web analytics
August 28, 2015 / 13 Elul, 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
Swiss Amb. to Iran Giulo Haas presents his credentials to Iranian Pres. Rouhani
‘US and Iranian Cartoon Doves’ Shown Defecating on Bibi by Swiss Amb to Iran
Latest Indepth Stories
Ben Cohen

Corbyn leading the Britain’s Labour Party polls, describes Hamas & Hizbullah as England’s “friends.”

PA Chairman Abbas proudly celebrating with released terrorists.

The convicted murderer was released from Israeli prison with more than two dozen other sociopaths

New Israel Fund

JCF is a donor/supporter of The New Israel Fund which supports BDS & wants IDF soldiers prosecuted

Moshe Feiglin

The ‘Peace Industry’ promotes its adherents; weak leaders, both military & political, is the result

The conundrum for US Labor Zionists: Lobbying for Iran deal while Israel’s Left lobby’s against it.

What does the Torah want from our small nation described as “they who struggle with God & with men”?

Mr. Nadler’s support for the deal is a naked political gift to a president who has defied logic in his quest to reinvent international affairs according to his ideological inclinations.

In practical terms, the proclamation surely makes a compelling argument:

BDS activists are not shy about discriminating against Israelis simply because they are Israelis –

A Federal Ct Judge ordered the PA to post JUST $10 million due to interfering letter from State Dept

Osakwe, like many other students at the CAMERA conference, described an extremely hostile campus environment when it comes to the issue of Israel.

Many people view a letter or manuscript by a chassidic rebbe or the Chofetz Chaim as intrinsically holy.

Key Iran Lobby figures had been major donors to both Biden and Kerry when they were in the Senate,

Abbas’ resignation has now sparked speculation about who will fill his place if and ‎when he leaves

More Articles from Larry Domnitch
President  Barack 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: