Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdechov
The Secret of the Perfect Seder
rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdechov, was a famous Chassidic Rabbi who lived about 200 years ago. He was well known for his piety and scholarship. One Passover, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak decided to have a special seder according to the mystical teaching of the Kabbala. He invited only those guests who were well versed in the secret writings of the mystical aspects of the Torah. He personally arranged that the finest food and drinks would be in abundance. He himself baked the matzo with exacting care to the ritual laws.
he spent many days in preparation, studying the sacred texts which pertain to Passover, in seclusion. He prepared a very deep exposition of the meaning of Passover and it's deep spiritual implications and ramification both in the lower worlds as well as the upper worlds.
finally the Holyday arrived. His distinguished guests came to his house with a feeling of reverence and anticipation. Rabbi Levi Yitzchak immersed himself in a mikva (ritual bath for purification). As the night began, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak began to reveal and explain the mysteries of the Seder. Step by step, they went through the seder, with all of the deepest secrets revealed to them. Even the angels descended from heaven to hear the revelation of the deepest mysteries.
the time pasted quickly and soon it was morning. The sun's rays began to illuminate the black skies. Rabbi Levi Yitzchak ended his seder in the wee hours of the morning. The guests were elated and literally floated to their homes. Rabbi Levi Yitzchak also was pleased with the seder and with a contentedness that few mortals experience. Rabbi Levi Yitzchak laid down to rest for a short time to prepare himself for the morning prayers. He drifted off into a deep slumber with a broad smile upon his face.
as Rabbi Levi Yitzchak slept, he had a dream. In the dream, he saw his body floating up to heaven. The angels who had descended to hear his seder greeted him and informed him that his seder found favor in heaven, however, one person did make a better seder.
rabbi Levi Yitzchak was surprised. "Better than my seder?" Rabbi Levi Yitzchak was in awe. "I must meet this person. I tried to leave no secrets unrevealed! Who is the person whose seder was accepted in heaven as better than mine?"
the angels answered him, "Yankel the wagon master, in your own town of Berdechov."
with that Rabbi Levi Yitzchak woke up. Startled, he began to muse, Yankel the wagon master? He had a better seder than mine? How could that be? I must find out!
durring the morning prayers, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak looked around the synagouge for Yankel, but he was not to be seen. Impatienly Rabbi Levi Yitzchak kept looking around to see, perhap he will come soon. Finally near the end of the morning prayer, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak saw out of the corner of his eye, Yankel, slipping in sheepishly, to the synagouge, and while every one was finishing their prayers, he began.
rabbi Levi Yitzchak sat in his place after the prayers and opened a book to study while waiting for Yankel to finish his prayers. Yankel finished very quickly and turned to leave. "Yankel, Yankel!" Rabbi Levi Yitzchak called. Yankel froze. Rabbi Levi Yitzchak perceived fear in Yankel's face. "Yankel, please, I'd like to talk to you" he said motioning to him to sit down.
yankel was agitated. Rabbi Levi Yitzchak spoke, "Yankel, tell me about your seder last night"
"please, Rabbi, I promise you I won't do it again!" he began sobbing.
rabbi Levi Yitzchak was puzzled. Why is he crying? In heaven he was listed as number one. He must be a hidden saint, and he is afraid of my revealing him. "Please," Rabbi Levi Yitzchak said, patting him gently on the shoulders, "I promise not to tell a soul. But, please, tell me about your seder."
yankel composed himself. He straightened out his crumbled body, and began to speak in an embarassed fashion. "On the afternoon before Passover, my wife demanded that I throw out my only bottle of brandy. She claimed that it was forbidden to have it during Passover. I disagreed and told her that it was OK. We had a quarrel and she threw me out with my bottle. Now, Rabbi, you know I don't earn much money as a wagon driver. That bottle was very expensive and to throw it away, well, it's really too hard. To keep it, well my wife is going to kill me. So, I decided to just drink it."
"well, I started to sip it and I ended up finishing it up. However, I got drunk and could hardly walk. By then it was night and my wife and children wanted to start the seder. I couldn't read the hagada. I could hardly sit. My head was spinning and my wife was nagging and my children wanted me to tell them about leaving Egypt.
"with all of my strength, I held myself erect in the chair and said, "G-d took us out from Egypt and by gosh, He will help us and take us out of this exile too and bring us to our own land." With that I collapsed at the table. The next thing I knew, was that it was morning and that I was late for the synagogue serivces. That was my seder. Please, don't be mad at me."
rabbi Levi Yitzchak was astounded. This simple Jew, in all of his simplicity had a better seder than he did. Why? Because instead of revealing the deepest secrets of the seder, he revealed the deepest secrets of G-d. Just like He took us out of Egypt, He will take us out of this exile too and bring us to our own land!
from the April 1998 - Passover Edition Edition of the Jewish Magazine