3) Wine vs. Matza
Basically, we have teeth in order to chew, to cut down to
our size. The truth is, you are not permitted to use your
teeth when it comes to Yiddishkeit. Don’t use your teeth.
You can maybe chew only in such a way that it should get
into your insides, but don’t make something else out of it.
What is the difference between the chacham (wise son)
and the rasha (evil son)? They are both asking, why do
you eat matza on Pesach? Sure, I need to use my teeth in
order to get it inside me. But, the rasha begins to chew, to
analyze what is this Halacha - explain to me everything.
What is the matza all about, the wine? So, I say, please,
rasha, don’t chew around in my Torah. I have seen many
married couples going to marriage counselors and they
chew around in their marriage. There is nothing left after
that. So, Seder night is not only the fixing of our stomach - it
s the fixing of our teeth. How to chew, when to chew, what
Why do we drink wine first? Because wine we don’t chew
- we drink it just the way it is. It goes into us just the way
it is. Matza requires chewing, but, certain things, you must
take them the way they are.
What is an exile Jew? An exile Jew is anybody who chews
on Yiddishkeit, who says, this is relevant, this isn’t relevant,
this is good, this is not so good. What are the four cups of
wine? Take it the way it is.
When you love somebody very much, when you kiss
somebody, you put your teeth in your lips on that person.
You know what you are telling that person? I am never
going to chew. Our relationship is non-chewable. It’s the
way it is. When Yaakov Avinu brought wine to Yitzchak, he
kissed him. Yitzchak didn’t ask for wine. Yaakov, when he
came to be blessed, brought it himself. Wine represents
taking the whole thing the way it is.
ve’ata hakheh et shinov -- and ״ , When the Haggada says
It doesn’t mean cut .״ you break his (the evil son’s) teeth
out his teeth. It means cut out the teeth that destroy, teach
him how to chew, and what to chew.
Shlomo's Stories: Selected Tales
4) Mah Nishtana
There is a Torah from the Baal Shem Tov. The Mishna
On ״. And here the child asks ״, ״ Vekan haben shoel ״ , says
this the Holy Baal Shem Tov says, whatever we do here is
happening in heaven also. Not only are our children asking
us, we can also ask G-d at this moment, for everything in
Here we can ask G-d for .״ Vekan haben shoel ״ . the world
everything in the world. Why do we wear white Seder
Vekan haben ״ night? The Holy Sochachover answers with
Our children open up for us the gates to the Holy of .״ shoel
Holies. And we know that by all the Tzaddikim, first their
children and grandchildren would say, Mah Nishtana and
then, they would say it.
Let me tell you one more story right now. The heilege
(holy) Ziditchover had so many grandchildren. But, one
My grandson Bereshel should ״ , particular year, he said
Bereshel was then five years old; later ״. ask Mah Nishtana
on he became Rav Bereshel of Donina, a very great Rabbi.
Comes time for Mah Nishtana and Bereshel isn’t there.
They started looking for him high and low. He’s not there.
Here, I interrupt myself with another story about Bereshel.
Bereshel was the favorite of his grandfather, because in that
year one of the other grandchildren got very sick. Very, very
sick. The mother of the child was begging the Ziditchover
to please pray for him. Nothing happened. One night, the
boy’s condition worsened. It seemed he was going to leave
the world. The Ziditchover, from 12:30 A.M. until three in
the morning, did not want to be disturbed. He was writing
his commentaries on the Zohar and did not want to be
disturbed. But, someone had to tell him. They decided to
wake up Bereshel and he will tell the Zeide. Bereshel was
five years old. They tell him, tell Zeide that if he doesn’t
pray now, it will be too late.
Bereshel walks up to the higher floor, to his grandfather. He
״? Who’s there ״ , knocks on the door. His grandfather asks
Zeide, ״ , Bereshel said ״? Why aren’t you asleep ״ ״. Bereshel ״
I came to bring you the most unbelievable good news.
I want you to know that Moishele is getting better every
second. But, Zeide, please pray for him. Please, Zeide, pray
״. for him
The holy Ziditchover prayed for him. He got well. The
Ziditchover called in all his children and grandchildren. He
Do you know why I couldn’t pray for Moishele the ״ , said
whole time? Because the way you asked me to pray for
him was with so much sadness, so much brokenness. I felt
so broken. I couldn’t pray. But, you know who is a Rebbe?
Bereshel. Did you hear how he asked me to pray? He said,
I bring you good news, Moishele is getting better, but I ״
want you to pray.’ Didn’t I understand what was going on?
When Bereshel is sent up in the middle of the night to tell
Shlomo Carlebach Anthology
me. But, the way he said it, with so much hope. I want you
And, the truth is, Bereshel ״. to know, Bereshel is a Rebbe
really became the successor of his grandfather later on.
Back to Seder night. Everyone is looking for Bereshel and,
suddenly he comes in. Water is running down from his
peyos (sidecurls). He just came from the mikva. Before
asking his grandfather Mah Nishtana, he wanted to go to
But ״ What chutzpa ״ , the mikva. His mother yelled at him
״. Let him alone. Bereshel is a Rebbe ״ , his grandfather said
This is a Torah from Rav Nachman. Sometimes our children
ask us, and we can take our time in answering. Sometimes
if we take our time, we will lose them. Rav Nachman says,
if our children ask us, is there one G-d and we say, let’s talk
it over - we’ve lost them. If they ask for advice, what should
they do, what career they should have, we can say, let’s talk
about it. If they ask, are you a Jew, if you have to think about
it, that’s not good. He said, Seder night is when our children
ask, is there one G-d? And, our answer has to be right away.
Don’t take any time.
I remember once reading a book written by one of the
outstanding Jewish leaders of the other religions. This
outstanding leader writes in the forward to his book that
when he was a little boy he once asked a rabbi if there is
one Gd. The rabbi said, let’s discuss it. Come to my house
and we’ll discuss it. He quoted from here, he quoted from
there. The boy said, I’m just asking one question, is there
one G-d or not? He couldn’t get an answer out of him. The
next week, he met a swami and asked him, is there one G-d?
The swami said, yes, there is. Seder night is when I tell my
children there is one G-d. There is one Torah. There is Eretz
Yisroel. I have no time. It has to be fast. When somebody is
drowning, imagine if I would say, let me call a Rabbi and
ask if I should save this person, because I heard that last
year this person ate ham on Yom Kippur. I call one rabbi;
the line is busy, so I call somebody else. All these things are
cute. In the meantime, the person is drowning.
You know the problem with us Yidden, you know why
Moshiach didn’t come yet? Because we waited, we waited
so long. How did Moshe Rabbeinu get us out of Egypt? Right
in the middle of the ״ Bachatzot halayla ״ - now is the time
a ״ mochin degadlus ״ night - right now, don’t think. This is
high mind. It is not, not, thinking. It is clearer than thinking.
It is clear to me. It is on such a high consciousness level, a
When I see somebody drowning, where do they grasp me?
Do they reach for my head? They reach for somewhere else;
they have to touch the deepest depths of my understanding,
that triggers something so holy.
At The Village Gate
So, Seder night, everything is fast, but it’s so clear, and it’s
This I do not say other than when matza and ״ . so good
Everything is clear. I can ״. maror are placed in front of me
tell my child this is matza, this is maror, I am a Jew, there is
You know friends, we are living in a world where the devil
would like so much to take advantage of the great moments
which we have. Seder night, every Jew wants to have a
Seder. So, what does the devil do - brings chicken soup, and
kneidlach. Sometimes I ask people, how was the Seder?
They say, oh, the food was unbelievable. When you ask
about the Seder, they are not thinking about the Haggada,
they are thinking about the food.
I was in India three years ago. I asked one boy, he was a
yogi who didn’t want to come back. I asked him what he
Once a year my family ״ , knew about Yiddishkeit. He said
got together for a Seder. The spokesman of the Seder was
my uncle who told over all the dirty jokes he heard all year.
One night, I got up and said, I don’t think this is what the
Look who’s talking. ״ , Seder is all about. My uncle said to me
You haven’t even finished Hebrew school yet. What do you
know?’ So, I thought that if all Yiddishkeit can offer me is a
night with dirty jokes and chicken soup, who needs it, who
״? wants it
When my daughters’ teeth hurt, I send for the best dentist.
When my children are sick, I call for the best doctor. When
it comes to Yiddishkeit, the soul of the soul, the eternity of
all eternities of my children, would I subject them to the
lowest people in the world, who don’t know anything?
This is a Torah from Rav Nachman. He says that, basically,
the downfall and the ultimate slavery in Egypt were
brought about because we ate from the Tree of Knowledge.
Eating from the Tree of Knowledge causes you to eat your
bread with sadness. The beginning of the Seder is that we
eat Karpas, we eat a little vegetable and, a few moments
later, we are on the level of eating bread with simcha, with
joy. Matza is on the level of eating bread with joy. From
the beginning of the Seder, to the matza, we are fixing
everything from the Tree of Knowledge. And, it goes so fast,
Chametz is that everything takes a long time. This is the
downfall of mankind. The world says, we have to wait for
peace. It tales time until it comes. Always waiting, waiting.
Matza is the first admission in the service of G-d; today is a
great moment - don’t wait.