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  • Writer's pictureMichael Barclay

A Holy Passover

As we prepare for the Passover Seder, it is easy to learn so many hidden secrets and Kabbalistic understandings that we lose track of the simplicity and beauty of the holiday. And so, after weeks of exploring the depths of Pesach together, I’d like to share this Hasidic story that we tell at the beginning of our family Seder each year… Once Rabbi Levi Yitzhak held the Seder on the first night of Passover so devoutly that every word and every rite glowed at the tzaddik’s table with all the holiness of its secret significance. In the dawn after the celebration, Rabbi Levi Yitzhak sat in his room, joyful and proud that he had performed so successful a service. But all of a sudden he heard a voice saying, “More pleasing to me than your seder is that of Hayim the water carrier.” The rabbi summoned the people in his house at his disciples and inquired about the man whose name he had heard. Nobody knew him. At the tzaddik’s bidding some of his disciples went in search of him. They had to ask around for a long time before, at the outskirts of the city were only the poor people live, they were shown the house of Hayim the water carrier. They knocked at the door. A woman came out and asked what they wanted. When they told her she was amazed. “Yes”, she said, “Hayim the water carrier is my husband”. “ But he cannot go with you because he drank a lot yesterday and is sleeping it off now. If you wake him you will find that he can not manage to lift his feet.” All they said in reply was, “It is the Rabbi’s orders”. They went and shook him from his sleep. He only blinked at them, could not understand what they wanted him for, and attempted to turn over and go on sleeping. But they raised him from his bed, took hold of him, and between them brought him to the tzaddik all but carrying him on their shoulders. The rabbi had him put in a chair near him. When we has seated, silent and bewildered, Levi Yitzhak leaned toward him and said, “Reb Hayim, dear heart, what mystic intention was in your mind when you gathered what is leavened?” The water carrier looked at him dully, shook his head and replied, “Master, I just looked in every corner and gathered it.” The astonished tzaddik continued questioning him. “And what consecration did you think upon in the burning of it?” The man pondered, looked distressed, and said hesitatingly, “Master, I forgot to burn it. And now I remember---it is still lying in the shelf.” When Rabbi Levi Yitzhak heard this, he grew more and more uncertain, but he continued asking. “And tell me Reb Hayim, how did you celebrate the Seder?” Them something seemed to quicken in the eyes and limbs of the man, and he replied in humble tones. “Rabbi, I shall tell you the truth. You see, I always heard that it is forbidden to drink vodka the eight days of the festival, so yesterday morning, I drank enough to last me eight days. And so I got tired and fell asleep. Then my wife woke me, and it was evening, and she said to me, “Why don’t you celebrate Seder like all other Jews?” Said I, “What do you want with me? I am an ignorant man, and my father was an ignorant man, and I don't know what to do and what not to do. But one thing I know. Our fathers and mothers were in captivity in the land of the Gypsies (Egyptians) and we have a God, and he let them out and into freedom. And see, now we are again in captivity and I know, and I tell you that God will lead us to freedom too. And then I saw before me a table, and the cloth gleamed like the sun, and on it were platters with matzot and eggs and other dishes, and bottles of red wine. I ate of the matzot and eggs and drink of the wine and gave my wife to eat and to drink. And then I was overcome with joy, and lifted my cup to God, and said, “See God, I drink this cup to you! And do you lean down to us and make us free!” So we sat and drank and rejoiced before God. And then I felt tired, lay down, and fell asleep.” Rabbi Levi Yitzhak smiled at the man and said, “May I be blessed to have my place in the hereafter next to yours. The simplicity of fully loving God with perfect faith and joy needs to always be kept in front of us as we enter this holiday; and I pray that each of us are granted that blessing. If you are alone or with a large group, make sure to have some matza on both the first night (“the food for faith” per Schwartzie z”l) and the second night (“the food for health”), and be reminded of the simplicity of true love for God. May we all be blessed with good health, prosperity, joy, and love as we enter this magnificent and beautifully simple holiday of Pesach. Chag Sameach! Rabbi Michael Barclay April 14th, 2022 13th of Nisan, 5782


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