יום חמישי ד' בתשרי תשפ"ג 29/09/2022
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  • The Mission Continues

    As in the past so it remains today - we were and still are under the selfsame commitment to adhere to the directions of the Gedolei Yisrael, who stand guard against breaches of purity threatening our camp. When we were required to ask – we asked. When we were instructed to depart – we left. The moment we are summoned back to raise the flag, every other consideration is pushed to the side and we answer: We are ready!

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בראי היום

  • Harav Yisrael Friedman zy”a, the Rebbe of Husyatin

    מוטי, ויקיפדיה העברית

    The ancestral chain of Harav Yisrael Friedman, the founder of the Husyatin chassidic court, originates with the holy Baal Shem Tov. The Husyatin chassidus has its roots in Galicia and eventually came to Tel Aviv, during the turbulent years between the two World Wars.

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  • Maccabi'im Gravesite

    In honour of Chanukah, we will discuss a fascinating, ongoing investigation attempting to establish the place of burial of Mattisyahu Kohen Gadol and his family.

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Reflections

the York Massacre

The York Massacre is still remembered today since the excommunication that decreed that no Jew may stay overnight in the city is still in practice.

Motty Meringer 01/04/2009 10:00
York, a city in the county of Yorkshire in England, was home to a large Jewish community in the Middle Ages. Many of the city’s Jews were wealthy men and as such, were money-lenders to their aristocratic christian neighbours.

The setting was the period between the second and third crusades. After the second crusade, the christians suffered a great defeat at the hands of the muslims, who, under the leadership of Salah-Adin, managed to re-conquer Yerushalayim; now, the christians wished to restore their lost pride and honour.

In the year 4949 the King of England, Richard the Lion Hearted, decided to join the third crusade. Eager to commence his campaign, he turned to the nobility, requesting that they furnish him with soldiers; the nobles, however, were unenthusiastic. Providing the King with soldiers would be a considerable expense and they foresaw themselves being heavily indebted afterwards to their Jewish money-lenders.

King Richard the Lion Hearted understood the nobles’ predicament, and therefore shrewdly decided to turn a blind eye to any action they might choose to take against the Jews. The nobles, in turn, quickly moved to take advantage of the King’s prejudice, and episodes of violence broke out all over England against the Jewish population, violence originally aimed at destroying any documentation of outstanding debts owed to the Jewish money-lenders.

The community most gravely affected by the outbreaks of violence was that of York. On erev Shabbos haGadol, the 7th of Nissan 4950, a frenzied mob, led by priests and nobles, attacked Jewish homes intent on violence towards their occupants. Around five hundred Jews of York, led by one of the Baalei Tosefos, a talmid of Rabbeinu Tam, Rabbeinu Yom Tov bar Yitzhchok miYoini, may HaShem avenge his blood, fled for their lives, barricading themselves behind the walls of Clifford’s Tower. There they appealed to the mercy of the King to protect them. The official stationed there who was authorized to act in representation of the King agreed to house them, and then transferred them to the authority of the local official. However, this local official soon capitulated to pressure from the nobles, and after the crazed mob had finished its looting of the Jewish homes of York, they rushed to the tower and surrounded it. The Jews cowering within were given the stark choice; convert, or die. In the meantime, the wild rabble outside made preparations to set fire to the tower and burn its occupants.

Inside, Rabbi Yom Tov bar Yitzchok addressed his community:

“G-d of our fathers! We do not question Your ways. Today, at this time, our duty is to die for our Torah – and behold, death is already at the threshold. My people, I am certain and convinced that not one of you would consider, Heaven forbid, deserting our holy Torah in favour of a vain and fleeting temporal life. Such a life would, in reality, be harder than death itself for our proud people; to live a life as a traitor to our people, perpetually at the mercy of the whims of our evil-minded enemies, subject to the changing moods of the time. Therefore, now that the Creator wishes for us to return our lives to Him, the lives that He Himself granted us, let us return them with our own hands, as so many of our people before us have done in times of persecution.”

After Rabbeinu Yom Tov bar Yitzchok finished his address to the congregated Jews, they indeed did as he had requested. They took swords and killed themselves, rather than letting themselves fall into the hands of the gentile rabble waiting outside. A small number of the besieged Jews managed to escape the tower, but most of them were seized and murdered by the wild throng all around, may HaShem avenge their blood.

A record of the events was written by Rabbeinu Efraim of Buna, which appears in his composition ‘Sefer haZechira’. He writes; “After this, in the year 4951, enemies of our people rose up in the city of Avroch [York] in Angleterre [England] on Shabbos haGadol, and this time of miracles was turned into one of persecution and retribution. They fled to a place of worship, thinking that it would be a refuge for them. HaRav Rabbi Yom Tov arose and himself took sixty souls. Others also killed…. And there were those who were burned to death, for the Unity of our Creator. And the number of those killed was around one hundred and fifty holy souls. Their homes were destroyed. Their gold and silver were looted and also their many seforim – whose value, both for their content and their beauty, is inestimable – these they took for their libraries and to other locations, and then sold them back to the Jews….”

Rabbi Yosef of Kratarsh composed a Kinah (lamentation) in memory of the York massacre, entitled ‘Elokim b’elono zulasecha adonim’. In this kinah he laments the loss of Rabbeinu Yom Tov bar Yitzchok, writing thus;

“They were gathered at the watch, and there with them
 also the evil one to smite them, from all sides
And it was said – let us rise up against them
 But they answered – no, for we have come to a Yom Tov
One who could uproot mountains and transplant them to the plains
 Snares should not pierce such a mouth, such holy books,
His body should rest in peace and not decay
 How great is your tent, oh Yaakov”

The Jews of Ashkenaz were accustomed to recite the poem ‘Amnam kein yetzer sochen bonu’ on the night of Yom Kippur, since it was composed by Rabbeinu Yom Tov bar Yitzchok, may HaShem avenge his blood.

After the massacre in York, the Jews of England placed a cherem(excommunication) on the town and decreed that no Jew was to stay there overnight. This custom is mentioned in several halocha holy books that were printed in England, and indeed, this is the practice until today. Any Jew, be he English or a foreign merchant, who finds himself in York due to the necessities of his business, travels to a nearby town for the night, rather than stay in the accursed city itself.