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12 Tammuz 5773 - June 20, 2013 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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"Reb Itzikil Hamburger" — HaRav Yitzchok Halevi Horowitz, zt"l

In honor of his yahrtzeit, 2 Tammuz (5525)

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 proposed match.

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 din Torah.

At the appointed time, the Rov told the awed meshulach, "Speak now, for the niftar is here."

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 succah."

"Such is the darcoh shel Torah," concluded R' Bunim.


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 droshoh.

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 world.

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 teshuvoh accepted."

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 before him."

As is well known, many of his descendants were indeed the gedolim of their generation.


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