Hide And Seek
An anti-Semitic priest, who delighted in preaching about the blood libel, once asked the gaon Rav Meshulam Ashkenazi before Pesach, “Why do you hide ten pieces of bread and then go to look for them?”
To which the rov retorted, “Why do you throw a bundle (a dead body) under a Jew’s porch and then go search for it?”
Our Special Fortune
The Belzer Rebbe, Rav Yissochor Dov, would ask, “Why do we enumerate Echod Mi Yodeia after the seder night? Shouldn’t we say it every single night of the year?”
The rebbe would reply, “A wealthy man never reveals the secret of his fortune until he drinks wine, and the secrets emerge. The same applies to us: Only after drinking the four cups do we enumerate our good fortune: One is Hashem, two are the luchos, three are the avos…”
Healed By The Matzos
In Yerushalayim on erev Pesach 1948, the situation was volatile. The British had left the Jews to face hordes of Arabs threatening to swallow them alive. Nobody knew what the future would bring. But the Zvihler 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.
All Who Are Hungry
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 choshuve 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 hamoeid 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 Chaim 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 zman cheiruseinu. I wanted you to enjoy yom tov to its fullest.”
A Kosherin Pesach
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 kosherin Pesach without any shailos!”
One of the chassidim gathered courage and asked the rebbe, “What is so terrible about a shailah on erev Pesach? One simply goes to the rov and asks the shailah!”
The rov smiled and replied, “That’s not the shailah I meant. I meant a different kind of shailah. You should have parnossah and not have to borrow money from each other in order to enjoy yom tov with a happy heart.”
A Story With A Hen
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.
When 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!’
“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 Rebbe Healed The Doctor
The Rizhiner Rebbe once spoke of the chumros surrounding 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.”
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.
Feeling the Geula
The chassidim of the Vorka Rebbe would stream to the rebbe’s seder to see with their own eyes the actualization of the posuk, “In every generation one is obligated to visualize himself as if he had left Mitzrayim.”
One of the rebbe’s close chassidim related that the Vorka Rebbe was so full of hislahavus at the seder that he would ask, at 2:00 am., if it was already eleven o’ clock at night!
Repaying The Bill
In the final years of his life, the Vorka Rebbe was very weak. On Rosh Chodesh Nissan, shortly before his petirah, the rebbe said, “This month is a month ‘asher yeshuos bo makifos,’ from the loshon of hakofoh, credits. 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 lend me the zechus. If I will be zocheh to live until after Pesach, then I will repay the bill.”
Matzos And A Horse
Rav Dovid of Lelov was accustomed to leave his home every erev Pesach and personally buy his matzos for yom tov. One year, as he walked to the bakery, 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 posuk 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.’ I took the first mitzvah opportunity, which was giving the poor man money to buy a horse.”
The Soldiers Deserve The Best
The rov of Bialystok would take care of the Jewish soldiers, ensuring that they had food to eat and a place to stay every Shabbos and yom tov.
One year, before Pesach, the rosh hakohol came to complain that the price of food went up, and it was impossible to supply the poor of their city with kosher lepesach food.
“If this situation is so difficult,” said the rov, “perhaps this year we can call the dayonim to give a heter and permit the eating of kitniyos.”
The rosh hakohol was greatly relieved. “What a wonderful idea,” he said. “I was very worried about the Jewish soldiers, and what they would eat for Pesach. Now that I can give them kitniyos, which are cheaper, my worries are over.”
“Chas vesholom!” said the rov. “I did not mean that the soldiers should receive that heter. You, I, and all the other ba’alebatim will eat kitniyos. For the soldiers, only regular kosher lepesach food will do, just like every year.”
Greater Than Gilui Eliyohu
The Chidushei Horim once related the greatness of Rav Yechezkel Landau, the Noda Beyehudah, who would open the door on the seder night at Shefoch Chamoschah, and 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…”
Like A Pauper On Pesach
Rav Yehoshua Belzer would summon all the ba’alei tefillah before the Yomim Noroim to make sure they were acquainted with the peirush hamilim.
The Belzer Rebbe asked one ba’al tefillah, “What is the meaning of ‘osonu lechanonech ke’oni bepesach (We stand before you like a pauper at the doorway)?’”
The ba’al tefillah, a simpleton, innocently replied, “What should I tell the rebbe? All year, the pauper can manage. But when Pesach approaches, he simply does not know how to make ends meet.”
The rebbe replied, smiling, “If you daven with such a broken heart and temimus on the Yomim Noroim, then you are a worthy ba’al tefillah.”
Chambers Of The Heart
The Kozhnitzer Maggid would say, “The difference between chometz and matzah is not more than a tiny dot, which is missing by the small piece of the ‘hei’ of matzah.
“Likewise, the difference between tov and ra, good and evil, is not more than a tiny dot. We need great rachmei Shomayim to ensure that the difference should not be erased. Therefore, we are told to search for chometz in all hidden corners and chambers of the heart. If our thoughts when doing a mitzvah are negative, the matzah will turn into chometz.
“However,” the Maggid continued, “we learn that in a place where chometz does not enter, we do not need to inspect. This means that we should not be busy inspecting our friend’s heart. We must check our own hearts and innermost thoughts for chometz.”
So The Small Children Shouldn’t Fall Asleep
One year, when the Shpole Zeide asked his son to enumerate the steps of the seder, the little boy said “Kadeish: on the night of Pesach when the father comes home from shul he puts on his white kittel and makes kiddush immediately.” The little boy stopped at that juncture.
“Continue, please,” the rebbe asked his son.
“My melamed didn’t say anything else,” the little boy complained.
The Zeide taught him the rest of the verse, “The father makes kiddush immediately, so that the little children shouldn’t fall asleep, and can ask the Mah nishtanah.”
The following day, when the melamed came to the rebbe’s tish, the Shpole Zeide asked why he didn’t teach the boys the entire Kadeish. The melamed said, “I didn’t want to make the children memorize such a long verse. Besides, it is not completely correct; even families with no young children make kiddush right away. It makes no difference whether the children are tired or not.”
The Zeide was very distressed at hearing these words. “How can you say something like that? Just because you don’t understand the meaning doesn’t mean there is no meaning at all. I will explain it to you: Pesach at night, when the Tatteh, which means our Father, comes home from shul, Hashem comes to visit our shuls and sees how we abandon our everyday burdens and rejoice with His holy day. He immediately makes kiddush, renewing his sacred bond with the Jewish nation. This is done so that the ‘small children should not fall asleep,’ we shouldn’t fall into apathy in the depths of our pain, and we should ask, ‘mah nishtanah,’ why is this golus longer than all the other times in golus?”
When the Shpole Zeide said these words, he burst into tears, and all those assembled cried with him. Then he stood up and said with enthusiasm, “Now we have to show our Father that we can dance and celebrate in the midst of our darkness and golus.”
Three Times Of Heavenly Mercy
Rav Eliezer of Dzhikov said, “There are three times of Heavenly mercy, when we can daven for anything. These are: every motzoei Shabbos during melavah malkah, on Acharon Shel Pesach, and on Shemini Atzeres.”
This is alluded to in the following parable: A king came to visit one of the cities in his domain. During his visit, there was constant music and celebration. No one wanted to bother the king with their private requests. However, on the last day, when the king was about to leave, the townspeople came to plead for whatever they needed. After being treated with great honor during his visit, the king graciously agreed to their requests.
The same applies to these three times: During Shabbos and the yomim tovim, it is not proper to bother the King with personal requests. But at the end of these holy days, when the King is about to leave, we can ask for whatever we need. May we merit that all our requests be fulfilled.