This Day in History – June 11/19 Sivan


5598/1838, Harav Shlomo Chakim, zt”l, mechaber of Kissei Shlomo

5706/1946, Harav Menachem Nachum Twersky, zt”l, the Skverer-Machnovka Rebbe

5737/1977, Harav Shmuel Hominer of Yerushalayim, zt”l, mechaber of Eved Hamelech and Ikarai Dinim

5493/1733, Harav Yehudah Ben-Attar Of Fez, Zt”l

Harav Yehudah Ben-Attar was born in Fez, Morocco, in Elul 5415/1655. His father was Rav Yaakov. Fez was a well-known city of Torah, home to many of the Rishonim, including Rif and Rambam, and yeshivos.

Rav Yehudah learned under Harav Vidal Hatzarfati, zt”l, and Harav Menachem Siriro, zt”l, both of whom gave him semichah. Even when later in life Rav Yehudah was a recognized talmid chacham, he still sat at the feet of these Gedolim.

In 5442/1682, at just 27 years of age, Rav Yehudah already headed a yeshivah. When he was 43, in 5458/1698, Rav Yehudah was appointed Dayan in Fez. Six years later he became Av Beis Din, a position that he held until his petirah.

Rav Yehudah never accepted a salary. He supported his family by working as a smith. Whenever he had reached the sum he needed for the day, he would close up his shop and go to the beis medrash to continue his learning.

In the time of Rav Yehudah, the ruler of Morocco was Sultan Mullah Ismael, a rabid anti-Semite. He and his friends schemed to cause pain and distress to the Jewish community. They levied heavy taxes on them, which left many impoverished. Often Rabbanim and other communal leaders were imprisoned, and the community was forced to redeem them for exorbitant sums.

Once Rav Yehudah himself was imprisoned. When the community could not get together the sum that the Sultan asked for his ransom, Rav Yehudah was thrown to the lions. To everyone’s shock, Rav Yehudah walked up and down in the lions’ den, and the lions did not even touch him — he left the den unharmed. When this story became known, Rav Yehudah was considered a tzaddik worthy of being protected from harm, and a miracle-worker.

In 5460/1700, heavy taxes were levied on the Jews of Fez to finance the wars that Morocco was waging. This forced most of the Jews, including Rav Yehudah, to flee to Meknes; he returned to Fez in 5464/1704, when the situation had somewhat improved.

Rav Yehudah left his mark on Moroccan Jewry that continues until today. Together with his talmid Harav Yaakov Ben-Tzur, zt”l, also known as the Yaavetz, he compiled the many minhagim of the kehillos of the Western countries, according to the takanos of the Rabbanim who had settled there after the expulsion from Spain. They became known as Rabboseinu Baalei Haminhagim, and are frequently quoted in Halachah sefarim.

Rav Yehudah and his beis din established many takanos, some of which have been implemented in kehillos today, such as those governing expenditures for simchos.

Rav Yehudah wrote many sefarim, including Minchas Yehudah on Torah; Minhagei Treifos beFez; Dinei Get v’Chalitzah; She’eilos U’teshuvos and Psakim; and Shir Michtam, his work on hilchos shechitah and treifos, written in rhyme form.

Zecher tzaddik livrachah.

June 11

In 1770, Captain James Cook, commander of the British ship Endeavour, “discovered” the Great Barrier Reef off Australia by running onto it.

In 1776, the Continental Congress formed a committee to draft a Declaration of Independence calling for freedom from Britain.

In 1936, Kansas Gov. Alfred “Alf” Landon was nominated for president at the Republican national convention in Cleveland.

In 1962, three prisoners at Alcatraz in San Francisco Bay staged an escape, leaving the island on a makeshift raft; they were never found or heard from again.

In 1985, Karen Ann Quinlan, the comatose patient whose case prompted a historic right-to-die court decision, died in Morris Plains, New Jersey, at age 31.

In 2001, Timothy McVeigh, 33, was executed by injection at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, for the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people.

In 2009, with swine flu reported in more than 70 nations, the World Health Organization declared the first global flu pandemic in 41 years.

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