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Thursday
Apr182019

THE BEST SEDER OF ALL

Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Jacobson and Rabbi Moshe Lieberman were asked, long ago, to travel to Japan to lead a seder for the Jews there.

After a tiring flight, they landed in Kobe, Japan. There was an ancient shul and a small Jewish community.

The two of them got to work, shopping and cooking, running out do some more shopping, dragging bags of food. They rolled up their sleeves, peeled and chopped, cooked and steamed, fried and baked, and then … the work was done. The fragrance of the cooking filled the kitchen. Everywhere one looked there were pots and trays full of good things to eat.

They were tired but happy. They managed to catch a quick nap. It was almost Yom Tov and they had to be alert to greet the guests for whom they had come.

How many guests would come? That was a mystery. Time would tell.

To their great surprise, beyond all expectations, people began to stream into the shul and full it up. About 200 Jews came from all over Japan for the seder night.

Kadesh, Urchatz … They began the seder and when it was time for Shulchan Orech, the food was enough for all.

They began to sing, both the locals and the tourists, led by the Rebbe’s shluchim.

As the guests ate, Rabbi Jacobson got up and began telling a moving story about the innocence of a simple Jew. This is the story he told:

Rabbi Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev celebrated Pesach with all the fine points of halacha and hidden meanings. He was sure that his seder was the loftiest of all, but to his surprise, he was told from Heaven that this time, Moshe the water carrier’s seder was far better.

“Moshe the water carrier?! He is such a simple Jew. What does he know of hidden meanings?”

The next day, R’ Levi Yitzchok asked for Moshe the water carrier to be brought to him.

Moshe came to the Rebbe’s house looking ashamed. “Rebbe, I am so sorry about what happened yesterday.”

“Please tell me what happened,” the Rebbe said reassuringly.

The water carrier told the following:

I am an orphan from a young age.  I was a child all alone, and in my great suffering I began to drink and get drunk in order to forget all of my problems.  Believe me Rebbe, I did not want to drink and be a drunk.  Each time, I would promise myself to stop this ugly habit, but I was not successful.

Now, before Pesach, I had a problem. Vodka contains chometz.  How would I survive the whole eight days without vodka?  I can’t even go one day without drinking vodka.  What can I do? I am a Jew, and chometz is absolutely forbidden.

Feeling stuck, I came up with an idea. I will drink on Erev Pesach enough vodka to last for eight days, so that with Hashem’s help, I would not need to drink again until after Pesach.  So that is what I did.  I drank and drank until the clock showed that it was the end of the time for eating chometz.  That is when I fell into bed as drunk as Lot.

Time for Yom Tov came, and all of the Jews in the town went off to shul and I was in a deep sleep.  Even when they all came home, I was still deep into my sleep.  My poor wife tried to wake me up, “Moshe, today is the seder night, wake up!  The children are waiting.  We are the only people in town not sitting at the seder table.”  Somehow, I managed to open my eyes long enough to hear what she was saying, but I immediately fell back into a deep sleep. My wife cried.  She had no intention of carrying on without the head of the family on the night of the seder.  Every hour on the hour, she came back and struggled to wake me up, but to no avail.

Suddenly, as if inside some dark cloud, I heard hear scream from the depths of her neshama, “Moshe! The seder night is going to end in twenty minutes, and you are sleeping?!  What kind of father are you?!”

This cry somehow managed to shock me out of my sleep, to the point that I completely forgot that I was still drunk.  I got up in a hurry, and quickly organized everything.  I asked her to wake up the children, and she quickly did so.  The children, who had only been eagerly awaiting the chance to celebrate the seder, hurriedly gathered around the table despite the late hour.  At that point, I told them:

“My dear children who I love so much, I want you to know that I regret from the depths of my heart that fact that I drink and am a drunk.  I want to commit myself to never take another drop again, but now is the seder night, and not the time for that. It is my job to tell you about Yetzias Mitzrayim (the Exodus from Egypt), and since we are running out of time, I will do it quickly.

“You should know that Hashem created the world in seven days.  After that, Adam and Chava sinned and ate from the Tree of Knowledge, and were banished from Gan Eden. That was the beginning of all the sins and sufferings of the Jewish people, starting back with the Flood, the Tower of Bavel and so on.  Afterward, came the tzaddikim, Avrohom and Sarah, who began to fix the world, and after them came Yitzchok, Yaakov and the twelve Shevatim.  And then, Hashem sent them down to Mitzrayim and Pharaoh turned them into slaves.  On this night, many years ago, Hashem took us out of Mitzrayim.”

I concluded the short story, and I said, “Children, you should know, that just as it was then, the same thing is true today.  Just as He took them out of Mitzrayim, so will Hashem will take us quickly out of this galus (exile).

Then I turned to the Creator of the Universe and I said, “Father, thank You for taking us out of Mitzrayim, and I am begging You to take us out of this galus already.”

Due to the short amount of time left it was impossible to carry out the entire seder, so I quickly took the matzo, marror and charoses, and ate it.  I quickly drank four cups of wine and I collapsed.  When I woke up, it was already broad daylight outside.

Moshe concluded his account and began to cry terribly.

The Rebbe cried too, and he said to his students, “Halevai (if only) that I would have the merit to convey such a powerful message to my children.  Halevai that one time I would have the merit to speak that way to Hashem.”

***

The shliach shared this story at the seder in Japan, and he added, “I have celebrated many Seder nights in my life.  However, it seems to me that this seder is the most beloved to G-d of all of them.  Many of those sitting here do not know the laws and customs that we practice on this night, but the connection that is felt here with G-d is the most amazing and powerful feeling that I have ever felt. For this, I want to thank you all.  It was a great privilege for me to be here with you on this night.”

For a few moments, there was silence in the room with each person wrapped up in their own thoughts.  There was a woman sitting in one of the corners of the room, who began to weep profusely.  Afterward, she approached the shliach and told him the following, “I grew up in an assimilated family.  I am living here for twenty years and involved with gentile groups that are engaged in idol worship.  I had no interest at all in coming to this seder, but my friend convinced me.

“The only thing that I remember about Judaism is that my grandmother would always say that I have a special connection to Judaism, because we are the tenth generation from Rebbe Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev.  I never knew who this person was, and she herself had no more information.

“And you, you were the messenger to bring me back home on this seder night.

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