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10 Teves 5772 - January 5, 2012 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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The Bnei Yisoschor — HaRav R' Zvi Elimelech Shapira ztvk"l of Dinov

In honor of his yahrtzeit, 18 Teves

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 be seen.

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 and blessing.

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 join.

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 shel Torah."

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 gentile.

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 his pride.

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 return.


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