Monday, March 12, 2012

Two Pesach Stories

I: Once, the expensive matzos slated for use by the Ahavas Yisrael of Vizhnitz were accidentally switched for much simpler matzos. Understandably, certain people were upset at the assistants who were supposed to guard against such an eventuality. The rebbe told the following story to convey his own feelings about such punctiliousness. “In many places the custom was to keep chickens set aside for Pesach away from any chometz. In the household of a certain rebbe, they would even dress the chickens in little mittens and place them in a special chometz-free henhouse. When a chicken from the regular flock jumped into the coop that housed the Pesach chickens, one of the rebbe's assistants began to shout. ‘Why aren’t these chickens watched as is fitting?’ “The rebbe of that place turned to the man who shouted and said, ‘Haven’t you heard that it is forbidden to get angry?’ “The man who had shouted tried to justify his behavior. ‘But on Pesach even the slightest amount of chometz is prohibited!’ ‘The tzaddik did not accept the man's reasoning. ‘I am talking about anger, regarding which our sages said that anyone who is angry is considered to have worshipped idols. And you justify yourself with a ‘chometzdik'e’ chicken?’” II: During the Yom Tov meals on Pesach, the Bobover Rebbe would exhort people to never veer from their family’s customs on Pesach. He would stress that even a stringency which is difficult to justify halachically must also be upheld. He would illustrate this with the following story: One of the young students of the Bobover Rebbe had to attend a family simchah during Pesach. Although most of the family were lenient and ate gebrokts, this young man did not do so. He reasoned that since his family custom was to avoid gebrokts, there was no basis to be lenient. When a certain non-chassidic gadol noticed that the young man refused the soup with kneidlach in it, he was outraged. “Rav Chaim Brikser ate gebrokts and you refrain? This is nothing but arrogance!” But when the Bobover Rebbe heard this claim he rejected it out of hand. “Keeping your family’s customs is arrogance? In Meseches Pesachim there is an entire chapter called מקום שנהגו which discusses customs Jews accepted upon themselves in various places. Why does it appear so simple to this admittedly great man that this young chassid may ignore his family’s custom? It is true that Rav Chaim Brisker was a gaon and had profound fear of heaven. Nevertheless, it is also clear that he would have never have discouraged a bochur from keeping his family’s customs. And he would certainly never have accused a person who is simply fulfilling his halachic obligation of pride!”

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