Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

26 Kislev 5772 - December 22, 2011 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










Produced and housed by











The Divrei Yechezkel, Rabbi Yechezkel Shraga Halberstam, ztvk"l

In honor of his yahrtzeit, 6 Teves

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, regardless.

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 world."

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 day.

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 had bidden.

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 through!

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!"


All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.