This Day in History – 13 Elul/August 19

13 Elul

In 5455/1695, Jews of New York petitioned the governor for permission to exercise their religion in public. Permission was denied, because freedom of religion applied to Christians only.


5361/1601, Harav Moshe Tziprish, zt”l, author of Seder Gittin

5515/1755, Harav Yaakov Yokel Halevi Horowitz of Glona, zt”l

5636/1876, Harav Yaakov Yisrael of Cherkas, zt”l

5652/1892, Harav Avraham Yissachar Dov Rabinowitz, the Chessed L’Avraham of Radomsk, zt”l

5666/1906, Harav Yehoshua Tzvi Michel Shapiro, zt”l, mechaber of Tzitz Hakodesh

5669/1909, Harav Yosef Chaim of Bagdad, the Ben Ish Chai, zt”l

5669/1909, Harav Yerachmiel Moshe of Koshnitz, zt”l



Harav Yaakov Gesundheit, zt”l, Rav of Warsaw and mechaber of Tiferes Yaakov 

Harav Yaakov ben Yitzchak Gesundheit was born in Kislev 5576/1815, in Praga. His great potential was evident in his middos and his golden heart when he was still a young child. At the age of 10 he was already seen as a budding talmid chacham.

From ages 13 to 15, he learned under Harav Aryeh Leib Tzintz, Rav of Praga. When he was all of 16 years old, Reb Yaakov began delivering his own daily shiurim. He married, and his father-in-law proudly supported him; by that time he was renowned as a clear and profound thinker in his derech halimud.

Reb Yaakov fell ill with a life-threatening and nearly always fatal sickness at age 18. Baruch Hashem, he was healed and, to show his appreciation for the miracle, Reb Yaakov took upon himself to write down all of his chiddushim  and to publish them.

The next year, at 19, Reb Yaakov began to write Tiferes Yaakov on Choshen Mishpat, which he published some four years later. In 5618/1858, his talmidim published Tiferes Yaakov on Maseches Gittin, an amazing work on the entire masechta, not missing even one Tosafos without a comment or a chiddush. He also published other volumes of Tiferes Yaakov, including on maseches Chullin.

Reb Yaakov was also known for his deep understanding of the aggados, which he elaborates on where mentioned in the Gemara.

Although he was known for his greatness in Torah, Reb Yaakov did not want to benefit financially from his Torah learning. He preferred to support himself, even though he was very much sought after by many leading kehillos which offered him the post of Rav.

It was only after the petirah of Harav Dov Berish Meislish, Rav of Warsaw, that Reb Yaakov agreed to take up the position of Rav and succeed him. In his capacity as Rav of Warsaw, Reb Yaakov enacted many takanos and waged a war against those who tried to uproot traditional Yiddishkeit.

One of the interesting incidents during his tenure as Rav occurred before the year 5600/1839–40, when rumors spread throughout the Jewish nation that Moshiach was coming that year, based on the passuk, “The sound of the dove [tortav-resh] is heard in our land” (Shir Hashirim 2:12). At that time, Reb Yaakov, as Rav of Warsaw, ascended the bimah on Rosh Hashanah with a sefer Torah in his hands and swore that Moshiach would not come that year. He feared that people would once again go crazy as they had in 5408/1648, when it was prophesied that Moshiach would come. What followed instead were the pogroms of the wicked Bogdan Chmielnicki, in 5408–09, 1648 and 1649, known as Tach V’Tat, and the episode of Shabsai Tzvi who filled the breach and gained many adherents.

He kept up a halachic correspondence with many of the generation’s other leading Gedolim, among them the Chiddushei Harim of Ger, Harav Avraham of Tchenov and Harav Simchah of Gumbin.

Unfortunately, Reb Yaakov did not merit to serve long as Rav of Warsaw; after only eight years as Rav, he was niftar on 13 Elul 5638/1878, at the age of 72. He was buried in the section for Rabbanim that is situated near the entrance to the Warsaw Jewish cemetery.

Zecher tzaddik livrachah.


Aug. 19

In 1807, Robert Fulton’s North River Steamboat arrived in Albany, two days after leaving New York.

In 1812, the USS Constitution defeated the British frigate HMS Guerriere off Nova Scotia during the War of 1812, earning the nickname “Old Ironsides.”

In 1848, The New York Herald reported the discovery of gold in California.

In 1934, a plebiscite in Germany approved the vesting of sole executive power in Adolf Hitler.

In 1936, the first of a series of show trials orchestrated by Soviet leader Josef Stalin began in Moscow as 16 defendants faced charges of conspiring against the government. All were convicted and executed.

In 1942, during World War II, about 6,000 Canadian and British soldiers launched a disastrous raid against the Germans at Dieppe, France, suffering more than 50 percent casualties.

In 1960, a tribunal in Moscow convicted American U2 pilot Francis Gary Powers of espionage. Although sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment, Powers was returned to the United States in 1962 as part of a prisoner exchange.

In 1976, President Gerald R. Ford won the Republican presidential nomination at the party’s convention in Kansas City.

In 1980, 301 people aboard a Saudi Arabian L-1011 died as the jetliner made a fiery emergency return to the Riyadh airport.

In 1982, Soviet cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya became the second woman to be launched into space.

In 1991, Soviet hard-liners made the stunning announcement that President Mikhail S. Gorbachev had been removed from power, a coup attempt that collapsed two days later.