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Tuesday
Mar312015

INTERNALIZING THE FOOD OF FAITH

A compilation of stories and short sayings about Pesach from our Rebbeim and the great Chassidim over the generations.

LEANING ON PILLOWS

The Rebbe Rayatz related:

In 5647/1887, R’ Shneur Slonim of Yaffo was in Lubavitch and he spoke to me in Lashon Ha’kodesh. When they reached Yachats at the seder he said to me: The afikoman needs to be placed between the pillows.

Then the Rebbe, my father, said, that karim (pillows) is two times kar (220) which adds up to 440. Matza is alef, so together that’s emes (alef plus 440).

(Seifer HaSichos 5698 p. 260)

A QUESTION ABOUT DRAWING KRIAS YAM SUF

The Rebbe Rayatz related:

In 5647/1887, we were in Yalta [he and his parents on a trip for his father’s health]. We had a siddur and a Tz’ena U’r’ena, a Chumash with Yiddish translation which had pictures. I saw a picture of Krias Yam Suf with big adults and little children who were holding the hands [or the hems] of the adults.

I asked my father: After such a miracle, why were the little ones frightened?

He said: It’s a lesson that a katan needs to hold on to a gadol and needs to want to be big; otherwise, he will remain a katan and to remain a katan has no purpose.

My father related: When they were little, my father and his brother Raza were at a stage where they did not truly recognize the greatness of their grandfather [the Rebbe the Tzemach Tzedek], and their father [the Rebbe Maharash] took them and brought them to the Tzemach Tzedek. The Tzemach Tzedek was sitting on the sofa with his head inclined due to his weakness. When they entered he said: Children, today all the heavens are opened and Hashem Himself is seen and revealed.” Then it thundered and there was lightening.

My father said he remembered the impression it made on him, when he thought that the heavens had opened (in Lubavitch, thunder and lightning are not typical Pesach time).

My father said that the impression would never be forgotten and it remained engraved upon his essence. When you want to see, you see.

(Seifer HaSichos 5798 p. 273)

THE REBBE ENVISIONED THAT IT WOULD BE PEACEFUL

At the beginning of Adar 1920, a group of Anash and T’mimim gathered, including R’ Leib Karasik, at the home of the Rebbe Rashab on Brodsky Street in Rostov, in order to collect the shmura wheat from the yard. The wheat was in the yard to dry out. As they collected it, the Denikin [leader of the White forces fighting the Bolsheviks] soldiers began shelling Rostov. Some bombs fell on the street next to the street where the Rebbe lived. Everyone was terrified.

The T’mimim, who had begun gathering the wheat, wondered whether to continue their work through the barrage or to flee, each one to his lodgings and to continue only when the bombing stopped. They decided to ask the Rebbe Rashab.

Three of those involved in the work were chosen. The Rebbe heard them describe the situation and offered that they eat lunch but one of the explained that there was much work left to do. The Rebbe said, “Maybe those who live far away should go home using side streets.” R’ Isaac was embarrassed to respond to what the Rebbe said and just mumbled, “Today there is a lot we can do.”

There was silence in the room. They all knew it was very dangerous to go out now to collect the wheat. On the other hand, time was short and there was much work to be done. The three waited respectfully for a few minutes and then the Rebbe said, “There is no danger. You can collect until evening.”

When they heard this decisive pronouncement from the Rebbe, the three went out and told all those involved in the work that the Rebbe said they could collect the wheat. The work was done in peace and a few days later the Denikin soldiers were expelled from the area.

A “GADOL” WHO NEEDS TO BE MEASURED

Once, at the Tzemach Tzedek’s seder, when they did Yachats, one of the people broke the middle matza and then examined which piece was larger so as to put it away for the afikoman.

Seeing this, the Tzemach Tzedek said, “A gadol which needs to be measured – a katan is greater than he.”

(Likkutei Sippurim – Perlov)

TO SEE THE REBBE

The Rebbe Rayatz related:

When they watched my father as he drank the four cups and ate a k’zayis of matza and maror, they were able to learn many paths in the service of G-d.

His holy visage which expressed great satisfaction, along with the tear drops which flowed freely as he ate the maror, bespoke a loftiness above the natural human order. Reflected in them were all the beauty and exaltation of “transcendence of form over matter.”

(Likkutei Dibburim vol. 1)

THE REBBE WAS UNIMPRESSED BY THE HIDDURIM

R’ Meir Harlig related:

The Rebbe would take a long time choosing the three matzos for the ke’ara and twice I saw the Rebbe take one, look at it, put it down, open another package, and so on.

At one of the Pesach meals, R’ Simpson told the Rebbe that the bachurim were mehader on Pesach. The Rebbe asked him: In what way?

R’ Simpson said: They don’t drink milk on Pesach.

The Rebbe said: The Rebbe, my father-in-law, drank milk on Pesach; especially today where it’s not like in Russia where you could not replace keilim for Pesach and it is also possible to buy before Pesach.

Then the Rebbe asked: What else?

He said they don’t use sugar. The Rebbe said: That was only a practice in Beis HaRav and not of everyone. In my father’s home they ate sugar, especially when they cook it before Pesach.

At that same time, someone commented that machine matzos were outright chametz and the Rebbe said: How could you say such a thing? Thousands of G-d fearing people eat those matzos!

WHO GETS WHICH MATZA?

At the Seudas Moshiach of 5733/1973, in the middle of the farbrengen, during one of the niggunim, the Rebbe took a piece of matza, wrapped it in a paper napkin, threw it into the crowd, and when someone caught it the Rebbe said: “Food of healing.”

He did so again and said to the person who caught it: “Food of faith.”

This was repeated five or six times with the Rebbe sometimes saying “food of healing” and sometimes “food of faith.”

Afterward it was seen as a wonder because those who “happened” to catch the matza and were told “food of healing,” either they or a family member needed a big refua and yeshua, while those who “happened” to catch the matza and were told “food of faith,” needed strengthening of emuna.

The most surprising of all was that at least three of them were mekuravim or guests who were attending the Rebbe’s farbrengen for the first time.

REMOVING THE CHAMETZ WITH LIBUN

A famous genius, someone enormously gifted and incredibly deep, went to Liozna and assiduously studied Chassidus. With his abilities, within a short time he amassed tremendous knowledge of Chassidus. In his first yechidus with the Alter Rebbe, he asked: Rebbe, what do I lack?

The Rebbe said: You lack nothing because you are G-d fearing and a scholar. You just need to extract the “chametz” – the ego and coarseness, and put in “matza” – bittul.

A vessel which was used with yeshus (ego), in which he thinks he is light, such as skewers which thrust away the feet of the Sh’china – “for I and he cannot reside [in one contained space]” – needs libun (the kashrus purification process through white-hot heat). Libun is until the sparks of the birurim fly and are incorporated within the true light.

SEEING OUR NESHAMA

The Rebbeim held a brief first seder (in order to finish before midnight) and spoke at length about the Hagada on the second night. However, we find this in an entry written by one of Anash in 5714/1954:

The first night of Pesach there was no farbrengen afterward but at the end of the seder, when they sang “Keili Ata” (which is done as Eliyahu’s cup of wine is poured back into the bottle), he said in the name of the Rebbe Rayatz that this niggun is a segula for a revelation of Eliyahu and a preparation for the Geula. Saying this, the Rebbe motioned that they should continue singing and the crowd escorted him toward his room with this niggun.

In the hallway, near his room, the Rebbe stopped and said a few sichos with breaks for singing and dancing. The Rebbe was in an emotional state the entire time and there still echoes in my ears what he said about the neshama which is a part of G-d above mamash, and he pointed toward some people and said that this neshama is found “in your body, and your body, and in everybody standing here.”

It is impossible to describe the awesomeness of the manner of speaking and emotion. We felt how the Rebbe palpably saw the neshama of each one of us.

THE REBBE FOUGHT EGYPT

In 5729/1969, after Yom Tov was over, the Chassidim observed a number of “giluyim” from the Rebbe in connection with the War of Attrition that was taking place at that time in Eretz Yisroel.

The war was mainly an effort on the part of the Egyptians to weaken the desire to fight among the Israeli soldiers. They fought in the Sinai Peninsula and the Suez Canal in order to arouse opposition among the citizen population against the continued conquest of the Sinai. During seventeen months of war, 721 Jews and soldiers were killed, may Hashem avenge their blood, while the losses of the Egyptians amounted to thousands of dead, the destruction of cities on the Canal and oil refineries, and hundreds of thousands of refugees who streamed into Cairo.

Pesach night, while reading Hallel in the Hagada, the Rebbe repeated the words, “l’makei Mitzrayim b’v’choreihem.”

That night, the Rebbe went home accompanied by two bachurim from the yeshiva, as was customary. One of them told me that when they reached the Rebbe’s house, the Rebbe turned to them and began singing, “M’Mitzrayim G’altanu” and motioned with his hands to sing louder for five minutes.

When they read the Shiras HaYam on the seventh day of Pesach, at the verses, “dread shall fall upon them,” they saw the Rebbe making special motions that expressed special spiritual channeling as related to the situation of the Jews living in Eretz Yisroel.

MAYIM SH’LANU BY THE REBBE RASHAB

The Rebbe Rashab would go to the river himself and draw “mayim sh’lanu” for the kneading of the shmura matza that they baked for him on Erev Pesach. Usually, at this time of year, when the snow melted, the streets of Lubavitch – which was a small town whose streets were not properly paved – were full of mud. For this reason, walking was difficult even though the distance from his house to the river was not great. The drawing of the water was also not easy, for large sections of the river were still frozen and one had to find a convenient place from which to draw the water.

One year, the Rebbe was very weak and he did not leave his house for a long time. Someone in the household asked Rebbetzin Rivka, the Rebbe’s mother, to tell her son not to go himself to draw the water. Rebbetzin Rivka, who was known as a very wise woman, said, “I cannot mix into my son’s spiritual matters,” and she did not say anything to him.

(Likkutei Sippurim p. 186)

REPAYING EVIL WITH GOOD

The mashpia, R’ Mendel Futerfas, related:

My brother-in-law, R’ Bentzion Shemtov, who was very active in spreading the wellsprings and Judaism in Soviet Russia on shlichus of the Rebbe Rayatz, was once arrested (he was arrested other times too) for his “counter-revolutionary” activity. They put him in jail along with other political prisoners.

His cellmates were also Jews, members of the Zionist movement, who were arrested for the crime of Zionist activity. The Zionists opposed and fought Torah and mitzvos just like the Jewish communists, especially knowing the Rebbe Rayatz’s opposition to their movement. They hated the Chassidim and did all they could to thwart their holy work in spreading Judaism.

In the days before Pesach, R’ Bentzion was afraid that he would not be able to do the mitzva of eating matza, and he would not be able to eat anything on the days when it was forbidden to eat chametz. He tried to do what he could to urge his family to send him matza and provisions for Pesach.

His cellmates mocked him. “A pity for the effort you’re making. In any case, it won’t work out. What do you think, that we will allow you to eat matza on Pesach? Let it be clear – the moment matzos arrive, if they arrive, we will make sure to smash and destroy them so nothing remains.”

It also seemed clear that he could not complain to the prison authorities and the GPU, for their reaction was liable to be even more evil, and if they hadn’t thought of doing this themselves, they would “buy into” the idea and do it themselves.

R’ Bentzion worried but still made every effort to get his family to send him matza. Hashem helped and he was released from jail before Pesach. The feeling of freedom on this holiday which is the Time of Our Freedom was greater than ever before.

But he did not forget his cellmates. As soon as he was freed, he went to buy good food and drink with the little money he had (as much as could be bought in Russia of those times), kosher for Pesach of course, and he sent it to his “friends” who were still behind bars. Literally, “repaying evil with good.”

PREPARING A YEAR IN ADVANCE

When R’ Mendel Futerfas was in a Siberian labor camp he made great efforts to obtain matza for Pesach. Months before Pesach he did all he could so that the matza would arrive on time.

His family sent him matza far in advance of Pesach but the Jewish communists in the camp made sure that the matzos were given to him only the day after Pesach so that that year he was unable to do the mitzva.

R’ Mendel was made of tough stuff and he had his sights set on the following year. With great effort he hid the matzos that he had received after Pesach and watched over them for an entire year, despite the danger and the searches so that the next year he could do the mitzva and have what to eat.

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