Almost 450 years ago, in the year 1569, a new Sultan came to power in Damascus. Upon assuming his throne, one of his first acts was to order the destruction of all the Jewish synagogues in the city. The Jews had begun to fear for their lives when on the eve of Purim, a miracle occurred. From a vicious Jew-hater, the Sultan became their friend and during his reign the Jews lived in peace.
Rabi Yehuda ben Bezalel Lowe, known as the Maharal of Prague, was born in 1525, in Posen. He married Pearl, the only daughter of the wealthy and prominent Reb Shmuel ben Reb Yaakov, but not without the help an anonymous soldier.
The Return Of The Sage
When Rabi Simeon ben Shetach saw that he had found favor in the eyes of King Yannai (after he appointed him Nasi of the Sanhedrin), he approached the king and said:
“If I have found favor in your eyes will you grant me a wish? Something sorely vexes me that only you can rectify.”
When a person is called a gaon, it is because he is a great scholar, a genius in the Torah. But many of our gaonim, besides their greatness and their scholarly acumen, were also gaonim in their deeds. Their kindness towards their fellow man was unsurpassed.
When Alexander Yannai, king of Judea, was prevented by the sages from becoming the high priest, he issued an order that all the sages of Israel be killed. Many were and the remainder fled. Rabi Shimon ben Shetach, considered the greatest of them all, was saved by his sister, Queen Shlomit Alexandra.
After the Chasmonaim defeated the Greeks their descendants assumed the throne of Eretz Yisrael and ruled over Bnei Yisrael. In the first years of their reign, they followed the path of Hashem and He was good to them.
On the twentieth day of Teves we mark the 808th yahrzeit of Rabeinu Moshe ben Maimon, the Rambam (Maimonides). The Rambam (Maimonides) lived from 1135 to 1204. His scholarly works are world-renowned and it is about him that we say, “From Moses to Moses there never arose so great a person as Moses.”
Ptolemy, King of Egypt, had requested of Elazar Kohen Gadol, that he send sages to his country to translate the Torah. Elazar complied by sending 72 sages. They were wined and dined and then the king put to them 72 questions, to test their wisdom.
King Ptolemy of Egypt had heard that the Jews possessed the Torah, the five books of Moshe, which contained much wisdom and excellent laws. He desired to have this Torah translated into Greek so that he, too, might learn its contents.