This Day in History – March 4/20 Adar

20 Adar

Today, Choni Hamaagel’s tefillah for rain was answered after a three-year drought in Eretz Yisrael, as mentioned in maseches Taanis 19. This incident took place during the time of the Second Beis Hamikdash.

In 5376/1616, the execution of Vincent Fettmilch, a Jew-hater who headed the baker’s guild in Frankfurt, Germany, took place; the Jews of Frankfurt celebrated a Purim in commemoration of that event.

During that era Frankfurt was a glorious kehillah, numbering over 3,000 Jews. The evil Vincent Fettmilch battled the Yidden and tried to pass legislation to expel them. After an unsuccessful attempt, he incited a mob that attacked the community mercilessly. The emperor summoned Fettmilch to trial where he was sentenced to death.


5393/1633, Harav Meir Schiff, zt”l, the Maharam Shiff

5401/1641, Harav Yoel Sirkis, zt”l, the Bach

5695/1935, Harav Shlomo Hakohen Aharonsohn of Tel Aviv, zt”l

5698/1938, Harav Moshe Landinski, zt”l, Rosh Mesivta in Yeshivas Radin

5765/2005, Harav Rafael Blum, zt”l, Kashauer Rav

5755/1995, Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zt”l


Harav Yoel Sirkish, zt”l, the Bach

The Bach was born in 5321/1561 to Harav Shmuel Yaffah, zt”l, and his wife, Sarah, a”h. The Bach changed his last name to Sirkish, derived from Sarah, in memory of his mother. Rav Shmuel was a great talmid chacham, and the Bach recounts his father’s chiddushim in numerous places.

After his bar mitzvah, Rav Yoel traveled from Lublin, Poland, to Brisk, Lithuania. There, he studied under Harav Tzvi Hersh Shor Malzes, zt”l, who was a primary talmid of the Rema. After about two years, he went tp Cracow, where he studied under his relative Harav Meshulem Feivish, zt”l, Rav of the city. There, he developed a kesher with Harav Yeshayah Halevi, the Shelah Hakadosh.

From a very young age the Bach served as Rav in numerous communities — Prozni, Lokov, Lobomil, Mezhibuzh, Belz, Shidlov and Brisk. Last, in 5379/1619, he was accepted as Rav in Cracow, where he served with distinction for over 20 years. Before becoming Rav in Cracow, the Bach suffered great poverty, but he never allowed financial considerations to influence his decisions. For example, he voluntarily left his post as Rav in Lobomil when he discovered a noted talmid chacham in the city who had been hiding his true stature. Feeling that this man was worthier, the Bach insisted that he replace him.

In Belz, he had no money to purchase candles and learned Torah by heart in the dark. The townspeople, accused him of not staying up at night to learn and asked him to leave his post, which he did.

The timeless treasures of the Bach are his peirush on Tur, where he explains the words of the Tur, and Hagahos HaBach, in which he corrects mistakes that were inadvertently inserted in the text of the Gemara. Other sefarim include Meishiv Nefesh on Megillas Rus; She’eilos U’teshuvos Ba”ch Yeshanos and Chadashos; and a Kabbalistic peirush on tefillah. He also left many manuscripts that were never published.

The Bach was niftar on 29 Adar and is buried in the old cemetery of Cracow, adjacent to the Rema shul.

March 4

In 1789, the Constitution of the United States went into effect as the first Federal Congress met in New York. (The lawmakers then adjourned for lack of a quorum.)

In 1797, John Adams was inaugurated the second president of the United States.

In 1863, the Idaho Territory was created.

In 1865, President Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated for a second term of office; with the end of the Civil War in sight, Lincoln declared: “With malice toward none, with charity for all.”

In 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt took office as America’s 32nd president.

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