This Day in History – 21 Elul/August 27

21 Elul

In 5699/1939, German forces occupied the town of Piotrkow (Kujawski; 16 miles south of Lodz), where the Jewish population was estimated at 18,000. The first ghetto in Poland was later established there.


5524/1764, Harav Yonasan Eibschutz, zt”l



Harav Avraham Yaakov Zalaznik, zt”l, Rosh Yeshivas Eitz Chaim

Harav Avraham Yaakov Zalaznik was born on 16 Kislev 5673/1912 in Yerushalayim. His father, Harav Shlomo Zalman Zalaznik, zt”l, was Rosh Yeshivah of Eitz Chaim. He was brought up by his grandmother after being orphaned of his mother at the age of two.

As a child he learned in Talmud Torah Chayei Olam and even then was outstanding in his hasmadah. Friends would later relate how young Avraham Yaakov would make use of the short walk home from the Talmud Torah by reciting Mishnayos baal peh. He later learned in Yeshivas Eitz Chaim, becoming a talmid muvhak of the Rosh Yeshivah, Harav Isser Zalman Meltzer, zt”l.

Reb Isser Zalman was extremely fond of his talmid, and when he returned to Lithuania to participate in the chanukas habayis of Yeshivas Kletzk, he told Harav Eliezer Yehudah Finkel, zt”l, that in Yerushalayim he had found three lamdanim with whom he could converse in Torah; one of them was Avraham Yaakov Zalaznik.

He finished Shas b’iyun for the first time at the age of 17.

Reb Avraham Yaakov’s hasmadah and continuous chazarah was breathtaking. When a grandson told him that he had finished maseches Kesubos, the grandfather replied that in his younger years he learned maseches Kesubos 280 times! At the age of 18, Reb Avraham Yaakov received heter horaah from Harav Tzvi Pesach Frank, zt”l.

At the age of 20, Reb Avraham Yaakov married Rebbetzin Itta, a”h, the daughter of Harav Yisrael Shalom Luria, Rav of the Kerem neighborhood. The Rebbetzin took care of all the needs of the home, enabling her husband to dedicate his life to Torah and tefillah. Reb Avraham Yaakov would regularly return home from the beis medrash just 20 minutes before Shabbos, after having spiritually prepared himself for the holy day.

The Zalazniks set up their home in the Kerem neighborhood and Harav Zalaznik davened in the local shul, where he would often have lively discussions after davening with the other Gedolei Yisrael, zt”l — Harav Eliezer Menachem Shach, Harav Eliezer Yehudah Finkel and Harav Ezra Attiya — who davened there.

He was also close with Harav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, zt”l, and learned b’chavrusa with, ybl”c, Harav Ovadia Yosef.

Reb Avraham Yaakov would regularly travel to the Chazon Ish in Bnei Brak, who praised his greatness in Torah. In 5717/1957, Reb Avraham Yaakov was appointed a maggid shiur in Yeshivas Eitz Chaim, and after the petirah of Reb Isser Zalman in 5723/1963, was chosen to be the main maggid shiur. After his father was niftar in 5735/1975, he became the official Rosh Yeshivah of Yeshivas Eitz Chaim.

In 5737/1977, Reb Avraham Yaakov was accepted as a member of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah in Eretz Yisrael, and also became one of the heads of Vaad Hayeshivos.

Reb Avraham Yaakov devoted much time to tefillah, davening for the sick and those who needed yeshuos, and many of his talmidim and family merited yeshuos through his tefillos.

He was also known as a gaon in middos, being very careful not to hurt anybody, even young children. If he ever thought that he had perhaps upset even a young child, the elderly Rosh Yeshivah would go to great lengths to appease the child.

In his later years he fell ill and was hospitalized. Reb Avraham Yaakov was niftar on 21 Elul 5770/2010, at the age of 97. He was buried on Har Hazeisim. Harav Zalaznik leaves behind his sefarim Or Yaakov on Shas.

Zecher tzaddik livrachah.


August 27

In 1776, the Battle of Long Island began during the Revolutionary War as British troops attacked American forces, who were forced to retreat two days later.

In 1859, Edwin L. Drake drilled the first successful oil well in the United States, at Titusville, Pa.

In 1883, the island volcano Krakatoa erupted with a series of cataclysmic explosions; the resulting tidal waves in Indonesia’s Sunda Strait claimed some 36,000 lives in Java and Sumatra.

In 1908, Lyndon Baines Johnson, the 36th president of the United States, was born near Stonewall, Texas.

In 1928, the Kellogg-Briand Pact was signed in Paris, outlawing war and providing for the peaceful settlement of disputes.

In 1939, the first turbojet-powered aircraft, the Heinkel He 178, went on its first full-fledged test flight over Germany.

In 1942, the Times of London published an editorial calling on the British government to promote the production of penicillin, the first mention of the antibiotic by a newspaper.

In 1957, the USS Swordfish, the second Skate Class nuclear submarine, was launched from the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Maine.

In 1962, the United States launched the Mariner 2 space probe, which flew past Venus in December 1962.

In 1979, British war hero Lord Louis Mountbatten and three other people, including his 14-year-old grandson Nicholas, were killed off the coast of Ireland in a boat explosion claimed by the Irish Republican Army.

In 1989, the first U.S. commercial satellite rocket was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla. — a Delta booster carrying a British communications satellite, the Marcopolo 1.