This Day in History – 29 Teves/January 20

According to Rabi Yehudah, this date marks the end of choref (winter season).

In 5374/1614, a taanis tzibbur was declared in Worms (Vermeiza), Germany, marking the return of the Jews who had earlier been expelled.

In 5414/1654, Recife, Brazil, was conquered by Portugal, putting an end to the flourishing Jewish community there.

In 5555/1795, Purim Burgel was established in Tripoli, commemorating the downfall of the Burgel Pasha.


5670/1810, Harav Yerachmiel Yisrael Yitzchak Danzinger, the Yismach Yisrael of Alexander, zy”a

Born in 5613/1853 to the first Rebbe of Alexander (Poland), Reb Yechiel Danzinger, he was named after the Vorka Rebbe, Reb Yisrael Yitzchak, who was known as Reb Yitzchak of Vorka. He married the daughter of Harav Dov Ber Chetchik of Poltosk. At the tender age of seven, his father already took him along to Reb Menachem Mendel of Vorka for Shavuos.

After the Vorka Rebbe’s passing, Reb Yisrael’s father took him to Reb Yaakov Aryeh of Radzimin, who foretold Reb Yisrael Yitzchak’s greatness, and to Reb Beirush of Biala. After the Biala Rebbe’s passing, his father became Alexander Rebbe and led the Chassidim.

He reached a very high level in Torah and avodah while yet a child. By the time he was a young man he knew all of Shas, Midrash and Zohar by heart. The Brisker Rav met him in those years and said he was one of the foremost lamdanim of Poland.

After his father’s passing on 14 Shevat 5654/1894, the Yismach Yisrael was chosen as Rebbe by the Chassidim. He initially refused vehemently, and claimed that he wanted to leave for Eretz Yisrael, but the Chassidim did not yield and he eventually acceded. In his humility, he refused to admit any claim to the position except yerushas avos. He refused to take money from his Chassidim; he lived on the salary that he received as Rav of Alexander.

The Yismach Yisrael was renowned for his ahavas Yisrael and for his wisdom. His advice was sought by thousands from all over Poland, and in his later years he was receiving Chassidim most of the day. When he fell sick, the Avnei Nezer, who was asked to daven for him, said, “It is no surprise that the Yismach Yisrael is sick; he is a Rebbe 17 hours a day!”

Once, a man came to him for a yeshuah in parnassah. The Rebbe knew that he kept his store open on Shabbos, and therefore his parnassah did not have blessing. The Rebbe turned to the man and said, “I can give you a brachah on condition that you will take me in as a partner in the business.” The person happily agreed. Then the Rebbe exclaimed, “Good! Now my portion of the partnership will be for Shabbos, and therefore the store shall remain closed.” The man was caught off guard, but of course agreed.

The Yismach Yisrael passed away on Erev Rosh Chodesh Shevat 5670/1810 at the age of 57, and was buried in Alexander.

Sadly, he did not merit having any children; his brother, the Tiferes Shmuel, succeeded him.

Yehi zichro baruch.


Jan. 20

In 1265, England’s first representative Parliament met for the first time; the gathering at Westminster was composed of bishops, abbots, peers, Knights of the Shire and town burgesses.

In 1649, King Charles I of England went on trial, accused of high treason (he was found guilty and executed by month’s end).

In 1887, the U.S. Senate approved an agreement to lease Pearl Harbor in Hawaii as a naval base.

In 1942, Nazi officials held the notorious Wannsee Conference, during which they arrived at their “final solution” that called for annihilating the Jews.

In 1945, President Franklin D. Roosevelt was sworn into office for an unprecedented fourth term.

In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson was inaugurated for a term of office in his own right.

In 1981, Iran released 52 Americans it had held hostage for 444 days, minutes after the presidency had passed from Jimmy Carter to Ronald Reagan.

In 1985, President Ronald Reagan and Vice President George H.W. Bush were sworn in for second terms of office in a brief White House ceremony. (It being a Sunday, the public swearing-in was held the following day.)