web analytics
July 5, 2015 / 18 Tammuz, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

The Twentieth Of Sivan


The Twentieth of Sivan, designated by sages in two different eras to be a day of fasting and commemoration, marks tragedies that befell the Jews of Europe in the Middle Ages up to the Holocaust and was, until the Second World War, communally observed by European Jewry.

The Twentieth of Sivan was originally declared a day of fasting and commemoration in 1171. Tragedy had struck the Jewish community of Blois, France. The blood libel, which had been leveled on several occasions in England, had made its way to France. A local Christian claimed he saw a Jew throw the corpse of a child into the river Loire. The corpse was never found, but the testimony was accepted.

The town’s approximately 40 Jews were arrested and offered the choice of baptism or death. Despite the threats and torture, they did not yield. On the twentieth day of Sivan, thirty-two Jews, seventeen of them women, were burned at the stake.

In a letter about this tragedy written by the rabbinic scholar Ephraim Ben Yaakov of Bonn, the Twentieth of Sivan was decreed by the greatest Torah sage of that era, Rabbeinu Meir Tam, as a fast day for Jews living in France, the Rhineland and England.

The letter states that Rabbeinu Tam wrote letters to Jewish communities declaring this day to be one of “atonement.”

The murder of Jews in Blois was followed by many similar tragedies. Blood libels would bring in their wake immense suffering and torment to Jewish communities throughout Europe. Many Jews migrated to Eastern Europe where they continued to observe the Twentieth of Sivan.

Eventually, the Jews of Eastern Europe would also be compelled to observe this date of remembrance.

In 1648, the Ukrainian nationalist and Cossack leader Bogdan Chmielnicki incited a rebellion against Poland, which ruled over the Ukraine, and Polish landlords. Chmielnicki’s forces, combined with their Tartar allies of Mongolia, routed the Polish army at Yellow River on May 19 and Hard Plank on May 26.

The Polish defeat was a disaster for Ukrainian Jews, who now faced a major catastrophe. Chmielnicki’s Cossacks continued to attack Polish forces and then unleashed their fury against the Jews of the Ukraine and surrounding areas. Entire Jewish communities were wiped out, and hundreds of thousands of Jews were murdered, severely wounded, or left to starve to death.

The first reported attack against a large Jewish community was in the city of Nemirov. Jews from surrounding villages had gathered there for refuge. As Cossack troops neared Nemirov, the Jews locked themselves inside the city walls. As the soldiers drew near they unfurled Polish flags to give the impression they were Polish troops coming to the rescue.

The Poles in the city were notified of the ruse and collaborated with the Cossacks in order to save their own lives. They told the Jews guarding the gates that the approaching soldiers were indeed Polish and that they should open the gates.

The Cossacks entered the city with drawn swords, and the slaughter began. More than six thousand Jews were martyred that day. After Nemirov the Cossacks attacked Tulshin, Polannoe, Ostrog and Zaslow.

In the winter of 1650, rabbinic and lay leaders known as the Council of the Four Lands gathered in Lublin and declared the Twentieth of Sivan, the day the city of Nemerov had been attacked, a day of fasting and commemoration for the many martyrs of the Chmielnicki pogroms.

Massacres by Ukrainian nationalists continued long after Chmielnicki’s death in 1657. A series of attacks in the eighteenth century, including the Gonta massacres of 1767-1768, resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of Jews. Pogroms were again unleashed in 1881 and 1903.

In 1919, a civil war positioned Ukrainians in pursuit of independence against both the Red Army and anti-Soviet Russians. Once again Ukrainian Jewry was caught in the middle, suffering horrific massacres. More devastation was still to come; in the early 1940’s, Ukrainian nationalists eagerly assisted the Nazis in killing Jews.

The blood-libel massacre in Blois and the pogroms in the Ukraine were separated by some five hundred years, but Rabbi Yom Tov Lippmann Heller, also known as the Tosafot Yom Tov, declared that the Selichot prayers composed in commemoration of the victims in France in the twelfth century be recited as well for the victims of Chmielnicki.

Rabbi Lippman stated, “What has occurred now is similar to days of old. All that happened to the forefathers happened to their descendants.”

Though the Twentieth of Sivan is not currently observed in most communities, it is still an appropriate time to remember all the victims of persecution from France to Eastern Europe. The memory of their martyrdom may have diminished, overshadowed by the passage of time and the enormity of the Holocaust, but they perished because they were Jews.

The Twentieth of Sivan provides us an opportunity to pay homage to their memory.

About the Author:


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “The Twentieth Of Sivan”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Future guard? Arab child with Hamas headband aims toy rifle on the Temple Mount after prayers in the Al Aqsa mosque.
CNN Promotes Old City on Verge of Extinction Due to ‘Political Tension’
Latest Indepth Stories
Obama was all smiles for Israel's Ambassador Oren when they met in the White House.

US Jews prefer to be like their non-Jewish liberal friends complaining about “settlements” and Bibi

New Israel Fund and the UN

New Israel Fund & its supporters must be countered; Israel’s in the midst of an unprecedented storm

An ISIS Gaza rocket launcher.

PM Netanyahu this week identified ISIS and Iran as Israel’s primary threat. It is a planetary threat that carries the promise of peace.

U.S. postage stamp honoring Haym Solomon.

Haym Solomon, overlooked hero of the Revolutionary War, was America’s “Funding Father.”

Latvia, July 4, 1941 they forced many Jews in the shul putting it on fire; everyone was burned alive

There’s blood on the reporters’ hands AND New Israel Fund for funding groups feeding lies to the UN

Respect & appreciation for our country is not only a civic value but an essential Jewish one as well

When words lose meaning, the world becomes an Orwellian dystopia; a veritable Tower of Babel

Israel, like the non-radical Islamic world. will be happy see the ISIS beheaded for once.

Kids shouldn’t have “uninstructed” Internet access, better to train them how to use it responsibly

What if years from now, IS were to control substantial territory? What world havoc would that wreak?

Rambam writes the verse’s double term refers to 2 messiahs: first King David; 2nd the final Mashiach

The Gaza flotilla has been rightfully and legally blocked by Israel’s Navy, with greetings from Bibi

The president described the attack as “an act that drew on a long history of bombs and arson and shots fired at churches, not random, but as a means of control, a way to terrorize and oppress…”

“The only [candidate] that’s going to give real support to Israel is me,” said the 69-year-old Trump.

More Articles from Larry Domnitch
President Obama

Congress sees the folly of the negotiations, as do most Arab nations who are too familiar with Iran

Map of Europe during WW I

Shavuot 1915, 200000 Jews were expelled; amongst the largest single expulsions since Roman times

An eye-witness claimed, “British troops just stood by” while Arab attacked Jews in then Palestine

UN inspectors were flabbergasted when Iran allowed them full unfettered access to All nuclear sites

Expulsions perpetrated by the Russians during WWI were the worst against the Jews since Roman times.

Arab opposition to a Jewish State of any size was made known by word and deed in the form of terror

Rav Kook offered recognition to the British but not thanks; the British merely fulfilled its destiny

Germany’s The Jewish Faith newspaper ominously noted, “We Jews are in for a war after the war.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/the-twentieth-of-sivan/2007/05/30/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: