This day in History 27 Adar II/April 3

In 5015/1255, the King of Austria granted rights to Jews.


5408/1648, Harav Yehudah Aryeh of Vizhnitza, zt”l,

5635/1875, Harav Yosef Shaul Natansohn, zt”l

5757/1997, Harav Moshe Neuschloss, zt”l

5643/1883, Harav Yaakov Barit of Vilna, Zt”l

Harav Yaakov Barit was born in Simna, a small town near Suvalk, on 21 Elul 5557/1797. His father was Harav Yehudah Leib.

As a child he learned with an elderly talmid chacham, after which young Yaakov was fluent in many masechtos. At this stage, he could learn on his own.

Before he became bar mitzvah, his father, Rav Yehudah Leib, was niftar; his mother, Esther, had passed away two years earlier. As an orphan, he was tended to by the people in the city.

At the age of 14, he set out for Kovno, but he stopped en route in Slabodka, where he learned for the next three years. He was taken as a chassan by one of the negidim of Kovna from the Barit family. Barit was an acronym of Ben Reb Yehuda Teitz, a famed Dayan in Vilna. Rav Yaakov took his father-in-law’s surname.

He lived in the home of his father-in-law for the next five years, continuing to grow in Torah. Unfortunately, his wife was niftar six years after their wedding, leaving Rav Yaakov alone with a young daughter. Rav Yaakov didn’t want to be a burden on the family, so he moved on to Vilna.

He reached Vilna in Cheshvan 5582/1821, at the age of 25. Soon afterwards he married a granddaughter of Harav Yitzchak of Kolovaria.

Rav Yaakov settled in Vilna; unfortunately, tranquility was not to be his. The passing of his second wife in 5590/1830 left him alone with another two children. He married once again; his wife was the daughter of Rav Aharon Tauber, one of the more affluent Jews of Vilna, who supported him for the next few years.

After the years of support were over, Rav Yaakov tried his hand at his father-in-law’s whisky distillery. He was very successful, but in 5605/1845, after the government ruled that Jews were no longer allowed to produce alcoholic beverages, Rav Yaakov was left penniless.

A few years later, in 5610/1850, Harav Chaim Nachman Parnas founded a yeshivah and appointed Rav Yaakov the Rosh Yeshivah. Many bachurim gathered to learn under Rav Yaakov, who gave shiurim in Tur with Beis Yosef, and later in Shulchan Aruch and the commentaries.

In 5616/1856, a request came from the Tsar for a delegation of Jews to answer philosophical questions. Rav Yaakov and three other Rabbanim were chosen for this task.

From that time on, Rav Yaakov was considered a community leader. Using his new connections in the government, he helped repeal unfavorable decrees.

In 5633/1873, Rav Yaakov suffered a stroke from which he never fully recovered, remaining paralyzed on his right side. However, he continued his work in the yeshivah until 5637/1877.

On the night of 27 Adar I, 5643/1883, Rav Yaakov was niftar at the age of 86. He was buried in Vilna.

Zecher tzaddik livrachah.

April 3

In 1860, the legendary Pony Express began carrying mail between St. Joseph, Missouri, and Sacramento, California. (The delivery system lasted only 18 months before it was replaced by the transcontinental telegraph.)

In 1942, during World War II, Japanese forces began their final assault on Bataan against American and Filipino troops who surrendered six days later; the capitulation was followed by the notorious Bataan Death March.

In 1948, President Harry S. Truman signed the Marshall Plan, designed to help European allies rebuild after World War II and resist communism.

In 1965, the United States launched the SNAP-10A nuclear power system into Earth orbit; it was the first nuclear reactor sent into space.