This Day in History – 6 Elul/August 21

In 5700/1940, Italian planes bombed Tel Aviv, killing 117. Hy”d.



5580/1820, Harav Shabsi, zt”l, Rav of Orla and mechaber of Sheves Achim

5643/1883, Harav Yekusiel Yehudah Teitelbaum, zt”l, the Yetev Lev of Sighet

5729/1969, Harav Yechezkel Sarna, zt”l, Rosh Yeshivah of Chevron Yeshivah


5414/1654, Harav Yom Tov Lipmann Heller, the Tosfos Yom Tov, zy”a

Harav Yom Tov Lipmann Halevi Heller was born in Wallerstein, Bavaria, in 5339/1579.

He later went to Friedburg, where he learned under Harav Yaakov Ginzburg. From there he was invited to Prague by a rich merchant, Reb Aharon Ashkenazi, who later became his father-in-law. In Prague he learned under the Maharal, Rosh Yeshivah of Prague, and under Harav Shlomo Efraim Lunchitz, Chief Rabbi of Prague and mechaber of the Kli Yakar.

In 5357/1597, when he was 18 years old, Reb Yom Tov was appointed Dayan in Prague, a prominent Torah center. He held this position for the next 28 years.

In 5385/1624, Reb Yom Tov was called to the rabbinate of Nikolsburg, Moravia, and a few months later he became Rav of Vienna.

In 5388/1628, Reb Yom Tov was called back to Prague to become the Rav.

On account of the Thirty Years’ War, the government imposed heavy taxes on the Jewish communities of Bohemia, including Prague. A committee consisting of the elite of the Jewish community was created to apportion the taxes among the people. Sadly, the members of this committee let an undue tax burden fall on the poor. Reb Yom Tov would not countenance such injustice and used his position as Rav to ensure fairness. This drew the ire of the wealthy, powerful members of the committee, some of whom spitefully went to the government and accused him of insulting Christianity.

A clerical commission was appointed to inquire into his guilt. Reb Yom Tov justified himself very respectfully but the verdict was that he deserved death. The emperor, however, commuted the punishment to a fine of 12,000 thalers, to be paid immediately.

The fine was far beyond his means. With the help of generous Jews, Reb Yom Tov was able to pay the first installment of the lesser amount of 2,000 florins.

A sefer called Megillas Eivah by Reb Yom Tov, with additions by his son Rav Shmuel, relates the story of his imprisonment and trial.

With the help of friends, Reb Yom Tov was able to wait for better times and to pay the remaining installments of his fine.

In the autumn of 5404/1643, the Tosfos Yom Tov received an invitation to the Rabbinate of Cracow, which he gladly accepted. Harav Yehoshua Charif, the Maginei Shlomo, was the Rosh Yeshivah there. Four years later the Maginei Shlomo was niftar, and the Tosfos Yom Tov succeeded him.

The Tosfos Yom Tov was a prolific writer, authoring close to 50 works. Most notable is his commentary on Shishah Sidrei Mishnah, the classic Tosfos Yom Tov. He wrote this commentary between the ages of 30 and 38.

He also wrote Maadanei Melech and Lechem Chamudos on the Rosh. Another of his better-known sefarim is Tzuras Habayis, regarding the design of the Beis Hamikdash as seen by the Navi Yechezkel.

In 5414/1654 the Tosfos Yom Tov fell ill. On 6 Elul 5414/1654 he was niftar and buried in Cracow.

Zechuso yagen aleinu.


August 21

In 1858, the first of seven debates between Illinois senatorial contenders Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas took place.

In 1944, the United States, Britain, the Soviet Union and China opened talks at Dumbarton Oaks in Washington that helped pave the way for establishment of the United Nations. (The talks concluded on October 7.)

In 1945, President Harry S. Truman ended the Lend-Lease program that had shipped some $50 billion in aid supplies to America’s allies during World War II.

In 1959, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed an executive order making Hawaii the 50th state.

In 1993, in a serious setback for NASA, engineers lost contact with the Mars Observer spacecraft as it was about to reach the red planet on a $980 million mission.