This Day in History – 19 Teves/December 31

In 5398/1637, the Catholic Church in Recife, Brazil, closed the two shuls that then existed there.



5573/1812, Harav Aryeh Leib Heller, zt”l, mechaber of the Ketzos Hachoshen, Avnei Milu’im and Shev Shmaatsa

5632/1871, Harav Avraham Shmuel Sofer, zt”l, the Kesav Sofer

5599/1839, Harav Yaakov of Melitz, zt”l

5609/1849, Harav Elimelech of Rudnik, zt”l

5654/1893, Harav Yaakov Landau of Yezov, zt”l

5691/1931, Harav Moshe Sokolovski, zt”l, machaber of Imrei Moshe


5740/1980, Harav Shalom Leifer of Nadvorna, zt”l

Harav Shalom was born in 5654/1894 in the city of Bochnia. His father was Harav Bertche of Satmar, the second son of Harav Mordechai of Nadvorna. He was educated by his father, who imbued him with a striving for Torah, holiness and purity.

Sadly, Rav Shalom was orphaned at the tender age of 11. This, however, did not deter him from achieving a life of spiritual greatness. From a very young age, Rav Shalom exhibited the blessings of outstanding talents and refined middos, reflecting his holy lineage.

As a bachur Rav Shalom went to learn in the yeshivah of Harav Eliyahu Klein in Holmin, where he studied with great diligence and excelled. He later joined the yeshivah of Harav Yehudah Greenwald, the Rav of Satmar.

At 16 he took it upon himself to sleep only three hours at night and one hour during the day, and even then he only slept on a bench in the shul. So devoted was he to his learning that many times, because of great fatigue, he resorted to dabbing at his eyelids with alcohol in order to avoid dozing off.

Rav Shalom married the daughter of the tzaddik Harav Dov Ber Teumin, the Dayan of Pshevorsk and the son-in-law of the Pshevorsker Rav, Rav Chaim Hersh Ashkenazi.

After the wedding the young couple settled in Satmar. There Rav Shalom served Hakadosh Baruch Hu in kedushah and taharah.

The brothers decided to travel to America in 5686/1926 to collect money for their sisters’ dowries. In those days, it was very uncommon for a Chassidishe Rebbe to travel to America. The Jews in America showered the two tzaddikim with considerable honor, and asked the two brothers to stay and help establish authentic Jewish life in America, promising them that they would cover all costs.

Happy to have been given the zechus of making an impact on the lives of Torah-thirsty Yidden, Rav Shalom settled on the East Side of Manhattan, where he lived for many years. Later the Rebbe moved to the Brighton Beach section of Brooklyn, where he reestablished his Beis Hamedrash Khal Chassidei Nadvorna. His brother, Harav Yosef, settled in Pittsburgh and revived Yiddishkeit there.

Rav Shalom came to realize the extent of the worldly temptations that beset Americans at that time. He spent all of his time in a small room learning Torah in order to insulate himself from the mundane, material aspects of America. He ate little and barely slept, and he followed the tradition of his holy ancestors in living a life devoid of any luxury or comfort.

Like his holy ancestors, the Rebbe was renowned for hachnasas orchim. His home was always open to all.

When his older son, Chaim Mordechai, Hy”d, reached the age of bar mitzvah, Rav Shalom sent him to Europe (at that time the U.S. had no suitable yeshivos). When World War II broke out, Rav Shalom tried to bring Chaim Mordechai back to America, but sadly, this did not come to pass. He was killed al kiddush Hashem, Hy”d. The Rebbe grieved for his beloved son, but accepted the gezeirah with ahavas Hashem and rededicated himself to his avodas hakodesh.

The Rebbe was niftar on 19 Teves, 5740/1980. His son, Harav Shlomo Leifer, shlita, succeeded him.

Zechuso yagen aleinu.


Dec. 31

In 1879, Thomas Edison first publicly demonstrated his electric incandescent light in Menlo Park, New Jersey.

In 1909, the Manhattan Bridge, spanning the East River between Manhattan and Brooklyn, was officially opened to vehicular traffic.

In 1951, the Marshall Plan expired after distributing more than $12 billion in foreign aid.

In 1974, private U.S. citizens were allowed to buy and own gold for the first time in more than 40 years.