This Day in History

Dedication plaque on Yeshivat Beit El in Yerushalayim
Dedication plaque on Yeshivat Beit El in Yerushalayim

20 Shevat

Yahrtzeiten

2073/1688 B.C.E., Asher, the son of Yaakov Avinu. He was also born on this date in 2196/1565 B.C.E.

5572/1812, Harav Yosef of Yompoli, zt”l

5618/1858, Harav Chaim David Berenhard, zt”l, known as the holy doctor of Pietrikov


5729/1969

Harav Ovadyah Hadaya, zt”l, Rosh Yeshivat Beit El, mechaber of Yaskil Avdi

Harav Ovadyah Hadayah was born in Teves 5650/1890, in Aleppo, Syria. His father, Harav Shalom, was a descendant of a famed family of Rabbanim of Aleppo.

Together with his parents, he moved to Eretz Yisrael and settled in Yerushalayim. He learned in Talmud Torah Doresh Tzion and later in Yeshivas Chessed L’Avraham and Tiferes Yerushalayim.

Rav Ovadyah was regarded as a bachur who was destined to become a leader of Klal Yisrael. He was especially known for his phenomenal memory, not forgetting anything he learned.

When Yeshivat Porat Yosef was founded in Yerushalayim’s Old City in 5683/1923, Rav Ovadyah served as one of the Roshei Yeshivah. Part of the yeshivah was Yeshivat Oz V’hadar, dedicated to the learning of Kabbalah. Rav Ovadyah served as shliach tzibbur in the yeshivah, leading the tefillos according to the kabbalistic lessons of the Arizal.

On Rosh Chodesh Elul 5699/1939, Rav Ovadyah was appointed Chief Sephardic Rabbi. He was later appointed to Yerushalayim’s Beit Din Hagadol.

Rav Ovadyah was Rosh Yeshivah of Yeshivat Beit El, for the learning of Kabbalah, for 30 years.

Rav Ovadyah is most famous for his eight-volume She’eilos U’teshuvos Yaskil Avdi in which his greatness as well as his clarity in Torah and halachah are evident. Seven volumes were published in his lifetime, while the last volume was published posthumously.

He also wrote She’eilos U’teshuvos De’ah V’haskel, responsa on Kabbalah; Vayikach Ovadyahu, a collection of his drashos; Eved Hamelech on the Rambam; and Avda D’Rabbanan, his chiddushim on Shas.

Rav Ovadyah was niftar on the afternoon of Shabbos Parashas Yisro, 20 Shevat 5729/1929, while learning at home, after having received the aliyah of the Aseres Hadibros. His life ended while holding a sefer.

Zecher tzaddik livrachah.


Ham, a chimpanzee astronaut that flew aboard the Mercury-Redstone 2 spacecraft, is greeted by Commander Ralph A. Brackett after being recovered after a flight at sea. (NASA via Getty Images)
Ham, a chimpanzee astronaut that flew aboard the Mercury-Redstone 2 spacecraft, is greeted by Commander Ralph A. Brackett after being recovered after a flight at sea. (NASA via Getty Images)

Jan. 31

In 1606, Guy Fawkes, convicted of treason for his part in the “Gunpowder Plot” against the English Parliament and King James I, was executed.

In 1865, Gen. Robert E. Lee was named general-in-chief of all the Confederate armies.

In 1917, during World War I, Germany served notice it was beginning a policy of unrestricted submarine warfare.

In 1929, revolutionary Leon Trotsky and his family were expelled from the Soviet Union.

In 1944, during World War II, U.S. forces began a successful invasion of Kwajalein Atoll and other parts of the Japanese-held Marshall Islands.

In 1950, President Harry S. Truman announced he had ordered development of the hydrogen bomb.

In 1958, the United States entered the Space Age with its first successful launch of a satellite into orbit, Explorer I.

In 1961, NASA launched Ham the Chimp aboard a Mercury-Redstone rocket from Cape Canaveral; Ham was recovered safely from the Atlantic Ocean following his 16½-minute suborbital flight.

In 1971, astronauts Alan Shepard, Edgar Mitchell and Stuart Roosa blasted off aboard Apollo 14 on a mission to the moon.