MATZOS AND A HORSE
Rav Dovid of Lelov was accustomed to leaving his home every Erev Pesach and personally buying 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 set aside for his matzos, gave it to the man, and told him to buy a new horse. Then he headed home.
“Where are the matzos?” asked his family members.
Rav Dovid replied, “The posuk says, ‘And you shall guard the matzos.’ Chazal say, ‘Not 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.”
THE HOLIEST NIGHT…
The Seder night is called “Leil Hiskadesh Chag,” the night when the Yom Tov becomes holy.
“Pesach is the source of the kedusha of all the other Yomim Tovim,” explains the Pri Tzaddik. “Therefore, it is called ‘hiskadesh chag,’ when the Yom Tov becomes holy, and not by its specific name of Pesach.”
MATONOS L’EVYONIM ON PESACH?
The Toras Emes explains, “On Pesach night, the Ribono Shel Olam gives His children lofty emotions and the capacity to reach great spiritual heights, and even simple people can reach these heights.
“Therefore, the halacha is that ‘even a pauper shall not eat until he reclines’; i.e., even a spiritually deprived person should eat with a spirit of ‘cheirus,’ of redemption, because on Pesach all of Klal Yisroel are truly free.”
A BROCHA AFTER THE HAGADDAH…
Why don’t we make a brocha on Sippur Yetzias Mitzrayim before we begin the mitzvah?
The halacha is that a ger makes the brocha on his geirus (conversion) after the tevilah, and not before, since he still has the status of a gentile, and therefore cannot make the brocha, “Asher kidishonu b’mitzvosav… — Who has sanctified us with His mitzvos.”
Since we say, “In every generation, one is obligated to visualize himself as if he left Mitzrayim,” we must view ourselves as if we had just become members of Klal Yisroel. And as we read in the Haggadah, “In the beginning, our ancestors served idols.”
Thus, we act as fresh converts and do not say the brocha of “Go’al Yisroel” before relating the story of Yetzias Mitzrayim, only afterwards, when we become reborn and close to our Father in Heaven.
BRAND NEW “SEICHEL”
Rav Mechel of Zlotchov was a pauper who barely had enough to eat. One year, as he sat down to the Seder, and the poverty cried out of every corner, he said, “Ribono Shel Olam, even the poorest of the poor can afford a new beged 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!”
WHY THE RASHA TOOK SECOND PLACE…
Rav Mechel of Sambor related in the name of his illustrious uncle Rav Tzvi Hirsch of Ziditchov, “Why did the Baal Haggadah put the rasha near the chochom, and not after the other sons? Because if the rasha would be situated near the tam or the she’eino yode’a lishol, he would have a negative influence on them.”
Whipped by the Wagon Driver
The father of Rav Tzvi (Hersh) Elimelech of Dinov, the author of the Bnei Yissoschor, was an ehrliche, impoverished Yid named Reb Pesach. To feed his family, he would work as a melamed all winter in a nearby shtetl, and arrive home on Erev Pesach, with his entire winter’s salary, to rejoin his family for Yom Tov.
Reb Pesach’s employer, whom we’ll call Yankel, was a boorish man, who refused to feed hungry guests that frequently knocked on his door. Whenever a famished passerby came to his home, Yankel cruelly slammed the door in his face, saying “I don’t run a free guesthouse.”
Reb Pesach was distressed at this behavior, and begged Yankel to open his home to the poor. “The mitzvah of hachnosas orchim is so great, and its rewards are everlasting,” said Reb Pesach.
“If you want to fulfill this mitzvah, you can go right ahead,” Yankel replied. “I don’t have money to spare for shnorrers.”
“Do you really mean that?” offered Reb Pesach. “I’ll make a deal with you, Yankel. You will give every guest and passerby a nourishing meal, and deduct it from my account.”
The miserly Yankel agreed, and began feeding the guests who knocked on his door. The long winter passed. Soon it was Erev Pesach, time for Reb Pesach to return home.
When he asked the villager for his wages, Reb Pesach was in for a surprise. “I don’t owe you wages, Yankel growled. “All the money you earned over the winter went to pay for feeding those guests you insisted I take into my home. As a matter of fact, you still owe me, as I have paid more than the total amount of your wages.” Having no choice, Reb Pesach was forced to leave his Shabbosdig clothes with Yankel to pay his outstanding debt.
Reb Pesach was distraught about traveling back with empty hands after a long winter away from home. He knew that his wife and children were eagerly awaiting his paltry earnings, to pay the grocer and the butcher, to buy matzos and wine for the Pesach.
Exhausted and discouraged, Reb Pesach slung his sack containing his few meager belongings over his shoulder, and trekked back to his village. When he arrived, he was embarrassed to go home empty-handed, and instead headed to the bais medrash to learn. On the way, however, he met his young son Hersh Meilech, who began to jump for joy, saying how excited the entire family was that their Tatteh had come home.
“I have to daven Mincha first,” Reb Pesach explained, embracing his little son. “Tell your mother that I will be home in a little while.” And he continued to the bais medrash, his heart filled with pain that his arrival would bring not joy, but sadness. How would they make Pesach, if the money they had waited for all winter was gone?
A passerby observed the exchange, and then noticed several coins lying on the ground, near where Reb Pesach had stood. He surmised that the melamed had mistakenly dropped the coins in his excitement to see his son. Not wanted to disturb him in the middle of Mincha, the man went straight to Reb Pesach’s home and presented the money to his wife. She thanked him profusely, and wasted no time. She went to the marketplace to buy foodstuffs and began cooking a delectable Yom Tov meal.
By now, Mincha was long over, yet Reb Pesach was simply afraid to come home,, and so he remained in the bais medrash. When the hour grew late, his wife sent Hersh Meilich to the bais medrash to fetch his father.
Now Reb Pesach had no choice but to go home. Hersh Meilech danced and skipped all the way home, while Reb Pesach followed slowly, dragging his feet. He was terribly distressed at having to disappoint his wife and children who had been waiting anxiously for his return. He did not even own a single groschen. How would he make Pesach?
Inevitably, the moment of truth arrived. Reb Pesach turned the corner of the street he lived in, and began to walk toward his home. He arrived home, his heart pounding with apprehension, preparing to face his family, empty-handed. But what a surprise! The table was set, a delicious meal had been prepared, and everyone was smiling. “A neighbor brought the money that had fallen out of your pocket,” the rebbetzin explained.
Reb Pesach was confused. Which neighbor? And which money? But try as she might, his rebbetzin could not remember which neighbor, or where he had found the money. Having no choice, Reb Pesach was forced to accept the windfall from Heaven.
Since there still were a few leftover coins, Reb Pesach sent his young son Hersh Meilich to the marketplace, to buy greens for karpas, and apples for charoses. The child ran off happily, a few groschen jingling in his pocket. When he arrived at the market, however, he soon forgot about his errand, as a gentile nobleman had parked his elegant wagon in the marketplace, and a bevy of excited boys had climbed inside.
With natural, childish curiosity, the young child also swung onto the wagon wheels, and soon was sitting inside, with all his friends. The nobleman returned, and, furious that his wagon had become dirty, swung his whip onto Hersh Meilich’s back.
“Why did you hit me?” cried the child, pained. “I am not the only one who climbed into your wagon.”
The nobleman smiled. “I am sorry, my child. If you won’t tell your parents that I hit you, I will give you this to take home.” He reached into his wagon and handed Hersh Meilich a sack, saying, “Run and give this to your parents.”
The child quickly headed home, staggering under the heavy load, and related the entire tale. When Reb Pesach opened the bag, he was astounded to see dozens of gold coins, enough to support the family for many Pesachs to come….
On the first Seder night, Reb Pesach sat at the head of the table like a king, resplendent in his new Yom Tov clothes, since he had pawned his old ones at the villager’s home. Reb Pesach related the Haggadah to his children, and they concluded the rest of the Seder. When they arrived at “Shfoch Chamoscho,” young Hersh Meilech went to open the door. To his shock and surprise, the elegantly attired nobleman was standing there.
“Tatteh!” said Hersh Meilich. “The nobleman who gave me the money bag came back!”
“My child, you don’t have to repeat everything you see,” his father gently chided. “That was Eliyohu Hanovi. And just as you merited to see him this year, may you merit to see him every year.”
A simple villager once brought the Belzer Rebbe, Rav Yissochor Dov, a sack of carrots which were grown in his field to be used for karpas. On the morning of Erev Pesach, the chassidim were shocked to see the rebbe burning the carrots together with the chometz, but no one had the chutzpah to ask the rebbe about it.
A few hours passed. Late in the afternoon, the villager burst into the rebbe’s home, panic-stricken.
“Rebbe! I just found out the carrots are chometz! My housemaid told me that she poured beer mixed with water over the plants to help them grow larger. As soon as I heard, I rushed here to prevent the rebbe from eating chometz.”
The rebbe calmed the distraught chossid and told him that he had burned the carrots already. All the chassidim were impressed with the rebbe’s apparent ruach hakodesh.
With his typical humility, Rav Yissochor Dov explained, “I did not know that the carrots were chometz. I knew only one thing: We may not deviate from our father’s minhagim. Since we never used carrots for karpas, I knew that there must be something wrong with them…”
THE REMA DIDN’T LET HIM MAKE KIDDUSH…
The Maggid of Mezritch had the minhag of distributing matzos and wine to his chassidim for the Pesach Seder. They joined him for the Seder, but brought their own dishes.
One of his talmidim, Rav Shneur Zalman of Liadi, was very poor and owned only one drinking glass. Before Pesach, the Baal Hatanya debated whether to kasher the glass to use for the arba kosos, or to beg for tzedokah to buy a new glass. He decided to use the old glass rather than depend upon others.
The Seder night arrived. The Maggid sat at the head of the table, surrounded by his talmidim. As the Maggid stood up to say kiddush, he announced, “I smell the scent of chometz.” He asked his talmid, Rav Mendel of Vitebsk, to go around the room and detect the source of the scent. Rav Mendel went around the room three times, but could not detect any chometz.
“What can I do?” said the Maggid. “The Rema is standing before me, upset, and does not let me make kiddush.”
Rav Shneur Zalman spoke up. “Now I understand the problem. I kashered my drinking glass, which is against the psak of the Rema, who rules that one must buy a new glass. I did not want to depend upon tzedokah.”
The Maggid kissed his disciple and said, “You must have a great merit, that the Rema came down on your behalf.” During that Seder, the Baal Hatanya drank wine from the Maggid’s silver goblet.
Reb Mordechai, an elderly chossid of Rav Yehoshua of Belz, had the merit of preparing the “hesev bett,” the special reclining couch, for the rebbe. After the rebbe’s passing, he continued doing the same for the rebbe’s son, Rav Yissochor Dov. When Reb Mordechai passed away, Rav Yissochor Dov called upon the chossid’s son, Elozor, and asked him to take over the task his father had done.
Before the first Seder night, Reb Elozor exerted himself to fulfill all his father’s minhagim to the best of his ability. In the morning, a shaliach came to summon him to the rebbe.
Rav Yissochor Dov asked, “I don’t know what happened. When your father prepared the bed, it was done to my liking. But this time, I did not enjoy it. Don’t you know how to prepare the bed?”
Reb Eliezer truthfully replied that he tried to follow his father’s instructions to the best of his ability.
The Belzer Rav said to his chossid, “I will teach you what to do. Rav Hershele Rimanover would prepare the hesev bed for his rebbe, Rav Mendel of Rimanov, who insisted that only Rav Hirsh prepare the bed, because he shed copious tears during the process.”
Reb Elozor understood. That night, when he prepared the hesev bed, it was accompanied by tears and tefillos. In the morning, the Belzer Rebbe told his chossid that the hesev bed had been prepared to his liking.
HE CAME WELL PREPARED…
When Rav Yonason Eibeschutz was a young child, he plotted to steal the afikoman during the Seder. Young Yonason waited until the middle of Maggid, and then secretly reached out and snatched the afikomen, putting it in a secure hiding place.
When Shulchan Orach was over, Yonason’s father reached into his matzoh holder to remove the afikomen. But there was nothing there.
“Who stole the afikomen?” he cried.
Yonasan grinned slyly. “I did, Tatteh. Here it is.” And Yonasan quickly removed the afikomen from its hiding place. “I only agree to return it if Tatteh buys me a new silk bekishe.”
“A silk bekishe? Hmm…” said his father. “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 afikomen, and his father handed out pieces of matzoh to everyone at the table—except for Yonason.
“Tatteh, where is my afikomen?”
His father smiled. “I will only give you your portion if you agree to forego the bekishe,” he replied.
Yonason was unperturbed. He reached into his pocket and removed a tiny piece of the afikomen.
“Where did that come from?” asked his father.
“I cut off a piece of the matzoh, just in case Tatteh would not give me from the afikomen. I wanted to take care of myself first…”
At the Seder, by Shfoch Chamoscho, 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, saddened that he did not merit gilui Eliyohu.
“Fool!” said the Kotzker. “Eliyohu does not come through the door; he comes through the brain.”
NEXT YEAR IN YERUSHALAYIM…
What is the meaning of “Leshonoh haboh beYerushalayim?” Why don’t we say, “This year in Yerushalayim?”
Said the Satmar Rav, “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 neis of Yetzias Mitzrayim will take second place. When Moshiach will come, the day of his arrival will be a true Yom Tov.
“The Gemara says that when a king becomes a melech 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 will come tomorrow, it will already be next year!”
May we merit the geulah sheleimah, speedily, in our days.
A BITTER PILL TO SWALLOW…
Reb Chaim had severe asthma attacks and difficulty breathing. The most prominent professors and doctors examined him and said there was no cure. Reb Chaim traveled to 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 or bitter 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 Chaim 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. So he decided to eat only a bite of bitter herbs without a brocha, so as not to put his life in jeopardy. At the Seder, when it was time to eat the moror, Reb Chaim took a little bit of moror and swallowed it gingerly.
As soon as it reached his gullet, he felt an intense burning sensation, as if he was being choked. As he writhed in agony, the chossid rationalized that since he was dying anyway, he might as well fulfill his final mitzvah beshleimus. He grabbed a kezayis of moror and swallowed it in one gulp.
Now the true suffering began. Reb Chaim’s face turned a fiery red, and he began screaming in pain. Suddenly, he began to vomit. He disgorged all the matzoh he had eaten, and the mucus in his lungs came out as well. Exhausted, Reb Chaim fell into a deep sleep, his family members hovering over him. When he finally 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.
NOTHING LEFT OVER…
A chossid once asked Rav Meir of Premishlan, “We put moror on the Seder plate as a remembrance of how the Egyptians embittered our lives. The charoses is an allusion to the backbreaking work, and matzoh is a remembrance of the ‘lechom oni.’ However, why don’t we have a remembrance of the great wealth that Klal Yisroel took out of golus?”
To which Rav Meir replied, “The moror is a remembrance of the avodas perech, the backbreaking labor — which we still have today. However, of the rechush godol we received in Mitzrayim, there is nothing left over…”
GOLD, SILVER, AND GLASS
The Kaf Hachaim mentions that one should use goblets from silver on Pesach, because silver alludes to chesed.
The Neziros Shimshon mentions that one should not drink in a golden goblet, but only in a vessel of glass. In the siddur of Rav Shalom Sharabi, it is also mentioned that the goblets should be either silver, or glass.
The Divrei Chaim of Sanz used only glass goblets for the Seder, and the Komarna Rebbe used crystal dishes to adorn his Seder table.
The Munkatcher Rebbe used a silver becher for the first of the arba kosos, and used a special glass vessel, which he had inherited from the Lantzuter Rav, for the other three kosos.
PROTECTING THE DIGNITY OF THE GANEV!
One Pesach night, when the Seder table was set with the finest dishes, a thief entered the home of the Bais Halevi. He tiptoed into the dining room, gathered the goblets into a sack and ran out the door. In his hurry to get away, the thief nearly bumped into the Bais Halevi coming home from shul. Reb Yoshe Ber immediately realized what had transpired…
“Nu, you are probably coming to pawn these items instead of a loan,” said the Bais Halevi tactfully. “If so, you can leave them here, and on Chol Hamoed you will G-d willing receive the loan.”
The confused thief dropped his bundle and ran.
A Pretty Penny for the Guest
Reb Hirshele was a humble, pious man who lived in the small village of Gidzel, near Pietrokov. Gidzel was a remote, peaceful hamlet, nestled on the banks of a small stream. In this peaceful milieu, Reb Hirshele spent his days learning Torah surrounded by nature, undisturbed. His cottage near the riverbank was exactly the same as all the others — small, rickety, and cramped, with a roof of sod. His appearance and behavior, as well, did not look any different from that of the other ten Jews who lived in the village.
Yet despite his nondescript appearance and lifestyle, Reb Hirshele was different. The leaders of that generation attested that he was one of the tzaddikim nistarim, the 36 hidden tzaddikim without whom the world could not exist.
From time to time, Reb Hirshele would travel to the courts of chassidish rebbes, to soak in their wellsprings of Torah and yiras shomayim, yet he would always act like a humble collector, sitting in a corner, never drawing attention to himself.
However, there was one aspect of his behavior that he did not try to hide: Reb Hirshele was known in the entire vicinity of Pietrokov as a baal machnis orach, whose home was always open to wayfarers.
For Reb Hirshele, the high point of the year was the Pesach Seder, when he would host at least a dozen guests in his simple cottage. Each year, as he said “Ho Lachmo Anyo,” Reb Hirshele would thank the One Above for enabling him to open his home to guests.
One Erev Pesach, Gidzel was recovering from a harsh snowstorm. Thus, to Reb Hirshele’s great distress, there was not a guest to be found. The sun was already setting, it was late afternoon, and still no guests. Reb Hirshele’s Seder table was set, his family was ready, but he was too downcast to greet the Yom Tov properly. How would he celebrate the Seder and say “all who are hungry, come to eat,” without any guests?
Shortly before nightfall, Reb Hirshele set out towards the main road that led into Gidzel, hoping he would still find someone to invite to his Seder. Unbidden, a tefillah sprang to his lips. “Ribono Shel Olam, will I truly have to suffer without guests for the Seder this year? Will it be my lot to have a Seder without a single wayfarer to invite?” Tears coursed down his cheeks as he begged his Heavenly Father to send him a guest—any guest—to enhance his Seder table.
Suddenly, Reb Hirshele noticed a speck of black on the horizon. As he watched, the black speck grew nearer—only it wasn’t a black speck after all. To his excitement, an exhausted Yid with a white beard appeared, carrying a heavy sack on his back.
Reb Hirshele ran toward the man, barely concealing his joy. “Reb Yid!” he exclaimed. “You will celebrate Pesach in my house, I will personally see to your needs. You will lack nothing!”
The Jew remained silent, scrutinizing Reb Hirshele up and down before saying, “I am not completely crazy. I refuse to spend Pesach with a group of country bumpkins. I must travel to the big city, to Plovna, for Pesach.”
“Please, stay here with me,” Reb Hirshele begged, his entire body contorted with anguish and distress.
“I can’t stay here,” said the man abruptly. “You are wasting my time! I have to go!”’
Reb Hirshele began to sob, begging the One Above to allow the guest to have a change of heart. Suddenly, the stranger casually said, “If you give me 1,000 rubles, perhaps we can discuss the matter.”
Reb Hirshele froze. One thousand rubles was a sum way beyond his means. In fact, even if he would sell the contents of his entire cottage — and the cottage itself! — he would barely come up with the sum. Yet for the tzaddik nistar, there was no question. His yearning for guests overrode his financial situation.
“Okay, come with me,” said Reb Hirshele, after a brief pause. “I will give you the money as soon as we get home.” The stranger agreed, mumbling and grumbling all the way.
As soon as they arrived at Reb Hirshele’s humble cottage, he ushered the guest to his room and told him to get ready for Yom Tov. Meanwhile, Reb Hirshele took his antique silver becher and rushed to the pawnshop, borrowing the grand sum of one thousand rubles. He came home and handed it to the astounded guest, who immediately pocketed the money.
At the Seder, the honored guest sat at Reb Hirshele’s right side. The table was set simply, but clean and presentable, fit for a king. Although persuading the guest to stay at his home had cost Reb Hirshele a considerable sum, he felt he had won the jackpot.
The guest did not disappoint him. As the night wore on, he proved himself to be a brilliant talmid chochom. His divrei Torah and thoughts on redemption were eagerly absorbed by Reb Hirshele’s family. That night, after the Seder, Reb Hirshele personally prepared the room for his guest, and then sat down to say Shir Hashirim.
In the morning, Reb Hirshele rushed to get ready for davening Shacharis in the bais medrash. On his way out the door, he checked on his illustrious guest, and found, to his shock, that the guest had disappeared! Moreover, the 1,000 rubles he had given the guest were lying on his bed!
Immediately after Pesach, Reb Hirshele headed to his rebbe, Rav Bunim of P’shischa. Rav Bunim asked, “Hirshele, did you have a guest for the Seder this year?”
“Yes,” said Reb Hirshele, in his humble manner. “Boruch Hashem, I merited a guest for the first Seder night. However, early the next morning, he disappeared.”
“Hirshele, you merited a very distinguished guest,” said the rebbe, patting his shoulder. “Know that your guest was none other than Eliyohu Hanovi!”