A Chametz Story

Haggadah Section: Motzi-Matzah

Nine Holy Words

Rabbi Shraga Simmons

There is a beautiful story told about Rabbi Levi Yitzhak, an 18th century tzaddik who lived in the Russian village of Berditchev.

It was the day before Passover and Rabbi Levi Yitzhak called his students together. He instructed them as follows: "Go around to each Jewish home in Berditchev and bring me all Turkish tobacco, Austrian silk and chametz (bread or crumbs) that you can find."

"But rabbi," they protested. "Everyone knows that Russia is at war with Turkey and Austria – and possession of tobacco and silk is strictly forbidden!"

Still, the rabbi insisted and the students went looking for tobacco, silk and chametz.

Later that evening, the students returned to Rabbi Levi Yitzhak, carrying various containers of Turkish tobacco and rolls of Austrian silk. "But," they reported, "we could find no chametz."

Rabbi Levi Yitzhak looked heavenward and said, "Almighty God! The Russian Czar has his army stationed at the borders and in the towns – a million armed soldiers ready to arrest anyone who violates the decree of possessing this contraband. While You, God, have nine holy words in the Torah stating to remove bread from the house on Passover. How righteous are Your people Israel, who are faithfully observe Your mitzvot!"


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