JCRC Column: A Passover Parable

From the desk of Doni Fogel, director of the JCRC and I&O - by way of wishing you and yours a happy and healthy Passover. 

As recalled from a telling by Rabbi Dan Rosenberg.

Once there was a young pious Jews - a Hassid. He went to his Rebbe (Rabbi) and told the Rebbe he wanted to merit the presence of Eliyahu Ha’Navi - of Elijah the Prophet at his Passover Seder. His Rebbe assured him Eliyahu Ha’Navi attended every single Seder. Indeed, we pour a fifth cup for Elijah and stand at our front door, welcoming him to enter. 

“No,” the Hassid continued, “I know we invite him to every Seder. Maybe he is indeed welcome at every table and maybe he even comes. I want him to actually attend my Seder.” The Rebbe explained, “to merit such an exalted guest, literally an emissary of the Holy One, Blessed be He, one must do an enormous amount of learning.”

And so it was that the Hassid set himself the task of learning to the point of meriting such a guest. That year, immediately following Purim – per tradition – the Hassid began preparing for Passover. He studied the Haggadah, arrived at the Seder more learned than before and had a meaningful evening. Eliyahu Ha’Navi didn’t attend. The Hassid returned to his Rebbe who told him, “next year, learn more.”

The following year, our Hassid began learning for Passover at Chanukah. He learned for months. He studied the Tur and Mishna Brurah – the codes of Jewish law and delved into the intricacies of Passover observance. The Hassid learned so much the Rebbe of the town began referring Passover related question to the Hassid. But that year, Eliyahu Ha’Navi didn’t attend his Seder. The Hassid returned to his Rebbe who told him, “next year, learn more.”

The third year, the Hassid started his Passover studies immediately after Sukkot. He learned masechet Pesachim – the Oral Code of Passover Laws and even the teachings of the Rishonim and Achronim – the rabbis who expounded upon the oral code. He explored the depths of Passover from legal, exegetical and allegorical perspectives. But Eliyahu Ha’Navi didn’t attend his Seder. The Hassid returned to his Rebbe who told him, “next year, learn more.”

The fourth year, the Hassid spent the entire year preparing for the next year’s Seder. That year, the Rebbe asked the Hassid to host the entire community at a communal Seder; the Hassid trepidantly agreed. As Passover approached, the Hasid oversaw every element of communal preparation.

Two days before the communal Seder was to begin, the Rebbe summoned his Hassid. He explained there was an impoverished family – a one day’s ride away – which needed help getting ready for Passover. They could not travel and so they could not join the communal Seder. Aghast, the Hassid begged off. Surely someone else could be dispatched. Surely he needed to stay nearby to finalize preparation. His Rebbe would have none of it.

His directions received, the next morning the Hassid packed a bag filled with all the items the family would need for a Passover Seder and set on his way. He arrived at the family that night. He delivered his package, explained all they would need, left them a Haggadah and went to the front door.

Upon opening the door, he discovered a major late season snow storm had set in. He began to walk to his horse and quickly heeded the warning of the family. Trying to travel through this storm would be madness – literally life-threatening. Dejected and disheartened the Hassid stayed. He held Seder with the family and two days later, when the roads cleared, he returned to his town.

Immediately, upon returning, the Hassid went immediately to his Rebbe. “How could you have sent me away?” asked the Hassid. The Rebbe would offer no explanation. The Hassid continued, “I prepared for years! I wasn’t even at the communal Seder!” The Rebbe wouldn’t answer his questions. He only instructed the Hassid to return to the family for the final days of the Holidays.

Astonished and frustrated the Hassid went home. But he wouldn’t disobey his Rebbe. Before the final days of the holiday, the Hassid again packed a bag of all that would be needed for the family for the final days of Passover. And then he set on his way.

Waylaid by the mud in the roads the Hassid arrived just before the holiday began. As he approached the house, he overheard a conversation. The mother had just finished explaining: that evening they would again welcome a holiday; the final days of Passover. The daughter of the family asked, “Mamma, we barely have enough to eat. How will we make this yuntif - how will we celebrate this festival?” The Mamma replied, “just as the Holy One, Blessed be He sent Eliyahu Ha’Navi to provide a Seder for our family, so too He will provide for us tonight.”

With that, there was a knock at the door. 


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