This Day in History – 17 Cheshvan/October 21

17 Cheshvan

In 1656/2106 B.C.E, the rains of the Mabul began to fall (according to Rabi Eliezer), flooding the earth and rising above the highest mountains.

In 2923/839 B.C.E., when Dovid Hamelech found out that King Shaul and seven members of his family weren’t buried, he buried them. After that he davened to Hashem, and the famine that had lasted for three years stopped.

In 5408/1647, Chmielnicki’s Cossacks massacred 12,000 Jews in Poland. Hy”d.


5357/1596, Harav Avraham Rappaport, zt”l, mechaber of Minchah Belulah

5584/1823, Harav Yaakov Kopel of Tismenitz, zt”l, a talmid of Harav Moshe Leib of Sassov

5586/1825, Harav Menachem Mendel of Kosov, zt”l, the Ahavas Shalom

5597/1836, Harav Mordechai Zev Orenstein, zt”l, Rav of Lvov

5659/1898, Harav Yehoshua Rosenfeld, zt”l, of Kaminka



Harav Meshulam Zusha Twersky, zt”l, the Chernobyler Rebbe

Harav Meshulam Zusha Twersky was born on Rosh Chodesh Elul 5677/1917 in Muzir, in the district of Minsk, Russia. His father, Harav Chaim Yitzchak, was the Chernobyl-Loyav Rebbe. His mother, Rebbetzin Rechel Devorah, was the daughter of Harav Yitzchak Yeshayah Halberstam of Tchechov, the youngest son of the Divrei Chaim, zy”a. His mother attested about her son that even before the age of three he recognized that there is a Creator, and never ate before making a brachah.

As a young bachur, Meshulam Zusha learned under his father. He also learned in the underground yeshivos of Lubavitch, Toras Emes, in Russia, despite the danger involved. Every few months the yeshivah relocated out of fear of being caught by the authorities. Although at times they were caught they were later freed, because the talmidim were under age.

In 5694/1934, at the age of 16, he tried to obtain a permit to leave Russia and travel to Eretz Yisrael to learn. Many tried to persuade him not to try, after they themselves had failed in this quest.

But Reb Meshulam saw it as his mission to go where he could improve his avodas Hashem, and so took it upon himself to daven and ask Hashem to help. Every Wednesday, the day that the committee for exit permits met, he fasted and recited the entire sefer Tehillim.

In the end, he merited what others didn’t — Reb Meshulam Zusha was given an exit visa.

When the time came for the ship to set sail, he was again subject to a nes. The ship, from Odessa, was supposed to set out on Shabbos morning. All the other Jewish passengers boarded the ship before Shabbos, but Reb Meshulam Zusha said there was no reason they should travel on Shabbos, even if it appeared to be pikuach nefesh. He didn’t board on Shabbos but stayed in the nearby beis medrash, and again recited the entire sefer Tehillim. He was zocheh to an open yeshuah; due to a mechanical problem, the ship was not ready to depart until Motzoei Shabbos.

In Eretz Yisrael, Reb Meshulam Zusha did not ask anyone for assistance, even though he had come all alone. His reason for coming was to grow in Torah and avodas Hashem, and he searched for the environment that would be the most conducive. He found what he was looking for in the homes of the Rebbes Harav Nachum and Harav Zev of Rachmastrivka.

In 5696/1936, with the petirah of Harav Nachum of Rachmastrivka, Reb Meshulam Zusha decided to return to Galicia to be near his grandfather, Harav Yeshayah of Tchechov. Although he was strongly attached to Eretz Yisrael and despite the Nazi takeover in Germany, Reb Meshulam Zusha continued on his mission to attain perfection.

Under his grandfather, Reb Meshulam Zusha continued to grow in Torah and Chassidus. Reb Meshulam Zusha preferred to stay at the side and not draw attention to himself or to his lofty ways. He never let anyone give him extra honor for being the grandson of the Rebbe.

His hasmadah was great, and he wrote many chiddushei Torah.

In 5699/1939, the Polish expelled all British-Palestinian citizens in response to other countries expelling Polish citizens. As a result, Reb Meshulam Zusha left Europe in time, and was thus saved from the war, in which most of his family was killed.

Returning to Eretz Yisrael, he was welcomed by a group of elder Sanzer and Chernobyler chassidim, as a scion of both these dynasties. This group was headed by Harav Shimshon Aharon Polansky, the Tepliker Rav, who was a Chernobyler chassid.

With the terrible news of the death of his grandfather, Harav Yeshayale of Tchechov, Hy”d, in the winter of 5705/1944, and later the petirah of his father in Siberia the same year, the chassidim decided to place the mantle of leadership of Chernobyler Chassidus on the shoulders of Reb Meshulam Zusha.

Even though he was still under 30, the chassidim said there was no one else as capable of leading the chassidim and inspiring them in avodas Hashem. The lofty manner in which he led his flock, many noted, was quite similar to that of his namesake, the Rebbe Reb Zusha of Anipoli.

Reb Meshulam Zusha held court in Bnei Brak, founding a beis medrash there based on Chernobyler minhagim.

All his life Reb Meshulam Zusha fled from honor and publicity, and this did not change when he became Rebbe. Anyone who visited his beis medrash or attended his tisch was witness to a Rebbe who was withdrawn from this world; he was with his Creator 24 hours a day. “Shivisi Hashem l’negdi tamid” was visible on his countenance.

Reb Zushele, as he was fondly called, was known as a Rebbe with whom one could feel close, and many who needed support and encouragement came to him. Visitors to his home were warmly received. He instructed his attendants to let people in at any hour.

During his last years, Reb Meshulam Zusha suffered illness, but he was always in an uplifted mood.

The Rebbe was niftar on 17 Cheshvan 5748/1987 at the age of 70 and was buried in Bnei Brak’s Ponevezh cemetery.

Zechuso yagen aleinu.


October 21

In 1797, the U.S. Navy frigate Constitution, also known as “Old Ironsides,” was named in Boston’s harbor.

In 1805, a British fleet commanded by Adm. Horatio Nelson defeated a French-Spanish fleet in the Battle of Trafalgar; Nelson, however, was killed.

In 1879, Thomas Edison perfected a workable electric light at his laboratory in Menlo Park, N.J.

In 1917, members of the 1st Division of the U.S. Army training in Luneville, France, became the first Americans to see action on the front lines of World War I.

In 1944, during World War II, U.S. troops captured the German city of Aachen.

In 1960, Democrat John F. Kennedy and Republican Richard M. Nixon clashed in their fourth and final presidential debate in New York.

In 1962, the Seattle World’s Fair closed after six months and nearly 10 million visitors. (President John F. Kennedy, scheduled to attend the closing ceremony, canceled because of what was described as a “head cold”; the actual reason turned out to be the Cuban Missile Crisis.)

In 1967, the Israeli destroyer INS Eilat was sunk by Egyptian missile boats near Port Said; 47 Israeli crew members were lost.

In 1971, President Richard Nixon nominated Lewis F. Powell and William H. Rehnquist to the U.S. Supreme Court. (Both nominees were confirmed.)

In 1986, pro-Iranian kidnappers in Lebanon abducted American Edward Tracy. (He was released in August 1991.)

In 1991, American hostage Jesse Turner was freed by his kidnappers in Lebanon after nearly five years in captivity.