This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Passover (5761 (1))
It was well after midnight on the night of Passover, and the great Tzaddik (Holy Man) Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Bredichev had just finished his Passover Seder, according to all the mystical and esoteric principles found in the awesome mystical works of the Ari z’l.
His pupils had never seen such a Seder. The Rebbe and all those present felt transported into a different world, as though they had gone out of all their bodily limitations and into a world of pure G-dliness.
Suddenly the room filled with the sound of a deep rumbling like massive thunder, and then from within the thunder an awesome voice announced loudly:
“Levi Yitzchak’s Seder was pleasing to G-d, but there is a Jew in Bredichev called Shmerl-the-tailor who’s Seder was better!!!!”
The Rebbe looked around him, and it was obvious that only he had heard the heavenly announcement.
“Has anyone heard of a tzaddik called Shmerl the tailor?” He asked his Chassidim…. No answer.
After several minutes of silence one of the elderly Chassidim piped up and said, “ There is one Shmerl here in Bredichev that I know of, and he used to be a tailor about thirty years ago, but he’s certainly no Tzadik, in fact he’s pretty far from that. They call him Shmerl-the-Shikker (drunkard) and he lives with his wife in a few old large shipping crates near the railroad tracks.”
But Rav Levi Yitchak was thinking to himself, ‘Aha, this must be one of the hidden Tzadikim living here in my town and I knew nothing about it!’
In fifteen minutes, at two in the morning, The Rav was standing in front of Shmerl’s door, and when he heard someone walking around inside, he knocked.
The door opened and an old Jewish lady poked her head out of the door. “Good Yom Tov!” said Rav Levi quietly and politely,” Please excuse me for the late hour. Is your husband Shmerl at home?” “Good Yom Tov.” She answered, “Just wait one minute please, Rebbe, wait right here.”
She disappeared back into the house and the unmistakable sound of a bucket being filled with water was heard from inside. Then a minute or two of silence and suddenly… SPLASH! She threw the bucket of water on her sleeping husband!!
“Aaahh!!! Oyyy!!! Where am I?? OOIY VAI!!!” He screamed, and then his wife chimed in shouting “Get up you drunk!!! The Rabbi has come to punish you!!! Wake up you good for nothing!!!!”
Poor Shmerl staggered, sopping wet, to the door, and when he saw that it really was the Rabbi, he fell at his feet and began weeping, “Please Rabbi don’t punish me I didn’t know better Please have mercy!!!”
The Rav of Bredichev was completely astounded at this bizarre scene. Could it be that this man’s Seder was better than his own?
He bent down, lifted poor Shmerl to his feet and said, “Listen, Shmerl, I didn’t come to punish you, in fact I don’t even know what you are talking about. Please let me in, let’s sit down and talk, I only want to ask you something. Go put on a dry shirt an we’ll talk.”
Minutes later they sat facing each other over Shmerl’s small table. The Rav looked at him kindly and softly said: “Shmerl, listen, I want you to tell me what you did in your Seder last night. Don’t worry, I promise that I’m not going to punish you, I promise”
“Oooy!” moaned Shmerl and began weeping again, “I didn’t mean it, I don’t know any better, oooy!” It was obvious that Shmerl was still pretty drunk.
Gradually he calmed down and began speaking. “Early this morning, that is…yesterday morning, I’m walking in the street and suddenly I notice that people are rushing, rushing around. This one has a broom this one is carrying a box, this one something else, everyone is rushing except me.
So I stopped someone I recognized and asked him, ‘What is everyone rushing for? Where are they all going?’
So he answers me, ‘Oy Shmerl, are you so drunk that you forgot that tonight is Pesach?! Tonight is Pesach! Do you remember what Pesach is??’
I tried thinking but my mind wouldn’t work, ‘Pesach, Pesach, I…I can’t remember. It sounds very important though; I remember something about Matzot…and Egypt. ‘Listen’ I asked him, ‘please, do me a favor and tell me what it is again.’
The man looked at me in a strange way, and answered ‘Listen, Shmerl, tonightyou have to make a Seder, you know, eat three matzos, four cups of wine. You’ll enjoy the wine Shmerl’ he said with a sad smile, ‘but you won’t enjoy abstaining from your foul vodka for eight days.’ ‘Eight days!!!’ I said, ‘Why?? Why can’t I drink for eight days?’ I was trembling and beginning to remember a little.
‘Because that’s the law!’ he answered, ‘Eight days you can’t eat Chumatz and Vodka is Chumatz (leavened grains). If you can’t take eight days, maybe Goto Israel,’ he laughed, ‘there it’s only forbidden seven days! Here,’ he said reaching into his pocket, ‘Take this, if you need more come to my house. Chag Smeach! (Happy Holiday)’ He gave me some charity, a card with his name on it, smiled and hurried away.
I was stunned. But I knew I had to act fast, so I took all the money I had, bought a big bottle of Vodka and drank the entire thing. That night, that is….just a few hours ago, I was sleeping soundly in my bed when suddenly my wife throws a bucket of water on me, you see how she does it, and starts screaming: ‘Shmerl, you bum! You drunk! You good for nothing! All the Jewish men in the whole world are making Seder tonight and YOU are lying like a drunken ox. Wake up and make a Seder!!!!’ like that.
So I staggered to my feet, put on some dry clothes and sat down at the beautifully set table.
The candles were shining up the room and sparkling from the plates and silverware. Everything was new, clean, I felt so different, almost holy.I looked at the wine and the Matzot, the Haggada (prayer book for Passover night) was open in front of me, and my wife was sitting in her place opposite me like a queen, she was even smiling. Everything was so quiet.
Then you know what I did?
I looked up and I started talking to G-d. Just like I’m talking to you now. I started talking to G-d and I said, ‘G-d… listen…I don’t know you,but you know me. You know that after my father got killed I had to work all the time and I never had time to learn, right?
So I don’t know how to read this book, in fact I can’t read anything! And I don’t know what I’m supposed to do tonight either; in fact I never really know what to do.
But one thing I do know…I know that a long time ago You sent Moshe who took us out of Egypt, and I’m sure that you will send Moshiach to take us out of all our troubles now!!’
Then I drank the four cups, ate some Matzas and went back to sleep. That is what I did, please don’t be mad Rabbi.” Rav Levi Yitzchak closed his eyes and began rocking from side to side.
“Now I know why your Seder was better than mine. By me, I also wanted the Moshiach to come, but I had other things on my mind as well, all the Kabalistic unifications etc. but you thought only of the redemption, and you did it with all your heart.”
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