This Day in History – 17 Adar I/February 26

Harav Shimon Sofer, zt”l,
Harav Shimon Sofer, zt”l,

In 5703/1943, the Bulgarian Commissar for Jewish Affairs, Alexander Belev, signed an agreement permitting Germany to deport 26,000 Jews to extermination camps. Hy”d.

In 5708/1948, the Jewish quarter of Old Yerushalayim was besieged by Arabs, cutting them off from their brethren in New Yerushalayim.


 

Yahrtzeiten

5614/1854, Harav Chaim Davidson of Warsaw, zt”l

5677/1917, Harav Yitzchak Friedman, zt”l, the Pachad Yitzchak of Boyan

5702/1942, Harav Meir Shlomo Yehudah of Mezhritch, zt”l

5722/1962, Harav Yisrael Zev Mintzberg of Yerushalayim, zt”l

5765/2005, Harav Avraham Menachem Danziger of Alexander, zt”l


 

5643/1883, Harav Shimon Sofer, zt”l, Rav of Cracow and mechaber of Michtav Sofer

Harav Shimon, the second son of Harav Moshe Sofer, the Chasam Sofer, zy”a, was born on 13 Teves 5581/1821 in the city of Pressburg, where the Chasam Sofer served as Rav. He was named Shimon after the mechaber of Yalkut Shimoni, a forebear of the family.

He was sickly and weak as a child, and it is a wonder that he survived. His great father held him on his lap as he delivered intricate shiurim on the parashah, and even as a youngster the young Shimon would understand and keep up with the shiur. In one instance he actually interrupted one of his father’s shiurim to offer a pshat.

As a youngster he learned under the great Rav Fishel, a prime talmid of the Chasam Sofer, growing immensely in Torah and yirah and becoming especially well-versed in the works of the Akeidas Yitzchak and the Shelah. Eventually Shimon entered his father’s yeshivah, where he continued to excel.

When Shimon turned 17 he married Miriam, the daughter of Harav Dov Ber Sternberg of Krule. After his chasunah he settled in Krule.

Before the Chasam Sofer was niftar in Tishrei of 5600/1839, he blessed his sons. He told his son Reb Shimon, “Tana Ekra Ka’i,” hinting that his son’s ultimate destination would be Cracow.

In 5604/1844, Reb Shimon was asked to accept the Rabbanus of Mattersdorf, which he did. The parnassim there supported him and his fledging yeshivah.

During those years he was offered many prestigious positions but he rejected them all, claiming that he did not merit such honor. In 5621/1861 he was asked to accept the Rabbanus of Cracow. After lengthy negotiations, Reb Shimon reluctantly agreed and moved to Cracow where he was welcomed with great honor.

Reb Shimon headed Cracow’s Rabbanus until his petirah in 5643/1883, leaving a strong impression for many years to come. He stood at the helm of the Machzikei Hadas that vigorously fought the maskilim.

When Harav Shimon was niftar, the entire city of Cracow went into mourning; the workshops and markets were closed while everyone attended the levayah.

He was buried in Cracow’s old cemetery; his kever was renovated after the Holocaust.


 

Feb. 26

In 1616, astronomer Galileo Galilei met with a Roman Inquisition official, Cardinal Robert Bellarmine, who ordered him to abandon the “heretical” concept of heliocentrism, which held that the earth revolved around the sun, instead of the other way around.

In 1815, Napoleon Bonaparte escaped from exile on the Island of Elba and headed back to France in a bid to regain power.

In 1904, the United States and Panama proclaimed a treaty under which the U.S. agreed to undertake efforts to build a ship canal across the Panama isthmus.

In 1919, President Woodrow Wilson signed a congressional act establishing Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona.

In 1952, Prime Minister Winston Churchill announced that Britain had developed its own atomic bomb.