The Worst Seder in the World

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
The search for spirituality at the seder
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The Worst Seder in the World

You've just finished putting the last touches to the Seder table. The house has been scrubbed from top to toe. No mercy has been shown to the smallest piece of chametz. In this 'war' there are no prisoners.

Your husband has spent the last month reviewing the laws of Pesach. He's bought one of the new crop of Haggados that always appear at this time of year, looking for inspiring words of Torah to be devoured along with the matzah on Seder night.

The annual argument over the recipe for the charoses has again been fought and a compromise has been reached through arbitration: One cup of wine and no walnuts.

Will we have egg and onion and chicken soup, or will it be too much?

You gather round the table and begin the seder. Jews have done this for more than 3,000 years.

You remember your bubbe and zeide. They no doubt remembered their bubbe and zeide. And your children, shining in their Yom Tov best, gaze up at your parents. Memories being made. Chains of love stretching across millennia.

Here it is, the moment we've all waited for...

And yet…

What is it? Something's lacking. The children don't want to listen to the Haggadah. They want to eat the matzah now! They have absolutely no interest in why Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah said he was like a man of 70 years. You would love to listen to your husband's drasha about the korban Pesach - the one he's been working on for as long as you've been planning the menu - but at the crucial moment the light has gone out under the chicken soup, (yes, you decided to have both chicken soup and egg and onion) and panic stations have been declared!

Why is it that every Pesach seems somehow... I don't know... You start off with such high hopes... This year it's going to be different... This year you're really going to experience what coming out of Egypt means. This year...

You remember the story of the Chassidim of the Kotzke Rebbe who had a vision of gravy from the korban Pesach trickling down the Kotzke's beard when he ate the afikomen. Ahh! If it can't be 'This year in Jerusalem,' at least it could be this year with a real Pesach feeling...

Pesach with a broken-heart

The great tzaddik, Rabbi Shmuel Koriver, a student of the Seer of Lublin, was a poor man. He constantly lived on the poverty-line and was always in need of help.

Once, he decided that he wasn't going to ask anyone for help anymore. If help came his way he would accept it; he would not seek it out.

Pesach was rapidly approaching, and in Reb Shmuel's house there was nothing. No matzah, no wine for the four cups, no charoses, no food, no money, nothing.

In spite of these dire circumstances, Reb Shmuel refused to budge from his decision. He was convinced that Hashem wouldn't desert him. Everything would be fine.

The Seer of Lublin heard of Reb Shmuel's plight and was worried about him. He dispatched one of his wealthy Chassidim, Reb Shlomo Mikunskwalya to quietly provide Reb Shmuel with his needs.

On Erev Pesach, a wagon laden with food and crockery, wine and matzahs arrived at Reb Shmuel's door. He was overjoyed. Here in the twinkling of an eye was Hashem's deliverance!

That night, Reb Shmuel sat down and conducted his Seder with a joy and a feeling of Yetzias Mitzraim (coming-out-of-Egypt) which was unparalleled in all his holy life.

He imagined himself ascending to the upper worlds, born on a tremendous joy that Hashem had provided for him without having to ask for charity. His unbridled happiness made him feel that no one had ever experienced such a Seder as his that night. This was it! You couldn't go any higher!

On the second night of the Seder, Reb Shmuel was tired from all the elation of the previous night and decided to rest a little before beginning the second Seder. He lay down on his bed for just a couple of minutes. He was thinking that he really ought to get up, when he drifted off to sleep.

Several hours later, he awoke with a start. 'What's the time!' He glanced at the clock and was horrified to see that it was nearly midnight! In just a short while the last time to eat the afikomen would pass!

Reb Shmuel was broken. In tears, he rushed to fulfill the mitzvos of the Seder: Kiddush, reciting the Haggadah, Hallel, the four cups, eating the matzah, the bitter herbs, the charoses, the festive meal and - seconds before midnight - eating the afikomen.

Reb Shmuel fell into a deep depression. It seemed to him that never in the entire history of the Jewish People had there been such a miserable Seder. It had been a shambles.

After Pesach, Reb Shmuel traveled to visit his teacher, the Seer of Lublin. Immediately after he had greeted him, the Seer said to Reb Shmuel "Come, let us examine the two Sedarim of Reb Shmuel.

"The first night was below par considering who he is. (The Seer honored Reb Shmuel by referring to him in the third person.) He imagined himself hovering in the upper worlds, no doubt intoxicated by the thin air at these rarefied altitudes. He thought that there had never been a Seder like this before.

"No, this was not a great Seder. But the second Seder - now there was a Seder!

"Few have flown to the heights that Reb Shmuel reached at his second Seder - broken spirited and humble, wanting no more than to fulfill the Will of the Master of the World.

As it says "The sacrifices of G-d are a broken spirit."

When you're sitting at your Seder table, and the kids are screaming, when you have to get up from the table for the 28th time, when you just manage to finish the last of the matzah just before the soup boils over, and you start to feel frustrated and saddened and a long way from Pesach - remember Reb Shmuel...

Sources: The Pardes Haggadah; Rabbi Yaakov Lubow

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