizhensk. He was named after this grandfather.

At a young age he married the daughter of Harav Yaakov of Melitz, son of Harav Naftali of Ropshitz. Harav Naftali supported him until his petirah in 5587/1827, when Harav Elazar returned to his father in Kozhnitz. Unfortunately, a year later, his father was niftar as well.

The Kozhnitzer Chassidim asked his cousin, Harav Chaim Meir Yechiel, the Saraf of Moglinitza, to lead them. But Reb Elazar chose Reb Yeshayah of Pshedburz as his Rebbe; tradition says that this was at the behest of his father, who came to him in a dream.

He traveled to Harav Yeshayah for four years, until his petirah in 5592, after which Reb Elazar began traveling to the Saraf of Moglinitza, whom he then considered his Rebbe. Only after the Saraf left this world did Reb Elazar accept the leadership of Kozhnitzer Chassidus.

This he did with the Saraf’s clearly implied blessing. The last Shabbos of the Saraf’s life, he was serving as baal keriah and honored Reb Elazar with the third Aliyah. The parashah was Mikeitz, and one of the verses of the third Aliyah was Pharaoh’s statement to Yosef: “You shall be over my house, and at your word shall all of my people be provided for.” His eyes streaming with tears, the Saraf read this verse three times over, loudly and directly to Reb Elazar, before continuing with the Aliyah. When the Saraf was niftar later that week, the Chassidim knew whom he had chosen to succeed him.

Harav Elazar was physically weak, but this did not deter him from traveling to visit his Chassidim.

His ahavah for every Yid was profound; he always found good in everyone. He was famous for promoting shalom and achdus in Klal Yisrael and he urged his Chassidim to distance themselves from any machlokes.

He was niftar on 26 Kislev 5624/1863. Thirty-two years after his petirah, Likutei Mahara was published from notes that his Chassidim had taken of his divrei Torah.

Zechuso yagen aleinu.


Dec. 18

In 1787, New Jersey became the third state to ratify the U.S. Constitution.

In 1863, in a speech to the Prussian Parliament, Prime Minister Otto von Bismarck declared, “Politics is not an exact science.”

In 1865, the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery, was declared in effect by Secretary of State William H. Seward.

In 1940, Adolf Hitler ordered secret preparations for Nazi Germany to invade the Soviet Union. (Operation Barbarossa was launched in June 1941.)

In 1944, in a pair of related rulings, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Korematsu v. United States, upheld, 6–3, the government’s wartime evacuation of people of Japanese descent, including U.S. citizens, from the West Coast (the decision was limited to the exclusion policy, and did not take up the issue of internment), while in Ex parte Endo, the justices unanimously agreed that “concededly loyal” Americans of Japanese ancestry could not continue to be detained. (Both rulings came a day after the U.S. Department of War said it was lifting the internment policy.)

In 1958, the world’s first communications satellite, SCORE (Signal Communication by Orbiting Relay Equipment), nicknamed “Chatterbox,” was launched by the United States aboard an Atlas rocket.

In 1969, Britain’s House of Lords joined the House of Commons in making permanent a 1965 ban on the death penalty for murder.

In 1972, the United States began heavy bombing of North Vietnamese targets during the Vietnam War.

In 1980, former Soviet Premier Alexei N. Kosygin died at age 76.