This Day in History – 9 Teves/December 17

9 Teves

In Megillas Taanis we are taught that today is a taanis tzadikkim for an “unspecified tzarah.” The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 580:2) also mentions it. The Taz and Magen Avraham write that we fast on this day because it is the yahrtzeit of Ezra Hasofer and Nechemia ben Chachaliah, as mentioned in the Selichos of Asarah B’Teves.

Others disagree, saying that their yahrtzeit is on 10 Teves. Still others maintain that the reason for fasting is the tragic death al kiddush Hashem of Harav Yosef Hanagid of Geronda, killed with 1,500 members of his kehillah by an Arab mob in 4827/1067. And there are those who believe that 9 Teves is the day that Oso Ha’ish was born.

In 5655/1895, the Defamation Ceremony of Alfred Dreyfus took place. Dreyfus was a Jewish-French army captain falsely accused by French anti-Semites of selling documents to Germany.


4824/1063, Harav Ezra, zt”l, the Ramban’s Rebbi in Kabbalah

5392/1632, Harav Avraham Chaim Schorr, zt”l, mechaber of Toras Chaim

5525/1765, Harav Shmuel Helman, zt”l, Rav of Metz, France


Ezra Hasofer, Zy”a

Ezra Hasofer, a 23rd generation direct descendant of Aharon Hakohen, was the son of Shraya Hakohen.

The Gemara relates (Sanhedrin 21): “Ezra was as suitable for the Torah to be given through him as Moshe Rabbeinu, had Moshe not preceded him.”

Chazal relate that Ezra “returned the Crown of Israel to its former glory.” In his days the Torah was nearly forgotten in Eretz Yisrael, but then Ezra returned from Bavel and re-established the study and observance of Torah.

In the first year of the reign of King Koresh (Cyrus) of Persia, (70 years after the beginning of Nevuchadnetzar’s reign) many Jews traveled to Eretz Yisrael from Bavel and started rebuilding the Beis Hamikdash. But, due to the king’s reluctance and the slander of non-Jews, the building process was halted.

Eighteen years later, after the miracle of Purim took place and after Achashverosh died, his son Daryavesh (Darius) became king. The son also of Esther Hamalkah, he allowed Yidden to resume building the Beis Hamikdash. The Second Beis Hamikdash was completed, in the sixth year of King Daryavesh’s reign.

After these events, in 3413, Ezra ascended to Eretz Yisrael, escorted by many others. At the time, Ezra was about 80 years old.

When he saw the great spiritual decline there, he called on Yidden to do teshuvah. He instituted many decrees to preserve the Torah, and mounted a strong campaign against intermarriage.

Ezra headed the Anshei Knesses Hagedolah. He issued 10 takanos, one of which is the reading of the Torah every Monday and Thursday, and on Shabbos during Minchah.

Also under his guidance, Ksav Ashuris was reestablished for writing sifrei Torah (Sanhedrin 22a). The Torah had been originally written in ksav Ashuris, but unfortunately, when the Yidden sinned, the Torah was written in Ksav Ivri.

Ezra’s partner in his many great accomplishments was Nechemiah ben Chachalia. Together with Zerubavel, he spearheaded the building of the Second Beis Hamikdash.

Ezra Hasofer was niftar at the age of 120.

Zechusam yagen aleinu.

Dec. 17

In 1777, France recognized American independence.

In 1830, South American patriot Simon Bolivar died in Colombia.

In 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright of Dayton, Ohio, conducted the first successful manned powered-airplane flights near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, using their experimental craft, the Wright Flyer.

In 1944, the U.S. War Department announced it was ending its policy of excluding people of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast.

In 1957, the United States successfully test-fired the Atlas intercontinental ballistic missile for the first time.

In 1992, President Bush, Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in separate ceremonies.

In 1993, the British government announced the first reported case of a person dying from the human form of mad cow disease after a blood transfusion from an infected donor.