This Day in History – 27 Shevat/February 16

In 5343/1583, Joseph Sanalbo, a ger tzedek, was burned at the stake in Rome. Hy”d.


5497/1737, Harav Alexander of Zolkov, zt”l, the Tevuos Shor

5625/1865, Harav Emanuel Weltfried of Pshedborzh, zt”l

5631/1871, Harav Menachem Nachum of Chernobyl, zt”l

5735/1975, Harav Yitzchak Bochnik, zt”l, of Djerba, Tunisia, mechaber of Vayomer Yitzchak and Bnei Chai

5742/1982, Harav Mordechai Shulman, zt”l, Rosh Yeshivah of Slabodka


5597/1837, Harav Elazar Lev, zt”l, Rav of Santov and author of Shemen Rokeach

Harav Elazar Lev was born in Varislav, in the Kielc region, in 5518/1758. His father was the nagid Rav Aryeh Leib, son of the famed Harav Pinchas Zelig, Rav of Lask. On his mother Rebbetzin Leah Reitza’s side, Rav Elazar was descended from many Gedolim.

Realizing young Elazar’s potential, his parents hired private melamdim for him. At the age of eight he was like a yeshivah bachur of 18 in his comprehension of Gemara; by the age of 10, he was recognized as an iluy. At this point his father could not find a melamed to teach the boy, so he sent him to the yeshivah of his grandfather, the Ateres Paz, in Lask. Under his grandfather, Elazar made great progress.

On the day he turned bar mitzvah, young Elazar made a siyum on the entire Shas, and on that day he also became a chassan (some say he got married) to Yutaleh, the daughter of Harav Yoel, grandson of the Gur Aryeh. After his marriage Reb Elazar continued to live in Lask, near his grandfather.

When he was all of 16, he was approached to serve as dayan of his hometown of Varislav, and the next year, at the age of 17, he became the Av Beis Din.

In 5538/1778, when Reb Elazar was 20 years old, he was appointed Rav in Piltz (near Cracow), a city of talmidei chachamim. He held this position for more than 20 years. He opened a yeshivah that attracted many of the leading bachurim, among them the future Rebbe Reb Bunim of Peshischa.

In time, Reb Elazar became a much sought-after posek.

In 5572/1812, Reb Elazar became Rav of Ranshbourg-Pilsen-Glatoi. This was a wealthy kehillah that was willing to finance the publication of his sefarim. In their honor, he wrote Yavin Shmuah on the Torah. But Reb Elazar felt the lack of a Torah environment, and so he returned to his previous position and to his yeshivah.

In 5590/1830, he moved to Sanatov, where he again founded a yeshivah. The next year, 5591/1831, his son Rav Aharon was niftar; in his memory Reb Elazar wrote the sefer Zichron Aharon on the halachos of chazakah.

In 5593/1833, tragedy struck again. During a thunderstorm he lost his vision, and from then on sefarim had to be read to him. He was still very active, though, and he would dictate his thoughts and teshuvos for others to record.

On midnight of 27 Shevat 5597/1837, Reb Elazar called the members of the chevrah kaddisha and informed them that his end was near. As the hours wore on, he continuously asked if it was time to don tallis and tefillin.

At daybreak, Reb Elazar wrapped himself in tallis and tefillin and began to recite Birchos Hashachar. When he reached “Echad ve’en yachid k’Yichudo — One and none is like his Oneness,” his neshamah went up to Shamayim.

Reb Elazar wrote many sefarim, most famously Shemen Rokeach, his halachic responsa, by which name he is known.

Zechuso yagen aleinu.


Feb. 16

In 1862, the Civil War Battle of Fort Donelson in Tennessee ended as some 12,000 Confederate soldiers surrendered; Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s victory earned him the nickname “Unconditional Surrender Grant.”

In 1923, the burial chamber of King Tutankhamen’s recently unearthed tomb was unsealed in Egypt by English archaeologist Howard Carter.

In 1937, Dr. Wallace H. Carothers, a research chemist for Du Pont who’d invented nylon, received a patent for the synthetic fiber.

In 1959, Fidel Castro became premier of Cuba a month and a half after the overthrow of Fulgencio Batista.

In 1961, the United States launched the Explorer 9 satellite.

In 1968, the nation’s first 911 emergency telephone system was inaugurated in Haleyville, Alabama.