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The fifth of Teves is possibly the yahrzeit of Shlomo Molcho (1500-1532). Born in Portugal to a family of conversos, he was baptized with the name Diogo Pires, and was the secretary to the Court of High Appeals of Portugal. He was inspired by the arrival of Dovid haReuveni in Portugal in 1523. Dovid haReuveni claimed to be an emissary of a Jewish kingdom in the east that was ruled by his brother. He said that he had been sent to Europe to forge an alliance between the Christian and Ethiopian kingdoms with the aim of driving the Ottomans out of Israel. The truth of haReuveni’s origins and claims have long been debated by historians. Shlomo Molcho wished to join him, but was rejected. He circumcised himself and was forced to flee Portugal. He went to Macedonia where he apparently studied Kabbalah for a few years. He then went to Salonika where he studied under the Maharitat”z for a short time. He began to write Kabbalistic books, as well as predictions as to the arrival of Mashiach. Other Kabbalists were astounded by his quick grasp of the material. Rav Avraham Galiko wrote that, “He knew nothing, and is now publicly discussing Kabbalistic secrets…he wrote a book which testifies to the knowledge that he acquired in an instant, no one has ever seen such a thing.” Another Kabbalist wrote, “Suddenly, there came upon him the spirit of wisdom, namely Kabbalah, and no one knows where it came from. Just that from Heaven they opened his heart very wide.” Rav Yosef Karo, who was then in Salonika, was very inspired by him as was Rav Shlomo Alkabetz. When Shlomo Molcho began to involve himself in practical Kabbalah he met with opposition, and some believed that that is what led to his downfall.

He started making Messianic proclamations that it was time for the end of Edom and joined Dovid HaReuveni in meeting with the Pope and offering to provide him with Jewish soldiers from amongst the conversos to fight against the Ottoman Empire. There were others with Messianic pretensions over the years who also believed that bringing the Pope on board would result in the destruction of the klipos, the forces of evil, and bring Mashiach. The Pope was very impressed with his prophetic mysticism and gave him permission to publish his writings and sent him on to meet with Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor. The only caveat was that he was not permitted to publish anything that opposed Christianity. The Roman Inquisition tried him and sentenced him to death because of his conversion to Judaism, but the Pope intervened and saved his life.


However, when he and Dovid haReuveni came to Regensburg, seat of Charles V, who was at odds with the Pope, they arrived with flags that had the word Maccabee on them, and the two of them were imprisoned. Shlomo Molcho was burned at the stake in Mantua, Italy after refusing an offer to recant Judaism and return to his Catholic roots. There is a debate among historians as to whether or not he saw himself as Mashiach.

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The eighth of Teves is the yahrzeit of Rebbitzen Chaya Mushka (1790-1860), daughter of the Mittler Rebbe of Chabad and wife of the Tzemach Tzedek, her first cousin. They married in 1803 and three years later her grandfather, the Baal HaTanya, asked her to bring him some of her husband’s writings. She did so, and the Baal HaTanya was so impressed with his grandson’s writings that he told those around him that he felt that he had to recite the bracha of she’hechiyanu. Other chassidim heard about this and began to treat the Tzemach Tzedek with greater respect. When the Tzemach Tzedek found out why he was being treated with such respect he wanted to divorce his wife as he felt that she had invaded his privacy by sharing his writings without his agreement. She responded that they were both obligated to honor their mutual grandfather, to which he said that he needed to look into the halacha to see if her behavior was justified.

He told her that since he was upset with her the two of them could not live under the same roof until matters were resolved. After crying for several days, she tried to wait him out, but two months passed with no resolution. She finally told her father about the impasse and her husband’s stubbornness, and he said that they had to get the Baal HaTanya involved. On Shabbos Parashas Miketz the Baal HaTanya told the Tzemach Tzedek that he heard that he was looking into a halachic issue. He pointed out that the Tzemach Tzedek had a vested interest in the outcome of the inquiry which would make it challenging for him to come out with the correct halacha. It would be more likely that if the two of them worked on the issue together that they would come to the correct conclusion. After they clarified the halacha it was clear to the Baal HaTanya that his grandson regretted that he had contemplated divorcing his wife, so he encouraged him to remove any disapproval from his heart reconcile with his wife. After Shabbos she told her grandfather that peace had returned. They had seven sons and two daughters.

She was known for caring for others. At one point she became ill and told her husband that he was responsible for her illness. That G-d was punishing her because he did not allow women whose husbands had disappeared to come into his office to pour out their hearts. He conceded.

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Chayim Lando is the practice manager at Maryland Neuro Rehab & Wellness Center and has been a Jewish educator for over three decades. His favorite activities are studying and teaching Talmud and spending time with his grandchildren.