It was a few days before Pesach. Everybody in town, including the Brisker Rav, Rabbi Yosef Dov Seloveitchik, was preparing for the holiday. Not a crumb of chametz could be found anywhere.
That evening, a stranger knocked on the Brisker Rav’s door. “I need to ask the rabbi a question. Am I allowed to use milk instead of wine for the four cups at the Seder?” he asked.
The Brisker Rav looked concerned and replied, "I am the Rav. Tell me sir, are you sick? Are you not able to drink wine?”
“No, I am fine, thank you,” the stranger offered. But then his face fell. The Rav asked again, "Are you sure that you are alright?"
As he finished asking this question, his wife hurried into the room and handed the man 10 rubles.
Wait,” the man stammered. “I didn’t come here for charity. I just came to ask the Rabbi a question.”
“But this is not charity,” she explained, "I couldn’t help overhearing your problem. Just this morning a rich man came and gave us money, and asked us to give it to the person who asked the most insightful question concerning Passover preparations. You would really be doing me a tremendous favor, since I don’t have much time left to give out this gift that was given to me to give. I’m very busy preparing for the holiday. Please help me by accepting it – I’m not sure I’ll have another chance to dispense it,”
Overcome with joy and gratitude, the stranger thanked them both, and left.
As soon as he was gone, the Rav looked at his wife. “I appreciate that you wanted to help, but I don’t understand why you gave that man so much money. Even the best wine doesn’t cost more than 2 rubles– and what was the story you told him about the rich man?”
“ Didn’t you hear what he asked?” replied his wife. “If he was planning to use milk at the Seder, surely he doesn’t have the money to buy meat.,He probably doesn’t have enough money to buy all the other things for the Seder either. Even though he didn’t want charity, I gave him enough money to buy food for his family. And he would not have taken it, except that I told him he would be doing it as a favor to me.”
And with that, Reb Yosef Dov and his wife returned to their Pesach preparations.
Story re-crafted by R' Mark and Renée Brachfeld
Reb Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev ztz"l used to wish everyone "a kosheren Purim" and a "freiliche Pesach". Of course everyone else usually says the opposite: "a freiliche Purim- a happy Purim" and "a kosheren Pessach-a kosher Pessach". Someone asked Reb Levi Yitzchak to explain why was he reversing the blessings? And so he explained: "everyone knows that on Purim you have to be happy and to be sure we are even obligated to get drunk, but in the midst of the Purim festivities someone might forget that Purim also has to be kosher" - hence he would wish all "a kosheren Purim;
"Pesach on the other hand, everyone is so busy cleaning and getting rid of their 'chametz', which is a very strict mitzvah in the Torah, and in the process some may forget the mitzvah of "v'samachtah b'chagechga" - you shall rejoice in your holiday - hence he would wish everyone a "freilichen Pessach". So ...let's bless one another with "A KOSHEREN UN FREILICHEN
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Mark Novak is a "free-range" rabbi who lives in Washington DC and works, well, just about everywhere. In 2012 he founded Minyan Oneg Shabbat, home to MOSH (Minyan Oneg Shabbat), MindfulMOSH (Jewish mindfulness gathering), and