This Day in History – 8 Iyar/May 16

 Shaar blatt of sefer Chaim MiYrushalayim.
Shaar blatt of sefer Chaim MiYrushalayim.

In 4856/1096, the Jews of Speyer, Germany, were massacred in the First Crusade. The event occurred on Shabbos. Hashem yinkom damam.

In 5276/1516, the first ghetto for Jews was established in Venice.

In 5427/1667, mass anti-Jewish riots erupted in Lemberg, Galicia. The day was observed as a fast day.


5591/1831, Harav Yerachmiel Rabinowitz of Peshischa, the Kedushas Hayehudi, zt”l

5628/1868, Harav Mordechai Michael Yaffa, zt”l, Rav of Zadon, talmid of Harav Akiva Eiger, zt”l

5703/1943, Harav Moshe Mordechai Twersky of Trisk-Lublin, Hy”d

Shaar blatt of sefer Minchah Tehorah.
Shaar blatt of sefer Minchah Tehorah.

5608/1848, Harav Chaim Avraham Gaghin, zt”l, Rishon LeTzion, mechaber of Chukei Chaim and Minchah Tehorah

Harav Avraham Chaim Gaghin was born in Constantinople in 5547/1787. His father, Harav Moshe, moved the family to Eretz Yisrael when Avraham Chaim was still a child. Learning in yeshivos in Yerushalayim, the boy’s great lamdanus was quickly noted; at a young age, he wrote Minchah Tehorah on Maseches Menachos.

After the passing of his first wife in 5588/1837, Rav Chaim Avraham married the daughter of Harav Avraham Shalom Sharabi, who was among the leading mekubalim in Yerushalayim.

In 5594/1834, following the petirah of Harav Avraham Maghar, Rav Chaim Avraham was chosen to daven at the amud in his place, a position of importance among the mekubalim.

Subsequently, with the petirah of Harav Yehudah Navon in 5602/1842, Rav Chaim Avraham was appointed Rishon LeTzion. He was the first Rishon LeTzion to be certified at this post by the Turkish Empire.

As Rav, Rav Chaim Avraham enacted many takanos for the benefit of the community. He distributed all the money he received among the needy.

Rav Chaim Avraham fought against the local Christian missionaries who sought to uproot Yiddishkeit, and forbade living near them. Once, when he was sick, the missionary doctor said he could cure him in just three days. Rav Chaim Avraham replied that he would rather die than be healed by a missionary doctor.

Besides his communal activities, Rav Chaim Avraham was also active in disseminating Torah. He wrote numerous sefarim, among them the previously mentioned Minchah Tehorah on Maseches Menachos; Chaim MiYrushalayim, a compilation of his drashos on the Torah; and She’eilos U’teshuvos Chukei Chaim.

Rav Chaim Avraham was niftar on 8 Iyar 5608/1848, at the age of 62. (Some authorities give the day of his petirah as 20 Iyar of the same year.)

Zecher tzaddik livrachah.

May 16

In 1866, Congress authorized minting of the first five-cent piece, also known as the “Shield nickel.”

In 1916, during World War I, France and Britain secretly ratified the Sykes-Picot Agreement, which concerned postwar partitioning of Arab lands held by the Ottoman Empire.

In 1939, the federal government began its first food stamp program in Rochester, New York.

In 1960, the first working laser was demonstrated at Hughes Research Laboratories in Malibu, California, by physicist Theodore Maiman.