Saturday, Jul 20, 2024

Kortz un Sharf- Short and Sweet Pesach Vertlach

HEALED BY THE MATZOS In Yerushalayim on erev Pesach, 1936, the situation was volatile. The Jews faced hordes of Arabs threatening to swallow them alive. Nobody knew what the future would bring. But the Zvihller Rebbe, Reb Shlomo, had other things on his mind. It was erev Pesach, time to bake the matzos! Reb Shlomo went out on the street and called, “Who wants to come and bake matzos?” Most people were holed up in their homes and ignored the call.

After several moments of fruitless searching, the Rebbe found a wounded man walking in the street. “Come and help me bake matzos,” said the Rebbe.


“But I am paralyzed on one side,” the man protested.


“Just come with me,” the Rebbe encouraged him. Wonder of wonders! The man’s hand became completely cured, and he baked with the Rebbe.



Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, the renowned rov of Yerushalayim, was known for his abhorrence of money. He was careful not to take a penny that didn’t belong to him. One year, during the night of bedikas chometz, four choshuva guests from abroad, roshei kehillah in Budapest, knocked on his door. The rov welcomed them warmly, and invited them for the Seder. The visitors agreed, but on one condition: They insisted on contributing their share toward the meal.


Rav Yosef Chaim immediately accepted the hefty sum, which surprised the guests, who had heard that he did not accept money. The guests spent the first Seder at Rav Yosef Chaim’s table, drinking in the aura of holiness and purity.


During the second day of Pesach, when it was Chol Hamoed in Eretz Yisroel, Rav Yosef Chaim visited the delegates at their hotel. They were eating the Yom Tov seudah, celebrating a second day of Yom Tov. Rav Yosef greeted them and deposited the entire sum of money under the tablecloth. The guest smiled ruefully, but they were helpless! They couldn’t touch the money and return it.


“Why did the rov accept the money in the first place?” one guest wondered aloud.


“If I would have refused to accept the money, you would have been embarrassed to eat heartily and partake of the refreshments,” said the rov. “Pesach is z’man cheiruseinu, and I wanted you to enjoy the Yom Tov to its fullest.”




Rav Mordechai of Kuzmir, son of Rav Avrohom of Trisk, used to wish his chassidim each year: “The Ribono Shel Olam should help you have a kosher’in Pesach without any shailos!”


One of the chassidim gathered courage and asked the rov, “What is so terrible about a shaila on erev Pesach? One simply goes to the rov and asks the shaila!”


The rov smiled and replied, “That’s not the shaila I meant. I meant a different kind of shaila. You should have parnossah and not have to borrow money from each other in order to enjoy Yom Tov with a happy heart.” (Shaila is from the root of borrowing




One year, in Vizhnitz, the Rebbe’s special erev Pesach matzos were mixed up among the regular matzos, and no one could tell the difference between them. When the Rebbetzin found out about the mix-up, she was upset at the hired help for being careless and allowing the mix-up to occur.


When the Rebbe, the Ahavas Yisroel, heard the commotion, he said, “I will tell you a story that occurred by a great rebbe. His family prepared the Pesach foods in a separate room, away from chometz. The window was mistakenly left open, and a hen jumped inside, on top of the food. The family members yelled at the hired help for being so careless. When the tzaddik heard the commotion, he inquired as to its source.


His assistants explained, “A chometzdig hen wandered among the Pesach food!”


 To which the rebbe replied, “Chazal tell us that one who becomes angry is likened to an idol worshipper, and you are telling me a story with a hen!”




The Rizhiner Rebbe once spoke of the chumros surrounding the yom tov of Pesach, and related the following anecdote:


“The Zeide, the Malach, (Rav Avrohom Hamalach) was makpid on many chumros revolving around Pesach. His father, the holy Mezricher Maggid, asked his son to bake the matzos on erev Pesach, with all the chumros and hidurim.”


The Rizhiner concluded by saying, “All who are like the Zeide can be makpid with the same chumros.”


What did the Malach’s matzos taste like? Rav Moshe Kobriner related that Rav Aharon, who was known as “Doctor Garda,” the physician and talmid of the Mezritcher Maggid, wanted to taste the matzos of the Malach. However, the minute he put the matzos into his mouth, his throat began to burn, and he became dangerously ill. The chassidim rushed to tell the Maggid what had occurred.


“Why did he eat the matzos?” asked the Maggid, greatly distressed. “The Malach invested these matzos with such kedushah that he does not have the strength to digest them!” The Maggid asked the chassidim to give the doctor a syrup to ensure that none of the matzos would remain in his system. The doctor drank the syrup, disgorged the matzos, and returned to his strength.




Reb Yankel, an elderly Dinover chossid, had severe asthma attacks and difficulty breathing. The most prominent professors and doctors examined him and said there was no cure. Yankel traveled to the famous doctors in Vienna, who warned him that since his lungs were clogged with mucus, he must follow a special diet and may not eat any sharp foods.


On his way home from the doctors, Reb Chaim stopped in Sanz to visit the Divrei Chaim. Since Pesach was not too far away, the chossid wanted to know if he was exempt from eating the moror, which would inflame his lungs.


To his surprise, the Divrei Chaim said, “Moror will not harm you. You can eat it without fear.”


Reb Yankel was surprised at these words, and wondered if the Divrei Chaim was perhaps mistaken. After all, the doctors had warned him that he was endangering his health. And so, Yankel decided to eat only a bite of bitter herbs without a blessing, so as not to put his life in jeopardy. On the Seder night, when it was time to eat the moror, Reb Yankel took a little bit and swallowed it gingerly.


As soon as it reached his gullet, Yankel felt an intense burning sensation, as if he was being choked. As he writhed in agony, the chossid rationalized that he was dying anyway, so he might as well fulfill his final mitzvah b’shleimus. He grabbed a k’zayis of moror and swallowed it in one gulp.


Now the true suffering began. Reb Yankel face turned a fiery red, and he began screaming in pain. Suddenly, he began to vomit. He disgorged all the matzah he had eaten, and the accumulation of pus in his lungs came out as well. Exhausted, Reb Yankel fell into a deep sleep, his family members hovering over him. He slept for a long time. When he awoke, his lungs were clear, and his asthmatic symptoms were gone. The sharp fumes of the moror had been the bitter pill, the instrument of his salvation.



When the Skulener Rebbe was in Chernowitz during the bloody war years, there was a great famine before Pesach; almost no food could be found. With great mesiras nefesh, the Rebbe’s chassidim managed to procure several sacks of shmurah wheat, and they secretly baked matzos for the poor of the city. Since there was such a great demand, two weeks before Pesach the Rebbe gave every single family just one matzah, in order that they fulfill the mitzvah of k’zayis matzoh on the first Seder night.


The starving remnants of the community lined up to receive their precious matzah. Many of the matzos were broken, and the shleimos that were left, were infinitely precious. People guarded it with their lives.


Suddenly, a yungerman approached and boldly said, “I have come on shlichus from my father, the Sereter Rebbe. Tatte demands three matzos shleimos.”


The crowd gasped. What chutzpah! Patiently, the Rebbe explained that there was barely enough matzah for everyone, how could he give away three matzos and deprive three other Yidden? But the yungerman would not be dissuaded. He begged, cajoled, and pleaded, until finally the Rebbe relented and gave him three matzos. By the time the matzos had been distributed, there was not a single matzah left for the Rebbe.


On erev Pesach, shortly before the z’man, there was a knock on the Rebbe’s door. A messenger came and brought two complete matzos from the Sereter Rebbe. The messenger explained, “The Sereter Rebbe knew that the Skulener Rebbe would probably distribute all the matzos and leave nothing for himself and his family. So the Sereter took two extra matzos and saved them for the Skulener Rebbe’s Seder!” The Rebbe preferred that others look askance at him, for he was guarding the Skulener’s matzos!




The chassidim of the Vorka Rebbe would stream to the Rebbe’s Seder, en masse, to see with their own eyes the actualization of the possuk, “In every generation one is obligated to visualize himself as if he had left Mitzrayim.”


On the night of bedikas chometz, several hundred Yidden volunteered for the exhausting task of spreading out a layer of pure white sand on the earthen floor of the bais medrash. These chassidim were yotzei the brochah of “Al Biyur Chometz” by hearing their Rebbe’s brochah. Afterwards, they would toil all night, until the wee hours of dawn, to carefully sift the fresh sand so that it should not contain even a speck of chometz.


One of the Rebbe’s close chassidim related that the Vorka Rebbe was so full of hislahavus at the Seder, that at 2:00 am he would askif it was already eleven o’ clock at night!




The poverty in Vorka was so great, that on Pesach there was nothing to eat, except for potatoes. Once, a chossid asked the Rebbe, “Why is there no meat on yom tov?” The Rebbe asked his chassidim to try and obtain meat for that chossid, saying “If he asks for meat, he probably needs it for simchas yom tov.”




In the final years of his life, the Vorka Rebbe was very weak. OnRosh Chodesh Nissan, shortly before his petirah, the Rebbe said, “This month is a month ‘asher yeshuos bo makifos,’ from the loshon of hakofoh. Yidden are given yeshuos in the merit of the mitzvos of Pesach, matzah, moror, and the four kosos. Ribono Shel Olam, please accept these mitzvos as if I had fulfilled them already; and please borrow me the zechus. If I will be zocheh to live until after Pesach, then I will repay the bill.”




Rav Dovid of Lelov was accustomed to leave his home every erev Pesach and personally buy the matzos for Yom Tov. One year, as he walked to the bakery engrossed in his thoughts, he met a Jew sitting and crying bitterly.


“What happened?” asked Rav Dovid, concerned.


“Oy, my horse, my horse!” sighed the man. “My source of income has just died. How will I support my family?”


Rav Dovid did not hesitate. He withdrew the satchel of money for matzos, gave it to the man, and told him to buy a horse. Then he headed for home.


“Where are the matzos?” asked his family members.


Rav Dovid replied, “The possuk says, ‘And you shall guard the matzos.’” Chazal say, “Do not call them matzos, but mitzvos. Just like matzos are not allowed to become sour, so is one not allowed to let mitzvos become sour. If a mitzvah comes into your hand, do it without delay. Don’t wait for another mitzvah to present itself. I took the first mitzvah opportunity, which was giving the poor man money to buy a horse.”




When Rav Yonasan Eybshutz was a young child, he plotted to steal the afikoman during the Seder. Young Yonsason waited until the middle of maggid, and then he secretly reached out and took the afikomen, putting it in a secure hiding place.


When shulchan oruch was over, Yonasan’s father reached into his matzah holder to remove the afikoman, but it was not to be found.


“Who stole the afikoman?” he cried.


Yonasan grinned slyly. “I did, Tatteh. Here it is.” And Yonasan quickly removed the afikoman from its hiding place. “I only agree to return it if Tatte buys me a new silk bekishe.


“A silk bekishe? Hmm…” said his father, deep in thought. “That is a very expensive gift. Can I give you anything else instead? A sefer, perhaps?”


But Yonason stood his ground. As it was nearing chatzos, his father saw he had no choice, and capitulated. Yonason returned the afikoman, and his father handed out pieces of matzah to everyone at the table, except for Yonason.


“Tatte, where is my afikoman?”


His father smiled. “I will only give you your portion if you agree to forego the bekishe,” he replied.


Yonasan was unperturbed. He reached into his pocket and removed a tiny piece of the afikoman.


“Where did that come from?” asked his father.


“I cut off a piece of the matzah, just in case Tatteh would not give me from the afikoman. I wanted to take care of myself first,” Yonason cleverly replied.




At the Seder night, during shefoch chamoschoh, the Kotzker Rebbe motioned to a chossid to open the door for Eliyohu Hanovi. The chossid went to the door with anticipation, but returned with a disappointed look on his face, for he did not merit gilui Eliyohu.


“Fool!” said the Kotzker. “Eliyohu Hanovi does not come through the door; he comes through the head.”




The Chidushei Horimonce related the greatness of Rav Yechezkel Landau, the Noda B’yehuda,who would open the door on the Seder night at shefoch chamoschah, and would then escort Eliyohu Hanovi down the stairs.


The Chidushei Horim added, “It wasn’t that he saw Eliyohu Hanovi. He believed with his heart and soul that Eliyohu comes to every Jewish home, and that powerful emunah is greater than gilui Eliyohu.”




Rav Michel of Zlotchov was a pauper who barely had enough to eat. One year, as he sat down to the Seder, and poverty cried out of every corner, he said, “Ribono Shel Olam, even the poorest of the poor can afford a new suit for yom tov. And I have received nothing? Even my children have nothing to wear.


“Therefore, Hakodosh Boruch Hu, I beg of you, at least give me a new seichel!”




Rav Yehoshua Rokeach of Belz would summon all the baalei tefillah before the Yomim Noraim, to make sure they were acquainted with the peirush hamilim, (meaning of the words.)


The Belzer Rebbe asked one baal tefillah, “What is the meaning of ‘osonu l’chanonech k’oni b’Pesach? We stand before you like a pauper at the doorway?’”


To which the baal tefillah, a simpleton, innocently replied, “What should I tell you, Rebbe? All year, the pauper can manage. But when Pesach approaches, he simply does not know how to make ends meet.” (instead of “doorway,” he thought the word meant the holiday Pesach.)


To which the Rebbe replied, smiling, “If you daven with such a broken heart and temimus on the Yomim Noraim, then you are a worthy baal Tefillah…”




What is the meaning of “L’shonah habo’ah b’Yerushalayim?” Why don’t we say “This year in Yerushalayim?”


The Satmar Rebbe zt”l answered, “The month of Nissan is the first month of the year, since it is the month of geulah. However, when Moshiach will come, it will be an even greater simcha, and the miracle of Yetzias Mitzrayim will take second place. When Moshiach will come, the day of his arrival will be a true yom tov.”


The Divrei Yoel explained, “The Gemora says that when a king is inaugurated on the 29th day of Adar, a day later, on Rosh Chodesh Nissan, it is considered as if he had been king for a year. Since Moshiach’s arrival is even greater than Pesach, that day will be the dawn of a new year. Thus, if Moshiach come tomorrow, it will already be next year!”


May we merit the geulah sheleimah, speedily, in our days.




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