Today is Tu BiShvat (the 15th of Shevat) which marks the beginning of a “new year for trees.” This is the season in which the earliest-blooming trees emerge from their winter sleep and begin a new fruit-bearing cycle.
In 5691/1931, the first Siyum HaShas of the Daf HaYomi cycle was celebrated.
In 5701/1941, the Nazis established the Ghetto of Lodz.
5583/1823, Harav Chaim Mordechai Margulies, zt”l
5638/1878, Harav Gedalyah Aharon of Linitz, zt”l
5663/1903, Harav Shlomo Dovid Yehoshua Guterman of Radzimin, zt”l
5685/1925, Harav Refael Shlomo Laniado, zt”l, Rosh Yeshivah of Porat Yosef
Harav Refael Shlomo Laniado was born in 5636/1876, in Aleppo (Aram Tzovah/Chalab), Syria. His father was Rav Meir. The family was the fourth generation of the Rabbinic Laniado family in Aram Tzovah, beginning with Harav Shmuel Laniado.
While still young, Refael Shlomo displayed outstanding diligence in Torah. He learned b’iyun under Harav Yosef Yedid Halevi, later Raavad in Yerushalayim, and Harav Ezra Chamui, Rav in Aleppo.
With his phenomenal memory, he could recall large portions of Shas. His understanding was comprehensive, and he was proficient in Shas, Poskim and the works of the darshanim.
Rav Refael Shlomo also excelled in Toras hanistar, learning together with Harav Avraham Adess.
Rav Refael Shlomo was active in chessed work, founding the Chevras Tzedakah U’marpei in Aleppo that cared for the poor and the ill. All his life he tended to other Jews, both in gashmiyus and in ruchniyus.
In 5660/1900 Rav Refael Shlomo moved to Eretz Yisrael, settling in Yerushalayim. Initially he was a Gemara teacher in the Bucharian Talmud Torah.
A few years later, in 5667/1907, the mekubal Harav Ezra Halevi Raful founded Yeshivat Ohel Moed, and Rav Refael Shlomo was appointed Rosh Yeshivah. He also taught Gemara in Beis Medrash Doresh Tzion.
In 5682/1922, at the urging of the Ben Ish Chai, Yeshivat Porat Yosef was founded in Yerushalayim’s Old City.
When the yeshivah opened its doors, the staff of Yeshivat Ohel Moed was transferred there and Rav Refael Shlomo became its Rosh Yeshivah.
Aside from being Rosh Yeshivah, Rav Refael Shlomo also served on the beis din for the Syrian community in Yerushalayim, together with Rav Yosef Yedid Halevi and Rav Adess.
Rav Refael Shlomo took ill suddenly, though few knew about it. On the Shabbos before the petirah, Rav Adess had a dream during which he said “Rav Shlomo Laniado is sick.” When he woke up, he said he hoped that the dream was only devarim beteilim.
Late on Sunday, the evening of 15 Shevat, while Rav Adess was learning, his candle flickered and then went out. He understood this occurrence to mean that Rav Refael Shlomo was niftar. Shortly afterwards, the message came from the Old City that at that exact time, Rav Refael Shlomo, 49 years old, had passed on.
Zecher tzaddik livrachah.
In 1890, the United Mine Workers of America was founded in Columbus, Ohio.
In 1915, America’s first official transcontinental telephone call took place as Alexander Graham Bell, who was in New York, spoke to his former assistant, Thomas Watson, who was in San Francisco, over a line set up by American Telephone & Telegraph.
In 1945, Grand Rapids, Michigan, became the first community to add fluoride to its public water supply.
In 1995, the U.S. and Norway launched a Black Brant rocket carrying equipment to study the aurora borealis, startling Russian officials who wondered at first if the rocket was an incoming Trident missile. (Russian President Boris Yeltsin reportedly was given his “nuclear briefcase” for possible retaliation before realizing there was no threat.)