Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Apter Rebbe (R' Avraham Yehoshua Heschel) makes peace

[I'm currently enjoying this post re: Rav Yisrael Salanter at Modern Uberdox]

Here's an interesting story, recorded in Achilat Matzot b'Yisrael by R' Shalom Yuda Gross (pg. 140-141 of the pdf here, but I have brought the Hebrew at the end of this post). This story bothers me on several levels; I'm curious to see if it bothers others as it bothers me.

Two explanatory notes in advance:
1. According to traditional halachic authorities, one must use "shemurah matzah", and not regular matzah, for the mitzvot of the Seder.
2. Customarily, chasidim avoid eating "soaked matzah", popularly referred to as "gebrokts", as a custom during Pesach. When using our super-thin matzah, this is generally understood to be custom rather than law.

Once, tzedakah collectors came to the home of the holy Rav of Opta, the Ohev Yisrael, on the day before Pesach, to collect matzot for the needy. The Rebbetzin was busy preparing for Yom Tov, and others went to provide matzot for the collectors. In the bustle, they mistakenly took the shemurah matzah which had been baked on the day before Pesach for the Rav and were plaed under a special cloth, and gave them to the collectors, who took them before the Rebbetzin came into the room.

When the Rebbetzin enteredthe room, she saw that the shemurah matzah was not there. She investigated, and learned that hey had been given to the tzedakah collectors. She quaked, and her heart was struck in her chest; she did not know what to do. She feared telling her holy husband about this. She decided to take regular matzah, which she placed beneath the cloth in place of the others, and she pretended to know nothing of what had happened. The holy Rav conducted the Seder with the plain matzah.

After Pesach, a couple came before the Rav to divorce. The Rav asked the husband, "Why do you wish to divorce your wife?"

The husband replied that this wife did not want to cook for Pesach in implements which had not been used for soaked matzah.

The Rav instructed to call for his Rebbetzin. He told her, "Tell me the truth: What sort of matzot were placed before me for the Seder?"

The Rebbetzin was silent, afraid to say.

He asked again, "Please tell, and do not fear."

The Rebbetzin answered, "Normal matzot." And she told what had happened.

The Rav told the husband, "See, my son. I ate normal matzah on the first night of Pesach, pretending that I did not know and was not aware so that I would not come to anger, or, Gd-forbid, to a quarrel. And you want to divorce your wife over soaked matzah?"

The Rav made peace between them, and they left in peace.

פעם אחת נזדמן אצל הרב הקדוש מאפטא, בעל ״אוהב ישראל״, שבאו גבאי־צדקה של העיר בערב־פסח לגבות מצות עבור העניים, והרבנית היתה טרודה בהכנות ליו״ט, והלכו אנשי הבית לתת להגבאים את המצות ומרוב הטרדה שכחו ולקחו את מצות־השמורה שנאפו בערב־פסח לשם הרב והיו מונחות במפה מיוחדת בחדר ונתנו להגובים והללו נטלו והלכו להם. בבוא אחרי כן הרבנית להחדר וראתה כי מצות השמורה אינן, עשתה חקירה ודרישה ונתוודע לה שנתנו אותן לגבאי־הצדקה. נזדעזעה מאד הרבנית, ויך לבה בקרבה, ולא ידעה מה לעשות כי יראה להגיד הדבר לבעלה הקדוש. נמלכה הרבנית ולקחה מצות פשוטות, ושמה במקומן בתוך המפה, ועשתה עצמה כלא יודעת מכל הנעשה, וערך הרב הקדוש את ה״סדר״ על המצות הפשוטות.

לאחר הג הפסח באו לפני הרב זוג להתגרש. שאל הרב את הבעל:
- מה לך כי תגרש אשתך?
והשיב הבעל כי אשתו לא רצתה לבשל בשבילו בפסח בכלים מיוחדים בלי ״שרויה״ (חסידים ואנשי־מעשה מדקדקים לבלי לאכול בפסח ״מצה־שרוייה״ ונזהרים לבלי לבשל בפסח מצה במים)
אז ציוה הרב לקרוא להרבנית, ויאמר לה: הגידי נא האמת: איזו מצות הניחו לפני לה״סדר״ ?
ותחרש הרבנית, כי יראה להגיד.
שאל אותה שוב: הגידי נא, אל תיראי.
ותען הרבנית: מצות פשוטות...
ותספר את כל המעשה.
ואז אמר הרב להבעל:
- ראה נא, בני: אני אכלתי מצה פשוטה בליל ראשון של פסח, ועשיתי את עצמי כלא יודע וכלא מרגיש, למען לא אבוא לידי הקפדה, או ח״ו לקטטה, ואתה רוצה לגרש את אשתך בשביל ״שרויה״?!
ועשה הרב שלום ביניהם, והלכו מאתו לשלום.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I am typing in dark room so I am sorry about the spelling.
    Here is the same note corrected
    Chasidic stories bother me on one basic level. But I like the general approach of the Baal Shem Tov and Rebbi Nachman on a different level. The thing I don't like is that the world and midot portrayed in Chasidut is a world that is the direct opposite of the real world of Chasidut in practice today. The exception is of all things!) is Vishnitz who were (at least in Safed) just regular Hungarian simple Jews. Rebbi Moshe Ernster was a talmid chacham (not like a Litvak Rosh Yeshiva but he knew how to learn--and he was a business man not a rebbi. And he was a mentch.) And so is his son who is the rav there today. The rest of the world of chasidut is a disaster zone.

  3. Thank you for the story. Rav Tzvi Meir Zilberberg tells this story over in the weeks prior to Pesach as a timely reminder that Pesach is a breeding ground for heightened tensions and kapdanut, and therefore one must take special pains to counter those feelings.

  4. It bothers me that she thought she had to fool her husband. That doesn't speak well for their relationship.

    It also bothers me that she thought he would be fooled. He had probably supervised the baking of the matzot and would recognize the substitution.

  5. The husband replied that this wife did not want to cook for Pesach in implements which had not been used for soaked matzah.

    I am confused. Is this saying that the wife insisted on using implements that had been used for soaked matzah? Seems strange even if you eat gebrokts (which I most certainly do).

    And is this a Chasidic story?

  6. I second Shlomo's comments that it doesn't speak well for their relationship that she felt she had to fool her husband and could not communicate with him.

    I was also troubled by a few other "relationship" implications:
    1) That the definition of shalom bayit in the Apter Rav's keeping silent about the matzah is one where peace is simply the absence of external strife. But it is not a peace based on trust and mutuality. (As opposed to a shalom bayit where husband and wife can argue with each other--constructively and based in trust, but not necessarily without friction-- and come to a better understanding and appreciation of each other as a result.)
    2) That the wife saw her husband as a "holy man" on a different level than her, no as her husband. (this is a version of Shlomo's concern)

  7. welcome to the world of unintended consequences of story telling to make a particular point which ends up making another in many people's mind - occupational hazard for darshanim. especially common when your audience is diverse.
    Joel Rich

  8. Adam-
    What's the level that bothers you?

    Definitely agree re: the potential tensions. Ditto for Friday afternoons, for that matter.

    Shlomo, R' Michael-
    Agreed on all counts.

    Anonymous 4:51 PM-
    I think that's the story, although I admit not knowing any more than what is written here.
    What would make it a "Chasidic story" or not?


  9. The level that bothers me is false advertising. Chasidic stories are built to entice. If what the stories would portray would be like the reality on the ground then I would not have a problem.
    The level that I do like is Baal Shem Tov and Rebbi Nachman were true tadikim with important lessons for me and others.
    But I see modern chasidut as taking advantage of people, In fact i discovered the culture of "the frier" is deeply embedded in chasidic culture (i.e. the idea that if people are too naive to protect themselves - they are friers, -then it is a mitzvah to take advantage of them.)

  10. shmuel (another one)February 8, 2012 at 9:19 PM

    the story didn't bother me at all --I immediately saw that its message was that we should overlook another's faults for the sake of peace --so I didn't think at all about the issues that bothered others. it never occurred to me that the story really happened --at least not exactly as written.

  11. I have two problems with the story of the couple who came before the Rav. The husband wanted the divorce because his wife refused to cook in pots that had held gebrokts. That must mean that the husband DID brok and did not care that a "gebrokts" pot would be used. Clearly that is his minhag. As a general rule we hold that a wife adopts her husband's minhagim upon marriage, so if the husband brokt the wife would too. By refusing to cook with the gebrokts pots she was abrogating her husband's minhag.

    Clearly husband and wife came from two different minhagim. Why? Chasidim "in der alter heim" married each other, and the general chasidishe minhag is not to brok. If the husband had no problem with the gebrokts pots then perhaps he was not chasidish or had gone away from his family's minhagim. And if he was not chasidish, why take the machlokes between his wife and him to a chasidishe rebbe?

  12. ProfK-
    It's the opposite. I translated the double negative literally, which makes it less clear, but I believe the husband wanted to avoid gebrokts, and she was not interested.