This Day in History – 4 Iyar/May 12

Shaar blatt of sefer Ohel Yaakov.

In 4925/1165, the Rambam and his family left Fez, North Africa, for Eretz Yisrael. The Rambam observed this day as a fast day, commemorating his miraculous survival from a storm that hit the sea on 10 Iyar, a few days after he set sail.

5252/1492, date of decree for Expulsion of Jews from Spain.


5552/1792, Harav Yosef Teumim, zt”l, mechaber of Pri Megadim, Rosh Yosef on Chullin, Poras Yosef on Yevamos and Kesubos, and more. (According to another opinion, his yahrtzeit is on 10 Iyar.)

5652/1892, Harav Yosef Ber Soloveitchik of Brisk, zt”l, Rosh Yeshivas Volozhin and mechaber of Beis Halevi

5744/1984, Harav Shmuel Eliyahu Taub, the Imrei Eish of Modzitz, zt”l

5458/1698, Harav Yaakov Sasportes, zt”l, Rosh Yeshivah of Etz Chaim in Hamburg

Harav Yaakov Sasportes was born in 5370/1610 in Sali, Morocco. Of prestigious lineage, he was an 11th-generation descendant of Ramban.

The family moved to Algeria. At nine he was considered a child prodigy, already fluent in a number of masechtos.

At 18, Rav Yaakov was appointed to serve on the beis din of Talmasan, in North Africa. Six years later he became Av Beis Din.

In 5410/1650, Rav Yaakov was appointed Rosh Yeshivah of Yeshivas Ohr Hachaim. During this period Rav Yaakov forged a close connection with Harav Menasheh Ben Yisrael, who subsequently took him along with the rest of his entourage to London.

In 5424/1664, Rav Yaakov was appointed Rav in London. Two years later, in 5426/1665, a plague struck London, killing 7,000 people, and Rav Yaakov was forced to flee.

When he arrived in Hamburg with his family, the community there supported him, despite their own financial straits.

At that time the belief in Shabsai Tzvi was at its zenith. Many Yidden were enthusiastic about him and his “revelations.” Because times were very hard for the Yidden, people clung to any sort of hope. But Rav Yaakov fought tenaciously against the apostate and his followers.

In the beginning, Rav Yaakov and his supporters were considered extremists. Even the many Rabbanim Rav Yaakov wrote to, asking for backing in his struggle, were unresponsive.

Unfortunately, Rav Yaakov’s prescience proved correct: Shabsai Tzvi and his close followers converted to Islam. Yet even after the apostate’s death, many continued to believe in him. Anti-Semitism only grew as a result of this fiasco, and life became even harder for the Yidden.

Towards the end of his life, Rav Yaakov settled in Amsterdam, where in 5453/1693 he was appointed Rav of the Sephardic community. He was niftar in Amsterdam on 4 Iyar, 5458/1698, at the age of 88.

Rav Yaakov wrote a number of sefarim, among them She’eilos U’Teshuvos Ohel Yaakov; Toldos Yaakov, a list of the sources of the pesukim in Talmud Yerushalmi; Tzitzas Novel Tzvi, on Shulchan Aruch; and others.

Zecher tzaddik livrachah.

May 12

In 1780, during the Revolutionary War, the besieged city of Charleston, South Carolina, surrendered to British forces.

In 1922, a 20-ton meteor crashed near Blackstone, Virginia.

In 1949, the Soviet Union lifted the Berlin Blockade, which the Western powers had succeeded in circumventing with their Berlin Airlift.

In 1955, Manhattan’s last elevated rail line, the Third Avenue El, ceased operation.