Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Noam Elimelech for the IDF

I am planning on donating 150-200 complimentary copies of the English Noam Elimelech to IDF Soldiers classified as Chayal Boded,
these lone soldiers have no family here in Israel so we need to adopt them and care for them like our children.
If anyone would like to sponsor this endeavor please contact me.
Kol Tuv,
R' Tal Moshe Zwecker
Director Machon Be'er Mayim Chaim
Chassidic Classics in the English Language
Phone: 972-2-992-1218 / Cell: 972-54-842-4725
VoIP: 516-320-6022
eFax: 1-832-213-3135
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More on 20 Sivan - Current Events IDF Flotilla Attack and Jewish History

I do not think that the terrible news of the IDF Flotilla operation, the anti semitic hatred and protests occuring right now before 20 Sivan is any coincidence.
In fact we Jews do not believe in coincidence at all.
Rather Chazal taught us regarding the 9 of AV on which we commemorate many terrible historical events including the destruction of the first and second temples that "Megalgelin zechus leyom zakai vechova leyom chayav," we roll our merits on to days that are meritorious and we roll forth debts and harsh verditcs on to days that are harsh and dark.
It seems to me that 20 Sivan is one such a day.
It is said that the rabble that desired and craved meat in the desert and were buried in the plague that followed (Bamidbar 11:4 and 11:34) in Kivros HaTaava was on 20 Sivan.
We wrote about the the Gezeiros of Tach ve'Tat in our last email.
During the second crusade there were progroms that began on 20 Sivan as well. On 20th of Sivan some 3-6,000 Jews of Nimerov were killed including the tzadik and martyr HaRav Yechiel Michel Ben HaRav Elozor of Nemirov author of the sefer Shivrei Luchos
These are martyrs of the 5408-5409 (1648-9) pogroms, Hy"d.
The pogroms erupted in the city of Nemirov, where the Chmielnicki Cossacks broke in and drenched the Jewish homes with blood.
Three thousand Jews were massacred. Only when the fury had subsided were they brought to a mass grave dug on the edge of the cemetery.
This past winter before Shabbos Parshas Shekalim I was zoche to be in Nemyrov and to daven at that mass grave. Rav Gabbai head of Ohalei Tzadikim erected a tablet there.
On the marble tablet are the words:
"The place where you stand is holy ground. On this site three thousand Jews from Nemirov (and the surroundings) were murdered sanctifying His Name in the pogroms of 5408 and among them, of a higher holiness, unique in his generation, the holy and pure, the light of the world, author of the sefer Shivrei Luchos, HaRav Yechiel Michel Ben HaRav Elozor of Nemirov, zt"l. Hashem yikom domom."
About the massacre at Nemirov, the kinoh we say in the 20th of Sivan selichos was written: Keil molei rachamim . . . zohir vezoriz bemitzvos Keil, ha'aluf haGaon HaRav Morenu HaRav Yechiel/ Noso yodo velibo -- hoi Ariel Ariel!/ Chomid verogig le'eilo uletato, bedorei ma'aloh uvedorei matoh/ Gozru rosho becherev lehutoh, re'eih Hashem cherposeinu vehabitoh . . . (G-d full of mercy . . . careful and quick in the mitzvos of Hashem, carried by his heart, the Gaon . . . HaRav Yechiel, . . . Oy! Ariel, Ariel!/ Beloved above and below, among those who live above and below/ They severed his head with an eager sword. Hashem, see our shame . . . -- Free translation)
In these pogroms HaRav Shimshon Ostropoler, whose place of rest has still not been located, was also murdered.
Another incident splattered on the bloody pages of our history is:
The 20th of Sivan is the anniversary of the first blood libel in France. On this date in 1171, tens of Jewish men and women were burned alive in the French town of Blois on the infamous accusation that Jews used to the blood of Christian children in the preparation of matzot for Passover.

The 20th of Sivan is the anniversary of the martyrdom of the Jews of Blois, victims of the first ritual murder accusation in France, more than 800 years ago.

Blois is a city in France, on the river Loire, not far from Orleans. It is not a large city (its present population is about 25,000), but it has the "distinction" of being one of very few cities in France, or for that matter in all of Europe, where there has been no Jewish community for the past 800 years. Jews simply shunned that horrible place, where the Jewish community was so cruelly destroyed as a result of a false ritual murder accusation in 1171.

Many have been the false accusations made by the enemies of the Jews as an excuse for killing and robbing them. But none was more wicked than the accusation that Jews require Christian blood for the Passover matzoth. The first such accusation was made in Norwich, England, in 1144. It was repeated in several other British cities in later years. From there it spread to continental Europe, where the blood libel in Blois was the first of many to follow from time to time, down to the latest times (Beilis case in 1911), in practically all Christian lands. This vicious slander cost the lives of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of innocent Jewish men, women, and children. But the hatred it bred among the Christians towards the Jews was one of the main causes of Jewish suffering and persecution in Christian lands throughout the centuries.

The story of the burning of over thirty Jews (forty, according to some accounts), men and women, at Blois was recorded by Rabbi Ephraim of Bonn, a great Talmudic scholar (he was one of the Tosafists) and paytan (religious poet), who lived at that time. Rabbi Ephraim ben Yaakov (born in 1132 and died about the year 1200) witnessed also the terrible massacres perpetrated against the Jews by the Crusaders. He recorded all those tragedies and the heroism of the martyrs, and composed penitential prayers and lamentations in their memory. The following account of the Martyrs of Blois is taken from his historical work.

It happened in the year 4931 (1171). At that time there lived in Blois about forty Jews. One of them, Isaac ben Eleazar, rode up to the river one Thursday, toward evening, shortly before Pesach. It so happened that a stable servant rode up at the same time to water the horse of his master. The Jew bore on his chest an untanned hide, but one of the corners had become loose and was sticking out of his coat. When, in the gloom, the servant's horse, saw the white side of the hide, it was frightened and sprang back, and it could not be brought to the water.

The Christian servant was a simple peasant, who had often heard the priest preach in church that Jews used Christian blood for their Passover matzoth and wine, warning all his flock to keep a watchful eye over their children during the Passover season. Now, when his horse took fright, he hastened back to his master and said: "Hear, my lord, what a certain Jew did. As I rode behind him toward the river in order to give your horse a drink, I saw him throw a little Christian child, whom the Jews have killed, into the water. When I saw this I was horrified and hastened back quickly for fear he might kill me too. Even the horse under me was so frightened by the splash of water, when he threw the child in it, that it would not drink!"

The servant knew that his master would rejoice at the misfortune of the Jews, because he hated a certain Jewess, influential in the city. He was not mistaken, for his master said, "Now I can have my vengeance on that woman and the rest of the Jews."

The next morning the master rode to the ruler of the city, Theobald, son of Theobald, Count of Blois (son-in-law of King Louis VII of France). The Christians called him "the Good," but he was a wicked, cruel man.

When the ruler heard the accusation he became enraged and had all the Jews of Blois seized and thrown into prison, where they were all put into iron chains. The only exception was that influential Jewish woman, Dame Pulcelina, whom the count admired for her wisdom and beauty. She had often been able to get favors from the ruler for the Jewish merchants of Blois. But now, the Count's wife (Alix, daughter of the king) gave strict orders to the servants not to allow her to speak to her husband for fear she might get him to change his mind.

The ruler had no evidence against the Jews, except for that half-wit stable servant. The Count was ready to make a deal with the Jews and free them for a large sum of ransom money. He sent a Jew to the neighboring communities and asked them how much they would give to free their brethren. The Jews consulted with the imprisoned hostages, and the latter advised offering only one hundred pounds, in addition to their uncollected debts from Christian debtors amounting to the sum of one hundred eighty pounds. The Jews in the dungeon told their brethren in other communities not to pay a high ransom for their lives, lest the Christians should find it profitable to imprison Jews for ransom.

However, nothing came of the negotiations, because the Bishop arrived on the scene and insisted that the Jews should be condemned to die, and that he would "prove" their guilt.

The priest told the Count to have the witness tested by the ordeal of water, to discover if he had told the truth. The test was to be arranged as follows: A huge tank would be filled with water, and the servant who "saw" the Jew throw the child into the river would be put into it. If he floated, his words were true; if he sank, he had lied.

The Count of Blois commanded that the test be carried out forthwith. Now the priest had so arranged in advance that the servant should not sink in the water. Such was justice in those days. The Jews were found guilty on the basis of that water test, and condemned to be burned alive.

At the wicked ruler's command they were taken and put into a wooden house around which were placed thornbushes and faggots. As they were led forth, they were told, "You can save your lives if you will leave your religion and accept ours." The Jews refused. They were beaten and tortured to make them accept the Christian religion, but still they refused. Rather, they encouraged each other to remain steadfast and die for the sanctification of G-d's Name.

At the Count's command two of the leading Jews, both kohanim, Rabbi Yechiel the son of Rabbi David haKohen, and Rabbi Yekuthiel the son of Rabbi Judah haKohen, were taken and tied to a single stake to be burned in front of the others, so as to make the others convert. They were both saintly and pious men of great Torah learning, being the disciples of Rabbeinu Yaakov Tam and Rabbeinu Shmuel ben Meir, the grandson of Rashi. A third prominent Jew, Rabbi Judah the son of Aaron, was also tied with them to the stake. At the ruler's command, fire was set to the faggots. The fire spread to the cords on their hands so that they snapped. The three Jews came out of the fire, and called to the Christians who had assembled to watch them die: "By your own laws you should let us go free, for you see that we came out alive from the ordeal by fire!" They struggled to get out, but they were overpowered and pushed back into the house, and the house was set on fire. They came out again and seized one of the executioners and dragged him along with them towards the fire. When they were right at the fire, the armed soldiers pulled themselves together, rescued the Christian from their hands, killed them with their swords, and then threw their bodies into the fire.

A certain Jew by name of Rabbi Baruch ben David haKohen was there and saw all this at that time with his own eyes. He lived in the territory of that ruler and had come there to arrange terms for the release of the Jews of Blois, but unfortunately did not succeed. However, a settlement was made by him for one thousand pounds to save the other jews of that accursed ruler. He also saved the scrolls of the Torah and other sacred books.

This terrible atrocity happened on Wednesday, 20th of Sivan, in the year 4931 (May 26th, 1171). All the facts were written down by the Jews of Orleans, a city close by to that of the martyrs, and made known to Rabbeinu Yaakov ben Rabbi Meir, Rashi's grandson and greatest Rabbi of his time.

It was also reported in that letter that as the flames mounted high, the martyrs began to sing in unison a melody that began softly but ended with a full voice. "The Christians came and asked us, 'What kind of a song is this, for we have never heard such a sweet melody?' We knew it well, for it was the hymn Oleinu -- "It is our duty to praise the L-rd of all... for He has not made us like the nations of the lands...'"

Rabbi Ephraim of Bonn records the amazing fact, as, witnessed by the said Rabbi Baruch, that the bodies of the martyrs were not consumed by fire; only their souls were released. When the crowd saw it, they were amazed and said to one another, "Truly these are saints." For a long time, the thirty one (or thirty two) martyrs of Blois were not allowed to be buried. They were left at the bottom of the hill on the very spot where they were burnt. It was only later that Jews came and buried their bones.

Rabbi Ephraim adds the anguished lament, "O daughters of Israel, weep for the souls that were burnt for the sanctification of the Name, and let your brothers, the entire House of Israel, bewail the burning."

All the communities of France, England, and the Rhineland took upon themselves to observe the 20th of Sivan as a day of mourning and fasting. This was also confirmed by Rabbeinu Yaakov ben Meir, who wrote letters to them informing them that it was proper to fix that day as a twenty-four hour fast day. (Rabbeinu Yaakov Tam died in the third week after the Kiddush Hashem in Blois.)

Kol Tuv,
R' Tal Moshe Zwecker
Director Machon Be'er Mayim Chaim
Chassidic Classics in the English Language
Phone: 972-2-992-1218 / Cell: 972-54-842-4725
VoIP: 516-320-6022
eFax: 1-832-213-3135
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20 Sivan Today Wednesday June 2 2010

From the upcoming MeOros Kedushas Levi in English: 

The Mesirus Nefesh and Self Sacrifice of the Martyr Rav Shlomo of Karlin

On the Shabbos before Rav Shlomo of Karlin left this world, as he went outside before Kiddush he passed by the stable where the horses are kept. When he entered his home he told those assembled that "I have just heard from the horses that there are ominous black tidings coming upon us."

The next morning the local general gave his soldiers two hours of "free time" to do whatever the pleased in Ludmir. They turned the town into a shooting gallery, firing randomly at the Jews, murdering, pillaging and ransacking the place at will. Bullets flew through the air and whizzed by in all directions. The neighing of horses stampeding about and the crazed yells of the Cossacks mixed with cries and shouts of terrified Jews who ran for their lives seeking cover. Many ran to seek refuge in Rav Shlomo of Karlin's beis midrash.

The Rebbe according to most accounts was in the midst of his prayers seemingly oblivious to the terror and fright of those around him. In fact the Karliner went over to the aron kodesh and opening it, he placed his head inside and continued to daven at a lengthy and leisurely pace. The Rebbitzen who was greatly frightened saw what her husband, the Rebbe had done, ran over to him, thinking that he must have fainted since he did not take his head out from the aron kodesh. She grabbed unto his coat and tugged gently to awaken him. Roused from his devotions the Rebbe removed his head from the holy ark, and just then a bullet fired through the window from one of the rifles struck the Karliner in his foot.

According to many at the very same moment that the Rebbe was shot, the wild two hour shooting spree ended as well. The doctors claimed that they could operate but the Karliner would not let them touch him.

The entire week he lay in tremendous suffering with the holy Zohar open before him till finally on Thursday the twenty second of Tammuz his pure and holy soul left this world.

The story of how the Karliner met his end as a martyr begins beforehand. It was originally Rav Nachum of Czernoble who was imprisoned on a false charge of murder during one of the blood libels that some wicked goyim had concocted against him. When the Karliner together with others tried to free him through the usual means, they found tremendous opposition that was so uncharacteristic they realized it must be supernatural. They realized that it was Rav Nachum himself who did not wish to be freed. Surely he was sitting in prison willfully as a sacrifice to nullify some harsh decree against Klal Yisroel. Rav Shlomo of Karlin convinced him to agree to allow himself to be released. When the Czernobler saw that the Karliner had discovered his 'secret' he said, "A hidden thought I had which not even the angels discerned yet this holy Jew has seen it!" And he agreed to allow for his release. The Karliner later remarked, "He dropped that intention [to be a martyr and sacrifice himself for Klal Yisroel] and I picked it up!"

After the Karliner passed away, no one wanted to reveal it to Rav Nachum of Czernoble since the two had been so close. However when Rav Nachum closeted himself, hidden from the world for three days straight they realized that somehow he must have found out. To try and appease and comfort the embittered bereaving Tzadik his followers told him that had the Karliner lived, in his place thousands of Jews would have been killed, yet he was not appeased. "Tens and tens of thousands!" they told him. Yet Rav Nachum remained inconsolable, "he alone is equal to them!" he cried bitterly. Finally when they told him that a forth of Klal Yisroel would have been lost if the Karliner had not taken their place, he was consoled.

Before the decree had already been sealed and the fate of Rav Shlomo of Karlin decided, the matter was revealed from Heaven to the holy tzadik Rav Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, the advocate and defender of the Jewish people. The Berditchever stood against the decision and sought to nullify the decree.

When Rav Levi Yitzchak was told that if the Karliner would live a great calamity would befall the people, he paid it no heed nor attention, instead he continued to fight the decree; so great was the Karliner in his eyes.

Yet, when from Heaven the description of the destruction was told to him, and compared to the deaths and destruction of thousands upon thousands, similar to the terrible decrees known as Gezeiros Tach Ve'Tat (1648-1649 C.E., which began on 20 Sivan) during the horrible pogroms that stretched across Eastern Europe. Finally the holy Berditchever gave up and stopped trying to annul and cancel it. He was left with no choice but to accept the harsh decree.

The Tzadikim said that Rav Shlomo Karliner was the Moshiach Ben Yosef of his generation and that his martyrdom sanctified G-d's name and atoned for their sins (just as Moshiach Ben Yosef is martyred and dies for the sins of Klal Yisroel.)

(Kisvei Rav Yoshe #22 p289, #36 p294, #38 p295 and #65 p303; Toldos Shema Shlomo Chapter 10 p141-143;)


More on Kaf Sivan - 20 Sivan:

20 Sivan - The Day The Cossacks Cast Darkness On The WorldBogdan Chmielnicki was a wealthy Cossack leader in what is today Ukraine, but in 1648 was under control of the Polish King Vladislov.  While the Cossacks long dreamed of independence and pushing off the Polish yoke, their numerous attempts to fight the far stronger Polish King were always unsuccessful.  Chmielnicki however persuaded the Crimean Tartars to ally themselves with him and together they proved to be a formidable force against the Polish King.  Theri stated goal was to wipe out the Polish aristocracy and the Jews.

Although commonly referred to as Gezeiros Tach V'Tat (1648-9) for the years the brunt of the massacres took place, it actually raged on and off for the next 12 years, even after Chmielnicki's death.  With shifting alliances and no shortage of political intrigue, with the main players being the Poles, Russian, Crimeans, local Ukrainians, and the Swedes.

For the Jews it officially began on Wednesday, 20 Sivan 5408/1648 when Chmielnicki and his murderous bloodthirsty 60,000 strong army entered Poland.  Their first conquest was the city of Nemirov.  The Rav of the city, Rav Yechiel Michel, passionately implored the people to keep their faith and die Al Kiddush Hashem.  For three days the Cossacks rampaged through town murdering 6,000 Jews, including Rav Yechiel Michel, who was caught and murdered before his mother's eyes and then murdered in turn.  The Shul was destroyed and all the Sifrei Torah were torn to pieces and trampled.  Their parchment was then used for shoes and clothing according to the Shach.

To compound the tragedy, on the first day of the Nemirov massacres, the benevolent King Vladislov of Poland, who had always shown kindness to the Jews, died leaving Poland leaderless for the next four months until King Kazmir was crowned.  During this time Chmielnicki and his men murdered and plundered town after town with nothing and no one standing in their way.

In the tragic events of the next several years, hundreds of Jewish communities in Poland and Ukraine were wiped out, although the number of actual victims is said to be anywhere from ten of thousands to half a million Jewish souls.  Notable victims include Rav Shimshon MiOstropolia, Rav Nosson Nata Hanover, two sons of the Taz, and well as many other Gedolim who perished during the siege of L'Vov.  These events were chronicled in several famous works, including Rav Nosson Nata Hanover's,  Yiven Metzula  and  by the Shach, who spent the difficult years on the run, in his chronicle Megilas Eifa.

In 5411/1651 the Chachomim of the time declared 20 Sivan to be a fast day and Selichos were composed by the Shach and the Tosfos Yom Tov.  While the world remembers the barbaric cruelty and the atrocities that were part and parcel of the vicious Cossack character, on this day we remember the Mesiras Nefesh of our forefathers who chose to die a brutal death at the hands of a merciless enemy rather than trade their faith.  They died knowing that their troubles were orchestrated by an all merciful Hashem and they would not betray him even in their dying breath.  It is said that after this tragedy Hashem promised never to make Klal Yisroel choose between their religion and death, ever again.  Our fathers passed the final test for us.  Yehi Zichram Baruch!

20 Sivan - The History and The Taanis

The 20th of Sivan is a day that was twice designated as a fast day for massacres against European Jewry; once by Rabbeinu Tam and once by the Shach.  Special Selichos were said on this day.

Question submitted by Chaim: Why were chazal mesaken [decree] chof [20th] Sivan as a day of mourning for ta'ch v'ta't [massacres during Bogdan Chmielnicki's Cossak uprising] and yet there is so much controversy over Yom Hashoah? Additionally, why has chof sivan, the day of morning for ta'ch v'ta't, fallen out of favor?

Answer by Rav Peretz Moncharsh: I think that a little background information will put things in their proper perspective.

The 20th of Sivan was first designated as a fast day by Rabbeinu Tam after the first Jews were executed because of the accusations of a blood libel. Observation of the fast gradually faded over the ensuing years as that tragedy was overshadowed by the 150 years of the Crusades.

After the [Chmielnicki] massacres of Tach v'Tat when approximately a third of European Jewry was killed, the fast of the 20th of Sivan was reinstituted, as on that date the glorious Jewish community of Nemirov was destroyed by the Cossacks. This decision was made by the Shach and the Vaad Arba Aratzos, and was confirmed by the Shela HaKadosh, Tosafos Yom Tov, Magen Avraham and many other Gedolim.

I'm not sure why it has faded, but probably the following 300 years provided more than their fair share of tragedies to eclipse Tach v'Tat. Also, the enactment seems to have been made specifically for the Jews living in the Polish kingdom.

Yom HaShoah never had the support of a wide array of Gedolim, and in fact the Rabbanut even designated the 10th of Teves as the most appropriate day to commemorate the Holocaust. Furthermore, the date of Yom HaShoah was chosen to commemorate the valor of those who participated in the Warsaw ghetto uprising, and not the tragedy of the 6 million who were murdered. Additionally, Yom HaShoah is in Nissan, a month during which according to halacha we do not engage in public mourning.


Kol Tuv,
R' Tal Moshe Zwecker
Director Machon Be'er Mayim Chaim
Chassidic Classics in the English Language
Phone: 972-2-992-1218 / Cell: 972-54-842-4725
VoIP: 516-320-6022
eFax: 1-832-213-3135
join the mailing list to keep updated about new projects here:
Noam Elimelech, Kedushas Levi, Pirkei Avos more!
Discuss Chassidus