This Day In History 4 Teves/January 2

The cuttlefish that, according to Harav Gershon Henoch, is the source of genuine techeiles.

4 Teves

Yahrtzeiten

5633/1872, Harav Eizel Charif of Slonim, zt”l

5693/1933, Harav Chaim Shaul Doueck, zt”l, mechaber of Eifah Sheleimah

5756/1995, Harav Mordechai Pinchas Teitz, zt”l, Rav of Elizabeth, N.J.


5651/1890

Harav Gershon Henoch Leiner of Radzin, zt”l, the Baal Hatecheiles

Harav Gershon Henoch Leiner was born in 5599/1839 in Tomashov. His illustrious father was Harav Yaakov Leiner, the Rebbe of Izhbitza, son of Harav Mordechai Yosef, the first Izhbitzer Rebbe. Reb Gershon Henoch was very close to his grandfather and considered himself his talmid muvhak.

By bar mitzvah age, Reb Gershon Henoch had already authored a sefer on the entire Shulchan Aruch.

His mother passed away in 5614/1854, when Reb Gershon Henoch was 15, and soon his grandfather, the Izhbitzer Rebbe, followed.

Reb Gershon Henoch married the daughter of Harav Yosef Gelerenter, Rav of Horvishov. At age 22, he was chosen to be Rav of Radzin.

After his father’s petirah in 5638/1878, Reb Gershon Henoch succeeded him in Izhbitza and became known as the Radziner Rebbe.

Reb Gershon Henoch’s most famous project was his research to identify the techeiles which the Torah commands us to use to dye our tzitzis; its source had been unknown for at least 1,000 years. He wrote three sefarim on the subject, listing 10 requirements that an animal must have to be the chilazon. These include the following: its body is blue like the sea, it resembles a fish without actually being a fish, it has veins, bones and a hard shell, its blood is black and it sometimes emerges onto dry land.

The next step was to travel to the Bay of Naples, one of the richest breeding grounds of marine life in the world. He returned to Radzin with a supply of cuttlefish and conducted experiments in two wooden huts near his house that he used as laboratories. It took two years of research to discover how to transform the dark brown blood into blue techeiles. On Chanukah 5649/1888, the first batch of techeiles-colored “strings” was produced.

Although he had presented his case in an extremely convincing manner, most Gedolei Yisrael did not support his theory. Ein Hatecheiles was published by Reb Gershon Henoch to refute those who disagreed with him and to convince others of the validity of his approach.

Two years after his discovery of techeiles, Reb Gershon Henoch became ill. Early in the morning of 4 Teves 5651/1890, Reb Gershon Henoch placed his right hand to his lips and his left hand over his heart, and his neshamah returned to Shamayim.

Reb Gershon Henoch authored Sod Yesharim al haTorah; Orchos Chaim, a commentary on the tzavaah of the Tanna Rabi Eliezer ben Horkinus; and Tiferes Hachanochi on the Zohar.

Reb Gershon Henoch compiled and published the divrei Torah of his grandfather Harav Mordechai Yosef of Izhbitze under the name Mei Hashiloach, as well as the work of his father, Beis Yaakov.

Zechuso yagen aleinu.


Jan. 2

In 1788, Georgia became the fourth state to ratify the U.S. Constitution.

In 1893, the U.S. Postal Service issued its first commemorative stamp to honor the World’s Columbian Expedition and the quadricentennial of Christopher Columbus’ voyage.

In 1900, U.S. Secretary of State John Hay announced the “Open Door Policy” to facilitate trade with China.

In 1974, President Richard Nixon signed legislation requiring states to limit highway speeds to 55 miles an hour as a way of conserving gasoline in the face of an OPEC oil embargo. (The 55 mph limit was effectively phased out in 1987; federal speed limits were abolished in 1995.)