This Day in History – 19 Iyar/May 8

19 Iyar


5575/1815, Harav Menachem Mendel of Rimanov, zt”l

5703/1943, Harav Pinchas Twersky of Pshemishel, Hy”d

5730/1970, Harav Ezra Attia, zt”l, Rosh Yeshivah of Porat Yosef, Yerushalayim

5755/1995, Harav Yaakov Moshe Mordechai Halevi Soloveitchik of Lucerne, zt”l



Harav Meir, zt”l, the Maharam of Rothenburg

Harav Meir ben Harav Baruch, the Maharam of Rothenburg, was born in 4975/1215 in Worms, Germany.

At the age of 12 he began learning under the tutelage of a number of talmidei chachamim, in both Germany and France, for 27 years.

Rav Meir was one of the last of the Baalei Tosafos in Germany. He wrote the Tosafos on Maseches Yoma. His hagahos were printed in the margins in masechtos Nega’im and Ohalos in Mishnayos, and in other masechtos in Seder Taharos.

Rav Meir served as Rav in many kehillos in Germany: Kunstat, Augsburg, Wurzburg, Nuremberg, Mainz, Rothenburg and finally Worms. He was given the position of Chief Rabbi of all of Germany, approved by the Emperor Rudolf himself.

The Maharam was a leading Torah authority and he taught many hundreds of talmidim. Among them were many poskim of the next generation, including the Rosh, the Mordechai, the Tashbatz and the Shaarei Dura.

In 5002/1242 the Maharam moved back to Germany after witnessing the public burning of the Talmud in Paris, and finally settled in Rothenburg, where he remained until 5046/1286. Most of his life he served as Rav of Rothenburg.

During a period of persecution and economic hardship, he followed in the footsteps of his rebbi, Rav Yechiel of Paris, who moved to Eretz Yisrael. He directed German Jews to leave galus for Eretz Yisrael, ruling that a father may not prevent his son from doing so, based on the rule kibbud ha’av v’kibbud haMakom, kibbud haMakom kodem.

The Maharam set out on the journey in 5046/1286 with his wife, daughters and sons-in-law, and all his possessions. En route they arrived in a secluded mountain town as Shabbos began, and were forced to stay. Suddenly the evil Cardinal of Bazilo rode into town while traveling from Rome with a Jewish apostate named Kneppe. They informed on the Maharam to the lord of the city, who arrested the Maharam and delivered him to Emperor Ruldolf. The Maharam was imprisoned in Ensisheim and then transferred to Wasserburg.

In both prisons he was treated well, and was visited by his talmidim and other Rabbanim.

There are many opinions as to the reason for the Maharam’s lifelong imprisonment. Many say that he refused to allow the astronomical ransom (20,000 or 30,000 marks) to be raised, lest other Rabbanim be imprisoned and held for ransom. Others say this was not the case, but that the Rosh, his talmid, couldn’t raise the amount needed, and was forced to flee to Spain and then Portugal to avoid imprisonment himself.

The Maharam was niftar in the prison at Wasserburg on 19 Iyar 5053/1293. He was 78.

His body was not released for burial until 14 years after his petirah, when a Jew, Rav Alexander Susskind Wimpfen of Frankfort, paid the ransom. In return, he asked to be buried next to the Maharam, which he later was.

The Maharam was buried on 4 Adar 5067/1307, the same day his body was released, in the Jewish cemetery in Worms.

The Maharam was a leading Torah authority. He was honored with the title Me’or Hagolah, Light of the Exile, a title given to only three people — Rabbeinu Gershom, Rashi and the Maharam.

Zecher tzaddik livrachah.


May 8

In 1541, Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto reached the Mississippi River.

In 1921, Sweden’s Parliament voted to abolish the death penalty.

In 1945, President Harry S. Truman announced on the radio that Nazi Germany’s forces had surrendered, and that “the flags of freedom fly all over Europe.”

In 1958, Vice President Richard Nixon was shoved, stoned, booed and spat upon by anti-American protesters in Lima, Peru.

In 1972, President Richard Nixon announced that he had ordered the mining of Haiphong Harbor during the Vietnam War.