This Week in Jewish History

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The 18th of Tishrei is the yahrtzeit of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov (1772-1810), founder of the Breslov chasidic movement. Rebbe Nachman lived in Poland and the Ukraine, where he inspired thousands of Jews to greater love of God
The 19th of Tishrei is the yahrtzeit of Rabbi Eliyahu Kramer (1720-1797), known as the Vilna Gaon (

17th of Tishrei

In 1867, Blood Libel charges triggered anti-Jewish riots in Romania. Blood libels became a common feature in Europe during the Middle Ages: if a Christian baby was found dead, Jews would be charged with having kidnapped the baby and draining its blood. Accusers claimed that blood was the chief ingredient in matzah, and thus prior to every Passover Jews required a large supply. Ironically, Jewish law prohibits the consuming of blood (kosher meat is carefully washed and salted to remove all traces of blood). Yet this didnt stop the Blood Libel accusation, which over the centuries resulted in the death and torture of thousands of Jews.

18th of Tishrei

Yahrtzeit of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov (1772-1810), founder of the Breslov chasidic movement. Rebbe Nachman lived in Poland and the Ukraine, where he inspired thousands of Jews to greater love of God. Though he suffered the loss of his son and wife, Rebbe Nachman said: “You may fall to the lowest depths, heaven forbid, but no matter how low you have fallen, it is still forbidden to give up hope.” A few of his most famous teachings are: “It’s a great mitzvah to always be happy,” and “All the world is a narrow bridge — but the main thing is not to be afraid” (now a popular Hebrew song, Kol Ha-Olam Kulo). Every year on Rosh Hashana, tens of thousands of Jews travel to Uman (Ukraine) to pray at the gravesite of Rebbe Nachman.

19th of Tishrei

Tishrei 19 is the yahrtzeit of Rabbi Eliyahu Kramer (1720-1797), known as the Vilna Gaon (“the genius from Vilna”). He is regarded as the greatest rabbi of the past 500 years. The Vilna Gaon possessed a photographic memory: At age three he already knew the entire Bible by heart, and by age seven he knew several tractates of Talmud by heart. Legend says that by age 12 he was able to kabbalistically create a Golem (life out of formless mass). He was known to have slept only two hours per day, in six 20-minute intervals. He wrote commentaries on all the classical Jewish works — Bible, Talmud, Code of Jewish Law, plus various Kabbalistic works. He was also a renowned expert in mathematics and astronomy. There is a statue of him and a street named after him in Vilnius, Lithuania. The Vilna Gaon set out for Israel in 1783, but for unknown reasons did not attain his goal. He inspired his disciples to make the move, however, and in 1809 a group of 70 became pioneers of modern settlement in Israel.

20th of Tishrei

In 1973, Israeli forces crossed to the western side of the Suez Canal in a decisive battle of the Yom Kippur War. A division led by Ariel Sharon had attacked a weak point in the Egyptian “seam line” between the Egyptian second Army in the north and the Egyptian third Army in the south. In some of the most brutal fighting of the war, the Israelis opened a hole in the Egyptian line and reached the Suez Canal. A small force crossed the canal and created a bridgehead on the other side. A few days later, Israeli troops trapped the Egyptian Third Army, leaving it without any means of resupply, thus effectively ending the Yom Kippur War.

21st of Tishrei

In 1946, following the Nuremberg trials, 10 Nazi war criminals were hanged. The hanging of the 10 Nazis eerily echoed the 10 sons of Haman who were hanged in the Purim story. Incredibly, this day on the Jewish calendar is Hoshana Raba, the traditional day of judgment for the nations of the world.

22nd of Tishrei

In 825 BCE, King Solomon bid farewell to the Jewish people who had come to Jerusalem for a 14-day ceremony dedicating the Holy Temple (1-Kings 8:66). King David had brought the Ark of the Covenant up to Jerusalem’s Mount Moriah, but as a warrior he was not permitted by God to erect the Temple. However, his son Solomon did so. The Temple was the most important site in Israel — a spiritual magnet for the Jewish nation’s yearnings. The magnificent structure took seven years to build, and stood for 410 years before being destroyed by the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar.

23rd of Tishrei

In 67 CE, Roman soldiers captured Gamla, a fortress in Israel’s Golan region, and killed all its inhabitants. The ancient historian Josephus Flavius, a leader of the Jewish revolt against Rome, fortified Gamla as a main stronghold in 66 CE. The Romans attempted to take the city by means of a siege ramp, but were turned back by the defenders; only on the second attempt did they succeed in penetrating the fortifications and conquering the city. Thousands of inhabitants were slaughtered, while others chose to jump to their deaths from the top of the cliff. The location of ancient Gamla was discovered in archeological excavations during the 1970s; the remains have been preserved as a national park.

24th of Tishrei

In 336 BCE, the prophets Ezra and Nechemia convened the Jewish community in Jerusalem. There, as recorded in the biblical Book of Nechemia (ch. 9), they recalled the major events of Jewish history, and pledged to uphold the ancient covenant.

25th of Tishrei

Yahrtzeit of Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berditchev (1740-1810), a beloved chassidic leader in Poland and the Ukraine. He is famous for always interpreting people’s actions in the best possible light, for which he earned the appellation, “defense attorney of the Jewish people.” He authored a popular commentary of the Torah, Kedushat Levi. Tishrei 25 also marks the yahrtzeit of Rabbi Moshe Sofer of Pressburg (1762-1839), a leader of European Jewry known as the “Chatam Sofer.”