This Day in History – 29 Adar/March 20

In 4956/1196, Rabbeinu Yitzchak ben Rabbeinu Asher, a grandson of Riva, was killed together with numerous other Jews because of a blood libel. Hy”d.

In 5559/1799, Napoleon captured the city of Jaffa.



5626/1866, Harav Shlomo of Radomsk, zt”l, the Tiferes Shlomo

5746/1986, Harav Yaakov Kamenetsky, Rosh Yeshivah of Yeshiva and Mesivta Torah Vodaath


5636/1876, Harav Avraham Shaag, zt”l, mechaber of Ohel Avraham

Harav Avraham Shaag (Zwebner) was born on 4 Iyar 5561/1801, in the Hungarian town of Freistadt. His father, Harav Yehoshua Leib Zwebner, was niftar when his son was just four years old. His mother asked Harav Yitzchak Frankel, Rav of Regensdorf, to supervise his upbringing as he would that of his own son.

Recognizing Avraham’s brilliance, Harav Frankel taught the young boy himself. At the age of 10, young Avraham knew most of Shas. After his bar mitzvah, Harav Frankel enrolled him in the Chasam Sofer’s yeshivah in Pressburg.

When Avraham turned 18, the Chasam Sofer made a shidduch for him with Leah, the orphaned daughter of Harav Avraham Halevi Spitz, the Rav of Prossitz, Moravia. For many years Leah had fasted every Monday and Thursday, praying to merit marrying a genuine talmid chacham.

When Harav Avraham was 25, he assumed the position of Rav of the city of Shuttledorf, Czechoslovakia, where he founded a yeshivah. After serving in Shuttledorf for 25 years, Reb Avraham accepted a position as Rav of Kobersdorf.

In the early part of the 19th century, the Reform movement began to rear its ugly head. The Chasam Sofer was one of its staunchest opponents. Reb Avraham Shaag led the battle against the National Jewish Congress formed by the Reform movement.

To counterbalance the Reform-dominated congress, he convened a Jewish congress of his own, attended by 350 Rabbanim and Torah leaders throughout the country. This congress was called Shomrei Mishmeres Hadas, and it instilled in the Torah Jews of Austria and Hungary a spirit of hope and determination. Reb Avraham was chosen as president of this congress, and in that capacity formulated a manifesto that denounced the National Jewish Congress.

At 72, Reb Avraham Shaag decided to fulfill his lifelong dream of moving to Eretz Yisrael. His closest talmid was Harav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, who was still a young man at the time. When Reb Yosef Chaim learned of his rebbi’s departure, he felt that he couldn’t part from his rebbi. He decided to accompany him to Eretz Yisrael.

On 9 Iyar 5633/1873, they left Kobersdorf and set out on their journey. Arriving in Eretz Yisrael, Reb Avraham and Reb Yosef Chaim bent down and kissed the ground.

Reb Avraham lived in Yerushalayim for three years. The day before his petirah, Reb Avraham finished their learning by saying, “We will leave it here.” These words worried Reb Yosef Chaim, since Reb Avraham’s every word was measured.

The following morning, Shabbos, 29 Adar 5636/1876, Reb Avraham didn’t arrive for Shacharis. Reb Yosef Chaim and Reb Avraham’s son, Reb Yissachar Ber, went to investigate the matter, and they found Reb Avraham in critical condition. He was having difficulty breathing and was nearly unable to speak.

He ran to get the doctor and the two rushed to Reb Avraham’s house. But by the time they arrived, Reb Avraham had already returned his neshamah to its Maker.

Reb Avraham’s levayah was held in Yerushalayim on Motzoei Shabbos. The levayah proceeded to Har Hazeisim where, at graveside, Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld described the tzidkus of his great rebbi, calling him a “a true ish haElokim.”

Zechuso yagen aleinu.


March 20

In 1815, Napoleon Bonaparte returned to Paris after escaping his exile on Elba, beginning his “Hundred Days” rule.

In 1922, the decommissioned USS Jupiter, converted into the first U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, was recommissioned as the USS Langley.

In 1952, the U.S. Senate ratified the Treaty of Peace with Japan, by a vote of 66–10.

In 1999, Bertrand Piccard of Switzerland and Brian Jones of Britain became the first aviators to fly a hot-air balloon around the world nonstop as they floated over Mauritania past longitude 9 degrees west. (They landed safely in Egypt the next day.)