This Day in History – May 13/19 Iyar

In 5705/1945, Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi minister of propaganda, committed suicide. Goebbels was known for his zealous and energetic oratory, virulent anti-Semitism, and perfection of the so-called Big Lie technique of mass propaganda.


5575/1815, Harav Menachem Mendel of Rimanov, zt”l

5703/1943, Harav Pinchas Twersky of Pshemishel, Hy”d

5730/1970, Harav Ezra Attia, zt”l, Rosh Yeshivas Porat Yosef, Yerushalayim

5755/1995, Harav Yaakov Moshe Mordechai Halevi Soloveitchik, zt”l, Rosh Yeshivah of Lucerne

5053/1293, Harav Meir, zt”l, the Maharam of Rothenburg

Harav Meir ben Harav Baruch, the Maharam of Rothenburg, was born in 4975/1215 in Worms, Germany.

He lived in Worms until the age of 12. Then he went to learn in both Germany and France for twenty-seven years. His mentors included the Ohr Zarua, Harav Yehudah Cohen and Harav Yechiel of Paris, zecher tzaddikim livrachah.

Rav Meir was one of the last of the Baalei haTosafos in Germany. He wrote the Tosafos on maseches Yoma. His hagahos were printed in the margins in masechtos Negaim and Ohalos in Mishnayos, and in other masechtos in Seder Taharos.

Rav Meir served as Rav in many kehillos in Germany: Kunstadt, Oigsberg, Wurzburg, Nuremberg, Mainz, Rothenburg and finally Worms. He was Chief Rabbi of all of Germany, approved by the Emperor Rudolf himself. He founded several yeshivos, most notably Yeshivas Worms.

In 5002/1242, the Maharam moved back to Germany after witnessing the public burning of the Talmud in Paris, and finally settled in Rothenburg, where he remained until 5046/1286. Most of his life he served as Rav of Rothenburg.

In 5046/1286 the Maharam set out for Eretz Yisrael with his wife, daughters and sons-in-law, and all his possessions. Once they arrived in a secluded mountain town as Shabbos began, so they were forced to stay. Suddenly the evil Cardinal of Bazilo rode into town while traveling from Rome with a Jewish apostate named Kneppe. They informed on the Maharam to the lord of the city, who arrested the Maharam and delivered him to the Emperor Ruldoph. The Maharam was imprisoned in Enisheim and then transferred to Wasserburg.

There are many opinions as to the reason for the Maharam’s lifelong imprisonment. Many say that he refused to allow the astronomical ransom (20,000 or 30,000 marks) to be raised, lest other rabbanim be imprisoned and held for ransom. The Maharam was niftar in the prison at Wasserburg on 19 Iyar 5053/1293.

Even after his petirah his body wasn’t released for burial until fourteen years later, when a Jew, Rav Alexander Susskind Wimpfen of Frankfurt, paid the ransom. He asked in return to be buried next to the Maharam, which he was.

The Maharam wrote many piyutim; the most famous is Shaali Serufah Baesh, written after he witnessed the public burning of Talmudic manuscripts, one of the kinos of Tishah B’Av.

The Maharam was honored with the title Me’or Hagolah, Light of the Exile, a title only given to two other people – Rabbeinu Gershom and Rashi.

He authored sefarim on Hilchos Brachos; Hilchos Aveilus; Halachos Pesukos; Piskei Eruvin; and Hilchos Shechitah.

Zecher tzaddik livrachah.

May 13

In 1607, English colonists arrived by ship at the site of what became the Jamestown settlement in Virginia. The colonists went ashore the next day.

In 1918, the first U.S. airmail stamp, costing 24 cents and featuring a picture of a Curtiss JN-4 biplane, was publicly issued. On some of the stamps, the “Jenny” was printed upside-down, making them collector’s items.

In 1940, in his first speech as British prime minister, Winston Churchill told Parliament, “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.”

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