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12th Tamuz - R' Elchonon Wasserman

Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman was recognised by everyone as one of the most brilliant Talmudic scholars of his time.

Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman (1875-1941) was a prominent Rabbi and Rosh Yeshiva in pre-World War II Europe. He was one of the Chofetz Chaim's closest disciples and a Torah scholar of note.

His seforim on Talmud are learn in all the major Yeshivot today - 'Kovetz Maamarim' and 'Kovetz He'aros' are the most famous. You can read some exerpts of an article of his on faith here: Reb Elchonon

He was in the USA at the outbreak of WWII (and the holocaust). Although he had many offers to stay in the USA which would have been safer, he knew that his place was with his Yeshiva. A captain always stays with his ship. (In this sense he was the 'frum' version of Janos Korcak). He was arested by the Nazisin 1941 with 20 of his students.

(Quote from Wikipedia)

25th Sivan - Three Martyrs

Three of the 'Ten Martyrs' were killed on this date: Rabbi Chanina S'gan HaCohanim, Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel and Rabbi Yishmael ben Elisha. (this is brought down in the Tur and Shulchan Aruch OC 580). Their deaths are remembered in the kinah of Tisha B'Av 'Eileh Ezkera'.

Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel was the grandson of Hillel. He was the nasi durign the end of the Second Temple period and after the destruction, at the time when Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai was the Rosh Yeshiva. His grandson was Rebbe Yehuda HaNasi.

Rabbi Yishmael, Cohen Gadol went to learn Torah from Rabbi Nechuniah ben Hakanah at the age of 13. He was able to speak to angels, and when the Sages heard the decree that ten of their number were to be killed as atonement for the sin of Yosef's brothers it was R' Yishmael who ascended to Heaven to hear whether this was decreed from on High.

18th Sivan - R' Yerucham Levovitz

Today is the Yarzheit of the 'mashgiach' of Mir. R' Yerucham is possibly the most famous mashgiach.
I remember that R' Wolbe once said that for the first few months that he was at Mir he thought the Yeshiva had a different mashgiach specially for Shabbos. It was only after some time that he realised that R' Yerucham looked and acted so different on Shabbos (because of the Mitzvah to dress and behave differently, and because of the extra kedusha) that he looked like a different person.

This is Wikipedia's entry on the great man

Yeruchom Levovitz
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Rabbi Yeruchom Levovitz (ca. 1874-1936), or "The Mashgiach" as he was fondly referred to by his hundreds of students, was a famous mashgiach ruchani and Baal Mussar (ethicist) at the Mir yeshiva.

16th Sivan - R; Gedaliah Nadel

This Shabbat was the 3rd Yarzheit of one of the most exciting and radical Rabbis that you have never heard of. Rabbi Gedaliah Nadel was probably the closest student of the Chazon Ish, and was asked by the Chazon Ish to become the Rav of the neighbourhood. You have never heard of him because the B'nei Brak crowd decided that his thinking was heretical, and banned the only book of his material, before it was even published. The rumours have it that he was slightly off his rocker, but in fact it is more likely that this is historical revisionism (in his own lifetime) than actual fact.
This is what the Jerusalem Post has to say about him:

It is uncommon for the People of the Book to ban books - but that is precisely what three prominent rabbis of Bnei Brak have done. The ban was especially surprising considering who was responsible for the ideas in the banned book.

26th Iyar - the Ramchal

The Ramchal - Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato passed away on this day 240 years ago (He was born 300 years ago). Today his writings are amongst the most influential for mussar (Mesilat Yesharim), hashkafa (Derech Hashem and Da'at Tevunot) and kabbalah (Kelach Pitchei Chachma and Adir Bamarom). Though he died before the age of 40 he left behind a huge number of works, which also include poetry and drama. He was the Jewish equivalent of a Rennaisance man. Despite his brilliance (or because of it) he spent most of his life being attacked as a suspected Sabbatean. He also felt that the Mashiach was coming at any moment, and depending on which letter you read either thought he was the Mashiach, or one of his students was.
His clear thinking and analysis, his ability to present complex issues in a straight forward and simple manner, and his breadth of knoweldge, make the Ramchal one of the most important Jewish thinkers of the past few hundred years.

20th Iyar - Doros HaRishonim

Today is the yarzheit of Rabbi Yitzchak Eizik Rabinowitz, most famous as the author of Doros Harishonim. He was also the founder of Agudas Yisroel.
Doros Harishonim is a history of the Jewish people which was written as a response to the historians (e.g. Graetz) who claimed that the Torah was not from Sinai, the Mishna was not from Rabbi Yehuda Hanassi, the Talmud was much later etc. The Doros Harishonim countered by making all the dates much earlier. He claimed that the basis of the Mishna is from the time of Hilllel and Shammai, and that the proto-Talmud was written by Rava and Abaye etc.He also claims that not only rules alone were given at Sinai but every possible range of opinion and every Halachic possibility were disclosed to Moses.

Maharam m'Rotenburg - 19th Iyar

Today is the Yarzheit of one of the most influential Ashkenazi poskim. R' Meir m'Rotenburg, the Maharam, was the teacher of both the Rosh and the Mordechai, who themselves are pretty much the basis of Ashkenazi Halacha. He is also famous for spending the last years of his life being held ransom and eventually dying in captivity. Even though money was raised to ransom him he refused to allow the people to give the money, because he was afraid that kidnapping Jews would become a regular occurrence if the authorities realised that it was lucrative. (Is there a message for today's leaders in that then?).

Here is the wikipedia entry on the Maharam

18th Iyar - Yarzheit of the Rama

While everyone else is out burning down the town with their bonfires to celebrate the yarzheit of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai (who probably didn't die on Lag B'Omer anyway), I wanted to take the opportunity to remember someone who actually did die on this day, and was almost as influential (certainly for Ashkenazi Jews) as the RaSHBI.
Lag B'Omer is the day that the Rema passed away, in Cracow in 1572. He was 52 years old. Rema (or Rama) is an acronym for his real name 'Rabbi Moshe Isserles'.
He is most famous for his commentary on the Shulchan Aruch (known as the Mapa - the tablecloth) which not only included Ashkenazi customs within R' Yosef Caro's code of law, but more importantly ensured that there would be only one standard text of Halacha for all of Jewry, rather than separate books for Ashkenazim and Sefardim. According to tradition he had written a work similar to the Shulchan Aruch, but destroyed it upon finding out that R' Caro had already written his book.

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