This Day In History 3 Teves/December 21

Yahrtzeiten

5670/1909, Harav Yaakov Hakohen Gadisha, zt”l, Rav of Djerba, Tunisia

5702/1941, Harav Yechezkel Ezra Yehoshua, zt”l, Rav of the Iraqi kehillah in Yerushalayim

5739/1978, Harav Chaim Shmulevitz, zt”l, Rosh Yeshivas Mir-Yerushalayim


3 Teves 5739/1978, Harav Chaim Leib Shmulevitz, Zt”l

Harav Chaim Leib Shmulevitz was born in Kovno, Lithuania, on Motzoei Rosh Hashanah 5663/1902 to Harav Refael Alter Shmulevitz, zt”l, and his wife, Ettel. His father served as Rosh Yeshivah of the yeshivah in Stutchin. His mother was the daughter of Harav Yosef Yoizel Horowitz, zt”l, the Alter of Novardok.

In 1920, when Reb Chaim was 17, both of his parents were niftar. As the oldest, he undertook to support his brother and sisters and would spend his day in the marketplace to earn some money towards this end. At night, he would write the chiddushei Torah that occurred to him during the day. Indeed, he was capable of learning and thinking in Torah under all circumstances.

At the age of 18, Reb Chaim was invited by Harav Shimon Shkop, zt”l, to give the third level shiur in the yeshivah ketanah in Grodno.

In 1924, he transferred to Mir, where he would remain for the rest of his life. His thirst for Torah was unquenchable; he wanted to know even the small comments of young talmidim.

Five years later he married the daughter of Harav Eliezer Yehudah Finkel, zt”l, the Mirrer Rosh Yeshivah. A few years later, at the relatively young age of 31, Reb Chaim himself was appointed as a Rosh Yeshivah, delivering shiurim that combined great depth and breadth.

When World War II broke out in 1939, the yeshivah went into exile, accompanied by open hashgachah. When the yeshivah reached Shanghai, where it spent five years, living conditions were extremely difficult, but the yeshivah prospered. Rav Finkel had gone to Eretz Yisrael to obtain visas for the yeshivah and was forced to remain there; in his absence the yeshivah was directed by Rav Shmulevitz and the Mashgiach, Harav Yechezkel Levenstein, zt”l. Rav Shmulevitz would note often in his shmuessen that the yeshivah’s remaining together was a major factor in its miraculous salvation.

In 1947 the yeshivah relocated to the United States. After six months there, Rav Shmulevitz left for Yerushalayim to join the branch of the Mir that was established there by his father-in-law. For over 30 years he would impart Torah in the yeshivah, where his yegia baTorah and his personality would inspire thousands of talmidim.

In 1964, with the petirah of the Mashgiach, his brother-in-law Harav Chaim Zev Finkel, zt”l, Rav Shmulevitz started to deliver shmuessen. Many of these appeared later in his classic Sichos Mussar.

Rav Shmulevitz’s devotion to limud haTorah was indescribable, only matched by his sterling character and his concern for his fellow Yidden. His family would hide the Hebrew Hamodia to spare him the pain of seeing requests for tefillos for the recovery of cholim.

On Monday night, 3 Teves, Rav Shmulevitz’s great light went out.

Zecher tzaddik livrachah.


This article includes material from an article that originally appeared in The Jewish Observer and appears in “The Torah World” (ArtScroll/Mesorah).


Dec. 21

In 1620, Pilgrims aboard the Mayflower went ashore for the first time at present-day Plymouth, Massachusetts.

In 1976, the Liberian-registered tanker Argo Merchant broke apart near Nantucket Island off Massachusetts almost a week after running aground, spilling 7.5 million gallons of oil into the North Atlantic.

In 1988, 270 people were killed when a terrorist bomb exploded aboard a Pam Am Boeing 747 over Lockerbie, Scotland, sending wreckage crashing to the ground.

In 1991, 11 of the 12 former Soviet republics proclaimed the birth of the Commonwealth of Independent States and the death of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.