Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Chassidic Masters Tell All

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At the second seder, the one that my husband and I hosted in our home, we distributed mainly the same Haggadot, so people would have an easy time to follow, whether they were more comfortable reading Hebrew or English. I, however, chose to be different and used an ArtScroll Mesorah Series Haggadah called Haggadah of the Chassidic Masters -- it had been a gift to me from an aunt many years ago, and is a most lovely Haggadah to use.

The book jacket says: "...This is a book to be savored at the seder and at all times of the year.... It is filled with penetrating and exciting ideas, insights, into life and destiny, stories that make one think about his mission and his role as part of a family, a town, a nation..."

In between keeping my eye on the children, keeping my eye on the children handling the crystal wine glasses, I was reading along in the Haggadah, my eyes straying every now and again to a Chassidic story written in English. This particular one drew my attention:

When Rebbe Tzvi Elimelech of Dinov passed away, Rebbe Sar Shalom of Belz sighed and said, "What a pity! We have lost an upright Jew." ("ehrlicher Yid")
"An upright Jew only?" exclaimed his wife. "He was among the greatest rebbes of our age."
"Rebbes we have in plenty," replied her husband, "but upright Jews are few and far between."

Unfortunately, there were countless upright Jews missing from family seders throughout this city and farther abroad -- tragedies and illnesses had taken them, some too fast, others too soon, some too young -- and their presence was strongly missed. In these families, when the seder called for leaning, no doubt family members leaned just a little more, leaning on and supporting each other in the shadow of their sorrow and melancholy.

It is my hope that some kind of seder -- order -- can eventually be brought back into these families' lives and that the chair that sits empty now, symbolizing the missing family member, will be looked at not just with great pain, but in time with pure reverence, because of the memories associated with the"ehrlicher Yid" it belonged to.

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