When he was but a boy of twelve, the shadchonim
were already bringing prestigious suggestions of a
match for the brilliant boy. R' Itzikil's father was
interested in R' Yaakov, a distinguished and wealthy
talmid chochom of Broide, and a meeting was
arranged at the home of R' Yaakov.
The young Itzikil and his father walked into the room,
where all the learned and wise of Broide had come to
meet the child prodigy.
Almost immediately there began a lively Torah
discussion. To everyone's amazement, the young guest
sat in silence. "Is this the genius that all the world
is talking about?" they wondered. Perhaps the tiring
journey had taken its toll, they thought, and they
agreed to meet again the next day. The following
morning, the father and son came to R' Yaakov's home a
little earlier than expected and the latter offered
them something to eat.
Strangely, the boy refused to eat. Suddenly, the young
Itzikil began a pilpul in the sugya of
Savlonus, concluding with the chiddush that
he shouldn't eat until a decision is made about the
As to his silence of the previous day, the boy
haltingly explained, "I did not want to embarrass them,
for they were building upon shaky foundations. I
decided I'd not humiliate them, even if it means the
shidduch is cancelled and my name besmirched."
When HaRav Shlomo Kluger zt"l visited in Broide,
he heard the following wondrous story from the elderly
people, who remembered the incident personally:
A meshulach who had a large sum of money once
passed through Broide. On erev Shabbos he handed
the money to his host for safekeeping. That Friday
night, the host passed away. Following the
levaya, on motzei Shabbos, the
meshulach approached the widow and asked her to
return the money he had deposited with her deceased
husband. The woman and her sons knew nothing of the
money and, after a search proved fruitless, the
devastated meshulach turned to R' Itzikil
Hamburger for help.
The Rov ruled that the woman and her sons had to swear
that they did not have the money. The meshulach,
however, knowing that the money was somewhere in the
house — even if they knew not where — did not want to
cause them to sin by swearing falsely. Rather, he
dropped his claim and lost his money.
Brokenhearted, the meshulach left the Beis
Din. He had no money to go home. In fact he was
afraid of returning to his home town for fear that he
would be suspected of keeping the money himself. With
no alternative, he stayed in Broide — where he would
go to Reb Itzikil daily and beseech him to help him
recover his money.
Eventually, R' Itzikil decided he had no choice but to
summon the deceased man to a din Torah. A
shamash was sent to give the summons to the
niftar, citing a date, time and place for the
At the appointed time, the Rov told the awed
meshulach, "Speak now, for the niftar is
After the broken man poured out his tale of woe, R'
Itzikil called upon the dead man to answer. No one
could hear the answer, but after a long silence, the
Rov had clear instructions. Open the Tur Shulchan
Oruch Hilchos Shabbos and there you'll find the
money in its original wallet. A messenger was
immediately dispatched to the home of the widow, where
the money was found in that very place.
The Rebbe, R' Bunim of Pershischa, would relate a tale
of R' Itzikil Hamburger to his chassidim.
At the time that Rabbenu was Rov in Broide, one of the
dayanim of the city was HaRav Yitzchok of
Drohbitch zt"l. Once a controversial court case
was brought before the dayan and the Rov. Two
sons who had just inherited their late father's assets
found a document about a debt that was owed to him.
However, when they asked for payment, the debtor
insisted he had paid up.
The sons called the debtor to a din Torah.
Reb Itzikil paskened according to the
mishna that if the sons undertake a shevuas
hayorshim — that as far as they know the debt was
not paid — they should be paid.
However, the holy R' Yitzchok of Drohbitch claimed that
he beheld the niftar standing in front of him,
begging for the promissory note to be torn up, for the
man had paid and he had forgotten to cancel the debt.
When R' Itzikil refused to believe him, R' Yitzchok
showed him what he had seen. R' Itzikil's stance was
firm, however, as he insisted that "Torah is not in
Heaven" and we cannot pasken according to
supernatural visions. In the end, R' Itzikil
paskened that the man must pay, but R' Yitzchok
did not add his signature to the psak.
The following Succos, torrential rains prevented the
Jews from fulfilling the mitzvah of sitting in the
succah. Suddenly, R' Itzikil received a message
that in the succah of R' Yitzchok of Drohbitch
there was no rain and the dayan was calmly
sitting in his succah. Immediately, Rabbenu went
to the succah of R' Yitzchok to fulfill the
mitzvoh, saying, "Even though I was correct in the
din Torah and he was wrong, for the sake of
kvod Shomayim and the kiyum hamitzvoh I am
prepared to forgo my honor and go to the dayan's
"Such is the darcoh shel Torah," concluded R'
On his way to Hamburg, R' Itzikil passed through
Berlin, where he was asked to give a drosho. On
erev Shabbos, the relevant mar'ei mekomos
were published. Shabbos found R' Itzikil in shul
a little early, so he settled himself in a corner
and began to be ma'avir sedrah — shenayim Mikro
ve'echod Targum. Only one other person was in the
shul — the shamash — who was preparing the
tables and benches. He was astonished to see the Rov
reviewing the parsha instead of perfecting his
Nervously, he warned the Rov that the olom was
preparing fierce arguments in the sugya.
Rabbenu didn't reply, and continued reviewing the
parsha. During his droshoh R' Itzikil laid
down the foundations of the sugya with such
precision that there was nothing for the lomdim
to ask or argue. All was silken smooth and clear.
As soon as the droshoh was over, the
shamash ran over to Rabbeinu, apologizing
profusely. In true humility, Rabbeinu shrugged, "Nu,
Boruch Hashem, the chachmei Berlin did not
refute my words."
Rabbeinu had a custom to fast if forty consecutive days
passed by without him suffering any monetary loss or
damage. This was in deference to the gemora in
Erchin (16) which states that if a person goes
forty days without yissurim, it must be that he
has received his portion of reward already in this
Once, on a Friday night as he was learning, R' Itzikil
accidentally moved the candle by whose light he was
studying. Immediately, he did teshuvoh for the
unintentional sin, but he remained troubled by the
incident for some time. It was only several weeks
later, when a cauldron of boiling water poured over his
leg in the mikveh, that R' Itzikil was at peace
with his repentance, saying, " `A fire for a fire' —
it looks like my sin has been atoned and my
Before his passing at the age of fifty-two, Rabbeinu
told his family that he had fasted four hundred (!)
fasts, so that he should merit to have many descendants
who would be rabbonim and gedolim beTorah. "I
request of my descendants that whoever is fitting and
able, should be a rov or dayan and he'll merit
siyata deShmaya and all his opponents will fall
As is well known, many of his descendants were indeed
the gedolim of their generation.