Friday, March 31, 2017

Reb Gedaliah’s Seder Customs


From “Breslov Eikh she-Hu: Breslov Customs and Practices, Past and Present,” compiled by Dovid Zeitlin and Dovid Sears


Before going to shul on Seder night, Reb Gedaliah selected the three matzos for the ka’arah, and made other preparations, as well, such as arranging the chairs, etc. Thus, he could begin the Seder without unnecessary delay as soon as he came home from shul. However, he did not actually place the matzos on the table until he came home from shul. (Heard from Rabbi Yossel Sofer, citing his mother, Mrs. Mirel Sofer)


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During his early years, he used to check all of the matzos for kefulos before Pesach and separate the whole matzos from the broken ones in order to expedite things at the Seder. However, it seems that during his later years he did not always do so, and if he found kefulos, he broke them off and put them aside. (Heard from Rabbi Yosef Sofer, citing his mother, Mrs. Mirel Sofer)

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Like most communities today, Breslover Chassidim arrange the ka’arah (Seder plate) according to the custom of the Arizal as presented in the Mishnas Chasidim. That is, the three matzos (Chokhmah-Binah-Da’as) are placed under the six simanim, with the zero’a/bone (Chesed) to the upper right, beitzah/egg (Gevurah) to the upper left, morror/bitter herbs (Tiferes) in the middle, charoses/chopped fruit and nuts with grape juice or wine (Netzach) to the lower right, karpas/celery, parsley, or another vegetable that grows from the ground (Hod) to the lower left, and chazeres/second portion of bitter herbs (Yesod) between them, under the morror. The ka’arah itself corresponds to Malkhus. (See Mishnas Chassidim, Seder Leyl Pesach 2; Siddur ARI Rav Shabbsai, et al. This is also cited in Be’er Heitiv, Orach Chaim 473:8. Arukh haShulchan, Orach Chaim 473:11, states that this is the prevailing Ashkenazic custom today. However, the RaSHaSH and other Sefardic mekuballim do not place the matzos underneath the six simanim, but on the ka’arah at its upper point (i.e., “twelve o’clock” if it were the face of a clock). This is because traditionally the Sefardic matzos are smaller and made somewhat like pita breads. An interesting exchange on this subject between Rav Asher Zelig Margolios and the Minchas Elazar appears as an appendix in Kocho deRaSHBY, pp. 18-23.)

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Reb Avraham Sternhartz also arranged the ka’arah in this manner (i.e., as presented in the Mishnas Chassidim). (Heard from Rabbi Michel Dorfman)

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The matzos may be placed in a cloth bag with three sections; or between napkins; or in a special unit with three metal racks and a ka’arah on top. Reb Gedaliah did not own a special holder, but used to rest a plate containing the simanim in small vessels directly on top of the covered matzos. Reb Elazar explained that this was another example of his father’s extraordinary histapkus—contentment with his modest material circumstances and shunning of luxuries, even when it came to the performance of certain mitzvos.

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Mrs. Mirel Sofer remembered that Reb Gedaliah used napkins between the matzos.
(Heard from Rabbi Yosef Sofer)

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Reb Gedaliah’s minhag was to use romaine lettuce for morror, and he took the “kepel,” the part from which the leaves grow, for chazeres on the ka’arah. (That is, the bottom point of the upper segol was the leaf of the romaine lettuce, while the bottom point of the lower segol was the “kepel” of the romaine lettuce.) Once he tried to use chrein (horseradish) for the mitzvah of morror, but found that it made him ill.
(Heard from Rabbi Ephraim Kenig. Shulchan Arukh, Orach Chaim 473:5 states that romaine lettuce is the preferred type of morror. This is based on Pesachim 39a. However, cleaning these leaves to remove insects may be a difficult and time-consuming task. Therefore, some just use lettuce stalks. Special insect-free lettuce with rabbinic supervision is also available today.)

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However, Reb Avraham Sternhartz used chrein for morror.
(Heard from Rabbi Michel Dorfman)

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Since insect-free romaine lettuce was then unavailable, Reb Gedaliah advised his talmidim to put the lettuce in the coldest part of the refrigerator overnight. This would cause the insects to loosen their grip, so that cleaning would be easier the next day.
(Heard from Rabbi Dovid Shapiro)

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For karpas, Reb Gedaliah at first used potatoes, and then changed to a raw celery root (not the stalks or leaves), in keeping with the view of the Arizal. However, he also continued to serve cooked potatoes, which some people prefer. Many Sefardic kabbalists also use celery root for karpas.
(Heard from Rabbi Elazar Kenig and Rabbi Ephraim Kenig. This is supported by Kitzur Shulchan Arukh 118:2, Teshuvos Chasam Sofer, Orach Chaim, no. 132. See Rabbi Chaim Vital, Sha’ar ha-Kavannos, ‘Inyan Pesach, Drush 6, that the ARI was particular to use karpas and not any other vegetable. Sefardic authorities understand this to mean the celery root. Darkei Chaim ve-Shalom 589 states that the Minchas Elazar used a small amount of parsley leaves (petrizeil), which he held to be the karpas mentioned in the Gemara and Kisvei ARI zal. Some use the parsley root. The Hornestiepler Rebbe of Flatbush, Rabbi Mordekhai Twersky, told us that his family minhag is to use radishes. Bobover Chassidim use cucumbers. However, most Eastern European Jews used potatoes.)

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In any case, Breslover Chassidim do not use raw onions for karpas, in keeping with the Rebbe’s family mesorah that the Baal Shem Tov said not to eat raw onions.
(See Sichos haRan 265)

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However, Reb Gedaliah did not consider raw scallions to be the same as onions. When he spent Pesach in Brooklyn, at the home of Reb Moshe Grinberger, he considered using raw scallions for karpas.
(Heard from Rabbi Moshe Grinberger)

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Reb Gedaliah would eat the karpas without reclining.
(Heard from Rabbi Ephraim Kenig. This follows the view of Shevilei Leket, 64; Matteh Moshe 626; Birkhei Yosef 474:14; Siddur ARI Rav Shabsai; Darkei Chaim ve-Shalom [Munkatch] 590; Minhagei Chabad; et al. Those who recline follow the shittah of Abudarham.)

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For zero’a, Reb Gedaliah used a roasted chicken wing.
(Heard from Rabbi Yitzchak Kenig, Rabbi Ephraim Kenig, and Rabbi Yossel Sofer)

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For beitzah, Reb Gedaliah used a hard-boiled egg, but did not roast it. (Heard from Rabbi Ephraim Kenig)


Reciting the Haggadah
Many Breslover Chassidim use the Haggadah Ohr Zarei’ach compiled by Rabbi Moshe Yehoshua Beziliansky (better known as Reb Alter Tepliker). This work is a digest of Breslover teachings related to the text of the Haggadah. However, there is nothing special about the nusach of this Haggadah.

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The women in Reb Gedaliah’s family used to light the Yom Tov candles after the men came home from shul. They recited the berakhahShehechiyanu” immediately afterward, and did not wait to do so until Kiddush. (Heard from Rabbi Yosef Sofer, citing his mother, Mrs. Mirel Sofer)

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Reb Gedaliah said “Ha lachma ‘anya,” with a kametz under the heh, as in most versions of the Haggadah, not “Heh lachma ‘anya,” with a tzeyre under the heh—although the latter is the nusach of the Arizal. (The common nusach of “hah” with a kametz is mentioned in Shulchan Arukh, Orach Chaim 473:6. For the nusach of the ARI zal, see Rabbi Chaim Vital, Pri Eitz Chaim, Sha’ar Chag haMatzos, 7; Mishnas Chassidim, Masechtas Seder Leyl Pesach, 5:2, et al. This is based on several pesukim: Bereishis 47:23, Yechezkel 16:43, and Daniel 2:43.)


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Reb Gedaliah followed the more common order of “Mah nishtanah” (Matzah, Maror, Matbilin, Mesubin), not that of the Yerushalmi (Matbilin, Matzah, Maror, Mesubin), although the Arizal preferred the latter.
(The common nusach is that of the Talmud Bavli, and is cited in the Machzor Vitry. It also appears in all of the Slavita siddurim. The ARI zal follows nusach of the Yerushalmi, as redacted by the RIF, RaMBaM, Rosh, and Baal haRoke’ach; see Rabbi Chaim Vital, Pri Eitz Chaim, Sha’ar Chag haMatzos 7. Chassidic sources that follow the minhag ARI include Siddur Baal ha-Tanya; Darkei Chaim veShalom [Munkatch] 599; Erkhei Yehoshua [Manistritch], Perach Shoshanim 121; Siddur Tzelosa deShlomo [Bobov]; et al. The Arizal explains that the Four Questions parallel the Four Worlds, in ascending order.)

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Reb Gedaliah and his family recited the “Mah nishtanahs” in unison, not the children first, followed by the adults.
(Heard from Rabbi Ephraim Kenig)

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After the “Mah nishtanahs,” Reb Gedaliah used to exclaim, “Oo-ah! Azoyne shtarkeh kashas . . . Such strong questions!” Then he would say “Der teretz is . . . The answer is…” and recite “Avodim hoyinu.” (Heard from Rabbi Ephraim Kenig)

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Sometimes after reciting the section “ ‘Avodim hoyinu,” he would add: “Me darf es noch fahrenferen. Tzorekh biur … We need to give more of an answer. This needs explanation…” (Heard from Rabbi Ephraim Kenig)

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Reb Elazar has told his family members and talmidim that when we mention the ben sho’el during the Haggadah, this is an “es ratzon.” Therefore, one should quietly daven for whatever one needs. (Heard from Mrs. Hindy Hecht)

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Reb Avraham Sternhartz knew all of Reb Noson’s children. He heard from them, and particularly from Reb Noson’s daughter Chanah Tzirel, “az Pesach banacht is geven zeyr a shverrer tzeit . . . Pesach night was an extremely difficult time . . . ‘Es is geven fun di shverster tzeiten fun a gantz yohr … It was one of the hardest times of the entire year.” Reb Avraham explained that first, there were all of the hakhanos, physical and spiritual, and later during the Seder, Reb Noson was enflamed with emotion. Reb Noson used to recite the Haggadah loudly and with great fervor. His deveykus was so intense that once—and possibly more than once—when he came to the words “U-ve-morah gadol—zeh gilu’i Shekhinah,” he actually fainted. His family was therefore extremely nervous about what would happen at the Seder. They were afraid that he might suddenly expire.
(Heard from Rabbi Avraham Shimon Burshteyn)

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Reb Gedaliah recited the Haggadah like a “flamm fier,” with intense passion. He conducted the Seder with awe and yiras Shomayim, creating a rarified atmosphere that affected everyone present. He did not allow the emotional climate to degenerate, notwithstanding all the children and the lateness of the hour, but maintained this exalted mood from beginning to end.
(Heard from Rabbi Ephraim Kenig)

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Reb Ephraim Kenig once remarked that the way his father recited the Haggadah, intensely probing the meaning of its words, was “a perish af der gantzeh Haggadah.”



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Reb Gedaliah would place the Kos shel Eliyahu on the table at the beginning of the Seder and fill it after bentching. Thus, it was visible throughout the Seder. He used a slightly larger kos than the rest, made of glass, not silver.
(Heard from Rabbi Yitzchak Kenig and Rabbi Yosef Sofer, citing his mother, Mrs. Mirel Sofer)

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The wine from the kos shel Eliyahu was used the next morning for Kiddush.
(Heard from Rabbi Yosef Sofer, citing his mother, Mrs. Mirel Sofer)

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Reb Gedaliah sometimes spoke briefly after “‘Avodim hoyinu,” and perhaps two or three times during “Maggid.” However, he and his sons and guests did not say vertlach, or engage in lengthy discussion of the Haggadah.
(Heard from Rabbi Ephraim Kenig)

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Reb Gedaliah would spill a drop of wine while reciting each of the Ten Plagues, and not remove the wine with his finger.



(Heard from Rabbi Yossel Sofer, citing his mother, Mrs. Mirel Sofer. Rabbi Chaim Vital, Pri Eitz Chaim, Sha’ar Chag haMatzos 7, with glosses of Rabbi Yaakov Tzemach, hagahah 1; cf. Shulchan Arukh haRav 473:51, s.v. “ve-yesh nohagin”; Kaf haChaim, ad loc. 166. The custom of using one’s finger is also mentioned by these sources, as well as by the RaMA, Orach Chaim 473:74.)

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The spilled wine would be collected and poured into an unglazed earthenware container, and later disposed of.
(Heard from Rabbi Yossel Sofer, citing his mother, Mrs. Mirel Sofer)

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Reb Elazar Kenig continues his father’s minhag of personally making the charoses for the Seder, with the help of one or two of his daughters. His recipe is: 10 apples, peeled and cored; 10 pears, peeled and cored; 10 bananas, peeled and sliced. The entire mixture is put through a food processor. Then Reb Elazar adds the juice of one pomegranate, strained through a cloth; three cups of home made sweet red wine; plus ground walnuts, ground almonds, ground cinnamon, ground ginger. He divides the batch into a number of separate bags for his married children who will not be with him for the Seder. The rest is used at his table.
(Heard from Mrs. Hindy Hecht)

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Reb Gedaliah would dip the morror in charoses for both morror and korekh, and immediately shake it off. He did not eat charoses together with the matzah and morror for korekh.
(Heard from Rabbi Ephraim Kenig. According to Erkhei Yehoshua, Perach Shoshanim 131, the Manistritcher minhag was to include charoses in the korekh/sandwich. Sefer Minhagim-Chabad similarly states that one dips the romaine lettuce in charoses and then shakes it off, as prior to eating the marror.)



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He added a little grated horseradish to the lettuce for korekh, but did not do so for morror.
(Heard from Rabbi Yossel Sofer, citing his mother, Mrs. Mirel Sofer)

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When Reb Avraham Sternhartz ate the morror, he would exclaim again and again, “Ot azoy is gevezen bitter di Yidden… Just like this, it was bitter for the Jews!” Reb Gedaliah used to repeat Reb Avraham’s words when he ate the marror, as well. (Heard from Rabbi Ephraim Kenig)

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During the meal, Reb Gedaliah would use a bed in order to recline while eating. However, he would sit in the usual manner while eating the soup, or if it became difficult for him at some point.
(Heard from Rabbi Ephraim Kenig. This reflects the view of the Rama, Shulchan Arukh, Orach Chaim 472:7, end; also cf. Mishnah Berurah, ad loc., that this is only le-chatchilah. Some say that this is entirely not applicable today.)

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In Reb Gedaliah’s home, it was customary to eat the egg after the fish, not immediately at the beginning of the meal. He used the egg on his ka’arah (unlike those who leave all the minim on the ka’arah for the entire Seder).
(Heard from Rabbi Ephraim Kenig)

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However, Reb Elazar did not remember his father waiting to eat the egg.

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Reb Gedaliah would slice the egg into sections, dip the sections in salt water, and give them to everyone with a spoon. If he needed more slices, he would use a second egg, in addition to the one from the ka’arah. Before eating the egg, he would announce, “Zekher le-chagigah.”
(Heard from Rabbi Ephraim Kenig)

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However, Mrs. Mirel Sofer remembered that when she was a young girl, Reb Gedaliah did not use the egg from the ka’arah, but took eggs from a separate bowl, dipped them into salt water, and distributed them. The egg from the ka’arah was eaten during the day meal, and Reb Gedaliah would distribute slices to those present.
(Heard from Rabbi Yosef Sofer)

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In Reb Gedaliah’s house, sour pickles, chrein mixed with beets, and other sharp-tasting foods and condiments were not served during the Seder meal. It seems that this was because the Haggadah, in the second of the Four Questions, states: “ba-laylah ha-zeh, marror.” This is an old hanhagah, which is mentioned in various seforim.
(Heard from Rabbi Ephraim Kenig)

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