This Day in History – 9 Adar I/February 18

Today is a taanis tzaddikim (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 480:2) commemorating the beginning of the dispute between the house of Shammai and the house of Hillel.

The Gemara (Shabbos 17a) cites that this day was as disastrous for Klal Yisrael as the day of the sin of the golden calf.

In 5700/1940, Harav Yosef Yitzchak of Lubavitch disembarked from a ship in New York, following his miraculous rescue from Nazi-occupied Warsaw.


 

Yahrtzeiten

5361/1601, Harav Mordechai Meisels of Prague, zt”l

5594/1834, Harav Menachem Stern of Sighet, zt”l, mechaber of Derech Emunah

5635/1875, Harav Shmuel Klein, zt”l, Rav of Chust and Selish and mechaber of Tzror Hachaim

5689/1929, Harav Yisrael Yaakov of Chust, zt”l

5704/1944, Harav Shmuel Dovid Ungar of Nitra, Hy”d

5749/1989, Harav Chaim Efraim Zeitchek, zt”l, Rosh Yeshivah of Ohr Chodosh

5761/2001, Harav Yehudah Zerachia Segal, zt”l, Rav of Kiryas Shalom – Tel Aviv


 

5548/1788, Harav Shlomo Zalman of Volozhin, zt”l

Harav Shlomo Zalman of Volozhin was born on 26 Sivan, 5516/1756. His father was Harav Yitzchak, parnass of Vilna. His older brother was the famed Harav Chaim Volozhiner, and together they learned in the yeshivah of the Vilna Gaon.

Harav Shlomo Zalman learned under the Vilna Gaon. The Gaon loved him, and he was listed among his closest and best talmidim. It is related that when Reb Zalman was tragically niftar at a young age, the Gaon tore kriah for his prized talmid.

As a young avreich, Reb Zalman was renowned as a genius. He had an amazing memory and never forgot anything he ever learned. He was well versed in Torah Shebichsav and Torah Sheb’al Peh, nigleh and nistar. His memory was so good that whenever a talmid chacham needed a source for his drashos or sefarim he would ask Reb Zalman, who would pinpoint it with accuracy.

Reb Zalman was known for his hasmadah and for learning with great dveikus. He avoided contact with the world; he rarely went outside, and when he did, he always walked on the side of the street near the gutter. When asked about this seemingly strange custom, he explained that by going there, he would be saved from many machshavos zaros.

It was said of Reb Zalman that what he achieved in his mere 32 years on earth — in love of Torah, knowledge of all its facets, kedushah and middos — was more than an average person could achieve in a lifetime as long as Mesushelach’s.

Reb Zalman was niftar on 9 Adar, 5548/1788.

Toldos Adam, a sefer containing his chiddushim and stories about him, was written by his close associate Harav Yechezkel Feivel. The sefer was adorned with haskamos from Vilna’s leading Rabbanim.

Zechuso yagen aleinu.


 

Feb. 18

In 1788, Austria declared war on Russia.

In 1930, photographic evidence of Pluto (now designated a “dwarf planet”) was discovered by Clyde W. Tombaugh at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona.

In 1943, Madame Chiang Kai-shek, wife of the Chinese leader, addressed members of the Senate and then the House, becoming the first Chinese national to address both houses of the U.S. Congress.