Reb Zvi Elimelech, zt"l was born in 5543 (1783) to
HaRav Pesach in Yavernik, Galicia. His mother was a niece of
the Rebbi Reb Elimelech of Lizhensk.
Almost immediately, when he learned to read, the signs of
his sharp, photographic memory and deep understanding could
He would sit and learn night and day with exceptional
diligence until his eyes became weak and his father had to
hide all the seforim from him.
In his later years, the Bnei Yisoschor was found davening
on Yom Kippur all the day's piyutim by heart. Upon
being asked when and how he learnt them, he smiled ruefully,
"When I was little and my father hid from me all the
seforim in the house so as to save my eyesight, I
found one sefer he had overlooked, an old Yom
Kippur Machzor. Since that was all I had, I learned the
whole machzor by heart!"
He changed his surname as a youth after he was conscripted
to the army. R' Zvi Elimelech would later retell how, after
the military examination, he was to join the armed forces
and was sent away in a carriage together with the army
guards. As they were riding over a river the bridge
collapsed under their carriage, sending almost all of its
occupants to a watery grave. Miraculously, Rabbeinu survived
and managed to reach the river bank. When he realized that
all the passengers of his carriage had been registered as
dead by the authorities he changed his name, thus avoiding
his army draft.
R' Zvi Elimelech married the rabbonis, the daughter of
R' Shmuel from the tiny shtetl of Zitsk. He stayed
there with his father-in-law and immediately drew the
talmidei chachomim of the area towards him like a
magnet. They learned Torah and avodas Hashem from him.
He would often travel to his Rebbe, R' Menachem Mendel of
Riminov, the Lubliner Rov, the Kozhnitzer Maggid and the Rov
of Apta, zy"a.
Over the years he served as rov in various towns, starting
with Strizhov, then Tribtitch and then Dinov. From there he
went on in 5585 (1825) to become rov in Munkacz, until he
was forced to flee (see story below).
Alongside his rabbonus, he served as rebbe to
the many chassidim who flocked to his doors to learn
the Torah's wisdom from him and receive the Rebbe's counsel
His seforim are lovingly used in Yisroel, the most
famous being Bnei Yisoschor on the months of the year.
His other seforim are Igra DeKallah, Igra DePiska,
Chiddushei Mahartza al Hashas and Derech
Pikudechoh. Chassidim say concerning the latter
sefer that in it, the Rebbe explains 58 mitzvos
corresponding to the number of years he lived. He also wrote
Ma'ayan Ganim against the maskilim.
In the year 5601 (1841) over the Shabbosim of the year, his
divrei Torah were often concerning the death of
tzadikim, their burial, and the Torah of
tzadikim after their passing. Then, one day in Teves,
a grandson honored the Bnei Yisoschor with being
sandek at his child's bris. His grandfather
replied in a letter that he would be unable to act as
sandek "and concerning the baby's name, you'll know in
good time." To everyone's amazement, on 18 Teves, a day
before the bris, the Bnei Yisoschor passed away. This
grandson then indeed knew which name to give his baby.
The Bnei Yisoschor was buried in Dinov. He merited to raise
a distinguished family from his four sons and three
daughters, the roots of the glorious Dinover dynasty, most
of which perished in the Holocaust, Hy"d.
It is difficult to fully describe the depth and sharpness of
the Bnei Yisoschor's mind as well as his ability to
concentrate on many things at a time. For example, he could
fully concentrate on the woes a poor widow was pouring out
to him while thinking Torah and avodoh simultaneously.
Towards the ends of his days, his doctors diagnosed an
overworked brain and predicted that his intense
concentration in multiple areas had weakened him and would
result in his early demise.
As a young man, he was once with his rebbe, the Rov
Hakodosh of Lublin, when the latter was ill. It happened
that all the talmidim attending to the Rebbe had to go
away together and Rabbeinu was left alone to look after his
Rebbe. Said the Ropshitzer Rov, who dropped by, "This young
man is unreliable. If he suddenly starts thinking of a
Tosafos, he'll get so deeply involved that he'll
completely forget his responsibilities to the Rebbe."
The Bnei Yisoschor would also demand of those who came to
him that they learn Torah. If a woman would come to him, he
would immediately receive her and give a brochoh;
however, when a man came with a request, the Rebbe would
instruct him to first learn under his guidance in the
beis medrash for eight days, or sometimes even up to
thirty days. "After that I can be your `rebbe.'"
He had a regular study session with seventy talmidim
with whom he learned gemora be'iyun.
Likewise, it was known that if one wanted the honor of the
Rebbe's company at a seudas mitzvah, the one and only
way was to incorporate it together with a siyum
masechta. Then and only then would the Rebbe be sure to
Upon taking over the reigns of Munkacz, the Bnei Yisoschor
made many takonos concerning teaching talmidim
and the seder halimud under the title, "Kach Darkoh
Where a point of Torah or Yiddishkeit was in the
balance, R' Zvi Elimelech held a strong stance and fought
boldly and fearlessly.
During his time, the authorities imposed a "candle tax,"
limiting the amount of candles each household could use,
with the specific intention of causing difficulties for the
Jews. The Yidden tried to avoid paying the full tax by
displaying only two candles on Shabbos and lighting the rest
in secret. But compounding their problem were a few
"enlightened" Jews who would search out the "tax evaders"
and report them to the authorities.
The Bnei Yisoschor tried to persuade one such moser to
stop his evil work, but to no avail. One day Rabbeinu gave
him a slap in the beis medrash. The moser
immediately went to his friend, the governor of the area,
and Rabbeinu was summoned to appear before the wicked
In keeping with Al tistakeil bifnei odom rosho, the
Bnei Yisoschor averted his eyes and never looked the
governor in his face for the duration of the interrogation.
Noticing that the Rebbe's eyes were never directed to him,
the goy demanded an explanation. The Rebbe lamely
replied that out of honor for his exalted personage, he
could not look him directly in the face. "I know your kind
of people and your tricks," retorted the gentile. "Can't you
see? I'm a second Haman."
"Nu," shrugged the Rebbe, "the first Haman also failed!"
Seething with anger against the Rebbe, the governor decided
to bide his time and await the opportune moment to avenge
A while later, a non-religious butcher slandered the Bnei
Yisoschor, saying he was causing the Jews to boycott his
meat-shop by pronouncing his fowl and animals treif.
The Rebbe was sentenced to a public whipping in the town
square and was incarcerated in the yard of the court to
await his punishment.
However, when the time came to fetch the Rebbe, the grounds
were empty. A frum butcher, one of the Rebbe's
talmidim, had procured a key and helped the Rebbe
escape. That very same day the Rebbe fled Munkacz, never to