Today is a yom tov, as cited in Megillas Taanis. On this date, the harsh decrees of the Yevanim that forbade Torah study, the observance of milah and Shabbos were annulled, through the wisdom of Rabi Yehudah ben Shamua and his colleagues who beseeched the authorities night after night until the decree was cancelled.
In 5037/1277, the Jews of Prussia were granted rights, which eased their plight somewhat.
In 5284/1524, the wicked ruler of Egypt, Achmed Pasha, decreed the extermination of the entire Jewish community but, miraculously, he was killed. In commemoration of the great miracle, this day was observed annually as “Purim of Cairo.”
5430/1670, Harav Moshe Shimshon Bachrach, zt”l, mechaber of Chut Ha’shani
5581/1821, Harav Shlomo Yurgerbar of Vilna, zt”l, mechaber of Be’er Sheva
5621/1861, Harav Yaakov Bendetman, zt”l, Rav of Boisk
5739/1979, Harav Asher Meir Shulman, zt”l, Rosh Yeshivah, Yeshivas Rashbi
5746/1986, Harav Mordechai Chevroni, zt”l, Rosh Yeshivah, Yeshivas Chevron
5567/1807, Harav Shmuel Kelen of Boskowitz, zt”l, the Machatzis Hashekel
He was born in 5484/1724 to Harav Nosson Nuta, scion of a distinguished family. On his mother’s side he was a descendant of the Avodas HaGershuni and the Maharal of Prague.
He learned with great diligence. His son attests, “He did not walk four cubits without Torah, from morning to evening; even during the night he did not rest, but stayed up and learned.”
Reb Shmuel spread Torah in his great yeshivah in the city of Boskowitz, one of the most important communities in Moravia. He refused prominent Rabbinical positions that were offered to him, humbly claiming that he was not worthy. He didn’t allow his children to serve as Rabbanim, either, until his son Harav Binyamin had absolutely no other source of income, at which time he accepted the Rabbanus in Boskovitz.
Reb Shmuel had a very close relationship with Harav Nosson Adler, the venerated Rav of Boskovitz.
His son writes about his father’s piety and ko’ach hatefillah, remarking that people from far and wide flocked to him so he could daven for them.
His renowned chibur, Machatzis Hashekel, is a peirush on Magen Avraham Orach Chaim. The Magen Avraham’s style was very brief; the Machatzis Hashekel unlocks its complexity with his explanations.
From the time they were published, his primary sefarim were widely admired by Klal Yisrael. In addition, he authored a number of lesser-known works with the title Machatzis Hashekel: a peirush on the Shach in Yoreh De’ah; and a peirush on Maseches Bava Basra, Hilchos Gittin, Kiddushin, Niddah, Melichah, Bassar b’Chalav, Shechitah and Taaroves.
His humility was great. One small example: He writes that he called his sefer Machatzis Hashekel (Half a Shekel): “It is my highest hopes that at least half the time, the approach in which I explained the Magen Avraham is correct.”
Before his petirah he asked that a simple matzeivah be erected on his gravesite. People, however, did not heed this request and built an elaborate one. That same night the matzeivah cracked, and they immediately changed it, l’kayem retzon tzaddik.
Zechuso yagen aleinu.
In 1918, Congress approved daylight saving time.
In 1920, the Senate rejected, for a second time, the Treaty of Versailles by a vote of 49 in favor, 35 against, falling short of the two-thirds majority needed for approval.
In 1945, during World War II, Adolf Hitler ordered the destruction of German facilities that could fall into Allied hands in his so-called “Nero Decree,” which was largely disregarded.
In 1993, Supreme Court Justice Byron R. White announced plans to retire. (White’s departure paved the way for Ruth Bader Ginsburg to become the court’s second female justice.)
In 2003, President George W. Bush ordered the start of war against Iraq. (Because of the time difference, it was early March 20 in Iraq.)