Rabbi Yehoshua Weber

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Reb Levi Yitzchak Berditchiver, one of the great 18th century rebbes, was world-renown for turning dross into gold.

Whatever the situation – no matter what anyone said or did – Reb Levi Yitzchak would give that situation a positive spin.

That power exhibited itself one Pesach in the most remarkable of ways.

One of Berditchev’s young men had stopped keeping mitzvos. He didn’t just stop keeping mitzvos; he also became antagonistic towards religion. Indeed, that Pesach, during the seder, this young man pulled a piece of bread out of his pocket.

There was a tumult of crying and yelling while all the while the young man taunted, “We’re hungry after Haggadah, aren’t we? Matzo, chametz, who cares. Rabbi Levi Yitzchak, the great tzaddik, wouldn’t mind, would he?”

The young man’s parents, upon hearing the evil words that accompanied the evil actions, threw on their coats and ran to Reb Levi Yitzchok. The young man, possessed by the malevolence of his actions, followed behind.

“Rebbe,” the parents cried as soon as they came to Reb Levi Yitzchak, “Rebbe, our son is an evil person. Help us. Help us.” Reb Levi Yitzchak offered some comfort to the broken parents and inquired as to what had happened. In-between sobs, the parents described a wayward son whose pushing of the envelope of rejection culminated in what just happened.

Reb Levi then turned to the boy and asked him, “iz es takke ozoi, is it true?” The boy’s insolence displayed itself even in front of Reb Levi. “Yes, it is. Yes, I eat bread on Pesach. I don’t keep the mitzvos. Why should I make believe that I do?”

The only sound that could be heard was the sound of parental weeping. “Kum aher,” Reb Levi Yitzchak beckoned the boy. The boy was suddenly unsure of himself. Perhaps he had gone too far, after all? But he listened to Reb Levi Yitzchak and approached the table. Reb Levi Yitzchak hugged him. “Such a good boy,” he exclaimed to the father, “He doesn’t lie. Such an honest boy! He can teach me a thing or two!”

“Would it be OK if he joins my family at my seder tonight?,” Reb Levi asked the stunned parents. “Just one condition, though, one very small condition,” he said as he seated the boy at the head of the table: “At our Seder, no bread, is that OK?”[1]

It’s our story, isn’t it? All children, and, for that matter, all adults, make mistakes. And yes, when we make mistakes, we must be set right.

The focus, though, – if at all possible – shouldn’t be on being set right, on chametz and on what is wrong.

The focus must rather be – as it almost always can be – on what is already right, on the parts of the person that are tzaddik rather than on the parts that are rasha.

May that message carry from Pesach on to the rest of the year and to the rest of our lives.

A kashere zissen Pesach

Rabbi Weber is founder of Ohr Tzvi Montebello-Monsey. Please visit his website, ohrtzvi.org, to sign up for his weekly email message or for information on his live or zoom shiurim. Rabbi Weber will be mara d’asra at the Honor’s Haven Resort for Pesach. For information, please email or call (845) 794-6000

[1] Chabad: Jewish Tales from the Past and Present