In the city of Tarmigrad, a son was born to the Divrei Chaim of Zanz
in the same house as he himself was born. The date Reb Yechezkel
Shraga was born was 20 Shvat 5576 (1816), and he was named after his
paternal great-grandfather, the father of the Boruch Taam.
In his youth, his Torah learning was truly mitoch hadchak. So
poor were they that he and his brother, R' Dovid (later rov of
Koshnov), only had one coat between them. In the mornings of the cold
Polish winter, the older brother, Yechezkel Shraga, was the one who
wore the coat and at midday he would bring it home for his brother to
wear for the rest of the day. Both of them would learn all day,
His rebbis were R' Asher of Kopshitz, zt"l, R' Hershele of
Riminov, zt"l, and R' Sholom of Belz, zt"l. He also
learned Torah from his holy grandfather, the Yismach Moshe, and his
father-in-law, R' Aryeh Leib Lipshitz, zt"l.
He was steadfast in his adherence to the pure truth, even differing
from the gedolei hador when he thought they weren't
paskening in total accordance with the halochoh.
His father, the Divrei Chaim, wrote about him, "As far as I know, he
would not change his word even if he were given all the spoils of the
The greatness in Torah of the Divrei Yechezkel was immeasurable as the
Brisker Rov zt"l related, that when the Divrei Yechezkel
visited the Beis Halevi, the latter dressed in his Shabbos clothes in
honor of his guest. Upon hearing that the Divrei Yechezkel intended to
go to Kovno to Rav Yitzchok Elchonon, the Beis Halevi tried to
persuade him not to go, for R' Yitzchok Elchonon didn't know of the
greatness of this guest and would not honor him as is fitting, which
would be a slight to kovod haTorah.
A few days before his passing, the power of speech was taken from the
Divrei Yechezkel and whatever he wished to say he signaled with his
hands. On Monday, 6 Teves, 5659 (1899), Rabbeinu signaled for water to
wash his hands. Opening a siddur Ari to Krias Shema al
Hamittoh, he turned to the posuk, "Beyodechoh afkid ruchi,"
and returned his pure soul to its Maker. His kever is in the
cemetery of Shinova, where his headstone has remained intact to this
Only a few of his chiddushim are with us today, put together
from what was heard from him on Shabbos and yomim tovim, in the
sefer Divrei Yechezkel.
The all-encompassing memory of the Shinova Rov was phenomenal.
HaRav Shimon Sofer zt"l, rov of Cracow was sent by his father
when he was a chosson to receive the blessing of the Yismach
Moshe before his chasunah. After receiving a warm brocho
from the Yismach Moshe, the latter's grandson entered the room. As the
two young boys began to "talk in learning," Reb Shimon Sofer repeated
his chiddushei Torah that he had prepared in honor of his
chasunah. Seeing the Divrei Yechezkel was hardly reacting to
his words, the chosson thought that he probably wasn't involved
in this sugya at the moment and therefore hadn't grasped what
he was saying. Or perhaps his chiddushim just weren't important
enough to him?
About thirty years passed, and all the gedolei Yisroel were to
gather together for an urgent meeting to discuss the Jewish situation
in Galicia. Among the main speakers were the Divrei Yechezkel and
HaRav Shimon Sofer. When the two of them met, the Shinover Rov
exclaimed in delight, "I recognize the Cracow Rov from the time when
you paid a visit to my grandfather the Yismach Moshe. And I still
recall the wonderful pilpul that the rov told me!" He then
proceeded to repeat the whole discussion word for word, adding here
and there his own ho'oros.
"I always knew," said R' Shimon Sofer in wonder, "that there were
people with a good brain who remember well, but an individual who
remembers the chiddushim of another young man over a span of
thirty years, when at the time the rov looked as though he was hardly
interested or even listening. That I have never seen!"
As a young man in Ujhel, when he was in the home of his grandfather
the Yismach Moshe, the townspeople often begged the young genius, R'
Yechezkel Shraga, to give a public droshoh. He always refused.
However, once when they pressed him intensely he agreed to speak.
Immediately the news was announced that the Rov's grandson was to
speak and the beis medrash filled to capacity.
Standing on the bimah, the young man began, "When I was a
chosson, I spoke to this same audience in the presence of my
grandfather who enjoyed my words. However since that was Torah
shelo lishmoh, I would like to now do teshuvoh. I have a
pilpul to say, but I shall not speak, since the purpose is not
lishmoh but to entertain all of you. Hopefully my silence now
will atone for saying Torah shelo lishmoh a few years ago."
Although known as a wonder-worker, the Shinover Rov always managed to
find natural conditions for his wonders.
The Minchas Yitzchok writes in his sefer a story that he heard
from his father-in-law, R' Pinchos Tzimtboim, zt"l, rosh
beis din of Grosswardein.
An agunah once came crying to the Shinover Rov, pouring out her
woes. Her husband had disappeared without a trace and she was left
trapped in the bonds of igun.
"Go to Grosswardein," advised the Rebbe, "and take this letter to the
Rosh Beis Din there."
Her hopes renewed and buoyed by her trust in the Rebbe's words, the
woman traveled with a lighter heart to Grosswardein to do as the Rebbe
The Rosh Beis Din stood utterly confused. He reread the letter in his
hand, written in the holy script of the Shinover Rov requesting that
he help this woman in her plight.
"I have no idea who this woman or her husband is — what does the
Rebbe want of me?" he wondered to himself.
Referring the letter to the av beis din, HaRav Moshe Hersh
Fuchs, showed that the latter was just as puzzled.
"Let us wait," said Reb Moshe Hersh. "The tzaddik surely knew
what he was doing."
They waited a long while, having no clue as to how to help the poor
woman, whom they settled meanwhile in the city's hotel.
Some weeks passed and Rabbi Pinchos decided to write to the Shinover,
asking as to their next step. As he was contemplating, a messenger
arrived summoning him to the cheder beis din in the name of the
av beis din. Reb Moshe Hersh informed him excitedly that the
woman had just come to him saying she had traced her husband.
Apparently he had fled to Bucharest but was now on the way to another
city and had booked into the hotel of Grosswardein on his way
The messenger of the Beis Din was dispatched immediately to
bring the man, and a valid divorce was arranged on the spot, saving
the woman from her predicament.
When Rabbi Pinchos arrived at the Shinova court, the young
chassidim gathered around him to hear the story first hand. As
they were discussing the mofes, the Rebbe himself passed by
overhearing the conversation. "That was no mofes," he
dismissed. "I just thought that probably in a big city like
Grosswardein the husband is sure to show up!"